- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
The baseball winter meetings are clearly in the rearview mirror, but the offseason discussion never ends. We're still waiting to find out final destinations for first baseman Prince Fielder (I think he ends up with the Chicago Cubs), shortstop Jimmy Rollins (Philadelphia Phillies or dark horse Detroit Tigers?) and Japanese import Yu Darvish (Toronto Blue Jays seem awfully interested), among others. By the way, pitchers and catchers report in roughly eight weeks!
Anyway, since you can find the lowdown on the big signings and trades so far covered by my able colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft (check the ESPN fantasy baseball page), here are some alphabetical thoughts -- some unconventional -- on this offseason so far.
A is for Aramis, as in new pending bust third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Sorry, Milwaukee Brewers. You only play so many games at Chicago's Wrigley Field. When Ramirez is elsewhere, he's merely average, and I don't mean defensively. This is not a top-10 third baseman for fantasy.
B is for Bard, as in new Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Daniel Bard. Really? Let me say this: I'm always for seeing if a power-armed reliever can start. Neftali Feliz should always have started. But Mark Melancon is not Bard or Jonathan Papelbon. If Bard starts or closes, I'm on board. If Melancon closes, he loses the job by May.
D is for Doumit, as in new Minnesota Twins catcher Ryan Doumit. OK, so Doumit isn't a good catcher. But he can hit when he's healthy. So can Joe Mauer. Who plays in more games in 2012? Doumit should see time at designated hitter and I've got him as a nice sleeper fantasy catcher.
E is for Erik, as in new Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Erik Bedard. Odd place to sign, no? Maybe the Bucs promised him a July trade to the New York Yankees. Bedard is never bad. Enjoy the 15 starts per season.
F is for Frank Francisco, the new closer for the New York Mets. This team added about 35 relief pitchers. The best one of the lot is not the oft-injured Francisco. It's Ramon Ramirez. I just couldn't wait until "R" to discuss him. Spend a buck on Ramirez in auctions.
G is for Green or Gamel, take your pick. Taylor Green had his chance to play third base for the Brewers unceremoniously stolen from him when Aramis Ramirez was signed. Mat Gamel seemingly is the team's first baseman, but don't preclude some silly signing there, too. Three seasons ago it looked like the lefty-hitting Gamel would be fantasy relevant. That's Green now. For the record, I think the lefty-hitting Green would hit .275 with 20 home runs for the 2012 Brewers with 400 at-bats. I think his ceiling is higher than Gamel's.
H is for Hanley, as in happy/sad Miami Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez, pushed 30 feet to his right when Jose Reyes was signed. I think this Ramirez bounces back with a huge season, and he'll add eligibility. Only one Miami shortstop-eligible is a top pick for me; it's Hanley. Don't worry about whether he's happy moving to third base. The Marlins aren't.
I is for Ian Stewart, the new third baseman for the Chicago Cubs. I've got to say I like this move. I'd like it better if Stewart were healthy and calling Coors Field home, but if the last Cubs third baseman got most of his numbers from home games, why can't Stewart? I see a 25-homer season coming.
J is for John Jaso, the new under-the-radar Seattle Mariners acquisition who had a .372 on-base percentage in 2010. As for 2011, call it a lost year. Jaso is exactly what the Mariners need. Fantasy owners in OBP leagues have to consider Jaso, especially in multi-catcher leagues.
K is for K-Rod, otherwise known as new/old Brewers setup man Francisco Rodriguez. He surprisingly accepted arbitration and returned on a one-year deal, but he'll need to be traded, since he's too expensive to not get saves. The Atlanta Braves did this with Rafael Soriano a few years ago. Wherever Rodriguez goes, expect him to close. Hmmm, don't the Red Sox still need a closer?
L is for Lowrie, as in new Houston Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie. Projecting his health is always dangerous, but what a steal for the Astros. I'd bat middle infielders Jose Altuve and Lowrie 1-2 in the order and watch Carlos Lee pile on the RBIs. OK, perhaps not, but I do see Lowrie being a 15-homer guy right away, which at shortstop (and third base for him) is impactful.
M is for Matt Moore, the best Tampa Bay Rays pitcher for 2012. Yes, David Price is good. Jeremy Hellickson was the top rookie. Moore, who recently signed a long-term extension, is going to be great. He's among my top 30 starting pitchers, but will finish better than that.
O is for Oviedo, as in pushed-aside Marlins reliever Juan Oviedo. You know him as the former Leo Nunez. Heath Bell is the new closer, and he arrives with tales of San Diego success. Bell is the top-10 closer I'm avoiding in fantasy this season. He's older, the K rate dropped, no more Petco Park. Avoid Oviedo, too. I'll bet Steve Cishek fills in for enough saves to matter.
P is for Pujols, as in Albert Pujols, who remains my No. 1 fantasy draft pick even after switching leagues. I'll tell you this: Lance Berkman's St. Louis Cardinals are the best team in their division. Pujols' Los Angeles Angels are not.
Q is for Quentin, as in Chicago White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin, apparently on the trade market as his team rebuilds. Whatever. Quentin can't stay healthy or hit for average since his monster 2008, but we always get cheap power, don't we? One of these seasons, he'll return to 2008 form.
R is for the Rule V draft, which went under the radar a few weeks ago because so little of note occurred. In the past I've looked to this draft to find young players that have pending opportunities. Everth Cabrera is a recent example. Hey, he stole bases. Keep an eye on Baltimore Orioles middle infielder Ryan Flaherty for deep leagues. In the past, he's flashed some pop and on-base skills. What, you think Brian Roberts will play 140 games again?
T is for Trumbo and Trout, two members of the Pujols Angels hurt by the acquisition. Sure, Mark Trumbo can't get on base, but 30-home run power still isn't easy to acquire, and he played a decent first base, too. And no, you can't play Trumbo at third base. Fantasy owners who don't care about OBP probably loved Trumbo. I'd like to see him play; perhaps he can get on base at a .320 clip and still hit for power? As for Mike Trout, he can't win the 2012 Rookie of the Year award hitting .330 with 30-30 potential at Triple-A Salt Lake. The Angels have to find someone to take Bobby Abreu and/or Vernon Wells, fast. Fantasy owners will love Trout, but probably not in 2012.
U is for Utley, as in Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. Hope he's resting his knee a lot this winter. This is still a top-50 fantasy player.
V is for Vazquez, as in starting pitcher Javier Vazquez, who's likely to retire. He was easily a top-10 pitcher in the second half of the season. Perhaps he could duplicate the feat in 2012, but for now he appears to be unemployed, and pleased with his decision.
W is for Wigginton, as in new Phillies first baseman Ty Wigginton. He'll fill in for Ryan Howard for a week, a month, half the season. Who knows how long Howard will be out? I do know Wiggy is not a great player, especially if one considers OBP, but he's eligible at three fantasy positions and could hit 20 home runs. Yikes.
X is for Xavier Cedeno, an Astros pitcher who compiled a 27.00 ERA and 4.20 WHIP this past season while facing 11 batters. Look, it's X.
And Z is for Zack, as in Brewers starter Zack Greinke. We started with a Brewer, we end with one. I like Yovani Gallardo more than Greinke on fantasy draft day, but let's just remain happy and positive around the holidays. Both of them are pretty good.
Eric Karabell has notes about some winners and losers from the movement during the winter meetings and beyond.