How Free Agency Affects Fantasy Baseball
In free agency, the top bidder nearly always wins.
Therefore, so does the wallet of the particular free agent. While there will be some financial windfalls for the following free agents, their fantasy stock may actually drop – or perceive to drop – should they leave their current digs for greener (as in money) pastures.
Below is the fantasy spin on four free agents to be, and how where they sign could affect their fantasy value in 2009.
Manny Ramirez was nothing short of brilliant in his two months in Los Angeles after a contemptuous first half with Boston. In only 53 games with the Dodgers, Manny hit 17 home runs, drove in 53 runs, scored 36 more, and hit a remarkable .396. He even stole two bases.
For the season, Manny hit .332 with 37 homers, 121 RBI and 102 runs scored. These were his highest yearly marks since 2005. At 36 years old, it’s difficult to tell if Manny still has something in the tank and was dogging it a bit in Boston, or if he just had a hot two months in LA. Fantasy owners of Chipper Jones were likely asking the same thing as he was flirting with .400 through Memorial Day last season.
Ramirez’s fantasy value has certainly skyrocketed this past year, but be wary of ranking him too high. There is always the chance that he will return to the player who can’t remember the knee in which he’s faking an injury.
You all know that K-Rod set the saves record this past season with 62. Very impressive.
His 2.24 ERA and 1.28 WHIP are less so. Sure, they are good, but they are not all that distinguishing from other closers, especially in the WHIP department. His 77 strikeouts in 68.3 innings represent his lowest strikeout ratio per 9 innings since 2003, when he was a setup man for Troy Percival.
Really, the reason that Rodriguez was so valuable in fantasy circles this year starts and ends with his number of saves. Unfortunately for K-Rod, that record is more of an indictment on his team’s offensive prowess than it is a glowing endorsement of his pitching abilities.
Wherever Rodriguez ends up, you can almost be sure of the fact that he will not equal the 69 save opportunities that he had this year. Most closers will get 62 saves if they get 69 opportunities.
Teams often produce about 40-50 save chances for their closer a year. Expect K-Rod to have similar stats in ERA, WHIP and Ks in 2009 as he did in ’08 but with far fewer saves. That will make him a top-tier closer, but probably not the most coveted in the 2009 fantasy drafts.
Derek Lowe was lights out for the Dodgers in 2008, especially down the stretch. He finished 2008 with a 14-11 mark, a 3.24 ERA, and sparkling 1.13 WHIP. He does not rack up a lot of strikeouts, however, only punching out 147 batters.
In July, August and September, Lowe went 9-3 with a 2.53 ERA and a WHIP of 0.98. He certainly helped his bank account with that stretch drive. He also increased his capital with fantasy owners who may expect similar results in 2009.
The truth is that Dodger Stadium is one of the more pitcher-friendly parks in the majors. When Lowe leaves Chavez Ravine, he will also leave his low 3′s ERA. Depending on where he ends up, the 35-year-old Lowe could drop to a No. 4 or No. 5 fantasy starter.
Much like Lowe’s stats will suffer when he leaves a friendly ballpark, Pat the Bat will have a different level of success if he leaves Citizens Bank Park, one of the more hitter-friendly locales in the majors.
In the last four seasons, few outfielders have produced the power stats that Burrell has posted. 2008 was another solid campaign for Burrell, who hit 33 bombs and drove in 86 runs. His average will always be mediocre, and he only hit .250 in 2008.
He steals no bases and is often the target for pinch-running substitutions, so his runs scored totals are often low. He crossed the plate only 74 times in 2008.
So without home runs, Burrell is not really worth owning in fantasy leagues. Fortunately for fantasy owners, Burrell is a much better power hitter on the road. This flies in the face of intuition, but he has hit only 40 of his 92 home runs since 2006 at home. His average is relatively similar on the road and at home.
So, while other fantasy owners run away from Burrell because he no longer has the supposed advantage of playing in a band box, you should run toward him, armed with the knowledge that Citizens Bank Park did not artificially inflate Burrell’s stats.