Top Ten Fantasy Baseball Offseason Transactions – January 23, 2012

The weekly Top Ten list will now transition back to fantasy baseball as we approach the Super Bowl.  Sure some of you still may be playing fantasy football playoff leagues or survivor pools, but most of you are now getting ready for baseball.  Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to spring training in a month and fantasy magazines are hitting the newsstands.  After an incredible end to the 2011 MLB season and a very entertaining World Series between the Cardinals and Rangers, everyone gets a clean slate and a fresh start.  Part of starting anew is evaluating what changes have been made during the offseason.  So, without further adieu, here are the Top Ten baseball offseason transactions (as of early January 18, 2012 – before Yu Darvish signed) with the most fantasy implications.

10.  Carlos Beltran signs with the St. Louis Cardinals.  After Albert Pujols shockingly left the World Series champions to sign the with Angels, the Cardinals were left with a gaping hole in their lineup.  While they cannot replace Pujols’ production exactly, they should be just fine after signing Carlos Beltran to a two-year contract.  Beltran proved he was healthy in 2011 as he played well everyday for the Mets and Giants.  Now entering his mid-30’s, Beltran is not the player he was five years ago.  But he should certainly thrive in the middle of the Cardinals batting order which includes Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.  If history is any indication, St. Louis is the perfect place for Beltran to re-establish himself the same way Berkman did in 2011.  Prediction: .288 AVG, 24 homeruns, 89 RBI, 95 runs scored, 15 stolen bases.

9.  Michael Cuddyer signs with the Colorado Rockies.  Michael Cuddyer, the longest-tenured Twin finally departed Minnesota for the thin air of Denver.  He offers great flexibility because he is eligible at 1B, 2B and OF in most leagues.  His production has been somewhat inconsistent over the last several years, but when healthy he has proved he can hit 25 homeruns and drive in 80-90 runs.  He joins a lineup that already includes Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, so the pressure will be off of him to lead a team’s offensive attack.  Prediction: .280 AVG, 28 homeruns, 85 RBI, 80 runs scored, 5 stolen bases.

8.  Carlos Zambrano traded to the Miami Marlins.  The Big Z is the epitome of having a lot of talent and absolutely no brains or heart.  He was a cancer to the Cubs for several years, and incoming GM Jed Hoyer finally found a taker for him.  It will be interesting to see if new Marlins’ manager Ozzie Guillen can help Carlos Zambrano rediscover himself.  The potential is there because Zambrano has proven he can be a #1 type starter and be a great fantasy contributor.  With an improved team and other stars around him, don’t be surprised if we see flashes of the old Big Z.  Prediction:  14 wins, 4.05 ERA, 175 strikeouts, 1.30 WHIP.

7.  C.J. Wilson signs with the Los Angeles Angels.  While King Albert was stealing all the headlines for what the Angels did at the winter meetings, Los Angeles snuck in and grabbed hometown pitcher C.J. Wilson away from the division rival Texas Rangers.  Wilson has been one of the better starting pitchers the past two seasons, and he now joins a loaded Angels’ staff to essentially be their number three starter.  He will get to pitch several times against anemic offenses in Oakland and Seattle, and he will also still have the benefit of getting good run support.  The biggest concern will be his win total because the Angels’ bullpen has lots of question marks.  Prediction:  16 wins, 3.85 ERA, 190 strikeouts, 1.20 WHIP.

6.  Gio Gonzalez traded to the Washington Nationals.  It is astonishing to see how much good young pitching the A’s traded away this offseason.  Gio Gonzalez was arguably the best of the bunch as he was sent to Washington for a package of minor league prospects.  Coming off a terrific season, Gonzalez now joins a solid young rotation on an improving Nationals’ team.  He will be pitching in another pitcher-friendly ballpark and has the benefit of a solid young bullpen.  He recently signed a five-year extension with the Nationals, so he is there to stay.  Prediction: 14 wins, 3.65 ERA, 155 strikeouts, 1.17 WHIP.

5.  Heath Bell signs with the Miami Marlins.  All we heard last year was how Heath Bell didn’t want to be traded and wanted to remain with the San Diego Padres.  It is no coincidence that once Omar Minaya was hired by San Diego’s front office that Bell bolted for Miami.  He now takes over the closing duties for the new Miami Marlins and their restacked team.  The Marlins starting pitching is projected to be very solid with Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Mark Buerhle and Carlos Zambrano.  So he should have plenty of save opportunities and he is one of the best in the league at converting them.  Prediction:  6 wins, 2.25 ERA, 78 strikeouts, 1.05 WHIP, 44 saves.

4.  Jonathan Papelbon signs with the Philadelphia Phillies.  One of the first big moves of the offseason came when the Phillies signed former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year contract to replace Ryan Madson as the closer.  Papelbon is primed for a big season as he will be closing for one of the best starting pitching staffs in the league.  Because the Phillies are not the offensive dynamo they were a few years ago, they tend to play in a lot of close, low-scoring games thanks to the efforts of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.  Papelbon will have lots of chances to pick up saves and re-establish himself in the National League.  Prediction: 5 wins, 2.97 ERA, 71 strikeouts, 1.14 WHIP, 48 saves.

3.  Michael Pineda traded to the New York Yankees.  The Yankees had been very quiet all offseason until just a few days ago.  Their needs were obviously starting pitching with all of the question marks they had following the 2011 season.  Knowing that prospect Jesus Montero wouldn’t have a fixed position, he was their biggest trade chip and they cashed it in to acquire one of baseball’s best young pitchers.  All-Star Michael Pineda joins the Yankee rotation and could have a break-out season as he leaves the doldrums of Seattle and their awful offense.  Pineda certainly slowed down in the second half last year, but that is to be expected by a rookie.  Now he joins a staff that includes C.C. Sabathia and Ivan Nova and will benefit from a great offense.  Prediction:  18 wins, 3.82 ERA, 204 strikeouts, 1.36 WHIP.

2.  Jose Reyes signs with the Miami Marlins.  It is not often that a team with a young All-Star shortstop goes out and gives $106 million to another one.  But that is exactly what the Marlins did in luring Jose Reyes away from the dysfunction in New York.  Reyes acquisition means that Hanley Ramirez will become the Marlins new third baseman giving them arguably the most talented left side of the infield in baseball.  The biggest question with Reyes is whether he can stay healthy.  He made two trips to the disabled list in 2011 with hamstring injuries, but the warm weather of Miami should help with that.  Look for Ozzie Guillen to turn Reyes loose and wreak havoc on opponents.  Prediction:  .291 AVG, 11 homeruns, 64 RBI, 114 runs scored, and 48 stolen bases.

1.  Albert Pujols signs with the Los Angeles Angels.  After winning his second World Series with the Cardinals, it seemed improbable that St. Louis would ever let Albert Pujols leave.  But he did as he agreed to join the Angels at the winter meetings.  Pujols, arguably the best player in baseball and indisputably one of the greatest hitters of all time, goes to the American League where he will have the luxury of DHing on occasion to rest his body.  It is no secret that he has been susceptible to injuries over the past couple seasons and his numbers have slowly been on the decline since 2009.  At 32 years old, there is still plenty left in the tank but it is unreasonable to expect the same production we have seen for over a decade continue well into this decade.  But for 2012, King Albert should have no problem justifying that top five pick in your fantasy draft.  Prediction:  .327 AVG, 43 homeruns, 119 RBI, 105 runs scored, and 3 stolen bases.

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