- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
In order to help refresh those of you who might have missed baseball's offseason while focusing on a fantasy football championship, here's a recap of the 10 biggest-impact pitching moves of the winter. Each pitcher's new team is listed in parentheses.
1. Daisuke Matsuzaka (Red Sox): Perhaps the winter's most notable free-agent signing was this pitcher, a Japanese import without a game of big-league experience. After all, taking into account his contract and Boston's winning bid for his negotiating rights, Matsuzaka cost the Red Sox upwards of $100 million for six years. Scouts seem to feel he's worth it, and his agent, Scott Boras, has claimed the man nicknamed "Dice-K" should be a pitcher not unlike Houston's Roy Oswalt in the States. Atlanta's John Smoltz is another frequent comparable, and if you look at Matsuzaka's numbers in Japan, that he had a 2.22 ERA, 0.979 WHIP and 9.55 strikeouts per nine innings ratio in 53 starts the past two seasons bodes well for his chances at immediate success here. I'm not paying the Oswalt/Smoltz like price tag I've seen Dice-K go for in early drafts, but there's a case to be made for him as a top-20 starting pitcher. Be realistic, 15 wins and up to 200 strikeouts are possible, but in the offensive-minded American League East, that ERA could be 3.50-plus. There's Hideo Nomo 1995 upside here, but be careful not to overrate the guy.
2. Randy Johnson (Diamondbacks): Just because the Yankees were so quick to unload the Big Unit doesn't mean you should be so quick to write him off for fantasy. Sure, his back troubles and his 43 years of age don't make him the greatest bet for 2007, but a return to the National League should help slow his statistical decline. Johnson's 5.00 ERA didn't do justice to his respectable 1.239 WHIP, and much of the reason was that he was terrible with runners in scoring position, allowing a .348 batting average and 1.007 OPS. Compare that to his .217/.648 career rates, or .251/.720 rates in 2005, and there's reason to believe he'll be better, at least in ERA. Johnson will now get to face more pitchers and some NL hitters unfamiliar with him, so while a weaker Arizona offense might not help him approach 15 wins, a mid-3s ERA and up to 200 strikeouts are within his reach.