Winners: Saltalamacchia; Brad Wilkerson, OF/1B, Rangers
With the Rangers now in rebuilding mode, Saltalamacchia seems certain to latch on as their everyday catcher. Playing his home games at cozy Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is a huge plus for the 22-year-old rookie, who impressed in Atlanta since getting the call in early May (.284-4-12 in 141 at-bats). No longer blocked by All-Star Brian McCann, Salty has the makings of an above-average backstop, one who's capable of putting up respectable power numbers from here on out.
This might be Wilkerson's last chance to prove he deserves an everyday job in the Majors. He flashed brief glimpses of power while Teixeira was sidelined earlier this season and sports a .520 slugging percentage in July. His 32-homer campaign of 2004 seems like ancient history, but at 30, Wilkerson still has the chops for another power run. He'll man first regularly with Teixeira out of town.
Neutral: Teixeira; Mahay; Andrus; Feliz; Harrison; Jones
Teixeira would probably be better off living out his peak years at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, where he sports a lofty career slugging percentage of .576 compared to a .489 lifetime mark on the road. Then again, slotting into a lineup that features Andruw and Chipper Jones as well as Edgar Renteria, the 27-year-old figures to see plenty of RBI opportunities. Congrats to NL-only owners who saved up their free-agent dollars for a rainy day, as Teixeira will no doubt command a substantial bid.
Mahay will continue to serve as a left-handed specialist with his new team. Unless Bob Wickman and Rafael Soriano both get injured, he carries no fantasy value.
He's only 18, but Andrus ranks among the game's top middle-infield prospects. Known more for his slick glove than his bat, he was hitting only .244 with three homers in 385 at-bats this season at Class A Carolina. Speed appears to be Andrus' strongest asset, as evidenced by the 25 steals he's racked up thus far in 2007. He's probably at least a couple of years away from making an impact in the bigs.
Only 19, Feliz will face a slew of obstacles before he can even think about Arlington. That said, the 6-foot-3 right-hander has impressed this season, holding hitters in the Rookie Appalachian League to a .178 average.
A 6-foot-5 left-hander, Harrison went 5-7 with a 3.39 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 116 2/3 innings at Double-A Mississippi this season -- not the kind of numbers you look for from a prospect. It remains to be seen how he'll adjust to Triple-A hitters, and the 21-year-old's sore shoulder was thought to be a sticking point early in the trade talks.
A left-handed reliever, Jones kept hitters in check at Class A, going 5-0 with a 2.96 ERA and a 46/12 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 innings. The 20-year-old's path to the Majors might be shorter in Texas, but there's no telling when he'll have any fantasy value, if ever.
Losers: Scott Thorman, 1B/OF, ATL; Gerald Laird, C, TEX
The Braves felt Thorman would be an adequate replacement for Adam LaRoche, but that hasn't happened. With a .664 OPS that ranks him toward the bottom of the first-base barrel, Thorman becomes a bench player with a better chance of seeing time in the outfield than at first.
Saltalamacchia's arrival means Gerald Laird's days of catching full time are over. Laird, 27, has fallen well short of expectations by batting .241 with six homers and a .359 slugging percentage in 290 at-bats thus far in 2007.
July 31: Rangers trade RP Eric Gagne to Red Sox for SP Kason Gabbard, OF David Murphy and OF Engel Beltre
Winners: Joaquin Benoit, RP, TEX; Akinori Otsuka, RP, TEX; Gabbard; Murphy
The trade clears the way for Benoit to take over the closer role. The fireballing righty has more strikeouts (56) than innings pitched (55), a testament to how much he's kept hitters on their toes. Benoit has also shown strong command (56/16 K/BB ratio) and the ability to keep the ball in the park (4 HR allowed in 55 IP). Don't be surprised if he handles the ninth-inning duties even after Otsuka returns from the disabled list. Try stashing away both Benoit and Otsuka immediately.
Pitching in homer-friendly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington leaves a lot to be desired, but don't look for many complaints from Gabbard, who steps right into Texas' rotation. He filled in admirably as a starter in Boston after Curt Schilling hit the DL, going 3-0 in five starts, including a complete-game shutout of the Royals. Armed with a 54 percent ground-ball rate, Gabbard has the makings of a mid-rotation starter in Texas, so give him a whirl in deep mixed-league play.
Murphy doesn't have any overriding strengths, but he contributes bits and pieces across the board. Most likely, the 25-year-old will be used as a fourth outfielder in Texas. While that may not be much, it's better than being shuttled back and forth between Triple-A Pawtucket and Boston.
Only 17 years old, Beltre was batting just .215 with a .413 slugging percentage in the Rookie Coast League this season and carries no fantasy value.
Going to Boston essentially crushes Gagne's short-term value. A closer in Texas, the former Cy Young winner becomes Jonathan Papelbon's setup man in Beantown. This, after he resurrected his career by pocketing 16 saves in 17 tries for the Rangers. Having thrown 14 scoreless innings on the road this season, Gagne probably won't be fazed by the "friendly" confines of Fenway Park.
July 31: Royals trade RP Octavio Dotel to Braves for SP Kyle Davies
Winners: Davies; Joakim Soria, RP, KC; Zack Greinke, RP, KC
After getting optioned to the Braves' Triple-A club, Davies will likely return to the bigs and start in Kansas City. A fresh start with a new team might be what he needs to turn his season around (4-8, 5.76 ERA), though he warrants little consideration until he starts delivering positive results.
Soria and Grienke will duke it out for the closer's job in Kansas City. Soria (10 SV) did a fine job while Dotel was sidelined with an oblique injury earlier this year, but Grienke (1 SV) has to be considered a serious candidate for the role as well. Owners in need of bonus saves will want to collar both relievers if they can.
Losers: Dotel; Leo Nunez, SP, KC
Dotel will assume a setup role with the Braves. Although he could see save opportunities if Bob Wickman falters, there's no guarantee he'd even get that chance before Rafael Soriano, who helped close out games while Wickman was out with a back injury in May.
Nunez, who currently slots in as the Royals' No. 5 starter, will most likely be bumped to the bullpen to make room for Davies.
July 31: Padres acquire 3B Morgan Ensberg from Astros for player to be named and cash considerations
It remains unclear just how the Padres intend to use Ensberg. They already have disappointing rookie Kevin Kouzmanoff manning third and recently added another cornerman, Shea Hillenbrand, as insurance. Perhaps general manager Kevin Towers believes all three can form a lethal three-headed monster at the hot corner. Or maybe they'll give Ensberg an opportunity to win the job outright in hopes of him recapturing his 2005 form (36 HR, 101 RBIs). If given a chance to play regularly, Ensberg makes for an intriguing sleeper candidate now that he's found a much-needed change of scenery. Watch how manager Bud Black distributes playing time going forward.
Losers: Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, SD; Shea Hillenbrand, 1B/3B, SD
The acquisition of Ensberg sends a clear signal to Kouzmanoff (.233/.290/.411). Expected to run with the third-base job, Kouzmanoff never provided the consistency San Diego envisioned he would when they acquired him from Cleveland in the offseason. With Ensberg aboard, Kouzamanoff is a platoon player at best.
Recently signed to a Minor League deal, Hillenbrand may not amount to anything more than a bench bat with the Padres. Ensberg's presence limits his chances of challenging for everyday playing time at third.
July 31: Dodgers trade INF Wilson Betemit to Yankees for RP Scott Proctor
Winner: Andy LaRoche, 3B, LAD
The coast is clear for LaRoche to step in and see some at-bats behind Dodgers third baseman Nomar Garciaparra, a veteran who usually gets at least one day off per week. LaRoche is having another outstanding season at Triple-A Las Vegas, batting .317 with a 1.008 OPS through 60 games.
The fly-ball-inducing Proctor will benefit from the move to pitching-friendly Dodger Stadium, but he's still going to find himself in a setup role with his new team. A marginal improvement in his numbers isn't going to be enough to impact the fortunes of fantasy owners.
Losers: Betemit; Andy Phillips, 1B, NYY
The Yankees are established with All-Star talent at third base (Alex Rodriguez), shortstop (Derek Jeter) and second (Robinson Cano), so the only logical spot for Betemit to earn playing time is at first. He might receive a few starts in place of Phillips for now, but the eventual return of Doug Mientkiewicz will only clog up the first-base situation even more. By the end of the season, Betemit could very well find himself reduced to a pinch-hitter.
July 31: White Sox trade OF Rob Mackowiak to Padres for SP Jon Link
Link has fared well at Class-A Lake Elsinore this year, notching 13 saves while showing stellar plate command in 41 innings of relief work. Then again, 23-year-olds tend to have success at that level, so you'll have to reserve judgment until Link faces more advanced hitters.
Mackowiak saw significant playing time in a depleted White Sox outfield but hardly produced numbers to write home about (.278 AVG, 6 HR, 36 RBIs, 3 SB). In San Diego, the 31-year-old will be used all over the diamond, though not enough at one particular position to be relied on in any format. Feel free to cut ties.
July 31: Giants trade SP Matt Morris to Pirates for OF Rajai Davis and player to be named
Winner: Russ Ortiz, SP, SF
San Francisco's willingness to part with an established starter in Morris signals that Ortiz will likely return to the rotation soon. The veteran right-hander is currently working his way back from a strained right forearm in the Minors.
Neutral: Morris; Davis
Morris doesn't figure to gain much with the move to the Pirates, who rank near the bottom of the pack in runs scored (like the Giants) and play in a stadium with park effects similar to those at San Francisco's AT&T Park. At the least, the trade gives Morris a chance to start over with a new team after falling into a major slump with a 7.94 ERA over his last eight starts.
Davis was a backup center fielder in Pittsburgh, and he'll retain that role in San Francisco. He warrants no consideration until he gets more of a chance to use his speed.
Losers: Tony Armas, P, PIT; Shawn Chacon, P, PIT
The addition of Morris squashes any chance of either Armas or Chacon returning to the starting rotation in Pittsburgh. Both pitchers will likely continue to toil in fantasy obscurity as middle relievers.
July 30: Phillies acquire SP Kyle Lohse from Reds for SP Matt Maloney
Winners: Lohse; Maloney
For all the talk of Great American Ball Park having a negative affect on pitchers, Lohse actually excelled in Cincinnati this season, sporting a 2.57 ERA at home compared to a ghastly 6.42 mark on the road. So pitching in another hitter-friendly home in Citizens Bank Park shouldn't be a big adjustment for the 28-year-old right-hander. Backed by a productive Phillies lineup, Lohse stands a good chance to improve his record, currently at 6-12. Outside of that, don't expect miracles here. This is a back-end NL-only starter worth nothing more than a spot start here and there.
Well out of playoff contention, the Reds have little to lose by putting Maloney on the fast track to Cincinnati. The 23-year-old Mississippi grad fared well with Double-A Reading this year, registering a 3.94 ERA with just 13 homers allowed in 125 2/3 innings. Still, beyond being a left-hander, Maloney doesn't appear to have much going for him in terms of big-league potential.
Loser: J.D. Durbin, P, PHI
The complete-game shutout Durbin threw against San Diego on July 22 didn't convince Phillies general manager Pat Gillick that his rotation problems were solved. After a short-lived stint as a starter, Durbin will likely return to the bullpen with Lohse now on board.
July 30: Mets acquire 2B Luis Castillo from Twins for C Drew Butera and OF Dustin Martin
Winners: Castillo; Alexi Casilla, 2B, MIN
Batting second in the Mets' lineup -- sandwiched between Jose Reyes and a smorgasbord of hefty bats -- would put Castillo in an ideal situation, as he'd see tons of pitches to hit. But wherever he bats in the order, Castillo and his .304 batting average will have plenty of opportunities to score runs. Though past his prime, the 32-year-old speedster is a good bet to reaffirm his status as a Top 15 second baseman in the National League.
Minutes after parting ways with Castillo, the Twins recalled middle infielder Alexi Casilla from Triple-A Rochester -- a clear sign the 23-year-old prospect will man second base every day from here on out. Though Casilla has struggled at the dish with a .268 average in the Minors this season, his speed is second to none. He swiped 50 bases on the farm last season and figures to see plenty of green lights in Minnesota. Consider snagging him in deep mixed-league play.
Neutral: Butera; Martin
Both Martin and Butera have spent most of the 2007 season in Class A ball, so don't expect much fantasy help from either player anytime soon.
Loser: Ruben Gotay, 2B, NYM; Jose Valentin, 2B, NYM
In acquiring Castillo, the Mets squashed the prospect of either Gotay or Valentin manning second base on a regular basis -- especially tough news for Gotay, who heads to the bench with a scorching .350 average.
July 28: Astros trade RP Dan Wheeler to Devil Rays for INF Ty Wigginton
Winners: Josh Wilson, INF, TB; Ben Zobrist, INF, TB
The departure of Wigginton affects the playing time of all Tampa Bay infielders, but Wilson and the recently recalled Zobrist figure to become the biggest beneficiaries with second base wide open. Owners in AL-only play will want to keep an eye out to see if one of them emerges with the everyday job.
Wheeler could end up getting a few save opportunities in place of Tampa Bay closer Al Reyes, who recently returned from a strained rotator cuff and got blasted by the Orioles for four earned runs in one inning, but Reyes' meltdown can probably be attributed to rust. In general, Wheeler's chances for earning saves are probably about what they were in Houston, where Brad Lidge seems to have stabilized his hold on the closer role for now.
Losers: Wigginton; Mike Lamb, 1B/3B, HOU; Morgan Ensberg, 3B, HOU; Chris Burke, 2B/OF, HOU
It's unclear just what role Wigginton will hold with the Astros, as the team may elect to use the all-purpose infielder as a backup at several positions. If he does settle anywhere, it most likely will be at third base, where he'll have to compete for playing time with Lamb (Ensberg was designated for assignment on Sunday).
July 27: White Sox trade 2B Tadahito Iguchi to Phillies for RP Michael Dubee
Winner: Danny Richar, 2B, CWS
The trade creates an opening for second-base prospect Danny Richar, whom the White Sox plan to recall from Triple-A Charlotte on Saturday. Since joining the Knights on June 16 following a trade from Arizona, Richar has put his offensive skills on display at the top of the order with a .346 batting average, a .400 on-base percentage and .556 slugging percentage. He's also racked up five home runs, 15 RBIs and four steals. Consider giving Richar a look in AL-only play, as the 24-year-old figures to receive the lion's share of starts at second from here on out.
Neutral: Iguchi; Andy Gonzalez, INF/OF, CWS; Alex Cintron, INF, CWS; Dubee
Fresh off losing Chase Utley to the disabled list, the Phillies wasted no time replacing their All-Star second baseman. Going to hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park figures to boost Iguchi's power numbers, which have taken a dive this season (.382 SLG, 6 HR). Working in the 32-year-old's favor is that he's putting more balls in the air than ever before (36 percent fly-ball rate), all while demonstrating better discipline at the dish (44/65 BB/K ratio). And being protected by super-slugger Ryan Howard certainly won't hurt his cause as he rides into free agency. Iguchi makes for an excellent stretch-run target.
Both Gonzalez and Cintron will serve as insurance to Richar should the rookie struggle in his first big-league go-round.
The White Sox continue their quest to overhaul their bullpen with young arms. Dubee, son of Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee, hasn't gotten any further up the Minor League ladder than Class A Lakewood, where he registered a 3.88 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 55 2/3 relief innings. Don't expect much fantasy help here.
The acquisition of Iguchi hints that Utley's broken hand might keep him out longer than the four-to-six week timetable initially anticipated. Owners may need to find themselves a permanent replacement at second base.
July 27: Indians acquire OF Kenny Lofton from Rangers for C Max Ramirez
Winner: Nelson Cruz, OF, TEX
The Rangers called up Cruz from Triple-A Oklahoma shortly after the trade was announced. The 27-year-old flopped during his earlier stint with the Rangers (.188 AVG in 43 games), but he turned into a monster back at Triple-A (.352/.428/.698 in 45 games). With Marlon Byrd shifting to center field, Cruz should get the majority of at-bats in right, provided his numbers don't completely drop off the planet again.
Neutral: Lofton; Grady Sizemore, OF, CLE
Lofton isn't going to start against left-handers, but that's pretty much the same situation he was in with the Rangers. And while the move from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington may affect his power (6 HR, .470 SLG at home vs. 1 HR, .405 SLG on the road), it's probably not going to be enough to alter the fortunes of many fantasy teams. Besides, Lofton was far more active on the basepaths away from the homer-happy confines in Texas (16 SB, vs. 5 at home), and he may take that small-ball approach with him to Cleveland.
As for Sizemore, the addition of a career leadoff hitter in Lofton may prompt the Indians to move their star center fielder into a power spot in the order. That move would certainly create more RBI opportunities for Sizemore, though it would also likely cut back on his stolen base attempts.
Losers: Jason Michaels, OF, CLE; Franklin Gutierrez, OF, CLE; Ben Francsico, OF, CLE; Trot Nixon, OF, CLE
Michaels occasionally found himself in the lineup against a right-handed starter, but the acquisition of Lofton spells the end of those opportunities. It also means that youngsters Gutierrez and Francisco, who have both swung the bat well, will be competing for playing time with the struggling Nixon in right field. Until another trade takes place, there won't be many at-bats to go around.
July 25: Brewers acquire RP Scott Linebrink from Padres for SP William Inman, RP Joe Thatcher and SP Steve Garrison
Winner: Heath Bell, RP, SD
Having already emerged as one of San Diego's unsung heroes, Bell now has the inside track to the closer role should anything happen to Trevor Hoffman. The 29-year-old has a 2.06 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 56 2/3 innings.
Neutral: Thatcher; Inman; Garrison
Inman and Garrison, both 20, have spent most of 2007 in the Class A Advanced Florida State League. The right-handed Inman is viewed as the superior prospect, though the left-handed Garrison figures to see the Majors at some point down the line as well.
Thatcher, 26, may be brought up during the stretch run to serve as San Diego's primary left-hander out of the bullpen. He is considered to have the lowest upside among the three prospects dealt to San Diego.
The move comes amid one of the worst months of Linebrink's career, as the 30-year-old right-hander brings an ugly 9.35 July ERA with him to Milwaukee. For years, Hoffman stood in the way of his chance to close full time. Unfortunately, he'll find no better luck in Milwaukee, where setup man Derrick Turnbow and fireman Francisco Cordero already form a strong late-inning tag team. If anything, leaving San Diego hurts Linebrink, who will now be relegated to middle-relief duty in a bullpen that's just as deep as that of his former team.
July 19: Pirates acquire SS Cesar Izturis from Cubs for player to be named
Winner: Ryan Theriot, 2B/SS, CHC
Theriot had already assumed the everyday shortstop gig on the North Side, so Thursday's trade only solidifies his position. If you're lacking in the speed department or need a middle infielder, Theriot and his 15 steals make for an appealing pickup.
Neutral: Izturis; Mike Fontenot, 2B, CHC
With a .247 average and three steals, Izturis was reduced to a part-time shortstop and never really found his groove with the Cubs. While there's no guarantee he'll see more playing time in Pittsburgh, the Pirates are expected to try to unload their current starter at short, Jack Wilson. But unless that happens, it will be déjà vu for Izturis, who's expected to occupy a utility-infield role with his new team. Fontenot will continue to serve as a utility infielder with the Cubs.
Loser: Jack Wilson, SS, PIT
The acquisition of Izturis doesn't seem to bode well for Wilson, who is hitting .254 in 86 games this season. Given that he's the team's highest-payed player and in the first year of a three-year, $20.2 million deal, don't be shocked to hear plenty of trade rumors involving the defensively gifted 29-year-old over the next couple of weeks.
July 17: Cubs acquire C Jason Kendall for C Rob Bowen and Minor League RP Jerry Blevins
Winners: Kurt Suzuki, C, OAK; Kendall; Blevins
Kendall's absence is Suzuki's gain. Though his current big-league numbers (.200/.275/.400) are nothing to write home about, Suzuki showed good plate discipline in the Minors and appears to be Oakland's backstop of the future. Don't hesitate to start the 23-year-old in AL-only formats.
Things can't get much worse for Kendall, who sports an unfathomably low .537 OPS. Freed from pitcher-friendly McAfee Coliseum, where he's posted a .253 average and a .303 slugging percentage for his career, the veteran is a good bet to up his production playing his home games at cozy Wrigley Field. Kendall is only 33 and hit .323 in the second half last season, so don't count him out just yet.
It wouldn't be surprising to see Blevins, 23, work his way onto Oakland's staff in the next year. The 6-foot-6, 180-pound southpaw has quietly rung up 72 batters and walked just 13 in 54 2/3 Minor League innings this season, mostly in Class A ball. The A's love pitchers who keep walks to a minimum, so expect Blevins to stay on the fast track to the bigs.
Bowen has been dealt three times in 2007. Perhaps it's his .212 average that turns teams off. Or maybe it's his .340 lifetime slugging percentage. Whatever the reason, he'll likely serve as Oakland's No. 2 catcher the rest of the way.