I recently attended a local production of Damn Yankees, which explores America's love affair with baseball by means of humor and flair. It ALSO contains several scenes of jocular clubhouse merriment, evidenced by power hitters pirouetting, and double play combos cutting a jig. And I couldn't help but wonder, is THIS what it's like being a member of the Oakland A's?
What better way to face the cold, grim reality of being chiefly viewed by your organization as a trade asset rather then a part of the future, being measured not by what you can do, but rather by what can be had for you?
Every fantasy league has at least one owner who plays the game to make trades. "Winning" a trade, and the instant gratification that comes along with it, can be a powerful addiction that we all fall victim to, every season. But there is always an owner who ends up hurting his team in the long run just to get as many trade highs as they can. I can't say this is necessarily wrong; it's just the way they choose to play the game. I do know they can be easy to take advantage of, often targeting players on hot streaks which prove to be unsustainable.
Anyway, I almost think Billy Beane plays a little like this in real life. He clearly values stockpiling prospects, as his trades of Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey etc showcase. It's not a bad idea, given the team's budget constraints and the immense value of quality, cost-controlled players. And he certainly has taken back an eye-opening amount of talent in some of these deals. However, it has yet to translate into wins, or for our purposes, quality fantasy players.
Brett Anderson - Recently considered one of the rising left handed stars in all of baseball, Anderson is now facing life coming off Tommy John surgery. Apparently this is going well, and he may be 6-8 weeks away from rehab starts. The good news is, we have seen time and again pitchers come back off TJ stronger then before. That means Anderson is a great guy to add right now and stash if you have an open DL spot on your roster. Keep in mind though, you're hoping for 5-6 usable starts come September at best.
Bullpen - As a recently deposed closer, there is not much value in owning Grant Balfour. Even if the newly appointed Brian Fuentes trips up in the role, Balfour may not be the next choice to close, as Ryan Cook has been lights out for the team, to the point that he may be worth a speculative add in the next few weeks, as Fuentes is sure to be dealt if he does well and Cook likely to take over the closer role. Fuentes isn't a bad short term asset however; as the A's have already had five saves this month, and will likely continue to play close games.
Dallas Braden - Like Anderson, Braden has been a no-go this year, but with shoulder problems. His timetable for return is a bit more uncertain however, and even when he is back, his fantasy value has always been a bit overrated. He is a fringy sixth starter-type in a standard league, or a decent stream option against weak offenses. Unless he drastically improves his K-rate, treat him as such.
Bartolo Colon - This portly medical miracle has had some really good starts this year and has only been torched twice. He isn't striking anyone out, but only 8 walks on the year balance his WHIP out a little. I think he's a great matchup starter, so if you stream a little bit (or a lot) consider this guy against any teams of lesser offense.
Brandon McCarthy - McCarthy is pitching a bit over his head right now, making him a great sell-high candidate. His ERA is pretty shiny, but it belies a low K rate, a bad WHIP, the fact his walk rate is nearly double from last year and his BABIP is up as well. He is getting a little lucky by stranding 79.5% of runners, which is a figure close to 10% above his career average. If When that regresses, he stops being a guy you'd want on your team.
Tommy Milone - I have seen a lot of Milone adds this year, but there are some red flags. The guy doesn't reach 88 MPH on his fastball, he gives up bombs, and doesn't strike enough guys out. His peripherals don't suggest he's been terribly unlucky either. He looks like a guy who will post an ERA of around 4, 4.1 and not provide much value at all to your team. I know he has had two spectacular starts, but keep in mind it's his first trip through the league, and batters will figure this guy out, it's what they do. However, Milone was terrific his last two years in the minors, posting awesome numbers. If he can recapture that kind of production, then look out. The stat to watch is K-rate. If it starts trending up, add him.
Jarrod Parker - Parker has a nice fastball/changeup combo, but has been very wild so far this year, with 16 walks in 27 innings. He needs half of those to turn to strikeouts to be a usable player this year. His minor league numbers suggest a lot of potential however. He struck out over a batter per inning, and limited walks nicely. For now, stay away, but like Milone, monitor this guy closely. There is a lot to like about Jarrod Parker.
Tyson Ross - While not as bad as his surface numbers suggest, even with reasonable regression Ross doesn't provide a lot of value. Confidently leave him in the free agent pool.