Winter Meetings Heating Up: Three-Way Trade Sends Granderson to New York Yankees, Jackson to Diamondbacks.

Granderson will be bringing his multi-talented game to New York next season.

Fresh off a victory in the 2009 World Series the New York Yankees have apparently set their sights on capturing the 2010 Fall Classic…and maybe a few more. In the biggest deal of the offseason thus far the Yankees are set to acquire All-Star outfielder Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers in a three team trade that also includes the Arizona Diamondbacks. Though the deal is yet to be finalized, it appears that the Diamondbacks will receive Ian Kennedy from New York and Edwin Jackson from the Tigers, while Detroit will pick up Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from Arizona and Phil Coke and outfield prospect Austin Jackson from the Yankees.

The deal addresses an immediate need in the outfield for the Bronx Bombers, who are set to lose Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui in free agency. Granderson is one of the game’s premier defensive centerfielders and despite a down year at the plate, still hit 30 homeruns and stole 20 bases. At only 28-years-old, the Yankees are hoping that Granderson will be able to rebound to his 2007 season form, a year in which he become only one of four players in history to post 20 HR’s, 20 triples, 20 doubles and 20 stolen bases in the same season. Granderson has a proclivity for strikeouts (141 K’s in 2009) and hit only .249 last year so this deal is anything but a sure thing for the Yankees.

Top prospect Austin Jackson was the key piece in the trade for Detroit.

The Detroit Tigers forfeit two of their franchise’s most popular players in Granderson and Edwin Jackson after a year in which they missed out on the playoffs despite holding a seven-game lead going into the season’s final month. Jackson finally lived up to his enormous potential in 2009, winning 13 games and posting a 3.62 ERA, although he struggled mightily after the All-Star break (5.07 ERA). Jackson was eligible for arbitration going into 2010, and the Tigers traded him to avoid paying the substantial increase in salary he was due to receive. Granderson was controlled by the Tigers through the 2012 season but the team was looking to shed payroll and the centerfielder was due almost $24 million over the next three years. In return for Jackson and Granderson, Detroit receives one of the best young power arms in the game, two solid left-handed relievers and a top outfield prospect. In just his second year in the big leauges, the hard throwing Scherzer struggled with consistency while going 9-11, but he did strikeout more than a batter an inning and shows considerable room for growth. Coke was the Yankees primary left-handed bullpen arm, going 4-3 with a 4.50 ERA, while Schlereth went 1-4 with a 5.89 ERA in just 18 1/3 innings. The key to the deal for the Tigers was the inclusion of Jackson, who hit .300 with four HR’s, 65 RBI’s and 24 stolen bases in Triple-A last season, and projects as a top-flight centerfielder.

The Arizona Diamondbacks seem like the odd team out in this deal, giving up a promising starter in Scherzer and a potential closer in Schlereth in return for the inconsistent Edwin Jackson and the unproven Ian Kennedy. Jackson certainly has quality stuff but is prone to bouts of wildness, and before last year never posted an ERA below 4.40 in a full season. Kennedy has struggled in his brief trials with the Yankees (1-4, 6.03 ERA) and doesn’t appear to be anything more than a fourth of fifth starter. Both pitchers will benefit from the move to the National League but the Diamondbacks may regret this trade if Scherzer continues to develop.

Just two days into baseball’s winter meetings and already a blockbuster deal is close to being completed that will have a substantial impact on how the rest of the offseason plays out. New York has made it clear that they won’t take a backseat to any team and the Red Sox and Devil Rays will have to act quickly in order to keep pace in the AL East. Baseball may be a methodical game but the offseason moves at the speed of light…at least when the Yankees are involved.

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Not Just For the Sad and Lonely: A Defense of Fantasy Baseball

Hong-Chih Kuo doesn't exist unless you play fantasy baseball.

Hong-Chih Kuo doesn't exist unless you play fantasy baseball.

Playing fantasy baseball is a lot like watching the English Patient. It’s long, tedious and in the end you really aren’t sure if it was worth all the trouble. It’s the overlooked little brother of fantasy football; kind of nerdy and viewed with all the same skepticism of Dungeons and Dragons(by the way Randy Johnson has a nice slider +5, but you have to equip him with the enchanted Hands of Tyman first). Sure there aren’t 20-sided dice, but fantasy baseball isn’t exactly something you want to bring up on a first date. The season drags on from March through September, or roughly the gestation period of an American Black Bear. Unlike football, where you have to check your roster about once a week, fantasy baseball requires that you look at your roster every day for seven months to avoid the embarrassment of leaving Ty Wigginton in your lineup even though every else in the league knew that he was out with a pulled hamstring (not something that is easily lived down). I mean you could go on a three-day vacation and by the time you come back, your whole season could be shot! Kaput! Gone in the blink of an eye.

The ultimate prize. Was it worth seven months of your life?

The ultimate prize. Was it worth seven months of your life?

Additionally, there are numerous other traps that first time fantasy baseball players can fall into. Wanting to get as many starts as possible, an owner may pick up pitchers every day and plug them into their rotation. This seems like a good idea until you realize that there is a maximum number of innings allotted to a team’s pitchers and once you cross this threshold you no longer accumulate stats. You then wrap your mind around the horrific truth that you have banked your playoff hopes on pitchers like Jeff Weaver and Livan Hernandez, the only ones available on the waiver wire, and burst into bitter tears. By gosh you could burn out your pitching staff on mediocre starts by July if you really worked at it, and where would that leave you? In a quite a pickle, that’s where. Also, a number of players that seem valuable in real life, like Derek Jeter or Bobby Abreu, aren’t nearly as much of an asset on your fantasy squad, and are overvalued year after year by new fantasy players (you get exactly 0 points for leadership or clutch hits). Stats like steals mean just as much as homeruns in most leagues, leaving baseball fans turned fantasy players wondering if Willy Taveras is really as valuable as Ryan Howard (not quite).

With all that said, why would anyone in their right mind want to commit to a season of fantasy baseball? Well, the reasons are as endless as the hairs on David Hasselhoff’s chest.

The Crown Prince of Fantasy Baseball

The Crown Prince of Fantasy Baseball

First and foremost, baseball has always been the most stat driven of all sports. Even most casual fans can identify the significance of such numbers as 61 (Roger Maris’ single season HR record), .406 (Ted Williams average–the last man to hit .400) or .304-56 HR-147 RBI (Ken Griffey Jr’s 1997 MVP season). Fantasy baseball gives fans a chance to see these numbers or records as they are actually happening; certainly any fantasy baseball owner won’t forget Lance “the Big Puma” Berkman setting a career high with 18 stolen bases last year because it may have helped them knock off a hated rival to win their league, but just about everyone else outside of Houston will. Fantasy baseball also allows fans to understand the importance of such complex statistics as WHIP (walks + hits/# of innings pitched, a great way to gauge the efficiency of a pitcher) or BABIP (batting average on balls in play, the league average is around .300). For example, a player with a low BABIP, say .280, is probably suffering from bad luck and is due for a breakout, which is something a casual fan will probably overlook. Following this principle, expect Evan Longoria’s average to improve this coming season.

Moreover, fantasy baseball allows you to discover players that normally go unheralded. For instance, Hanley Ramirez and Ian Kinsler are two of the top 10 players in fantasy baseball (thanks to their combination of speed, power and high average) but they normally get lost in the shuffle of higher paid players in large media markets. Think of Ramirez and Kinsler as the indie music of baseball, they’re so great because no one else knows about them (but thankfully, they don’t wear flannel, slackline or drink out of mason jars). Playing fantasy also allows you to discover the next crop of young players. Many owners will draft prospects who are in Triple-A at the beginning of the year and then salivate (like dogs after bacon) over their minor league stats until they are finally called up. Names like Max Scherzer, Travis Snider and Andrew McCutchen might not mean much to you unless you play fantasy baseball; it’s a great way to learn about the future all-stars of the game before anyone else does.

Did Pete Rose have it right all along?

Did Pete Rose have it right all along?

The MLB season is a long one; no one will contend that point. So why not add a little spice to a 162-game season by having a little something riding on each game? Of course Pete Rose thought the same thing and look where that got him, but I digress. No longer will a July series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres be as pointless as another installment of The Land Before Time series. Owners of Nate McClouth and Adrian Gonzalez will have no choice but to pay attention to the games and chart their players’ performances. It’s not quite turning water into wine, but the ability to turn something meaningless into something meaningful, now that’s fantasy baseball’s true gift to mankind.

So the next time your friend mentions an upcoming fantasy baseball draft,  don’t call him a pale worthless excuse for a human being (sticks and stones may break but bones, but words will hurt forever). Instead, ask him if you can join and tell him you know all about WHIP and BABIP. After all, you do get a shiny little trophy if you win; isn’t that worth seven months of your life?

Best site for fantasy baseball: http://sports.yahoo.com/fantasy