Now that the MLB trade deadline has passed and the dust has settled from a flurry of last-minute wheeling and dealing, fantasy baseball owners can sift through the rubble, decide which teams and players were winners and losers and plan their attack for the rest of the season.
The bullpen re-shuffling has left some questions to be answered, but two moves which were lauded both in fantasy and reality and could tip the scales in a number of fantasy leagues. The Yankees acquisition of right-hander Sonny Gray was expected, and continues to receive praise. As good as that deal was for his fantasy value, it paled in comparison to the ramifications we’re going to see from the Rangers sending Yu Darvish to the Dodgers for a trio of prospects.
While both deals should be considered game-changers, the long-anticipated Gray-to-the-Yankees move looks slightly better in reality than fantasy. New York’s rotation was in dire need of help and the addition of Gray gives them a pitcher who could prove to be their new No. 1 starter. Masahiro Tanaka has been better as of late and Luis Severino has emerged as a top-of-the-rotation arm, but Gray, now healthy and in a groove, could be dynamic for this team.
Fantasy owners need not worry about the park shift. Gray’s 56.7-percent ground ball rate should offset the hitter-friendly dimensions of Yankee Stadium. The Yankees may rank in the middle of the pack in most defensive metrics, but they are a significant upgrade from the A’s who rank dead last in defensive runs saved, UZR and FanGraphs’ overall team defense rating this season.
With a stronger defense behind him, a steadily improving strikeout rate and now the potential for more wins, Gray should recapture his 2015 prowess that made him one of the top hurlers in the American League. Even better is that Gray still has two years left of arbitration, which means the Yankees will retain control and his keeper value gets a nice spike as well.
As for Darvish, there are still people reacting to the trade like the wolf in the Droopy Dog cartoon. For fantasy owners in mixed leagues, this is a dream come true. First, he leaves hitter-friendly Arlington for the pitching haven of Dodger Stadium. Of the 20 home runs he’s allowed this season, 13 had come in Texas. A quick glance at the landing spots and ballpark dimensions indicates that number could easily be cut in half, if not more.
Now add the fact that he faces a pitcher instead of a designated hitter and the expected increase in strikeouts could be huge. Everything about this move looks fantastic to fantasy owners. Well, except for those in AL-only leagues.
One of the perils of playing in AL or NL-only leagues is the trading across league lines. Those who owned Darvish in AL-only formats now lose a major component to their fantasy rotations without much hope of recovering his potential numbers from the waiver wire. Of the three starters who crossed from the NL to the AL, Jaime Garcia, Trevor Cahill and Jeremy Hellickson, none of them hold a candle to what Darvish could have done had he even just stayed in Texas. It’s going to take some serious streaming to even come close.
Of course, on the flip side, those in NL-only leagues, this is probably the deal you’ve been waiting for since the All Star break. Many got a taste of league crossover goodness after the Jose Quintana and J.D. Martinez deals, but now the question remains – do you have enough left in your FAAB budget to grab Darvish?
With the deal coming after last week’s waiver period, this weekend is going to be crucial for many NL-only owners. He’s the type of talent that even if you don’t need Darvish, you may still want to block your opponents from picking him up. If you don’t, you run a very serious risk of getting beaten out in some of the pitching categories.
The one caveat with the Darvish deal should have a major impact on keeper league owners. Darvish becomes a free agent at the end of the season and there is a strong possibility he doesn’t stay in Los Angeles.
Obviously the Dodgers are going to do what they can to retain him, but much like the Aroldis Chapman trade and subsequent re-signing by the Yankees in the offseason, the Rangers are likely to make a play for Darvish once 2017 is over. We see rental players all the time in the real world, so some NL-only owners may get a taste of it in fantasy as well.