There was plenty of off-season action in Major League Baseball, as several players changed teams via free agency or trade. In the National League, some transactions were more noteworthy than others. For instance, Jayson Werth broke the bank when he signed a huge free agent deal with the Washington Nationals. Cliff Lee went back to the Philadelphia Phillies where he made his mark in 2009 playoffs. Those impact moves could shake up the National League East standings, but they weren’t the only significant transactions of the off-season. Here’s a closer look at the Werth and Lee signings, plus three other moves in the N.L. that could change the fortunes of a few teams, including your fantasy baseball team in 2011.
5. Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs — It’s difficult to figure out Matt Garza, who joins the Cubs from Tampa Bay. Is he the pitcher who threw a no-hitter in July or the one who was tagged for a 5.88 ERA in September? His overall numbers in 2010 (15-10, 3.91 ERA and 1.25 WHIP) give a more accurate read on what to expect from the young right-handed pitcher. His career numbers are not very impressive (42-44, 3.97 ERA and 1.32 WHIP), but Garza has tons of upside. Moving out of the A.L. East to pitch in the N.L. Central may even help him. Target Garza for the middle of your fantasy baseball rotation; you can probably nab him in the late rounds of your draft.
4. Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals — What is Werth really Worth? Certainly not the seven-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Nationals in the off-season. But he can be very valuable to your fantasy baseball team. Over the last three seasons, the 31-year-old outfielder has averaged 29 homers, 84 RBI and 18 stolen bases with a .279 batting average. That’s across-the-board production not many players can provide. Werth was one of the more underrated players at his position before cashing in as a free agent, but now may be viewed as overrated due to the contract. Don’t consider the huge contract on draft day — you’re not the one paying it — and take Werth in the fifth or sixth round to be your second outfielder.
3. Zack Greinke, Milwaukee Brewers — Greinke escaped baseball Siberia in Kansas City with a trade to the up-and-coming Milwaukee Brewers, who also traded for former Toronto Blue Jay Shaun Marcum in December. But the pressure is on Greinke this year to deliver the goods, like he did for the Royals two seasons ago. He won the American League Cy Young Award in 2009 with a 16-8 record and a league-leading 2.16 ERA. His 242 strikeouts in 229.1 innings pitched and 1.07 WHIP made him an impact fantasy pitcher. However, Greinke regressed last season with a 10-14 record and a bloated 4.17 ERA. He fanned 41 fewer batters as the year before in 9.1 fewer innings pitched. Basically, he was a bust in 2010. A change of scenery may help the 27-year-old recapture some of his Cy Young magic and be top 10 starter 2011.
2. Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves — Outside of Chase Utley, there hasn’t been a more productive second baseman in the game over the last three years. Since 2008, Utley has a total of 80 homers and 262 RBI compared to Uggla’s 96 long balls and 287 RBI. Of course, Utley beats Uggla in batting average, OPS, runs scored and stolen bases, but not by as much as you would think. Uggla, who hit a career-high .287 with 33 homers, 105 RBI and 100 runs last season, easily could be one of the top 50 fantasy players in the game, so draft him accordingly. Just be prepared to ride out a few slumps from the .263 career hitter.
1. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies — With Roy Halladay in town, Cliff Lee may not be the ace of the Philadelphia Phillies’ staff, but he can be the top guy in your fantasy rotation. The crafty lefty, who won 12 games last season while pitching for Seattle and Texas, could approach 20 wins with the talented Phillies (he won 22 games with Cleveland in 2008). But Lee will contribute in every pitching category, not just wins, like he did last season by posting a 3.18 ERA, 1.00 WHIP (18 total walks!) and 185 strikeouts. Plus, Lee was outstanding with the Phillies in 2009. He went 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 12 games with them after a late-season trade from the Indians. He’s one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball with the potential to be in the top five.
The Official Site of Major League Baseball