Over the weekend the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals each did some house cleaning, dispelling themselves of a couple of volatile and disgruntled players in Carlos Silva and Nyjer Morgan. The impact of these moves is minor in the world of fantasy, but will be felt nonetheless.
The Cubs released Silva on Sunday after one season with the team while still owing him $11.5 million dollars. It’s not hard to see why the Cubs chose to part ways with the pudgy starter. While his numbers weren’t awful in 113 innings last season – 4.22ERA/3.90 xFIP – Silva has a 5.87 ERA in 55 starts since he signed his big contract with the Mariners. He’s also gotten into a few dugout altercations, has never been in shape, and criticized the team publicly – and that was just this spring. There had been rumblings that the Cubs were trying to trade Silva, with the Yankees and Nationals reportedly scouting him, but no deal could be reached. Silva shouldn’t have been owned in mixed leagues, so his joblessness won’t be felt by many. The most interesting aspect of Silva’s departure is the man replacing him in the Cubs’ rotation.
Andrew Cashner has limited MLB experience, his 54.1 IP last season all being in relief. While he walked too many hitters (4.97 BB/9) in those 54 innings, his K/9 was a healthy 8.28 and ERA and xFIP of 4.80 and 4.40 were respectable for a rookie. Many publications believe Cashner’s best value would lie in being a power reliever, maybe even an eventual closer, but the contract that Carlos Marmol received this off season made that less of a reality. Instead, he’ll slide into the back of the Cubs’ rotation. The Marcel projection system has Cashner down for a 4.24 ERA and 4.25 FIP for 2011, but that is in 52 innings of relief work, so take that for what you will. He has a plus fastball that sits in the 92-94 range, a passable changeup, and a slider that gets strikeouts with the same frequency as his fastball. He’s mostly an NL only play for now, but possesses the tools and pedigree to have value in mixed league formats as well.
Unlike the Cubs, the Nationals were able to find a take for their malcontent, trading Nyjer Morgan to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cutter Dykstra and cash. Morgan had been in a battle this spring for playing time with Rick Ankiel, Jerry Hairston Jr, Roger Bernadina, and Mike Morse among others. That battle is clearly over, and Bernadina has since been demoted. If Morgan hadn’t worn out his welcome with two suspensions last season, he certainly had this spring, telling reporters that he expected to be traded and that a change of scenery might be best for him. An extremely productive player as recently as 2009 – .307/.369 with 42 SB – he slipped a bit last season but still produced 34 steals.
If Morgan was unhappy with his playing time situation in Washington, he’s really going to hate it in Milwaukee. Carlos Gomez is the incumbent starter and has been assured by the manager and GM that the job is still his. Morgan will serve as a suitable 4th outfielder and pinch runner unless an injury occurs – effectively killing his fantasy value. Back in D.C. early signs point to Rick Ankiel and Jerry Hairston Jr sharing the centerfield duties, which isn’t encouraging for fantasy owners. For a team that is going nowhere this season it would seem like giving the younger Roger Bernadina and Mike Morse more playing time would be the smart way to go for the Nationals. You know exactly what you’re getting from Ankiel and Hairston, why not explore the talents of the younger (though Morse isn’t exactly a kid) players. The four outfielders would all be platoon players, which isn’t something fantasy owners like to see. The situation is a mess at the moment, and I’d recommend staying away until things get settled.