This season, the major leagues have one and only one trade deadline, and all of those August waiver shenanigans are a thing of the past. As a result, July 31 was the last opportunity for teams to swap players before the end of the 2019 season.
Now that the trade deadline has passed, our fantasy staff breaks down what some of the bigger moves made in recent days might mean for your fantasy teams.
Big deals with big fantasy baseball implications
Eric Karabell on the revamped Houston Astros rotation
The biggest name moved at the trade deadline -- and it was announced a bit after the 4 p.m. ET deadline -- was right-hander Zack Greinke, the No. 7 starting pitcher entering Wednesday on the ESPN full-season Player Rater. Opening Day -- when he permitted seven runs to the Los Angeles Dodgers -- notwithstanding, Greinke has been outstanding this season, proving to all he is far from through as an ace pitcher. Greinke hardly lights up a radar gun, but nobody can match his current 0.94 WHIP or 1.1 walk rate. The Houston Astros needed a No. 3 starter behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. They got another No. 1 starter instead.
From a fantasy aspect, little should change here, unless you are the unlucky guy or gal in an NL-only format who loses players dealt cross-leagues. Greinke becomes the most attractive addition for AL-only leagues, a true difference-maker worthy of making a huge impact even in a two-month span, even over Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes. For those in mixed leagues, eh, perhaps he wins a bit more for a better team, but that is no guarantee. It is a bit of a shame that Greinke, one of the signature hitting pitchers in the sport, will get to do that less, but if he gets to do so in a World Series, he will be happy.
Greinke, 35, combines pinpoint command and control with his plus slider, curve and changeup. He rarely cracks 90 mph on the radar gun, but there is nothing fluky about his numbers, and age is not a factor for him. Houston's Minute Maid Park plays as more of a pitcher's park than most realize, but it is a bit irrelevant in this case, since Greinke is someone a fantasy manager would never bench anyway, or worry about.
What is less certain is how the Astros round out their rotation after the big three and soft-tossing lefty Wade Miley. Right-handed rookie Jose Urquidy is the most added pitcher in ESPN standard leagues after a few recent starts during which he kept runs off the board and piled on strikeouts. His investors should wait a bit to see if he loses his rotation spot after the acquisition of Aaron Sanchez from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Sanchez fanned 10 in his most recent outing, but that cannot cover up a brutal statistical season. Hey, at least he has overcome the blister woes from the past two seasons. The AL ERA champ from 2016, when he went 15-2 but with an ordinary strikeout rate, Sanchez boasts a 6.07 ERA and 1.69 WHIP. This hardly means he cannot improve with his new organization, but do not assume it. His place in a contender's rotation -- and the results you desire -- are far from assured, which is why Urquidy investors should be a bit patient.
Following his move to the Reds as part of a three-team trade including the San Diego Padres, Bauer's name should generate plenty of excitement in NL-only leagues, where fantasy managers might have hoarded their FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) dollars/No. 1 waiver positions in order to secure July's top league-switcher.
Without a doubt, Bauer is that FAAB/waiver prize worthy of the maximum investment. After all, his raw skills grant him a case for Cy Young-caliber statistics when everything is clicking. During the past three seasons, his 28.3% strikeout rate ranked 11th among 46 ERA-qualified pitchers, and his 50 quality starts ranked 10th among all pitchers. In fact, just using 2018-19 stats, Bauer's 16 games of 10-plus strikeouts ranked sixth in baseball, behind only Max Scherzer (27), Chris Sale (23), Gerrit Cole (20), Justin Verlander (19) and Jacob deGrom (17).
But if a Bauer trade of any sort struck you as surprising -- and it should have, considering the Cleveland Indians enter play on Wednesday only three games behind in the American League Central race and in the lead for the No. 1 wild-card spot -- his landing spot should have warranted more shock. After all, the Reds are 8 games behind in the National League Central and 6½ behind in the wild-card race. On the surface, it was as puzzling a move as the Marcus Stroman move (see below) and, just as with Stroman, the move could cause some confusion as to the impact upon fantasy baseball.
As we often (and rightfully) assume, a pitcher migrating from the AL to the NL generally gets a benefit, primarily due to the different DH rules. NL teams this season have averaged 0.08 fewer runs per game, with a three-points worse wOBA, as pitchers have averaged 1.3 trips to the plate per contest for NL teams, compared to 0.09 for AL squads. Bauer specifically should also slightly benefit from escaping an Indians schedule that included 22 remaining games (out of 56) against top-five run-scoring offenses, whereas the Reds have only 17 of those matchups ahead. There are no Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins or New York Yankees on the Cincinnati schedule, while all three of those sides are still to face Cleveland. There are only three more games on the Reds schedule in American League ballparks with the DH (Sept. 10-12, at Seattle, which is still a favorable matchup considering the Mariners offense).
Looking at Bauer's 2019 splits, though, the schedule and matchups themselves might not really matter. Would you believe that he was just 6-of-13 in quality starts with a 5.00 ERA and 1.38 WHIP against bottom-five AL offenses, including 4-of-9 with 5.63/1.53 numbers against the three of them that played in the AL Central (Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals)? Conversely, Bauer was 4-of-5 with a 3.06 ERA against top-five major league offenses, and he does seem to have a career history of playing up to the tougher opponents, with a lifetime ERA seven-hundredths of a point lower against winning (3.88) than losing teams (3.95).
Swapping Cleveland's Progressive Field for Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park has both its positives and negatives as well, and this might be a "spin his wheels" move. From 2014-18, Great American was seventh in the majors in terms of run-scoring park factors (1.042), compared to Progressive Field's fourth (1.097), but Great American was the clearly better venue for home runs, ranking fourth (1.190) to Progressive's 12th (1.040). Bauer does have some issues with the long ball, his HR/9 sits at 1.26, so Great American could compound that issue.
Smush all of these things together and Bauer's fantasy value probably shouldn't change at all, with the proper valuation still that of a premier arm, but one who belongs directly behind the elite tier. He was my No. 10 starting pitcher in my most recent rankings update, and probably won't move much at all, with a high-end projection that places him seventh and a conservative projection that would barely place him in the top 18. That's still quite the FAAB/waiver prize, though.
Bauer's departure from Cleveland seems like a confidence statement in the Indians starters who remain. It could signal the team's belief that Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco will be back sooner, rather than later -- and contributing quickly at an elite level. It may also indicate that Mike Clevinger's injury issues from earlier in the season are now behind him. It's also big news for Danny Salazar, who is to be activated in time to start Thursday's game and should be able to throw 70 pitches, as the injury-prone right-hander now has a much clearer path to a rotation spot for the remainder of the year. Considering Salazar's past strikeout potential, he's a much more worthwhile stash now.
Logan Allen should join the fray among Cleveland's rotation fill-ins, giving them some depth alongside Zach Plesac and Adam Plutko. None of the trio seems likely to contribute as more than a matchups option, freely to be added and dropped in re-draft leagues, although Allen might also work in relief this year. It's not the best news for him in dynasty leagues, considering San Diego's home ballpark (Petco Park), ranked 24th in runs scored over the past five seasons (0.931 factor).
Assuming they make no more deals before the deadline, the Reds will have a decision to make as to who leaves the rotation. Will it be Alex Wood, who just returned from injury, or Anthony DeSclafani, who has a 2.94 ERA since the beginning of June? Tyler Mahle also no longer appears to be a factor for the team as a starter. Wood does have experience in relief, so be prepared for the possibility he'll move to that role.
Tristan H. Cockcroft on Nicholas Castellanos trade to Chicago Cubs
Maybe a fresh start with a new organization is what will inspire Nicholas Castellanos to finally find his untapped power. Considering the fit with his new team, the Chicago Cubs, it's risky to grant him a valuation anywhere near his draft-day cost.
Castellanos, who finished 63rd on the 2018 Player Rater and was selected 51st overall on average in ESPN leagues this preseason, has let down his fantasy managers quite a bit in 2019, ranking 245th on this season's Rater. His isolated power has dropped to .189, his lowest since 2015, and he has homered on only 2.5 percent of his trips to the plate, which is considerably beneath the major league average of 3.6 percent.
It was Castellanos' contact-quality metrics that fueled power-breakthrough chatter for the past year and a half. He's a hitter who had at least a 40 percent hard-contact rate, 14 degree launch angle and 93 mph average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives in each of 2017 and 2018 -- all of those facts grading him well ahead of the league's averages, and even in a down 2019, he has seen those numbers slide only to 39.0 percent, 14.8 degrees and 93.1 mph. The problem is that the rest of the game has seemingly advanced alongside Castellanos, pushing him downward in the rankings in each category and making his homers less valuable even if he had truly broken through.
Maybe the Cubs saw something in Castellanos' swing that they can tweak, unlocking this theoretical 30-plus-homer power, and trading Detroit's Comerica Park for Chicago's Wrigley Field does give him a noticeable park-factor boost. Comerica, after all, was the No. 16 ballpark for right-handed power from 2014 to '18 (1.022), while Wrigley ranked fifth (1.147). The two venues were otherwise similar in terms of overall homers, as well as runs scored, so don't overestimate that effect.
The bigger question is: Where does Castellanos play every day? The team can shift Jason Heyward to center field, bumping Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ to reserve roles, but that comes at significant expense to the team's defense, considering Castellanos had minus-25 Defensive Runs Saved as a right fielder between 2018 and 2019. Castellanos can't or surely shouldn't play third base, where he had minus-64 DRS from 2014-17, so he's going to have to force his way into a lineup on a team that does seem to care about defense. Anytime Castellanos plays, he hurts the Cubs pitchers' fantasy potential -- by a small amount, granted, but enough to matter.
Castellanos will also probably bat lower in the order for his new team due to his .328 on-base percentage this season and .324 in his career, and although the Cubs' offense is clearly superior to those of the Detroit Tigers, moving from 2-3 to potentially 6-7 could be enough to cost him 15-25 plate appearances the rest of the year. Throw in the likelihood of late-game hooks for a defensive replacement, and there's suddenly a playing-time worry surrounding him that wasn't present before.
I began the year with Castellanos ranked among my top-20 fantasy outfielders, and after his sluggish first four months, he has dropped to OF27. I'd argue he probably belongs beneath the top 30 at this stage, though I do like his landing in a more potent offense and the slight ballpark bump. Make him your No. 3 priority in terms of FAAB/waiver claims for NL-only teams, but be realistic with your expectations.
Eric Karabell on the new-look outfields in Cleveland, Cincinnati and San Diego
One of the worst outfields in the major leagues -- certainly among contenders -- received a big jolt of power when the Cleveland Indians acquired Franmil Reyes and Yasiel Puig in the Trevor Bauer deal. While neither player helps much in the on-base percentage department, most fantasy managers pay most of their attention to home runs and runs batted in, and this duo has provided 49 blasts through the season's first four months. All Indians outfielders have supplied only 44 home runs since opening day. If you were relying on Jake Bauers, Tyler Naquin and Jordan Luplow, first I would ask why, and then I would say their playing time is about to disappear.
Reyes achieved his 27 home runs in a renowned pitchers' ballpark, proving his power will play anywhere. Cleveland's Progressive Field has played like a home run haven this season, though we rarely trust four months of data. The point is, if Reyes could hit for monster power at San Diego's Petco Park, watch out, because he can do it anywhere. I am feeling good about my predictive bet on Reyes reaching 40 home runs this season. Wish I had actually done it! Reyes could slot in as the Cleveland designated hitter, but his outfield eligibility is covered for 2019 and next season.
Puig boasts power and the ability to steal bases when he feels like it, though at this point it is clear his rookie breakout with the Los Angeles Dodgers was aberrant, and pitchers have multiple ways to get him out. Cincinnati is a renowned power ballpark but again, Puig has power anywhere. Let us presume the Indians stick with what has been working at the top of their lineup, with Francisco Lindor, Oscar Mercado and on-base machine Carlos Santana, and Puig and Reyes slot in with Jose Ramirez after that. It is a far stronger, deeper lineup now and both Puig and Reyes should accumulate more run-producing chances. Neither newcomer is a points-league star due to their lack of walks, but power works. Puig gets the nod in roto fantasy formats for the steals.
As for others affected by this wild trade, the Padres open up a starting outfield spot for former fantasy star Wil Myers, who still possesses the skills of a potential 30-homer, 30-steal option, but durability remains an issue and there will never be a batting title in his future. Frankly, Myers is an overrated fantasy commodity at this point and the extra playing time -- presuming no other trades -- offers more viability for the counting stats, but at the risk of batting average. Newcomer Taylor Trammell offers future stardom, but not in 2019.
The Reds might give long looks to Phillip Ervin and Josh VanMeter, perhaps in a platoon, and this seems worth watching for fantasy. VanMeter is the one that bats left-handed, so he should play more, and he hit .348 at Triple-A Louisville with power, modest speed and plate discipline. He also offers middle-infield eligibility, which we crave. VanMeter could be a nice points-league sleeper.
It's a head-scratcher of a move, even independent of a possible Noah Syndergaard trade to a different, contending team. The Mets, who after Sunday's game find themselves 11½ games back in the division and six back in the wild-card race, picked up a pitcher with extreme pitch-to-contact and ground ball leanings and one with only a year-and-a-half's worth of team control.
To the former point, Stroman has posted a sub-20% strikeout rate in each of his past four seasons of at least 15 starts, and his career rate in the category is 19.3%. In addition, he has a 56.3% ground ball rate this season and 60.4% in his big league career. He's among the most reliant pitchers in baseball on the infield defense behind him, which is why it's strange to see a team with a mediocre infield defense, such as the Mets, acquire him. The Mets' collective infield defense had minus-25 Defensive Runs Saved entering Sunday, per FanGraphs.
It's therefore a strange fit, and for all the positives about Stroman switching leagues and ballparks, getting the better sides of both, his style and the fit neutralize the benefits somewhat. In his defense, the Blue Jays' four American League East rivals have averaged 5.14 runs per game, compared to the Mets' four National League East rivals averaging 4.67 per contest. Toronto's Rogers Centre, meanwhile, ranked first on our Park Factors page in terms of home runs and 15th in runs scored, and New York's Citi Field ranked 18th and 21st in those categories.
Given that it has been a quiet trade deadline thus far, it's possible that those fantasy managers in NL-only leagues who have saved FAAB in the hopes of landing a big deadline prize might open up their wallets for Stroman. Considering the fit, that's probably not the best idea, and it'd be wiser not to throw out a maximum bid.
Rankings-wise, Stroman was 61st in my most recent update for head-to-head roto category leagues. With the trade, he'll jump roughly seven spots, which makes him only a borderline top-50 starter and one still susceptible to matchups.
As for the point about team control, just a final thought for those of you in dynasty/keeper leagues. Since Stroman is under Mets control for only the next year-and-a-half, another trade sometime next season, should the team fail to contend in 2020, would put him in another situation in which his contact/ground ball skills don't ideally fit. He'll also potentially be on a new team as a free agent entering 2021 and is one of the more situationally dependent pitchers in the game.
Smaller deals with noteworthy fantasy baseball implications
Call Aguilar's trade to the Rays a fresh start, because that's exactly what it is and exactly what fuels any heightened interest in fantasy baseball.
The No. 77 performer overall on our 2018 Player Rater, leading to his being drafted 85th on average in ESPN leagues in the preseason, Aguilar has ranked among the season's biggest disappointments. He is currently 638th on said Player Rater this season despite appearing in 94 games and never having missed consecutive contests for the Milwaukee Brewers. His .264 isolated power of last season, which was a single-season best in any stop as a professional, has plummeted to .149, his lowest mark since he was a high-Class-A player in the Cleveland Indians' organization in 2012.
Maybe this fresh start will wake Aguilar's sluggish bat, but this deal places hurdles in his path, most notably the fact that he's leaving the majors' No. 5 venue in terms of home run park factors from 2014 to '18 (No. 11 this season) in Milwaukee's Miller Park and moving to Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field, which ranked 23rd from 2014 to '18 (20th this season). In addition, Aguilar has balanced career lefty/righty splits, his wOBA identical against each (.343), which makes him a strange fit on a team that loves to mix and match daily lineups.
Can Aguilar rebound in Tampa? Certainly the Rays might see something in his bat that others do not, à la the Yandy Diaz winter acquisition, in which they saw untapped power in his previously ground-ball-oriented swing. In Aguilar's defense, he hasn't shown a huge drop in terms of his launch angle (14.5 degrees, after 16.2 last season, yet still ahead of his 11.8 of 2017), hard-contact rate (40.4% of batted balls per Statcast, after 42.5% last season) or average exit velocity (90.1 mph, after 89.8 in 2018), and he does have .295/.371/.513 slash lines in his past 40 games, albeit in only 89 plate appearances within that sample.
Expect Aguilar to immediately move into the team's designated hitter/first-base mix, cutting into the at-bats of Austin Meadows, Travis d'Arnaud, Nate Lowe and Ji-Man Choi and causing each member of the quartet to have to force its way into the lineup via "hot hand." Aguilar's power-oriented swing makes for an intriguing speculative, league-switching buy, and I think he could have 10 homers remaining in his bat despite his extreme pitching-friendly new home environment.
Aguilar should cost you very little via FAAB/waiver priority -- think $15-20 on a full $100 budget -- and if you can sneak him through, he's worth at least a flier.
Give new Braves closer Shane Greene so much credit for his 1.18 ERA and All-Star season -- and he is certainly performing better than outgoing closer Luke Jackson -- but do we really think his ERA ends up there? Greene has a 3.69 FIP. That sounds about right, and frankly, I would predict an ERA in that neighborhood the final two months. The hit rate is crazy low and fortunate, and the K rate is merely OK, hardly special for a quote-unquote closer. Potential playoff opponents are certainly not scared of Shane Greene.
That said, if you are in an NL-only format, he has to get the saves because what happened Wednesday, when Jackson was on his way to another rough outing in which he was relieved of duties, brought clarity. Sean Newcomb could not save the game, but he is at least pitching well of late. Josh Tomlin is not a closer. Greene finished July with nary a save, and that was all on the Tigers for not providing opportunities; the Braves will provide them. The Braves are good. Greene should be busier, but that comes with some run-prevention risk.
As for the Tigers, we could give you a few names to add, but I reiterate, no saves all of July. Setup man Joe Jimenez is pitching like Greene did a year ago, so expect him to get first shot at the many saves coming his way (he types sarcastically). Perhaps Buck Farmer gets a chance or two, as well. Oh, and feel free to cut Luke Jackson. Even if/when Greene struggles, his run is over.
Our first deal involving a closer is now on the books, but judging by his 22.5% rostered rate in ESPN leagues, Romo's trade to the Twins from the Miami Marlins probably won't cause too many of us to sweat. It's a greater (potential) loss in terms of save chances for AL-only, rather than standard mixed managers. Romo has historically been a much more dominant pitcher against righties, rather than left-handed bats, never affording the former greater than a .720 OPS in a single year and limiting them to a .574 mark over the course of his 12-year career. He could fit into the mix of what has been a season-long "closer by committee" arrangement in Minnesota.
Taylor Rogers, who has 11 of Minnesota's past 14 successful save conversions, still seems to be the odds-on favorite to close most nights, but with Rogers blowing two of his past three opportunities, Romo could sneak in a matchups-driven chance from time to time. He should essentially serve as the team's new version of Blake Parker, who had four of the past seven saves that didn't go to Rogers prior to being designated for assignment last week.
In Romo's absence, the Marlins could similarly turn to a committee, with their bullpen lacking any clear and/or experienced options to graduate into the role. Nick Anderson, a relatively hard thrower with a 2.70 FIP in 43 appearances in what has been a breakthrough rookie campaign, seems to be the likeliest candidate after serving as Romo's primary setup man for the past month-plus. Left-hander Jose Quijada, who has had four scoreless appearances in his past five outings since the All-Star break (and has begun working in late-and-close stints), could serve as the team's top "matchups guy" when the opponent is lefty-stacked in the ninth inning.
Anderson's extreme fly ball leaning and 7.8% walk rate make him a slightly shaky full-time option. Add Quijada's even higher walk rate (17.9%) and similar fly ball leaning, and it's possible that the flame-throwing (but wild) Tayron Guerrero, or perhaps converted starters Trevor Richards or Jarlin Garcia, could push their way into the role in time. Guerrero has long looked like the "skills-oriented future closer" here, making him a wise stash in NL-only formats.
Notable minor deals of interest
Corey Dickerson to the Philadelphia Phillies: Dickerson will play left field until Jay Bruce off the IL next week. Can't really make any case for him in a 10-teamer. More of a pinch hitter. Plus, no power this year, although Tristan H. Cockcroft notes that Dickerson gets a substantial home ballpark books in that category. -- Eric Karabell
Zac Gallen to the Arizona Diamondbacks: Gallen is pitching over his head a bit. He has a 2.72, fueled in large part by a LOB% of 80.9, which is well above the league average (72.1%). With as many guys as he's walking (4.49 BB/9), that will catch up to him quickly. Still just a streamer in Arizona. -- Eric Karabell & AJ Mass
Tanner Roark to the Oakland Athletics: Though he does move from a hitting-friendly ballpark (1.042 runs scored factor from 2014 to '18, seventh, in Great American Ball Park) to a pitching-friendly one (0.943, 22nd, in Oakland Coliseum), the Oakland Athletics play 20 of their final 53 games against the eight teams that have averaged at least 5.2 runs per game, and another eight against teams that have averaged at least five runs. The league switch, coupled with the tough schedule, neutralizes any benefit from the park swap, and it's going to keep him in the streamer's class in mixed leagues, if not push his value downward. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft
Washington Nationals bullpen: Roenis Elias, Dan Hudson and Hunter Strickland add depth to a bullpen that still has Sean Doolittle with a firm hold on the closer's role. Keep checking our Closer Chart for the latest on all bullpen pecking orders. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft
Mike Leake to the Arizona Diamondbacks: Leake had a 3.91 ERA and a .270 BAA over his final 11 starts for Seattle, including a complete-game victory over the Astros on June 5 and a one-hit shutout against the Angels on July 19. Of course, he got double-digit run support in both of those outings. And it's a whole lot easier to win games when you've got a 10-run lead. From a points-league perspective, Leake has actually been a strong, top-25 SP option because he simply hasn't walked anybody; he has reached triple-digits in Ks this season while giving out only 19 free passes. That said, I was already a tad concerned about his career-worst HR/FB rate of 17.3% along with a career-high 33.3 FB%. I'm not sure moving to Chase Field is going to help matters in that department all that much. If I'm in a roto format, I'm steering clear. -- AJ Mass
Ryne Stanek to the Florida Marlins: In moving from the Tampa Bay Rays to Miami Marlins, Stanek has a realistic chance at going from opener to closer -- he "opened" 27 games for the Rays this year, which is still the major league's lead in terms of games started. He's on track to return from the injured list (for a hip injury) within the next few days, and considering his 3.17 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 2018-19 combined, coupled with Nick Anderson's going back in the Rays' direction in the deal, Stanek probably has the experience the Marlins would most want in the role. He's worth a stash in NL-only/deep-mixed leagues just for that reason, though Jose Quijada, Tayron Guerrero and Adam Conley could all also figure into the saves mix. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft
Scooter Gennett to the San Francisco Giants: The Scooter Gennett fantasy managers so loved the past few seasons is not the current version, and expecting that to change with a trade to the Giants is a mistake. There is no tougher ballpark for left-handed hitters to provide power in than Oracle Park by the bay. Gennett, who missed most of the season with a groin injury and has hit .212 with nary a home run in 20 games for the Cincinnati Reds, looks statistically nothing like the fellow who hit .303 with 50 home runs the past two seasons, and it would seem difficult to expect this production in 2020, as well. Perhaps he is still hurting or needs more time to get his season going, but fantasy managers should look elsewhere. -- Eric Karabell