By Sam McPherson
It happens every summer before and on July 31 as Major League Baseball teams swap a lot of players before the non-waiver trade deadline. Teams with a chance at the postseason and the World Series trade for players to bolster their rosters, while those clubs with a chance for "next year" only send expendable and expensive athletes to the competing teams in exchange for future prospects and stars.
The challenge in fantasy baseball, as we first pointed out two weeks ago in this space, is to make sure your own roster doesn't become obsolete in the process. That closer you have may have been traded to a different team where he won't sniff the ninth inning anymore, making him all but useless on your team (see below). The set-up guy sitting on the waiver wire is now the new closer, and he's the guy you want to grab, as we discussed last week.
The only constant in this game we play is change, and if you're not on top of the changes that happen today, the consequences could be disastrous in the final two months of the fantasy baseball. It takes constant vigilance here to win, and nothing reminds fantasy owners of this more than the July 31 trade deadline.
Players to Get Onto Your Roster Now
1. Brad Hand, RP, San Diego Padres: There's a chance he may be traded, but if not, he's the new closer in San Diego, and Hand's numbers are stellar (2.00 ERA, 11.7 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate). Either way, the lefty reliever is the National League equivalent of Cleveland's Andrew Miller, and that role can have tremendous value depending on your league's rules.
2. Jaime García, SP, New York Yankees: He had Tommy John surgery a few years ago, but García seems to be rounding into his 2010-2011 form again now, as he won 26 games in those two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. Many seasons later, the Bronx Bombers just acquired him, and he's won his last three starts (two for Atlanta, one for Minnesota). He should do well in New York if you need an emergency starter.
3. Howie Kendrick, UTL, Washington Nationals: He hit .340 in 39 games this year with Philadelphia while fighting injuries, but now he's slated to be the everyday left fielder for the Nats. Depending on your league rules, he might also have first base and second base eligibility, in addition to the outfield. He may be 34 years old, but Kendrick still can hit for average, and his 11 extra-base hits this year are decent, too.
4. Manuel Margot, OF, San Diego Padres: With eight home runs and 11 stolen bases, he's a sneaky OF addition to your roster. His .278 batting average is workable, considering the other assets he brings to the situation. Margot is also hitting .313 since the beginning of June, so he's playing at his best right now if you want to ride the hot streak for as long as it lasts.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Brandon Maurer, RP, Kansas City Royals: The former San Diego closer was traded to the Royals, and he won't be pitching in the ninth inning much for Kansas City. Maurer shouldn't have been closing in San Diego at all with that 5.72 ERA for the Padres, so if you got his cheap saves this year, drop him and consider yourself fortunate.
2. Ian Desmond, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies: Expectations were high for him this season in the Mile High City, but Desmond has been a disappointment. He's now injured again, having played in only 65 games so far this year (.285, five HRs, 32 RBI, 10 SBs). That's a bit of a drop off from the 20-20 season he put up with Texas last season. Keep him on your roster at your own risk, but the Rockies have other hitters playing better than Desmond.
3. David Price, SP, Boston Red Sox: He has made just 11 starts this year, and while Price's numbers this season are solid (5-3, 3.82 ERA, 1.273 WHIP), he's been inconsistent. Plus, Price is now on the disabled list with elbow inflammation, and that's never a good sign. His best days may be behind him, and his preoccupation with Red Sox broadcasters criticizing the team is also a sign his head isn't where it should be. Drop him.
4. Anthony Swarzak, RP, Milwaukee Brewers: It was a whirlwind week for this veteran reliever, as he momentarily looked like he could be the next closer for the Chicago White Sox (with his 2.23 ERA and 1.034 WHIP) after the ChiSox traded their closer to the Yankees. Not so, as the White Sox shipped him to Milwaukee, where now Swarzak will be setting up Corey Knebel. If you grabbed him thinking "saves", you can now drop him. Some gambles don't work out, after all.
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