I've been rewatching the 24 series lately. For all its ludicrousness (and there is that in droves), the show really was (is? Maybe there'll be more? Please?) a master of what it was. Yes, it was silly when Jack Bauer could drive across Los Angeles, or New York, or Washington, or London over the course of a few minutes, but that's one of those things you just have to accept.
Ultimately, the show figured out how to make nine seasons of days where enough stuff happened to fill a whole day. One character needed a few minutes to travel or to, I don't know, pee, they would go over to the silly goings-on of the president. The president gets dull, let's see what the bad guys are up to. Yes, it got nutty a few times, but overall, the show mastered real-time, nailed how to deal with timing.
Which is my sloppy intro into this week, where I'm all about timing. We're fast approaching the trade deadlines in most leagues — in Yahoo!, the deadline is this coming Sunday, while ESPN's is August 28. This late in the season, your waiver wire might provide some help — we all remember Shane Spencer — but for the next week or two or three, your best chance at bettering your chances is via trade, and time is running out. ("Damnit!" -Jack)
With that in mind, we're heading right into The Ticker this week, with some thoughts on potential trade targets and trade giveaways (and, yes, waiver ideas). As always, stats are through Monday; ownership percentages are as of Tuesday afternoon.
(The players' values are at or near their low points, and you might be able to get them for cheap)
Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, WAS (88 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)
Since coming off the DL for the second time, Rendon has struggled, with a slash line of only .236/.338/.345. For the season now, he still has only one home run. There are some signs of life, though. His BABIP in that recent stretch is only .255. His hard-hit percentage isn't up to snuff, but his soft percentage is right in line with his career numbers; you'd assume the further he gets from his injury the more the medium percentage will rise to the hard. If nothing else, there's the pedigree. First-rounder, big-time prospect, hit to a 128 OPS+ as recently as last year. Assuming he stays healthy the rest of the way (which, sure, is always a risky assumption with Rendon), he's as safe a bet as anyone to improve going forward.
Mike Napoli, 1B, TEX (34 percent)
The problem in Boston wasn't that Napoli is done. It's that he is just about inarguably done against right-handers, and that's a big problem when you live in a world where the vast majority are right-handers. Napoli has hit to a .627 OPS against righties this year, but still sits at .835 against lefties. That's not superstar level, but it totally plays. In Texas, with Mitch Moreland and Prince Fielder already in the fold, there's little reason Napoli should face more than a small handful of righties the rest of the year. In leagues with daily lineups, or in DFS scenarios, when the Rangers go against a left-hander, Napoli should be a perfectly fine option. (Goes, sees Napoli pinch-hit against Sunday, cries just a little.)
(Just because a guy is at or near peak value doesn't mean he has to regress. These are guys who are exceeding expectations for them, but I can see it continuing)
Chris Davis, 1B/3B/OF, BAL (95 percent)
Okay, so I was probably wrong that he'd win MVP (though, to be fair, I didn't so much believe that as I thought that claiming that would highlight my belief in his resurgence), but still, at this point it's more or less clear that Davis' struggles last year were more the aberration than his good 2013. The truth of Davis lies somewhere in between. Davis reached 30 home runs Monday and, while he does lead the league in strikeouts, he's also been hitting the ball all over the field since the All-Star break, to the tune of .314/.398/.744 with 11 home runs. Add in eligibility at both third base and outfield, and Davis is a must-have.
Luis Valbuena, 1B/2B/3B, HOU (25 percent)
Valbuena's batting average bottomed out at .179 in mid-June. Even then, he had 13 home runs and a .217 ISO, so the batting average, while it hurt you, was at least accompanied with some helpful friends. After that, Valbuena's average started to climb. It's only .213 now, but since that June bottoming out, his average has been a wholly acceptable .267. And he hasn't increased his average at the expense of power, either — his ISO in that second stretch? It's .222, actually better than it was earlier. It looks to me like Valbuena has just seen his BABIP balance out, as the first-half stretch had it at .166, while it's been .298 since mid-June. (And once again, having multi-position eligibility is a big help.)
(Sure, these guys have been great, but this is the time to cash in your chips)
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B/3B/OF, WAS (74 percent)
Since coming off the DL, Zimmerman is hitting an incredible .333/.400/.729, a huge improvement on his numbers going into his DL stint. But it's been true for at least a couple years now that Zimmerman is a bigger name than he is a fantasy contributor and, despite this recent hot streak, that's likely to still be true, even if Zimmerman stays healthy, which — like Rendon — is far from a sure thing. He's the kind of guy who some owners will like the look of, especially off a recent hot streak, and this isn't a hot streak that is likely to continue. Float his name out there. Someone will bite.
Toronto Blue Jays — all of them; every last one
The last couple weeks, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion have been hitting so well, vintage Barry Bonds might get jealous. The next stars — Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Bautista, etc. — are a step below, but are still hitting incredibly. Sort their pitchers over the same span, and almost every ERA starts with a zero or one or two. The team is doing everything well right now. But Jesse Spector has been saying it on Twitter basically since the trade deadline: Every single team has a cold streak left in them. The Mets will cool off. The Cubs. And, yes, the Blue Jays, despite what looks right now like a historic offense. Even if they end up winning the east, Toronto will lose seven or eight of 10 at some point the rest of the way. And that will come because that offense, which right now is hitting all the home runs, will cool off. Donaldson will hit .187 for a week. Encarnacion will spend eight days without a home run. There will be a cold streak for this team down the stretch. Right now, though? Right now fantasy owners will pay through the nose to get these guys. Take advantage.
(Yeah, their current values might not be at peak, but frankly, I think lower is more likely than higher; don't get cute)
Santiago Casilla, RP, SFG (86 percent)
Casilla is sitting on a 15.00 ERA this month, with four outings, three innings, five earned runs and eight baserunners allowed. That's awful, even if it's a small sample. Still, his July ERA ws 6.75, with 6.2 innings spread over nine outings, and 14 baserunners there, too. Casilla isn't that bad, obviously. The thing is, though, that even when Casilla is good, he isn't that good. He had a 1.25 WHIP through June, which now sits at 1.50. His strikeouts are good-not-great. This is a mediocre reliever who has been on a team that gives him opportunities. He's lower tier among the closers with the jobs. If someone will give you real-closer return in trade for Casilla, take advantage.
Stephen Vogt, C/1B/OF, OAK (84 percent)
Graph a player's batting average over the course of the season. For some guys, the streaky guys, it looks like a liar's polygraph results, swinging back and forth as he has his hot and cold streaks. Other guys will have general crests and troughs, looking like a wave. Vogt? Vogt's batting-average graph looks like a ski slope. Sure, it's a bunny slope, not a black-diamond. But that thing has gone down all year:
He's still a big name. He's also hitting .134/.171/.209 since the All-Star break, .208/.279/.315 since the start of June. Find someone who remembers April and May and get whatever you can.
(The values here are at the extremes, either really high or really low, but it's to the point where any sale wouldn't be a fair one)
Todd Frazier, 1B/3B, CIN (99 percent)
Okay, do not blame the Home Run Derby (seriously, don't; I'll fight you), but since the break, Frazier is hitting only .148/.200/.261 with two home runs. If I had to commit one way or another on Frazier (buy or sell), I'd call him a buy low; he's likely to improve in a big way the rest of the way, with a multi-year track record of success. The thing is, who's selling Frazier right now cheaply? Everyone assumes the same thing I am; he'll get better. So while number-wise he's probably a buy-low, I expect you'll have to pay full price in any trade to get the guy. And if you do that, then he has to rebound. It's not a luxury that will probably happen. So in the end, I think you keep Frazier if you have him, and leave him alone if you don't.
Franklin Gutierrez, OF, SEA (0 percent)
We all assumed it was over for Gutierrez, after injuries limited him to 81 games total the last three years, including a goose egg for 2014. But he battled back into the big leagues this year, and through 27 games, he's hitting .310/.342/.606. Still, this is Franklin Gutierrez. First off, let's say that if you are using Gutierrez, it's already a super-deep league. We know this. He's sat out 14 games since coming back up and been a substitute 11 more times, and you never know if and when those old injury problems will jump up and bite him again. Who is going to give up anything of value for the wild card that is Gutierrez? Keep him, enjoy the ride for however long it lasts.
(Low-owned guys who have low value now, but might burst onto the scene from wherever they are in the next little while)
Drew Smyly, SP, TAM (35 percent)
Derek Holland, SP, TEX (13 percent)
There aren't a lot of under-the-radar options this late in the season, especially this season, with what seems like every single possibly relevant prospect already up. Instead of trolling the prospect lists (sure, maybe we see Corey Seager or Hector Olivera or one or two other guys down the stretch, but still), you're forced to troll the injury list for some rest-of-the-way help. These two pitchers are on rehab. Smyly has looked bad in his rehab outings, but his rehab start Tuesday was probably his last one in his attempt to pitch through a partial labrum tear. Holland is just a little behind, with a couple more starts before he returns, ostensibly later this month. Neither guy is anything close to a sure thing, but if you're desperate for help, there are some lottery tickets here.
(Handcuffs; low-owned guys who have someone in front of them, but they are strong backups or replacements to stash)
Fernando Rodney, RP, SEA (60 percent)
Yeah, I know, I know, Rodney is Rodney. The thing is, though, that Carson Smith has started to see his numbers fade. His last eight outings, Smith has three losses and a blown save, and six earned runs in five innings for a 10.80 ERA, with 14 baserunners in that time. Even with that, Smith's WHIP for the season is under 1.00, but if his recent struggles continue, the Mariners might look for another option, and Rodney has looked ... well, better of late. In the same stretch that Smith has struggled, Rodney has a 2.35 ERA with eight baserunners and nine strikeouts in 7.2 innings. The Mariners were so reluctant to go away from Rodney to begin with that I can imagine some level of eagerness to return to him, if the situation allows.
Scott Van Slyke, 1B/OF, LAD (1 percent)
Joc Pederson's struggles of late have been epic. His OPS has finally dipped below .800, and his batting average has plummeted. His defense, which was highly touted on his way up, has been merely "meh." The Dodgers are going to give the rookie a long, long leash, but this is a slumping team that suddenly is no lock for a postseason berth; if Pederson doesn't get it turned around, he'll start playing less. The only other real center-field option in Los Angeles is Van Slyke (not that he's a great CF option, but he's better than the other guys). Meanwhile, maybe Yasiel Puig becomes an August waiver trade. Maybe Andre Ethier gets hurt again. There are lots of places for Van Slyke to play. I think he's likely to be exposed in more playing time, but Van Slyke is on a three-year stretch with a slash line of .270/.363/.478. He could be a sneaky play down the stretch.