With pitchers and catchers set to report this week, we decided to take a look at some of the biggest offseason moves that have taken place around MLB and run down the fantasy fallout they will have this coming season.
(In the spirit of fantasy, with 12-team leagues being the most common, I chose 12 of the biggest moves made this offseason)
The Yankees got their man. After years of New York opting to go with an overpowering bullpen to help mask the weaknesses of their starting pitching, the team has finally secured a certified ace. Cole has been nothing short of extraordinary the last two seasons, and he leveraged that into a nine-year mega-deal with the Yankees.
It’s hard to see Cole’s fantasy value declining now that he’s in pinstripes. He finished 2019 just behind former teammate, Justin Verlander, in overall fantasy scoring by a starting pitcher. He led the league in strikeouts and achieved a career-low WHIP of 0.89. He was nearly as good away from home as he was at home. He was equally dominant against right-handers as he was lefties.
Sure, Yankee Stadium is far and away a better hitter’s park than Minute Maid Park, but we’ll take that when you consider the run support and bullpen help he has on his side with the Yankees. His 2019 xFIP was .02 points lower (2.48) than his actual ERA (2.50) and his BABIP was just slightly higher than his career mark.
I say all that to say this: Prepare to pay up for Cole in your drafts this season.
You know Mike Trout was happy with this one. Anthony Rendon could have won the National League MVP last season, if not for a pair of sluggers, one in LA and one in Milwaukee. Rendon was a key part of the Nationals’ championship run, delivering a slash line of .328/.413/.590 in the 2019 postseason.
Last season’s overall numbers were career-highs nearly across the board, and now he’ll join the AL on a team with Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and a healthy Justin Upton, not to mention the upstart Tommy La Stella (and they should probably call up highly touted prospect Jo Adell sometime in 2020, if he doesn’t make the team in spring training outright). The Angels already sported a lineup that was top-three in lowest strikeouts, and in Rendon, they’ll add a stud who’s only struck out over 100 times twice in his seven-year career (and he’s coming off a third consecutive sub-90 K season).
Hyun-jin Ryu signs with Toronto Blue Jays
Hyun-jin Ryu’s last two seasons were startlingly different from the rest of his career, and it’s in that fact that fantasy managers should be wary of him as a new member of a young Blue Jays team, and in a really tough AL East. Ryu’s advanced stats painted a different picture of what to expect from the veteran. (2019 ERA: 2.32; FIP: 3.10).
The AL has hit Ryu well in 86.2 career innings (3.84 ERA) when compared to his NL numbers (2.86). He’ll also be moving from a legitimate World Series contender to a rebuilding team, so temper your expectations for the soon-to-be-33-year-old in 2020.
Zack Wheeler signs with Philadelphia Phillies
We’ve seen flashes of Zack Wheeler’s potential over the years, and the Phillies are undoubtedly hoping the 29 year old reaches that full potential alongside Aaron Nola in 2020. A 3.96 ERA in 195 innings is nothing to sneer at, and few pitchers had a better September than Wheeler (34 innings, 1.85 ERA).
He’ll now be moving to a Philadelphia team with an offense looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2019, along with a slightly tighter defense than the Mets had. Wheeler will turn 30 in May, and while his advanced stats don’t paint the prettiest picture, he’s on a new team; don’t underestimate what a fresh start can do for a pitcher. I’m willing to give Wheeler a wait-and-see approach. His 11th-round ADP from 2019 seems like the right range for him again this season.
Josh Donaldson signs with Minnesota Twins
The Bringer of Rain has now joined the #BOMBASQUAD. Just when you thought the Twins offense couldn’t get any more potent, they go and add Josh Donaldson, who hit 37 home runs last season. If having the likes of Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Nelson Cruz, Max Kepler, and Mitch Garver around you isn’t lineup protection, I don’t know what is.
Of course, let’s be realistic — Josh Donaldson is 34 years old. He’s probably not going to return to his MVP-caliber form, but considering his 2019 BABIP was actually eight points lower than his career mark, Donaldson projects to be a solid source of power and RBI in 2020 on a Minnesota Twins team with World Series aspirations.
Jose Martinez, Randy Arozarena traded to Tampa Bay Rays/Matt Liberatore to St. Louis Cardinals
Doesn’t it seem like, at times, Tampa Bay is playing chess while the rest of the league is playing Connect 4? Sure, their methods haven’t yet resulted in championships of late, but recall: The Rays have had just four losing seasons in the last DECADE while playing in the incredibly tough AL East, and two of those seasons were by the slimmest of margins (they went 80-82 twice). And this deal, while not incredibly major news like some of the others on this list, is just another example of the Rays making low-key moves that somehow always seem to pay off.
Matt Liberatore was considered one of the Rays’ top pitching prospects in a farm system full of high-upside arms. Perhaps that’s why they were able to part with him — especially since he probably won’t see major league action until 2021 the earliest — but their return in the deal is equally interesting. Randy Arozarena is a former touted prospect who did damage in a brief 2019 stint in the majors (.300/.391/.500). He also has 20+ stolen-base potential.
Jose Martinez, on the other hand, will probably have one job and one job only with the Rays: To mash lefties. In 70 at-bats against left-handed pitching in 2019, Martinez put together .329/.397/.600 slash line (in his career vs. LHP: .331/.405/.570). Now, think about the strong left-handed pitching in the AL East, and wait until the “Ohhhh, I get it now” moment hits you.
Dellin Betances signs with New York Mets
Look away, Yankee fans. Betances and his filthy curveball took the subway to Queens this offseason as the Mets try to shore up what was an inconsistent bullpen in 2019. Injury cost Betances 2019, but we all know what he’s capable of when he’s on and healthy: a 14+ K/9 and a sub-2.50 ERA. Betances should become the de facto setup man for Edwin Diaz, making him very valuable in fantasy leagues that count holds (and there’s a chance that if Diaz can’t find his form again, Betances could assume closer responsibilities in 2020).
Madison Bumgarner signs with Arizona Diamondbacks
The end of an era. After achieving so much success as a member of the San Francisco Giants, MadBum is now a Diamondback. Unfortunately, the move isn’t great from a fantasy perspective (although it should undoubtedly boost his potential win total). After spending the last 12 years of his career in a pitcher’s park, (Oracle Park was last in overall runs and home runs last season) Bumgarner will now call Chase Field home which, even with the addition of a humidor, is still middle-of-the-pack in terms of runs.
MadBum’s numbers declined across the board in 2019, though he did return to the 200 IP mark for the first time since 2016. That said, and we all know this, Bumgarner’s best days are probably behind him.
Nicholas Castellanos sign with Cincinnati Reds
Sure, the Cincinnati Reds now have at least 476 outfielders (last I checked), but hey, you can’t say they’re not addressing the egregious drop from 10th in team-batting average in 2018 to 24th in 2019. Castellanos will help with that, as he’s hit over .280 three of the last four seasons. Freed from the clutches of the Detroit Tigers (which he then served briefly with the Cubs afterward) Castellanos joins a Reds offense that, on paper, should be potent in 2020, and in a ballpark that has been top-10 in home runs since 2005. Don’t be surprised if the soon-to-be 28-year-old Castellanos delivers a career-high in home runs and RBI in 2020.
Dallas Keuchel signs with Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox finished third in the AL Central with a record of 72-89 — still a losing record, but a vast improvement from their 62-100 season the year prior. A lot of that improvement is due to the subsequent improvement of the White Sox rotation — thanks in no small part to a breakout, career-year from Lucas Giolito. Adding Dallas Keuchel — a veteran with a winning pedigree who limits damage thanks to his soft-contact-inducing skills — should help them further in 2020.
Unfortunately for fantasy managers, the Keuchel we’ve seen the last two seasons hasn’t offered much in either strikeout, ERA, or WHIP category. It’s hard to expect that, after spending his career with one contender (Astros) and another (Braves) that he’ll suddenly dominate on a young White Sox team.
Yasmani Grandal signs with Chicago White Sox
“What?! The White Sox again?!” Yes, again. Unlike the Keuchel move, I do believe this one will go very well for fantasy managers. Grandal will now get to face the lowly Tigers a bunch of times, and he’ll do it in a lineup that, suddenly, has potent bats at every position. Sure, Grandal won’t wow you with average and he strikes out a lot, but he’s one of the more powerful catchers in the game. Guaranteed Rate Field was fifth in part-factor home runs last season. This pairing should work out well for both sides.
Mookie Betts traded to Los Angeles Dodgers
Normally, a trade of this magnitude would be the headliner for this piece, but sh** has hit the fan ever since the trade was originally reported. A “simple” rundown:
Scott Pianowski wrote about the fantasy fallout of the trade back when we thought it was an instant done-deal.
Pitchers and catchers report this upcoming week, with position players soon after.
To quote a popular prizefighter: “Big drama show!” — baseball is here!
Which move are you most excited about from MLB’s offseason? Let us know in the comments below and hit us up @YahooFantasy!