Here’s a quick fantasy take on some of the smaller moves from the holiday weekend…
Rangers Sign Brandon Webb
Webb was one of fantasy’s top starters from 2006 through 2008, but he’s been derailed by severe shoulder problems that have limited him to just four innings over the last two years (all coming on Opening Day 2009). It’ll be very tempting to take a flier on Webb late in your draft, but the possibility of getting zero return is very high. Even if he does come back successfully, he’s moving into a tougher league and more hitter friendly ballpark and is now on the wrong side of 30. The name is a draw, but you’re best off letting someone else roll the dice. If you want to take a late round gamble, go with a kid. Jordan Zimmermann or someone like that.
Brewers Sign Takashi Saito
Milwaukee went to great lengths to improve its pitching rotation this winter, and now they’re starting to shore up the bullpen as well. Getting Trevor Hoffman out of late-game situations will help some, as will adding Saito. The 40-year-old righty has struck out no fewer than 10.91 batters per nine innings in four of his five big league seasons and his ERA has never exceeded 2.83. Health is definitely a concern (Saito ended the 2010 season on the shelf with a shoulder issue, and he’s had elbow issues in the recent past), but he passed his physical with the Brewers and right now there’s no reason to suspect he won’t be good to go come Opening Day. John Axford figures to get the save opportunities when the season starts, but if he falters for any reason, Saito’s next in line as long as he’s healthy. In a holds leagues, he’s a must get.
Padres Sign Brad Hawpe
It’s impossible to replace a hitter the caliber of Adrian Gonzalez, but San Diego is trying to do so by improving several positions at once. They’ve already made upgrades at second base, shortstop, and in centerfield this offseason, plus they’ll also have a full season of Ryan Ludwick. Hawpe figures to platoon at first base for the Padres, limiting both his exposure to left-handers and his fantasy value. A quad strain and rib issues hampered him this past year and Petco Park will surely take a bite out of his production, but I expect him to rebound from his down 2010 campaign and be a respectable fantasy bench piece. An AVG in the .250-.275 range with double digit homers is a safe bet, and there’s always the possibility of a midseason trade boosting his value.
* * *