I made an appearance on the Fantasy Drive with Ray Flowers and Kyle Effrink on SiriusXM Fantasy on Monday night, and one of the topics we discussed was the Cubs trading for outfielder Dexter Fowler. The Cubs were looking for another outfielder, preferably someone who could play center field, and got exactly that in their deal with the Astros. In return for Fowler, the Astros received pitcher Dan Straily and third baseman Luis Valbuena.
The Cubs also needed another veteran presence in an otherwise very young lineup, or future lineup. Fowler will man center field for the Cubs, allowing Arismendy Alcantara to play all over the field, including third base now that Valbuena is gone, second base should Javier Baez need to work on his swing in AAA, and any of the three outfield spots. Here is more on Alcantara from Cubs beat reporter Carrie Muskat via MLB.com:
Arismendy Alcantara played the most in center field last season, but he had to learn about the outfield on the job after coming up in the Cubs' system as an infielder. He may become manager Joe Maddon's Cubs version of Ben Zobrist-- a versatile player who can fill in everywhere.
"Joe's been a part of a lot of our meetings about the team, and Alcantara, for one, brings a smile to his face every time because he's exactly the kind of player he loves," Hoyer said of the 23-year-old switch-hitter. "He can play all over the field, he can run the bases, he's a good defender, he's got good power. He's an exciting piece who you can move around."
I could see Fowler leading off for the Cubs, but his fantasy value really doesn't change much with this trade, as he offers little more than his low double digit power, solid on base percentage, and double digit stolen bases. There is a chance that we see him steal more bases in 2015, though, as manager Joe Maddon loves to give his teams the green light on the base paths. Could we see 10-12 home runs and 20 stolen bases from Fowler in 2015? I think there is a really good chance that we do.
Then again, I see the same from Alcantara as well.
Valbuena leaves Chicago, where his time was limited with the best prospect in the game breathing down his neck, and joins a young Astros team that needed a better bat at the hot corner. Valbuena represents an upgrade offensively over Matt Dominguez. They put up similar stats at the plate last season, but Valbuena knows how to take a walk, while Dominguez does not. Valbuena put up a 2.7 fWAR last season, while Dominquez was below replacement value.
When does Kris Bryant get called up?
A lot of people feel that the Cubs trading Luis Valbuena to the Astros opens the door for Bryant to start the season in the big leagues. I am not sure that is the case, and the Cubs even said the same yesterday.
So when will Bryant get called up to the big leagues?
This might deserve an article of its own, but this is a question on the mind of many fantasy owners. I was asked this question on the Fantasy Drive show as well. I think the Cubs will call up Bryant toward the latter part of April, similar to what the Astros did with George Springer last season.
Looking at the Cubs schedule in April, I see the Cubs calling him up on Monday April 20th. They start a road trip on April 20th, playing four games in Pittsburgh, three in Cincinnati, then go home for three games vs the Pirates and three vs the Brewers, before heading back on the road for four games vs the Cardinals and three vs the Brewers. That is a s stretch of 20 games vs their division rivals from April 20th - May 10th, and that would be as good a time as any to introduce Bryant to their division rivals.
Bryant has the potential to hit 25+ home runs in five months of plate appearances, but I wouldn't count on it. He will, undoubtedly, struggle at some point during the season, facing major league pitching for the first time. Most rookies do and he will be no different. Bryant hits for power, but with that will come a strikeout rate that approached 30% in AAA last season. I don't recall seeing anyone talking about that this offseason. That rate will rise in the big leagues initially, and his success will be determined upon the adjustments he makes at the plate at the big league level.
Should the Braves trade Craig Kimbrel?
If you follow me at all on Twitter, you know my stance on this. I think the Braves should deal Kimbrel, and actually, should have been the player they traded first. Then again, I think closers bring back more value at the trade deadline than during the offseason.
The Braves have no reason to keep the best closer in the game when they are going to be one of the worst teams in the game in 2015. The risk they run is if he gets hurt between the start of spring training and the July 31st trade deadline.
Braves GM John Hart has done a really good job trading away the likes of Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and others. Kimbrel is the last piece that Hart has to deal, and I am sure he will get a nice return over the next few months.
I have seen many Braves fans tell me, and others, that they Braves should keep Kimbrel, but I know Hart is smart enough to know that it makes little sense to retain a closer who could blow his arm out in his next outing. Hart has signed Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson this offseason, both of whom have closing experience. Hart has set up his bullpen for a Kimbrel trade, but the question is to which team.
We will learn more once the season starts, heck, he could be dealt in spring training.