After one of the most historic trade deadlines in terms of quality as well as just shear volume of trades, it’s pretty easy to feel overwhelmed and uncertain of how to feel – so don’t worry, I’m here to control your thoughts and tell you exactly how to make sense of your new look league, post July 31.
Unlike most winners/losers articles, I am not going to focus on the trade itself (although I’m baffled at what Pirates management did when they sent so much for only Drew Hutchison), but instead the fantasy implications. One guy getting traded has a huge ripple effect, for both his new team and the lineup shape, as well as how his old team needs to fill the void left.
Brandon Guyer – For a guy hitting just .241 with a .165 isolated slugging, it may seem weird to consider Guyer any sort of winner. But look at his platoon splits; his wRC+ versus righties is just 68, while against lefties is a staggering 196. He’s always been a lefty masher with a career wRC+ of 142, and he couldn’t slot into a better team than the Indians who can crush righties, but whose lineup is a little lefty dominant get destroyed by left handed pitching. Guyer, when shielded correctly, will be a force against tough lefty pitchers while letting Lonnie Chisenhall get his against righties. Guyer will no doubt be playing less often than he did with the Rays because Cleveland is simply a deeper team, but when the Indians are up against a LHP it will be wise to throw Guyer into your lineup.
Jonathan Lucroy – One of the better hitting catchers in the league, Lucroy finds himself in one of the best hitters parks while already in the middle of a 299/359/482 campaign with 13 bombs – just five off his career high. He’s going to head in to a stacked lineup in Texas, and although we find that lineup protection has more of an effect on who hits before you, Lucroy is debuting in the six hole for them, meaning he has plenty of firepower ahead of him to feel the full benefits.
Lucroy is a winner not just because he’s heading to a great hitters park, but because we can also reasonably expect his production to increase with it. Many hitters who get traded are getting traded with the assumption they can continue their current pace, and we often see teams overpay to get a hitter who turns out to be simply on a hot streak. But Lucroy has steadily held his wRC+ numbers around 120 the past few years (excluding 2015 where he was plagued with an assortment of injuries). His numbers are the very least of what we can expect in Texas because that’s his real production with half his games in Milwaukee, and the mind can only imagine how much better he gets in the hot Texas sun.
Francisco Liriano – The Blue Jays are the beneficiary of one of the weirder trades of the deadline, adding Liriano and essentially forcing Aaron Sanchez back into the bullpen. There was some question about if Liriano would shift to the pen, a move that has happened to him before, or if the Blue Jays would go with a six man rotation, again a move that has precedent. But here we are.
Not only is Liriano losing because of the hate of the Jays fans to no longer see Sanchez’ dirty sinker for six plus innings, but he’s been bad so far this year, and there’s not a lot of hope. Liriano has lost four percentage points of whiff rate, causing his strikeout rates to crash, and effectively has lead to his terrible control issues flaring back up. He hasn’t lost any significant velocity or changed repertoire much, signaling more to a decline in skill. To compound, he’s leaving the 6th most pitcher friendly park to the 22nd most friendly park.
It’s hard to imagine any sort of comeback from Liriano even though he’s had quite a resurgence from a previous “fresh start.” Don’t be interested in the guy, his comeback was fueled by getting hitters to chase at insane rates, and now that they aren’t he’s just garbage liner.
Aroldis Chapman – Yeah, maybe this one is a little risky. It’s hard to fully build a stable argument around why one of the greatest closers of all time at this point in his career is a loser at the trade deadline, but keep an open mind. Please.
First off, I’m not going to tell you Chapman isn’t legit – he’s a gosh darn monster. But he is on a three year decline on strikeout percentage and whiff rates, so there’s some kindling. But he’s also heading to a Cubs team that has been winning by so much, they’ve had fewer save opportunities than most other contenders. Add this to the expanded September rosters that should see other guys getting chances and perhaps the Cubs losing more often because of this, and the save opportunities won’t be as abundant – the save opportunities were minimal before his arrival.
Let’s also not forget that the Cubs already have a stud closer in Hector Rondon, a former Rule 5 draftee who overcame a tough first year to develop into a lights out machine over the past three. He and Chapman have similar strikeout rates (37% to 34% in favor of Chapman) and both don’t walk many (Rondon beats Chapman with a minuscule 3% to 6%). The man choosing who comes in for the saves is one of the most eccentric and awesome in the game, but can be erratic with his ninth inning choices. This is the guy who called upon Matt Garza to close out the ninth once, while in the middle of a fantastic season that saw him throw a no-hitter. Madden is going to ride the hot hand, and sometimes this will mean using Chapman in the 8th for high leverage situations and defaulting to the other for the ninth.
It’s impossible to guess how many opportunities Chapman is going to get with the Cubs because of competition and a manager who doesn’t believe in a traditional closer role.
Matt Duffy – I’ll be frank – the Rays stink at developing young hitters. Matt Duffy had a strong rookie year, but has been dealing with a pretty nasty sophomore slump – albeit an injury filled one. Still, this is Duffy with his BABIP regressing closer to the mean of .300 (although it has gone down a little extra) and we’ve seen some of his power sapped thanks to a three percent decrease in hard contact rate.
Dave Cameron points out that Duffy looks similar to Logan Forsythe before the Rays traded for him and he broke out, but a lot of his progression was due to power development as well, and that’s something Duffy has not shown much of a propensity towards at any level, physically or mechanically. He’s going to slot into the shortstop spot and now fight with a bunch of other average to decent middle infielders for playing time (since third is blocked by Evan Longoria and no one of their bats is good enough to justify playing at first).
Matt Duffy had a heck of a coming out party, but the shine has worn off and the magic has seemed to have been revealed. Duffy could still return to 2015 form and excite the league again, but it’s more likely to see him join other disappointing players who were acquired only to disappoint in old Tropicana Field.
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