Tracking the MLB trades and signings with fantasy baseball implications for 2020, Eric Karabell and Tristan H. Cockcroft will analyze and provide an outlook for the players involved. Check back often as new players find new homes for 2020.
The following players are listed alphabetically by last name, not in order of fantasy relevance. Also included are links to stand-alone analysis stories regarding free-agent signings and trades. Players who re-sign with their previous team, such as Stephen Strasburg, will not be included.
Shogo Akiyama signs with Reds: I find it dangerous to presume a veteran hitter from Japan will come to the major leagues and replicate his offensive numbers. Yes, there was Ichiro. There were also myriad others that struggled. Akiyama, 31, was a solid, consistent player in Japan, reaching 20 home runs, 12 stolen bases and, perhaps most importantly, 143 games and 72 walks in each of the past three seasons. Should we expect those numbers for the 2020 Reds? There has to be an adjustment period. There nearly always is. I trust the Reds' intend to play Akiyama regularly, or at least against right-handed pitching. Perhaps he leads off as well, but I cannot make a case for him among the top 50 outfielders in fantasy yet.
For example, A.J. Pollock, Nick Senzel and Oscar Mercado are all top-50 outfielders in our rankings (barely), offering differing levels of proven numbers and upside. Perhaps Senzel ends up in a platoon with Akiyama. We know what Pollock has done, and expectations have been high for both Senzel and Mercado. Akiyama is 31 and must prove himself against big league pitching. He might be awesome, but among the other outfielders who are already proven to some degree in this league, I would take him only over the likes of Avisail Garcia, Kole Calhoun and Hunter Dozier. -- Karabell
Brett Anderson signs with Brewers: At 21 as a rookie, Anderson struck out 150 hitters for the 2009 Oakland Athletics, and fantasy managers in dynasty leagues lined up for his services. Anderson actually delivered a higher bWAR for the 2019 Athletics, ever so barely a career best, but for fantasy purposes he was worth less because of his strikeout rate. Give Anderson props for hanging around as long as he has, overcoming myriad injuries along the way to throw 176 innings last season. But he struck out 90 hitters -- not in the first half of the season but overall. There were 17 relief pitchers that achieved this. Anderson should make the Brewers' rotation, and perhaps he can replicate his high ground-ball rate and low walk rate. However, Anderson should not pique the interest of a mixed-league fantasy manager if he continues along with an unheard-of strikeout rate of 4.6 per nine innings. Stream him against bad offenses and nothing else. -- Karabell
Homer Bailey signs with Twins: Give Bailey credit for resurrecting his career, which seemed to be over when he made 26 total starts for the Reds from 2015 to 2017, but he is not exactly Gerrit Cole either. Bailey had a 4.57 ERA (with a 4.05 FIP) for last season's Athletics/Royals. Moving on to Minnesota figures to harm his stats more than help them, so judging Bailey to be a top-90 fantasy starter is a bit of a tough sell. He finished last season 75th among starting pitchers on the Player Rater and is entering his age-34 season. You can do better. -- Karabell
Kyle Barraclough signs with Padres: The Padres boast an intriguing bullpen with Kirby Yates in the ninth inning, and Drew Pomeranz and Andres Munoz setting him up. It cost the franchise little to sign Barraclough, saver of 10 games for the 2018 Marlins, to a minor league deal, and chances are he gets nowhere near the later innings of competitive games for the club after struggling for last season's Giants and Nationals. -- Karabell
Dellin Betances signs with Mets: There is little question that a healthy Betances can greatly aid an MLB bullpen and a fantasy roster, but as he joins the New York Mets, there is little guarantee he is healthy. Betances faced two hitters for the Yankees in 2019. Two hitters. A shoulder injury delayed his season for months and then he tore his Achilles tendon. Betances fanned 100 or more hitters in each of the five seasons prior to 2019, but now as he enters his age-32 campaign, there is concern about durability. If healthy, he could return to previous greatness, perhaps even figure into the saves picture should Edwin Diaz struggle again. At this point, it is tough to choose Betances in a standard league at all because of reliever volatility and the bevy of new names popping up each April. There are worse gambles, but Diaz is the Mets reliever fantasy managers should bet on first. -- Karabell
Keon Broxton signs with Brewers: A surprise provider of 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases with the 2017 Brewers, Broxton reunited with the team in December, but things have changed since he was last with the team. The Brewers employ Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain now, and Ryan Braun remains as well. Broxton is a career .209 hitter, and he hit an embarrassing .167 for the Mets, Orioles and Mariners last season, with strikeouts in 104 of 204 at-bats. It would be a major surprise if Broxton delivered meaningful fantasy value again. -- Karabell
Dylan Bundy traded to Angels: He has been quite the enigma in his five big league seasons, especially the past three as a full-time starter. Bundy's 47% ground ball rate during the second half of 2019 (easily the best half-season number he has had) is neutralized by his continuing drop in average fastball velocity. A fresh start on a more competitive team could energize him, unlocking the breakthrough potential many saw in seasons past, but be forewarned that Los Angeles' Angel Stadium, following the lowering of its right-field and right-center-field fences before the 2018 season, actually is no longer that much better a home environment for a pitcher than Baltimore's Camden Yards. It's enough of an upgrade to make Bundy a stronger final-round flier in standard mixed leagues, but not much more than that. -- Cockcroft
Kole Calhoun signs with the Diamondbacks: The longtime Angels outfielder agreed to a two-year contract to move to the Arizona Diamondbacks, which shouldn't alter his statistics much. Calhoun, 32, is a career .249 hitter who showed modest power before 2019, when everyone's modest power turned into something else, so it remains a concern whether he is really capable of hitting 33 home runs again or settles back into the high teens. Still, Calhoun is a durable left-handed hitter who could fit at the top of the lineup or right in the middle, and as your fifth outfielder in a standard roto league, all is well. Calhoun might be worth a bit more in a points format, as he has posted a walk rate better than 10% in three of the past four seasons. Choose him late and leave him alone for six months and he is generally worth the late-round price. -- Karabell
Jason Castro signs with Angels: Castro piqued the interest of fantasy managers when he hit .276 with 18 home runs for the 2013 Astros. He has failed to reach either number in any season since. Castro is a solid defender and the Angels really need stability behind the plate, but it would be a surprise if Castro offered top-20 fantasy production at his position. -- Karabell
Starlin Castro signs with Nationals: The World Series-champion Nationals lost Anthony Rendon to free agency and elected to move on from Brian Dozier, opening up infield spots for proven veterans Castro and Asdrubal Cabrera. Fantasy managers will hardly clamor for either player until the later rounds, or perhaps will wait until mid-April when an infield injury demands a pickup, but you know what you are getting. Castro is durable and comes off a 22-homer season, though he seems likely to regress back to career norms in the lower teens. A .280 career hitter, Castro does not hurt a fantasy team, and he is eligible at both second base and third base. If he is your middle infielder and you take him in the final rounds, fine. It works.
Cabrera, five years older than Castro, is similarly well-traveled and competent at the plate, offering a bit more power and a lesser batting average. Still, Cabrera is also rather underrated for fantasy purposes. He does the same thing each season and offers multieligibility. Castro and Cabrera ended the 2019 season similarly ranked on the Player Rater and in the neighborhood of infielders Corey Seager, Rougned Odor and Eric Hosmer. Perhaps you should avoid those fellows early on and fill infield spots considerably later on with overlooked Nationals. -- Karabell
Francisco Cervelli signs with Marlins: Once upon a time, Cervelli was the "safe catcher" for fantasy managers because he hit .301 for the 2014 Mets and .295 the next season in Pittsburgh. Since then, over four seasons, Cervelli has hit a paltry .252 and not topped .264 in any one season, while hitting 21 home runs in total. His likely role in Miami is as a backup for Jorge Alfaro, but even if Cervelli earns more playing time than expected, his days of aiding fantasy managers seem to be over. -- Karabell
Robinson Chirinos signs with Rangers: A mere 15 catchers finished better on the 2019 Player Rater than did Chirinos, so his return to Texas should be taken seriously. Chirinos is one of the few backstops to have hit 17-plus home runs in each of the past three seasons. There seems to be little competition for him in Texas, where the team's catchers hit a sad .193 with nine home runs in 2019. I prefer to wait until the very end of drafts for catching in ESPN standard leagues (with only one active catching spot). Chirinos is a reasonable choice for the role. -- Karabell
Gerrit Cole signs with Yankees: Yankees' Cole a contender for top fantasy pitcher in 2020. -- Cockcroft
C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop sign with Tigers: The Detroit Tigers scored the fewest runs in baseball in 2019 and hit a measly 149 home runs, so while adding former Twins infielders C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop hardly signals a move into contention in the AL Central, at least the Tigers should ... well, they should hit more home runs. Cron had 25 blasts in 2019 and 30 the year prior for the Rays. Schoop hit 23 home runs in his lone season in Minnesota and 30 back in 2017 for the Orioles. Fantasy managers should consider the new right side of the Detroit infield later in drafts because power is likely, though the duo offers little else statistically. One can probably do better in the later rounds, fishing for upside when players of this ilk are quite popular in free agency in the early months of the regular season, but for those in AL-only formats, opportunity for playing time is certainly there and so is the modest power.
The Tigers still do not project to be a good baseball team in 2020, and Cron and Schoop might be on the team for just this season, or perhaps they move on before August in a trade, but stick anyone in the middle of a big league lineup and they get the chance to knock in runs. Cron and Schoop should hit in the middle of this lineup, such as it is. In fact, Detroit's home run leader in 2019 (Brandon Dixon) managed 15 of them, so one could argue anyone with the possibility of doubling that total gets to hit cleanup. Nobody -- including Tigers fans -- should be overly excited about Cron or Schoop, well-traveled sluggers for hire, but a combined 50 home runs and 170 runs batted in are possible, and that makes them worth late-round selections. -- Karabell
Travis d'Arnaud signs with Braves: After years of injury and underachievement with the Mets, d'Arnaud was released in May and after one unsuccessful at-bat with the Dodgers and ended up in Tampa Bay, where he resurrected a dormant career. The Braves signed d'Arnaud to a two-year deal and he'll share the work with Tyler Flowers. Each is a right-handed hitter with modest power. Fantasy managers will expect at least 16 home runs from d'Arnaud, since he has reached that total in two of the past three seasons, totally altering his narrative, and perhaps it is possible, if not likely. After all, d'Arnaud has certainly made strides in walk and strikeout rate, swinging at better pitches, but much of his good work came against left-handed pitchers. The Braves might not deploy him this way. Even though d'Arnaud finished the 2019 season as the No. 12 catcher on the Player Rater, it seems unlikely he can duplicate the feat, so treat him as a streamer during the season based on matchups. -- Karabell
Josh Donaldson signs with Twins: Josh Donaldson's deal creates power trio in Minnesota. -- Karabell
Edwin Encarnacion signs with White Sox: For each of the past eight years and with four franchises, Edwin Encarnacion has managed to surpass 30 home runs, and now that he joins yet another club, the hungry, busy Chicago White Sox, it will certainly not be me betting against a ninth consecutive season. Encarnacion, soon to turn 37, does not help a fantasy roster in anything but home runs and runs batted in, but he helps quite a bit in those categories and rarely comes at similar cost to other power bats. There will be players expected to hit 30-plus home runs -- like his new teammate Jose Abreu -- going in the first six or seven rounds of most drafts. You might get Encarnacion 10 rounds later. He has been a fantasy bargain for more than a decade, and with little change in his walk, strikeout and contact rates, that should continue.
The White Sox should hit Abreu and Encarnacion -- each still remains eligible at first base -- in the middle of a pumped-up lineup with depth, so run-producing chances should be ample, and these fellows could even score more runs than in the past with the likes of Eloy Jimenez and Nomar Mazara hitting after them. Abreu comes a bit more recommended than Encarnacion, thanks to 40 points of added batting average and being a few years younger, but Encarnacion is the better bargain outside the top 100 overall. -- Karabell
Maikel Franco signs with Royals: We stopped recommending Franco as a potentially relevant fantasy option a few seasons ago, as he appeared to do his best work in 2015 as a still-eligible rookie, when he produced a fancy .840 OPS. In the four seasons since, Franco frustrated Phillies management and fans with a .725 OPS, hitting for modest power but never taking the next step to expected stardom. Franco was such a conundrum, a right-handed slugger who somehow hit better away from Philadelphia's cozy Citizens Bank Park than in it, and for his career he boasts a greater OPS against right-handed pitching than lefties. He never made much sense.
The Royals did not have to make a major investment in Franco, entering his age-27 season, but they are making room. The Royals expect to move 2019 breakout Hunter Dozier to right field to accommodate, with Whit Merrifield handling center field. Franco figures to hit sixth or seventh in the lineup but in a tougher home ballpark for sure. Yes, the pressure of performing will be different in Kansas City, but since he is on a one-year deal, time is running out, to some extent. Franco has the potential to hit 30 home runs. He does. I just cannot find any reason to expect it now with these circumstances, so pass on him in mixed formats and take the likes of Dozier, Kyle Seager and Yandy Diaz ahead of him in AL-only ones. -- Karabell
Avisail Garcia signs with Brewers: It's a shame that Garcia landed in Milwaukee, with their glut of outfielders competing for at-bats, but at least he'll enjoy a substantial home ballpark boost that'll only enhance his beneath-the-radar value. He was the No. 38 outfielder on the 2019 Player Rater, and while a good chunk of that was tied to his 10 stolen bases, consider that he placed in the top 10% in the majors in Statcast's Sprint Speed every year from 2015 to 2018 and was in the top 15% in 2019, underscoring his sneaky-good speed. Garcia might not strike you as a mixed-league asset, but he's one of the better OF5 upside plays and is an even more attractive pick in leagues that allow daily transactions. -- Cockcroft
Kyle Gibson signs with Rangers: Fantasy managers might view Gibson as a potential top-50 starting pitcher because the Rangers, who committed three years to the right-hander, had so much success with Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, and those guys did pitch great in 2019. Gibson did not. He's found more speed with his fastball in recent seasons, becoming the strikeout hurler we thought lurked, and has continued his ground ball tendencies, but he also posted wild extremes in ERA and WHIP in recent seasons with the Twins. Moving to Texas and a new ballpark -- we will need years of data to determine whether it's hitter-friendly -- might not matter if Gibson cannot find the form from 2018, when his 3.62 ERA and 1.30 WHIP worked for us. Last season, he was cruising along the first four months with similar numbers until cratering in the final two and then moving to the bullpen. The Rangers can be patient, but fantasy managers have to do better. -- Karabell
Gio Gonzalez signs with White Sox: The Gio Gonzalez who started 17 games for last season's Brewers but still failed to average even five innings for the season is not the one the Chicago White Sox signed. Gonzalez can go deeper into games, perhaps to his detriment, but the White Sox figure to manage him differently and give him the chance to win more games. In terms of performance, Gonzalez pitched capably in 2019, giving us little reason to expect a bad season in Chicago. His career ERA is 3.68; he might not get to quite that point with the White Sox, but he fits in nicely in a home run world, having never permitted more than 21 in a season. Gonzalez still misses bats well enough and has made 30 or more starts in eight of the past 10 seasons. I would call him an under-the-radar candidate to flirt with 200 innings, 175 strikeouts and an ERA in the 3.75 to 4.25 range. It hardly carries a fantasy staff, but as a top-75 starting option, it works. -- Karabell
Didi Gregorius signs with Phillies: Coming off a rough season in which he perhaps returned prematurely after Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow and hit only .238, Gregorius signed a one-year deal with the Phillies and aims to seek a lengthier deal next offseason. The move makes sense for player and team. Gregorius boasts clear pull power to right field, and while he might miss the short deck at Yankee Stadium, home runs fly out of Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park with regularity. Gregorius hit 16 home runs in barely half the 2019 season. He could be looking at his first 30-homer season in 2020 and if so would position himself nicely for the future. Gregorius is neither a base stealer nor likely to hit for a high average, but he can be a borderline top-10 fantasy shortstop. The Phillies plan to move Jean Segura off shortstop to second base, and what form the lineup takes remains a question. It is possible Gregorius and Segura hit after the middle of the order, or one might precede Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins. It matters to those counting numbers. Gregorius is one of the better power hitters at shortstop but has scored more than 75 runs in a season only once. Hit him second, ahead of Harper and Hoskins, and that would surely change. -- Karabell
Trent Grisham traded to Padres: Our lasting memory of this young outfielder is probably of him booting a Juan Soto base hit late in the wild-card game, which swung things for the Nationals and sunk Grisham's Brewers, but an intriguing fantasy talent lurks. Grisham hit .300 with 26 home runs, 12 stolen bases and a strong walk rate across two minor league levels in 2019, forcing a big league promotion, and he was not overwhelmed while with the Brewers. The Padres can play Grisham in any outfield spot, and while he would seem unlikely to hit near the top of the revised lineup, things can change if he keeps drawing walks. Grisham is no sure draft pick in ESPN standard leagues, but there is upside here in the later rounds if you want to take a chance on someone with an intriguing power/speed profile. -- Karabell
Cole Hamels signs with Braves: He has been seemingly a perfectly serviceable fantasy starter, even in mixed leagues, with pure-starting-pitcher finishes on our Player Rater of 62nd (2017), 50th (2018) and 80th (2019) the past three seasons. The problem, however, is that he has endured some extreme ups and downs in getting there, requiring much in-season maintenance, as he has made a pair of injured list visits in that time and had half-season ERAs of 3.51, 4.56, 4.36, 2.99, 2.98 and 5.79 (especially rough). Atlanta is a good landing spot for him, but the division is more competitive than it once was, so expect more of the same ups and downs. -- Cockcroft
Will Harris signs with Nationals: Washington's bullpen was a problem for most of the 2019 season, but not enough to derail a World Series run. One of the Houston pitchers victimized by Washington's offense has now joined up on a three-year contract. But for fantasy purposes, it seems unlikely Harris will figure into the saves mix. Consider that lefty Sean Doolittle, saver of 24-plus games in each of the past three seasons, remains. Daniel Hudson, who closed for the champs down the stretch and in October, has also returned on a two-year deal. Harris might offer better peripherals than either of those pitchers, but he is 35 and saved only six games over the past three seasons combined. There is nothing wrong with choosing a middle reliever or two on draft day for safety purposes, but you need to look for big strikeout options. Harris has never reached 70 whiffs in any season. -- Karabell
Ryon Healy signs with Brewers: Healy slugged 49 home runs over the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and while injuries held him back in 2019, chances are that with the different baseball he would have found a way to provide big power again. Healy has one mindset at the plate: hit baseballs as far as possible. He is neither a strong on-base option nor an adept corner infielder, but the Brewers could be the perfect place for him because those corner infield spots offer opportunity. Will Ryan Braun really play first base on a regular basis? Will Luis Urias hit enough to play third base? There has to be someone else, right? Well, as of mid-December, there was not, and Healy could get the 500 plate appearances he needs to hit 25 or so home runs. He has done it before. This skill set, sans batting average or anything else, is not mixed-league-worthy, but keep an eye on him during the season because his power is real. Note from Justin Smoak signing: What the Smoak signing says to me is that we have no clarity on playing time with him, Braun, Garcia and Healy, and that is generally bad news in fantasy. Smoak averaged 28 home runs the past three years, buoyed by his one special season. Take the under on that occurring in 2020, and we should like Garcia a bit less than when he signed because unless there is an injury, Christian Yelich -- who should be 100% healthy by spring training -- and Lorenzo Cain are not sitting. These other fellows will. -- Karabell
Cesar Hernandez signs with Indians: The Cleveland Indians added the former Phillies second baseman to fill out an all switch-hitting infield, but there is a big difference between him and the other three: Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana. For one, those other fellows provide power and a guaranteed spot near the top of the lineup. Hernandez hit 29 home runs the past two seasons and he plays every day, but there is no telling if he approaches 20 stolen bases again or decides to draw walks. In 2018, he stole 19 bases and walked 95 times. In 2019, those numbers were halved. Do you feel lucky? Still, the 2019 version of Hernandez finished as the No. 18 second baseman on the Player Rater, so he has value as a late-round pick capable of topping expectations. Just do not expect it. -- Karabell
Rich Hill signs with Twins: With Hill, fantasy managers generally know they will get decent pitching numbers. They cannot count on volume, however. Hill last threw 140 big league innings during the 2005 season. Now entering his age-40 campaign and coming off elbow surgery, the Twins are hoping to have Hill debut around the All-Star break. They will likely tread carefully with his innings. Many fantasy managers like to stash an injured player in their DL slot and exercise patience. Hill, even at his advanced age, fits this narrative. He provided the Dodgers a 3.16 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over parts of four seasons, with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He can pitch well. Whether he can pitch enough is another matter. -- Karabell
Jose Iglesias signs with Orioles: Led by overwhelmed rookie Richie Martin, Baltimore's shortstops struggled in 2019, offering only a .676 OPS. Well, Iglesias offers a career OPS of .687. Upgrade! OK, seriously, Iglesias is not much of a hitter, but he can defend, so if you are brave enough to invest in an Orioles pitcher, his presence should help there. Iglesias is also coming off a career-best 11 home runs (which is not much), and he has reached double-digit stolen bases twice in his career. Still, his main value for those in AL-only formats is his expected playing time. Iglesias played enough for the 2019 Reds to end up the No. 32 shortstop on the Player Rater, besting the likes of Carlos Correa, Andrelton Simmons and Didi Gregorius. Those other fellows couldn't stay healthy, but Iglesias did. In an AL-only format, he is a fine final-round or dollar choice. -- Karabell
Matt Kemp signs minor league deal with Marlins: Kemp was one of fantasy's signature players a decade ago, and to be fair, he has been a source of power in most seasons since then, including 2018 with the Dodgers. Now with the Marlins on a minor league deal, it seems unlikely they would be interested in a 35-year-old player with negative defensive skills that they would have to play over younger options with upside, like Lewis Brinson and Harold Ramirez, but we do not know if this signing means something. Should someone in an NL-only format spend a dollar in their auction to find out, on the premise that 20 home runs could be on the way? It seems unlikely, but that is probably the correct play if, somehow, Kemp makes the team. -- Karabell
Dallas Keuchel signs with White Sox: Dallas Keuchel's fantasy value on the rise with White Sox. -- Cockcroft
Kwang-Hyun Kim signs with Cardinals: A candidate for the Cardinals' rotation come spring training, Kim comes to the U.S. off the best of his past nine seasons in Japan, having posted a 2.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8.5 K's per nine innings and 22.9% strikeout rate in only his second season since returning from Tommy John surgery. He was a dramatically different pitcher in 2018 and '19 after the operation, throwing from a lower arm slot but reducing his walk rate to just 5.4% and 4.8% in those seasons after averaging 10.1% before it. Because he's a fastball/slider/curveball/splitter pitcher, with the slider his best offering, he might well capitalize on hitters unfamiliar with him early to capture a rotation spot and provide mixed-league fantasy value. Consider him a strong NL-only back-of-the-rotation type, a potential mixed-league dart throw if he impresses in March, but be aware that he might ultimately wind up a ratio-helping middle reliever in time. -- Cockcroft
Corey Kluber traded to Rangers: Kluber brings his 2019 baggage to a new ballpark in Texas. -- Karabell
Josh Lindblom signs with Brewers: You might remember him as one of the Dodgers' better relief prospects about a decade ago, but Lindblom enjoyed his greatest professional success as a starter in Korea the past five seasons, with his ERA improving in each of the past three years, culminating in 2019's 20 wins, 2.50 ERA and 189 strikeouts in his 30 starts. Now he's back in the States as a candidate for the Brewers' rotation, a good landing spot for easing his transition and maximizing his matchups but a poor one from a home-ballpark perspective or for volume-chasing in fantasy (Craig Counsell sure loves his committee-style pitching staffs). Lindblom still sports the low-90s fastball, cutter/slider hybrid, splitter and curveball that he did the last time we saw him in the States, but he generates a good amount of spin with his pitches and could be a balanced-splits type thanks to that cutter/slider, which helps on the fantasy matchups front. He's a wait-and-see type for me, only a borderline top-100 starter if he lands the rotation spot (which is likely), but I want no part of his Miller Park starts initially. -- Cockcroft
Starling Marte traded to the Diamondbacks: Marte's fantasy outlook improves slightly with D-Backs -- Cockcroft
Jose Martinez traded to Rays: New Rays hitter Martinez retains his OF eligibility after the interleague trade from the Cardinals, but his new team hardly wants him playing in the outfield. Neither did his old team. Martinez's best position is that of designated hitter, and while I have little doubt he can hit, I do have doubts the Rays will give him more than 500 plate appearances. The 2018 Cardinals did, and the reward was a .305 batting average, 47 extra-base hits and a 124 OPS+, but his WAR was an ordinary 1.5. Still, Martinez is not a big power hitter. Those expecting 30 blasts in 2020 will likely be disappointed. Martinez is a right-handed hitter that hits left-handed pitching. I suspect the Rays will platoon him with Japanese import Yoshi Tsutsugo, who is also limited defensively.
The Rays can line up an impressive outfield of Austin Meadows (a blossoming star), Kevin Kiermaier (a Gold Glover in center) and Hunter Renfroe (with power and a big arm), so it seems odd the Rays would part with one of their top pitching prospects for someone like Martinez. OF Randy Arozarena also comes over in the deal and offers an intriguing skill set with modest pop and speed, plus defensive acumen. In a dynasty format, go for Arozarena. For 2020, Martinez is a more attractive draft pick than he was before the deal but still misses my top 50 outfielders. I just do not see him as more than a platoon DH. -- Karabell
Nomar Mazara traded to White Sox: For years, fantasy managers made then-Texas Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara a better draft pick than his statistics warranted because of his age and potential for greatness. Four years in, his age keeps going up, but the statistics never improve. Why would anything change now that he is a member of the Chicago White Sox? Mazara hit precisely 20 home runs in each of his first three seasons, without providing anything intriguing in batting average, stolen bases or runs scored, and the entire basis for many projecting top-20 outfielder status was the potential for more. In 2019, when everyone else was setting career bests in home runs, Mazara's total fell to 19. OK, so not exactly a precipitous drop, but still, even as he enters his age-25 season, there is little reason to believe that Mazara, even in another ballpark in which realizing power is no great feat, will suddenly break out. He struggles to hit left-handed pitching. He struggles in the second halves of seasons. He is neither a walker nor a fast runner and yet he hits many ground balls. Never say never on anyone breaking out, but give me proven outfielders in the first half of drafts, not someone who has been mostly about promise over four seasons. -- Karabell
Wade Miley signs with Reds: Miley is not someone a fantasy manager, even in an NL-only format, should be targeting, and it has nothing to do with his September collapse in 2019. Miley is not that bad, but for a few outings he could not escape the first inning. This is not a hard thrower. Miley has figured out how to induce soft contact, and for five months last season he got away with it, and he was underrated. His ERA was 3.06 when September began. His K rate was not good, but that alone does not endanger a fantasy roster. While I think Miley belongs back in the National League and Cincinnati is not the best place for him, I think he can actually fake his way to another 3.98 ERA and 1.34 WHIP -- neither mark winning you a league, but neither killing you either. That said, I rank 75 starting pitchers ahead of him for mixed leagues. -- Karabell
Logan Morrison signs with Brewers: Morrison blasted 38 home runs for the 2017 Rays but has struggled since then, hitting just .187 for the 2018 Twins and 2019 Phillies, with a .646 OPS. The Brewers seem to have first base handled with Ryan Braun and newcomer Justin Smoak, so Morrison is likely just going to provide depth at Triple-A. If you have to, spend a dollar on him in an NL-only auction, just in case. -- Karabell
Mike Moustakas signs with Reds: Reds' Mike Moustakas locks in long-term 2B fantasy eligibility. -- Cockcroft
Jimmy Nelson signs with Dodgers: Shoulder injuries can be more harmful to a pitcher's career than elbow ones, offering little clarity on a timetable. For example, when a pitcher undergoes Tommy John surgery, we know the drill. With a shoulder, it can take longer. Nelson thrived for the 2017 Brewers. He has barely pitched since. The Dodgers offered him an incentive-laden one-year deal and there is upside in his new home ballpark, with a top team that offers run support -- and one that will handle him carefully. Consider Nelson as a reasonable upside pick in NL-only formats, but do not be too aggressive. -- Karabell
Jose Peraza signs with Red Sox: Perhaps the Jose Peraza that stole more than 20 bases in the three seasons prior to 2019 will return and aid the 2020 Boston Red Sox and fantasy managers. I think we -- and the Red Sox -- know what Peraza is at this point, even as he has yet to turn 26 years old. He can play multiple positions, infield and outfield, boasts precious little power and has little inclination to draw walks. Still, he might figure into Boston's second base situation, because as of mid-December it is him and Michael Chavis, and one of them is not really a second baseman. Could Peraza find a way into 400-plus plate appearances and 20 stolen bases? Sure, the Red Sox should not give him this opportunity, but when a team is on a budget, things happen. Avoid Peraza in mixed formats as you would new Indians outfielder Delino DeShields Jr., for they are similar in what they offer, and what they offer is not much. -- Karabell
Martin Perez signs with Red Sox: Perez made 29 starts for last season's Twins, and for the first two months fantasy managers added him because he was pitching rather well, and well above his head. When he stopped pitching as well, everyone should have run away because Perez allows a lot of stuff: hits, homers, walks, you name it. Give him credit for throwing harder than we have ever seen and raising his strikeout rate, but right-handed batters still have way too much fun with him, and I find it hard to believe Perez will make 29 starts for the Red Sox because at some point they will have someone who can do better. One might be tempted to rely on Perez for matchups with the Orioles, but overall expect final numbers much like his 2019 season, with an ERA on the wrong side of 5 and a WHIP on the wrong side of 1.50. Those numbers do not help you. -- Karabell
Tommy Pham traded to Padres: Tommy Pham-Hunter Renfroe trade fantasy implications. -- Cockcroft
Drew Pomeranz signs with Padres: Pomeranz certainly piqued the collective interest of fantasy managers early in 2016 when he began his first Padres career with strong strikeout numbers and newfound health and he made the NL All-Star team. A trade to the Red Sox followed, and Pomeranz continued his success through 2017, winning 17 games with the same 3.32 ERA he fashioned the year prior. Then things fell apart. Pomeranz was hurt and bad in 2018 and could not throw strikes, and fantasy managers ignored him until late last season, when he found himself as a dominant reliever with the Brewers, relying on a two-pitch mix of fastball and curveball and ditching his other pitches, which one can do as a relief pitcher.
This version of Pomeranz became a signature strikeout and run-prevention option, and now he is the prime setup man to Kirby Yates in San Diego. Should Yates get hurt or traded, Pomeranz is next in line for saves. As handcuffs go, Pomeranz is a legit option. No, you do not have to leave your mixed-league draft with the lefty, but he was unhittable the final months of 2019 and relievers tend to flourish in San Diego, so he can do so again. It seems stunning to consider Pomeranz a potential top-10 fantasy relief pitcher, but give him a handful of saves and the same late-2019 success and yeah, anything is possible. -- Karabell
Anthony Rendon signs with Angels: Angels offense gets major boost from Anthony Rendon. -- Cockcroft
Hunter Renfroe traded to Rays: Tommy Pham-Hunter Renfroe trade fantasy implications. -- Cockcroft
Hector Rondon signs with Diamondbacks: Veteran right-hander Rondon saved 15 games for the 2018 Astros after previously serving as the primary closer for the 2014-15 Cubs, so he is hardly far removed from the ninth-inning role. The Diamondbacks might be an intriguing place for Rondon to save games, since Archie Bradley struggled with consistency for much of the 2019 campaign and no obvious closer lurks. Rondon is not a big strikeout option, but his 92 career saves could matter if Bradley sputters again. Rondon has to pitch better than he did in 2019, but those in NL-only formats should consider him as the likely handcuff to Bradley. -- Karabell
Hyun-Jin Ryu signs with Blue Jays: Questions remain about new Blue Jays ace Hyun-Jin Ryu -- Cockcroft
Jonathan Schoop signs with Tigers: See: C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop sign with the Tigers. -- Karabell
Travis Shaw signs with Blue Jays: Most fantasy managers will look at how Shaw hit in 2019 and presume it is his new, lowly baseline, and nobody would want to deal with it, but perhaps I am simply more forgiving than most. Yes, Shaw was awful last season, hitting .157 with a .551 OPS -- 18 qualifiers slugged better than .551! -- in 270 PA for the Brewers, but do we just forget about the 30-homer seasons before that? Shaw was bad. It should not erase previous achievements. No, of course I will not blindly project 30 home runs now that Shaw has signed a one-year deal with the Blue Jays, even though there is a promise of him handling regular first base at-bats and he might even protect future star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the lineup.
But why can't he return to his old numbers? Let us try something: Assume Shaw was hurt in 2019 or messed up his swing and he can fix it. Just forget about 2019. How about he hits .250 with 25 home runs in 2020. He will be 30 in April. He is neither too old nor too bad to bounce back. Perhaps the Blue Jays protect him against tough left-handed pitchers too. They have options. The Blue Jays are making moves and going for it. None of this means Shaw is worth the mid-round fantasy selection he used to be worth in previous seasons, and the second base eligibility is gone, but as a late-round corner infield flier with a record for reliable power, sign me up late in deep formats. -- Karabell
Justin Smoak signs with Brewers: The Justin Smoak who bashed 38 home runs for the 2017 Blue Jays is not the current version, but his signing in Milwaukee is so interesting because of the other Brewers around him. The Avisail Garcia signing seemed like a wise one and indicated Ryan Braun would move to first base. What happens now? Smoak, a strong defender at first base, is a switch-hitter who for most of his career has provided considerably more power batting left-handed, so does that mean Braun platoons with him? Recently signed Ryon Healy could do that. In fact, that would be a nice platoon there, but I doubt Braun shares playing time with Garcia, since each hits right-handed.
What the Smoak signing says to me is that we have no clarity on playing time with him, Braun, Garcia and Healy, and that is generally bad news in fantasy. Smoak averaged 28 home runs the past three years, buoyed by his one special season. Take the under on that occurring in 2020, and we should like Garcia a bit less than when he signed because unless there is injury, Christian Yelich -- who should be 100% healthy by spring training -- and Lorenzo Cain are not sitting. These other fellows will. -- Karabell
Will Smith signs with Braves: The Braves picked up one of the best beneath-the-radar closers of the past year and a half. From the time of Smith's first save of 2018, on June 29, through the end of last season, his 48 saves ranked seventh and his 136 strikeouts ranked 10th among relievers, and ... wait, Mark Melancon is still going to be the closer?! Well, we'll see how long that lasts, as Melancon's WHIP was 1.42 and he's made three injured-list trips in the past three seasons. Thank the Braves for deflating Smith's draft-day price tag, but protest the announcement too, because you'll be picking him with the risk that you'll have no idea when he might take over. -- Cockcroft
Julio Teheran signs with Angels: Give the modestly underrated Teheran credit for finding a way to not only make 30 or more starts in each of seven full-time and consecutive seasons, but for also outperforming his FIP in each of those campaigns. Nobody else has achieved close to both of these. Teheran's career ERA is 3.67. His career FIP is 4.23. Of course, we would prefer Teheran, the No. 63 starting pitcher on last season's final Player Rater, remain in the National League, but his move from the Braves to the Los Angeles Angels on a one-year deal should hardly remove him from fantasy consideration in deeper formats. When a pitcher outperforms his FIP a few times, we expect regression. When he does it literally every season, we should not.
Teheran can scare a fantasy manager; he walks more hitters than most, averages fewer innings per start than most -- it affects wins -- and his WHIP has been below average in three of the past five seasons, but he has become reliable. Teheran has struck out between 151 and 186 hitters in each of his full-time seasons. An ERA in the range of 3.75 to 4.25 for the Angels is fine for them and makes sense for many fantasy managers. He is not getting better, so leave the word "upside" out when describing him, but not everyone on your staff needs upside. He is worth a top-75 spot in your starting pitcher rankings. -- Karabell
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo signs with Rays: A 28-year-old with an impressive combination of power and patience, Tsutsugo managed at least 24 home runs, 250 total bases, a .388 on-base percentage and a .506 slugging percentage in each of his past four seasons in Japan, but he comes with plenty of defensive questions. He drew pre-signing comparisons to Kyle Schwarber for that reason, but that's probably being generous, given that Schwarber is no longer a total defensive liability in left field and is a year and four months younger with a little more ceiling under which to grow. The Rays do like to mix and match with their lineup, so Tsutsugo's at-bats might be the most limited with them, yet his production per at-bat could be maximized due to a wiser approach to matchups. I think his 2020 stat line might be a slightly more juiced-up version of Ji-Man Choi's 2019, which was the 317th best on our Player Rater and tied for 228th overall in terms of fantasy points. -- Cockcroft
Luis Urias traded to Brewers: We haven't yet seen the .300-hitting, contact-oriented version of Urias at the big league level, but considering he had been showing signs of reducing his massive ground ball rate at Triple-A, it's not unfair to chalk everything up to the huge adjustments associated with the game's most challenging competition. The move to Milwaukee's Miller Park represents a huge upgrade -- it has had a greater home run factor than San Diego's Petco Park in every one of their 16 common seasons, usually winning by more than 20% -- and Urias will probably shift to shortstop to bring added eligibility in fantasy. He's suddenly a very interesting final-round middle-infielder fallback. -- Cockcroft
Jonathan Villar traded to Marlins: The No. 4 position player on the Player Rater last season, behind only Christian Yelich, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Cody Bellinger, Villar found himself unceremoniously dumped by the Baltimore Orioles and landed with the similarly bleak Miami Marlins. We want hitters in Baltimore and the American League rather than Miami, of course, but Villar was one of fantasy's MVPs in 2019 not because he hit for great power but because he stole 40 bases. Only Mallex Smith and Adalberto Mondesi stole more bases, and they combined for 15 home runs. Villar was special, but asking him to hit another 24 home runs with Miami as his home ballpark is unrealistic. Be happy if he hits half that many, but as long as the steals are there, he would remain a potential top-50 player, which is all we can ask for.
The Marlins likely do not see Villar or former Rays and Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar, signed the same December day, as future lineup cogs but instead players they can rely on for a few months and trade for prospects. Wise move. Villar can play three infield positions and currently qualifies at the middle infield spots, and he could lead off or hit closer to the middle of the order. Villar is not a power hitter. He was likely one of the bigger beneficiaries of the new baseball, and he played in all 162 games, which contributed greatly to his counting numbers. Still, he is going to play and he should run quite a bit, and that is enough to make Villar a fifth-round choice in standard drafts. -- Karabell
Shun Yamaguchi signs with Blue Jays: Coming off his three best seasons as a starting pitcher in Japan, during which time he had a 3.10 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings and a 23.4% strikeout rate, Yamaguchi signed with the Blue Jays, a team that can afford to give him a lengthy look for their rotation during spring training knowing that the bullpen is always a fallback consideration. He's not a hard thrower, averaging between 90-91 mph with his fastball, but the fact that his out pitch is a splitter, increasing the likelihood he'll be more reliant on ground balls than strikeouts, makes me question the fit in front of that infield defense. Yamaguchi is an AL-only dart throw -- he won't crack my top 100 starting pitchers -- if he lands a rotation spot but would be more of an in-season pickup/wait-and-see type in relief. -- Cockcroft