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2021 MLB Hot Stove Updates: James McCann, David Dahl, Rafael Montero, and more!

Heath discusses the fantasy baseball implications of recent MLB Hot Stove transactions.

MLB: SEP 15 Rangers at Astros Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you get that slightly nervous feeling when the calendar is about to flip into the new year, you might be a fantasy baseball analyst. For me, I start getting anxious if I haven’t begun to bore into a decent amount of research by the time January rolls around. It seems like the “offseason” gets shorter and shorter every year. And if you aren’t keeping up with the news—at least a little bit—you are likely falling behind.

In the spirit of staying caught up, either yours truly or one of my counterparts here at Fake Teams will aim to highlight the most fantasy-relevant moves at least once per week moving forward. Hope it helps someone, and if you have some strong opinions on a park shift or team context that may make a player go boom or bust, we’d love to hear why. No one is perfect and everyone can miss something, sometimes—let’s all make each other better, eh?

C James McCann signs a four-year deal with the New York Mets

Only 17 catchers have amassed 500 total plate appearances over the last two seasons, and McCann is one of them despite backing up Yasmani Grandal last year. Among that sort of 17 catchers, McCann is fifth in runs scored (82), 8th in RBI (75), tied for sixth in homers (25), and tied for fifth in steals (5). As for batting average, he’s SECOND at .276. He trails only Christian Vazquez (.278) and is ahead of guys like J.T. Realmuto (.273), Travis d’Arnaud (.273), Yadier Molina (.268), and others. And sure, he’s been aided by a high BABIP these last two years. He’s sitting at .355 over 2019-2020, second only to annual BABIP beast Jorge Alfaro (.359). But even if that number drops closer to his career .312 mark, I still think you’re looking at a .250+ batting average. And for what it’s worth, McCann has posted xBA marks of .259 and .258 over the last two seasons. He’s a top 12 catcher in his sleep so long as he remains healthy.

Colorado Rockies v Seattle Mariners
Can Dahl FINALLY stay healthy? The Rangers will find out.
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

OF David Dahl signs a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers

Stop me if you’ve heard it before...but Dahl just needs to stay healthy. He’s only 26 years old, and despite the Greek tragedy that were his 2020 numbers (.183/.222/.247) he still has a career slash line of .286/.334/.494. He has a long list of injury issues, including having his spleen removed after crashing into an outfield wall (2015). A ribcage injury (2017), a broken right foot (2018), an injured right ankle (2019), and right shoulder surgery (2020) highlight the rest of his long list. Shouts to for the assist with all that injury info. Anyway, Dahl will have a chance to rebuild his value in Texas, where the Rangers seem hellbent on not enduring a full rebuild. Taking a chance on a guy who is a quality player (when healthy) is exactly the sort of move Texas should be making. Dahl is currently projected to bat in the middle of the order, but I could even see him in one of the top two spots if Leody Taveras or Isiah Kiner-Falefa falter. Dahl’s current Draft Champions ADP is around pick 307, which sounds just fine to take a shot on him. I prefer teammate Willie Calhoun (314) over him, but if Calhoun is gone I’m fine to take a shot on Dahl.

Bigger picture, the Rangers ranked 29th of 30 MLB teams in wOBA and wRC+ in 2020, besting only the Pittsburgh Pirates. They’ve now added some lefty bats in Dahl and Nate Lowe, and Willie Calhoun should be healthy for the 2021 campaign as well. I don’t know that I agree with the “skinny rebuild” philosophy, but Dahl’s the exact sort of player Texas should roll the dice on if they are to employ such a philosophy.

RP Rafael Montero traded to the Mariners for RHP Jose Corniel and a PTBNL

Montero is 30 years old, older than I thought. He’s in the driver’s seat for the closer’s role in Seattle, as it was Kendall Graveman projected to begin the year in that role prior to this move. I wouldn’t go crazy here, though. The Mariners were a bottom five bullpen in 2020, and this is a huge area of need if Seattle is to contend. I’d expect more pieces to enter this bullpen before the season begins, which could mean that Montero isn’t the guy. I’m nowhere near interested in him at his current 180 ADP. I’d still be taking shots on back-end starters around that juncture. Guys like Tony Gonsolin, Zach Eflin, Andrew Heaney, John Means, and others. If it’s a closer you want, you can take a similar risk on guys like Jordan Romano, Matt Barnes, and Rich Rodriguez later on in your drafts. Maybe I’m missing something. If so, yell at me in the comments.

Montero leaves behind a less murky closing situation in Texas. It’s likely either Jose Leclerc rebounding or the youngster Jonathan Hernandez making the leap into the role—assuming the Rangers don’t bring someone else in. My amateur eyes feel like the bigger need here is starting pitching and another catching option, though. If anyone does come in, it probably won’t be someone of enough caliber to unseat Leclerc or Hernandez from getting a shot. There are too many issues in Texas, and this is not a team that is expected to have a huge payroll in 2021.

Hernandez’s ADP is 440 and Leclerc is at 508...I think both are solid bets for saves at their respective draft positions. Of the two, Hernandez reads like the far better pitcher right now, and he’s got a starter’s background, which I dig. You could be getting a guy who goes multiple innings AND gets you some saves, along with a healthy strikeout rate. As for Leclerc, he’s still generating plenty of strikeouts, striking greater than 13 batters per nine innings in each of the last three seasons (career 12.52 K/9). However, his walk rate ballooned to 5.11 BB/9 in 2019 and his 2020 season was lost after only two innings to a shoulder injury. Hernandez is clearly “the guy” in Texas, and you’re not paying a huge price to land him. That’s where I’d go in this bullpen.

Additional Closer News

Greg Holland signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal with the Royals and projects to lead that bullpen in saves in that’s notable given his ADP of 381. His teammate, Josh Staumont, has a 399 ADP and is also worthy of taking a shot on, if for no other reason than his 98.1 MPH average fastball velocity. He was wild in 2020, but that strikeout rate will play.

The most interesting reliever I’ve seen on the move is Raisel Iglesias. An ADP of 100 might seem steep, but Iglesias is one of the better relievers year in and year out. Now he headlines an Angels bullpen that should have plenty of opportunities for saves in 2021. The short season didn’t quite go as planned for the Halos, but the bones of that team are good. I’m willing to pay for Iglesias’s high strikeout rate and minuscule walk rate, especially in a situation where he reads like the unquestioned option for ninth inning work.

What say you folks? What’s your favorite move so far? What does YOUR team need to do? My Atlanta Braves need to swing a trade for Kris Bryant, for instance...