It has been a very hot Hot Stove League for Fall and Winter 2011 and there are still many key free agent signings remaining.
Fantasy Baseball Dugout takes a look at the winners and losers thus far in the 2011 free agent market. Which players will perform better in their new homes and which players will struggle. We take a look.
Albert Pujols: Cardinals –> Angels Value: Slightly Up
With the PED charge looming against Ryan Braun, Albert Pujols at age 32 just may be the #1 pick again in the 2012 fantasy baseball draft. Pujols has fared well in his career as both a DH (.360) and against the American League (.348) so we don’t expect any decline. The only slight concern is that Pujols is coming off of his worst season ever, although worst season for Albert Pujols means .299/37/99/9. By being fully healthy and able to take a day off as the DH occasionally, Pujols’ hitting should improve over his 2011 season.
Joe Nathan: Twins –> Rangers Value: Up
No matter where Joe Nathan went, his value over his 2010 and 2011 seasons was bound to be up. That’s because Nathan spent all of 2010 on the shelf after having Tommy John surgery and he sat out most of the 2011 season. Nathan was baseball’s save leader from 2004 through 2009 and had a combined 1.87 ERA which was better than Mariano Rivera’s 1.90. Nathan, age 37, is healthy for 2012 and he’s on a great team, but you have to question his durability given the past two seasons so that will cause his fantasy value to drop despite being the closer on the team that has been to two consecutive World Series.
Jonathan Papelbon: Red Sox –> Phillies Fantasy Value: Neutral
Jonathan Papelbon moves from one very good team to another. He’ll surely get his share of saves in Philadelphia, at least on the days that Roy Halladay doesn’t pitch. Papelbon has blown just 14 saves in the past 3 seasons in Boston, despite struggling a bit in the 2010 season when many fans were calling for fireballing Daniel Bard to take his spot. There won’t be such competition in Philadelphia where his job is secure with set up men Daniel Bastardo and Jose Contreras.
Heath Bell: Padres –> Marlins Fantasy Value: Neutral
Heath Bell is the clear closer in Miami now that Leo Nunez’s true identity has been discovered as Juan Carlos Oviedo. Nunez, or Oviedo, is currently on the restricted list from MLB, thus giving Bell the clear access to the closer position. Over the past three years, Bell’s 132 have been as consistent as a warm San Diego day. Bell is moving from one of the best pitcher’s parks in the Majors to another pitchers’ park in Miami. He will have another 40+ save season for the new look Marlins.
Jose Reyes: Mets –> Marlins Fantasy Value: Neutral to Up
A 6 year, $106 million contract lured Reyes to Miami. Reyes is coming off of a great 2011 season in which he put up some big numbers, despite missing 36 games. He will be moving to the leadoff spot with a revived Hanley Ramirez in the 3 hole and Mike Stanton hitting cleanup. If your league counts runs scored, Reyes value is up.
Huston Street: Rockies –> Padres Fantasy Value: Up
Anytime an already good pitcher can move from Coors Field to Petco Park, you have to think that his value is going up, way up. Coors Field was #1 in runs scored in 2011 and Petco Park was # 28. Pitchers’ ERA’s at Coors was 4.89 and at Petco it was 2.91. As for Street, he was 5.59/1.41 at Coors and 2.51/1.02 on the road. I have a feelign Street is happy to be in San Diego.
Mark Buehrle: White Sox –> Marlins Fantasy Value: Up
Mark Buehrle has pitched a perfect game and a no hitter in his career. He’s also started an all-star game. That being said, he’s never had an ERA below 3.00 in his 12 seasons with the White Sox. Buehrle has all the makings of improved stats in 2012. First of all, he moves from the park that is easiest in the league to hit a homerun, US Cellular Field, to the new Marlins Ballpark. Second, he moves to the National League where ERA’s are always improved. Third, his history shows a lifetime 3.32 ERA in inter-league play and a 24-6 record against the NL. That compares to 3.89 and 137-113 against AL opponents. In the past 7 seasons, Buehrle is 16-2 and 2.29 against the National League in 25 starts.
Josh Willingham: A’s –> Twins Fantasy Value: Down
Willingham is coming off a great year with Oakland in 2011 where he set career marks in homeruns (29), RBI (98), and runs (69). Willingham has hit in pitchers’ parks for his entire career with Oakland, Washington, and Florida so he’s no stranger to hitting in the caverns of Target Field. Willingham has never hit for much of an average and he strikes out a lot. Don’t expect that to change, but we don’t see Willingham being able to match those 29 home runs in Minnesota.
C.J. Wilson: Rangers –> Angels Fantasy Value: Up
Wilson is the biggest signing of the year not named Albert. He’ll join Dan Haren and Jared Weaver on a starting pitching staff rivaled only by the Phillies. A move from Texas to Los Angeles has got to help Wilson’s numbers. He leaves the #1 hitters park according to Park Factor and moves to the #27 hitters park. According to Baseball Reference, he leaves a home run index of 111 to 93 in Los Angeles. Wilson loved pitching on the road where he’d been 2.56/1.18 versus 3.70/1.25 at home in Texas.
Aramis Ramirez: Cubs –> Brewers Fantasy Value: Down
Ramirez joins a Brewers team that is likely going to be without Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. That won’t help Ramirez’s protection in the lineup. Aramis Ramirez had a solid 2011 season at .306/26/93/1. Ramirez liked Wrigley. He won’t fare as well in Milwaukee in 2012 although the Brewers will like him a lot more than Casey McGehee.
Michael Cuddyer: Twins –> Rockies Fantasy Value: Up Considerably
Every fantasy baseball manager should wish that his players moved to Colorado. Cuddyer has always been a solid player but playing in Target Field kept him to being ranked as the 95th best fantasy player last year by ESPN. He’ll like hitting in Colorado where he should surpass his 29 homerun season of 2009. At Coors Field, 10.7% of all fly balls leave the park; in Target, it’s only 7.6%. One of the added values of Cuddyer is that he actually qualifies as a second baseman having played 17 games at second in 2011. That should help his draft position dramatically. He’ll likely hit between Tulowitzki and Helton and is capable of a .300 season with 30+ home runs in Colorado.