To learn about our efforts to improve the accessibility and usability of our website, please visit our Accessibility Information page. Skip to section navigation or Skip to main content
Below is an advertisement.

Fantasy

Skip to main content
Below is an advertisement.

As new players land with new teams, MLB.com's fantasy crew keeps you posted on how the fantasy value of the game's top stars could be affected. Check back every day for new player updates.
Moves in 2004-05:
Transactions:
Ordonez signs with Tigers
Sosa traded to Orioles
Mientkiewicz traded to Mets
Delgado signs with Marlins
Hillenbrand traded to Toronto
Beltran signs with Mets
Green traded to Arizona
Lowe signs with Dodgers
Millwood signs with Indians
Johnson traded to Yankees
Wright signs with Yankees
Martinez signs with Yankees
Milton signs with Reds
Alou signs with Giants
Lima signs with Royals
Eckstein signs with Cardinals
Miller signs with Red Sox
El Duque signs with White Sox
Drew signs with Dodgers
Cabrera signs with Angels
Randa signs with Reds
Pavano signs with Yankees
Valentin signs with Dodgers
Womack signs with Yankees
Roberts traded to Padres
Cards acquire Mulder from A's
Clement signs with Red Sox
Hudson traded to Braves
Beltre signs with Mariners
Santiago traded to Pirates
Marrero traded to Royals
Renteria signs with Red Sox
Sexson signs with Mariners
Martinez signs with Mets
Koskie signs with Blue Jays
Ramon Ortiz traded to Reds
White Sox swap Lee for Podsednik
Braves acquire Kolb from Brewers
Hidalgo signs with Rangers
Ortiz signs with D-Backs
Finley signs with Angels
Glaus signs with D-Backs
Kent signs with Dodgers
Dye signs with White Sox
W. Williams signs with Padres
Lieber signs with Phillies
Leiter signs with Marlins
Hermanson signs with White Sox
Lofton traded to Phillies
Benitez signs with Giants
Miller signs with Brewers
A's get Kendall; Bucs land lefties
Guillen traded to Nationals
Percival signs with Tigers
Guzman signs with Nationals
Castilla signs with Nationals
Vizquel signs with Giants

Magglio Ordonez signs a free agent contract with the Detroit Tigers

   Magglio Ordonez  /   RF
Born: 01/28/74
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Last season, Ordonez suffered two meniscus tears and had a bone marrow problem in the area of his left knee. Then to get the injuries treated, he flew to Austria to undergo a procedure that has yet to be legally cleared in the United States.

If you think this makes Ordonez too much of a risk to warrant a high draft pick, then we can't blame you. Just remember: Prior to his injury-plagued 2004, Ordonez was simply a monster at the plate. From 1999-2003, he hit .312 with an average of 102 runs, 32 home runs and 118 RBIs per season. Year in and year out, he was a worthy top-10 fantasy outfielder.

Is it possible that Ordonez will never again be the same hitter, especially since he'll be leaving the friendly confines of U.S. Cellular Field? Yes. But given his age (he just turned 31) and the Tigers' confidence in his health, there's a pretty good chance he could regain his top form. And lest people forget, the Tigers moved their fences in last season -- Comerica Park isn't quite the home run killer it used to be.

One thing that is probably gone for good is Ordonez's proficiency on the basepaths; you might as well forget that his 25 steals in 2001 ever happened. Other than that, he still wields the kind of bat that is capable of producing .300-30-100. Given that people will likely be scared off by his recent history, he could come at a bargain price on draft day.

The Cubs trade Sammy Sosa to the Orioles in exchange for Jerry Hairston Jr. and minor leaguers Mike Fontenot and Dave Crouthers

   Sammy Sosa  /   RF
Born: 11/12/68
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Sosa's fantasy numbers and value have tumbled from season to season and there doesn't appear to be much hope of that turning around in 2005. That doesn't mean, however, that Sosa is unable to help your fantasy team. He's capable of a 40-homer season if he can remain healthy, and certainly should be able to hit more than 30. That's nothing to sniff at, but it's a mighty fall from his glory days.

Moving to Baltimore from Chicago could help him a bit, as Camden Yards was responsible for the fifth most runs scored in the Majors in 2004. He’ll most likely be batting fourth for the O’s, behind Melvin Mora and Miguel Tejada and in front of Rafael Palmeiro and Javy Lopez -- meaning he’ll have a ton of run and RBI opportunities.

Grab him if he comes for fewer than $20 or is available after the first 5-7 rounds.

Hairston can never stay healthy for a full season, and now has the added problem of being a man without a full-time position. With Todd Walker the favorite to start at second, Hairston may be relegated to a backup infield and outfield spot. With his ability to steal 30 bases, the injury-prone Hairston should be considered in the late-middle rounds, but only if it appears he will get 400-500 at-bats.

Red Sox send Doug Mientkiewicz and cash considerations to the Mets for minor leaguer Ian Bladergroen

   Doug Mientkiewicz  /   1B
Born: 06/19/74
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 205 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R

Most people who watched the playoffs remember Mientkiewicz as a late-inning defensive replacement for a team overloaded with offensive monsters. Make no mistake about it, though -- the 2001 Gold Glove winner is heading to the Mets expecting to return to full-time play.

Though his 2004 numbers were poor, Mientkiewicz deserves a mulligan for playing with a wrist injury and getting limited at-bats late in the year. He's actually a .272 lifetime hitter, and averaged .290-12-72 from 2001-03. Mientkiewicz has never hit many home runs, and he certainly isn't going to start now. If anything, Shea Stadium's wide expanse of real estate may encourage him to concentrate on line drives and boost his batting average.

At the least, you can probably expect a .280-10-70 season from the 30-year-old. But as good as those numbers look in comparison with his 2004 totals, they're still pretty low for his position. Given that you will probably find at least two dozen first basemen who can deliver better production, Mientkiewicz's value is strictly limited to NL-only leagues.

Carlos Delgado signs a free agent contract with the Florida Marlins

   Carlos Delgado  /   1B
Born: 06/25/72
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R

Delgado has slugged at least 30 home runs for eight consecutive years, and he would have easily surpassed the 100 RBI plateau for the seventh consecutive time had he not been limited to 128 games in 2004. At just 32, he's still in the midst of what could be considered the prime of his career, and should deliver yet another big season in 2005.

So what exactly can we expect from the brand new big Fish? With two speed demons (Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo) and a budding superstar (Miguel Cabrera) projected to bat ahead of him, Delgado could once again approach the neighborhood of 130-140 RBIs. And his power is so prodigious, it's unlikely that he'll be affected much by the move to cavernous Dolphins Stadium.

As far as average goes, it seems that people are still misled by the .344 mark Delgado posted in 2000. Needless to say, that was almost certainly a fluke. Delgado is a lifetime .282 hitter, and has hit above .279 just once in the last four years. But even if he doesn't get too close to .300, Delgado will still be worth a pretty penny for his awesome power numbers. At the very least, he now ranks among the top four fantasy first basemen in the National League.

Arizona trades Shea Hillenbrand to Toronto for prospect Adam Peterson

   Shea Hillenbrand  /   3B
Born: 07/27/75
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Hillenbrand will take over Carlos Delgado's vacated spot at first base, and could also qualify at third in some leagues since he played 17 games there in 2004.

In Toronto, his numbers should continue to resemble his career averages. SkyDome favored hitters more than pitchers in 2004 (ranked eighth in runs per game) and Hillenbrand is already familiar with AL pitching from his days with Boston.

While he'll never compare to the Thomes and Pujols of the world, he always makes a good option if you wait to the middle rounds to draft your corner infielders. A .300 average with 15-20 homers and 85 RBIs is what you should expect.

Peterson, a former No. 1 pick, is not someone you should worry too much about in 2005, unless a slew of injuries help him land a permanent spot in Arizona's bullpen.

Carlos Beltran signs a free agent contract with the New York Mets

   Carlos Beltran  /   CF
Born: 04/24/77
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: R

Beltran is one of the few players capable of a 40-40 season, but playing in Shea Stadium will make it much harder for him to reach that goal. Despite a season that saw him smack 38 homers and steal 42 bases, he will be playing 81 games in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks around. Only two Mets have ever hit 40-plus home runs (Todd Hundley -- 41, Mike Piazza -- 40) in a full season, plus there have only been two players (Roger Cedeno -- 66, Lance Johnson -- 50) who have topped 40 steals in the past 15 years.

Even if his numbers do take a bit of a hit, he should at least reach 30-30, something only one other player (Bobby Abreu) accomplished in 2004. Beltran's batting average wasn't as high as people expected last season (.267), but should return to somewhere in the .285-.300 range.

Beltran is a top-tier fantasy player and will be for years to come, regardless of where he makes his home. He is one of the few players worthy of the first overall pick in your fantasy draft, and having him on your roster in 2005 will be a good thing.

Los Angeles trades Shawn Green to Arizona in exchange for minor leaguers Dioner Navarro, William Juarez, Danny Muegge and Beltran Perez

Green's days of 40-plus homers are probably behind him, although leaving Los Angeles could give him a slight boost in the power department. He is only 32, and while he’ll never be the 30-30 threat he once was, .280-30-100 is still what you should expect from him.

Since he has had two down years in a row, Green should drop down past the first 10 rounds, so he could come cheap at your draft. Picking up players in the middle rounds who can put up those types of numbers is always a good thing.

Derek Lowe signs a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers

   Derek Lowe  /   P
Born: 06/01/73
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Lowe joins a starting rotation that includes Jeff Weaver, Odalis Perez, Brad Penny and Kazuhisa Ishii. He was 14-12 with a 5.42 ERA with Boston last season, but was 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA in four games during the postseason, three of them starts.

Pitching in LA and in the NL could help his numbers, but be careful not to let last October's performance get to your head. Lowe has not been a reliable pitcher the last two seasons, despite winning 31 games. He has a 4.92 ERA and 1.51 WHIP in that timespan, and has only averaged five strikeouts per nine innings. He led the Majors in groundout-to-flyout ratio (3.36) in 2004, but with the departure of Adrian Beltre and Alex Cora, the Dodgers infield defense is nowhere near where it was a year ago.

With less offensive support in LA than in Boston, Lowe will probably struggle to win more than 11-13 games. At best he should be a No. 5 starter in mixed leagues.

Kevin Millwood signs a free agent contract with the Cleveland Indians

   Kevin Millwood  /   P
Born: 12/24/74
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Millwood made 25 starts for the Phillies in 2004, going 9-6 with a 4.85 ERA. He was diagnosed with a sprained ligament and a strained tendon in his right elbow in August and made just two more starts the rest of the season.

At 30, Millwood still has a solid low-90s fastball, a good slider and a decent changeup. He can strike out hitters, and usually will help you in wins and WHIP, while not hurting your ERA.

If he can stay healthy, there is no reason to think he can't win 15-17 games and post solid numbers all around. A lack of quality pitching in the AL Central, combined with the fact Millwood will be Cleveland's No. 2 or 3 starter, means he won't be facing as many top-notch hurlers as he did in the NL as a No. 1 starter.

His injuries from 2004 will lower his value on draft day, so if he drops to the middle to late rounds, grab him.

Arizona trades Randy Johnson to the Yankees in exchange for Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey and Dioner Navarro

   Randy Johnson  /   P
Born: 09/10/63
Height: 6'10"
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: L

Can you imagine if Johnson had the Yankees offense supporting his cause in 2004? New York gave its starters an average of 6.06 runs of support least season, while Johnson only had 3.99 in his 35 starts. The Big Unit went 16-14, but could have won an additional 10 games if the D-Backs offense had decided to score any runs for him. A year after battling through injuries and having his worst statistical season since 1989, Johnson rebounded in 2004 to post his usual sub-3.00 ERA, a ton of Ks (290), an amazing 0.90 WHIP and his first perfect game.

Yankee Stadium favors left-handed hurlers over righties, and assuming Johnson can stay healthy at age 41, he should have another Cy Young caliber season. One could argue he should still be the top fantasy pitcher picked in 2005, and anyone would agree he is a still worthy of a first or second round pick.

Vazquez had a very disappointing season in the Bronx (14-10, 4.91 ERA), but will benefit from his escape from the intensity of New York. The biggest concern with Vazquez was his huge drop in Ks, from 9.40 K/9 in '03 to 6.82 K/9 last year. He'll also be surrounded by a lesser team than in the Bronx, so winning games could be a challenge unless he is able to turn his ratios around.

The best thing about Vazquez is that he will be available at a much cheaper price than he has been in the past. He could be a great bargain if he is able to regain his 2003 form.

Navarro was one of New York's top prospects, but had no place to play with Jorge Posada blocking his way. At 21, he should develop into a star down the road, but not this season. His numbers in the minors were less than mediocre and there is no indication that he is ready to face big league pitching on a daily basis.

Halsey doesn't offer much as far as fantasy value goes, and will only be worth considering if he lands a permanent rotation spot in Arizona.

Jaret Wright signs a free agent contract with the New York Yankees

   Jaret Wright  /   P
Born: 12/29/75
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Wright surprised everyone last season, going 15-8 with a 3.28 ERA in his first stint as a full-time starter since 1999. Very few people even considered his name on draft day, following three putrid seasons in which he posted ERAs of 6.52, 15.71 and 7.35.

But Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone worked his magic with Wright, like he has with so many others the past 15 years, and the one-time Indians future star flourished in 2004. He became one of the most valuable waiver-wire pickups of 2004, and provided a huge boost to any fantasy owner lucky enough to gamble on him.

Despite his success, Wright is still a major risk to any owner investing an early pick on the 29-year-old righty. He'll be able to win his share of games with the mighty Yankees offense supporting him, but his ERA is bound to rise back up in the 4.00-5.00 range. Tread carefully and don't count on him as anything more than a No. 4 or 5 starter in mixed leagues.

Tino Martinez signs a free agent contract with the New York Yankees

Martinez returns to the Bronx, where he thrived for six seasons as part of four championship teams. At age 37, he still has some pop in his bat (23 HR, 76 RBIs), but is no more than an average fantasy first baseman at best.

He'll get a ton of RBI opportunities batting in the Yankees' loaded lineup, but will not provide you with anything more than a .275 average and 20-25 homers. Pass on him in mixed leagues, unless you wait until the later rounds to fill your corner spot.

Eric Milton signs a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Reds

   Eric Milton  /   P
Born: 08/04/75
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 225 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

Milton's numbers have never looked great, and despite a 56-32 record since 2000, he has not developed into the consistent All-Star pitcher people once predicted.

Pitching in Cincinnati will not help his cause. Milton is a flyball pitcher (almost a 2:1 career flyout to groundout ratio) and will be moving into Great American Ball Park, a stadium that does not favor pitchers with flyball tendencies. His offensive support also won't be as solid as it has been the last few years, so replicating his 14-6 record will be difficult.

Since he does strike out more hitters that the average starter (7.21 K/9 in '04) and is capable of posting a solid WHIP, he is worth adding as a No. 5 starter. Just don't spend an early or middle round pick on a guy with a 4.76 career ERA.

Moises Alou signs a free agent contract with the San Francisco Giants

   Moises Alou  /   RF
Born: 07/03/66
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

At the age of 38, Alou set career highs with 39 home runs, 36 doubles and 106 runs scored, to go along with a .293 average and 106 RBIs.

While he isn't moving to the greatest hitter's park in the world, he is moving behind the greatest on-base machine in baseball history. Batting fifth behind Barry Bonds and his .609 OBP is a great way to insure another 100-plus RBI season.

He'll probably come cheaper than he should again in 2005, since his injury history always tends to scare fantasy owners away. Alou has played in 150-plus games the past two seasons, so don't worry too much about investing an early-mid round pick or $15-20 on him this season. Expect .280-30-115 from the veteran outfielder.

Jose Lima signs a free agent contract with the Kansas City Royals

   Jose Lima  /   P
Born: 09/30/72
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 205 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Before you get too excited about Lima's 13-5 record and sparkling shutout in the postseason, remember his recent track record.

After going 21-10 in 1999, Lima had one of the worst seasons ever by a starting pitcher, going 7-16 with a 6.65 ERA in 33 starts. In 2001, things didn't get much better (6-12, 5.54) and the following year he almost pitched himself out of the Majors, posting a 7.77 ERA over 68.1 innings.

Despite his solid record last year, he still allowed 33 homers (16 at Dodger Stadium) and didn't strike out many hitters. Past of his success came from a huge increase in groundball outs, something that was made possible by the Dodgers' stellar infield defense.

He'll be back in KC, where he spent all of 2003 and had moderate success (8-3, 4.91). He's still only 32-years-old, so another above average season isn't out of the question. However, his lack of Ks, combined with the potential for and ugly ERA and WHIP, makes him a very risky selection. He'll probably end up undrafted in mixed leagues, so you should be able to wait a week or two into the season to see how he looks before picking him up.

David Eckstein signs a free agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals

Eckstein is the prototypical no-hit, good-field shortstop -- and from a fantasy standpoint, that doesn't mean a whole lot.

He should score more than 100 runs batting leadoff for the slugger-heavy Cardinals, and he can be counted on to steal around 15 bases. But he is unlikley to help a fantasy player in any other area: His batting average won't hurt or help and his home run and RBI number will be miniscule. He's not a bad fill-in player in the later rounds of a fantasy draft, but not someone who will go a long way in winning a fantasy championship.

Wade Miller signs a free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox

   Wade Miller  /   P
Born: 09/13/76
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Miller was 7-7 with a 3.35 ERA in 15 starts before a frayed rotator cuff ended his season on June 29.

He opted to rest his shoulder instead of having surgery, and he is scheduled to start throwing the first week of January. Even if the 28-year-old is fully healthy, there is no guarantee he will be in the Red Sox starting rotation, since Boston already has Curt Schilling, Matt Clement, David Wells, Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo.

The former Astro could be a very valuable fantasy asset if he is able to return to his old form when he returns. With a team like Boston scoring runs for him, and with the added benefit of being a righty in Fenway Park, he has 20-win potential. However, he could just as easily wind up in the bullpen or back on the DL.

Proceed with extreme caution when considering Miller at your draft, and make sure you monitor the Red Sox pitching situation closely before adding him to your squad.

Orlando Hernandez signs a free agent contract with the Chicago White Sox

   Orlando Hernandez  /   P
Born: 10/11/69
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

El Duque was a huge surprise in 2004, a year after missing an entire season with a rotator cuff injury. He battled through a hamstring injury and a tired arm to go 8-2 with a 3.30 ERA after joining the Yankees in July. He still has the ability to strike hitters out, and can usually be counted on for a decent ERA and above-average WHIP.

His health is a huge concern, especially after the way his arm felt by the end of last season. He has only made 30 starts once in his career (1999) and at 35 (or 39, as Cuban court records claim), it is possible he has little left in the tank. He passed his physical with flying colors before his signing with Chicago, but one still has to wonder how much longer his body will hold up.

At best, he should be a No. 5 starter in mixed leagues at the start of the season.

J.D. Drew signs a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers

   J.D. Drew  /   RF
Born: 11/20/75
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 200 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R

Drew has always had the talent to be a top-notch fantasy outfielder, but up until 2004, injuries had slowed his production down. Last year, he played in more than 135 games for the first time in his career, and set career highs in every offensive category except steals. His .305 average, 31 homers, 93 RBIs, 118 runs, 12 steals and 1.006 OPS were the kind of numbers people had been expecting from him for five years.

Playing in LA won't help Drew's numbers in 2005, but the bigger concern for fantasy owners should be his health. Drafting a player in the early rounds with a track record like Drew's is a big gamble. If you could see into the future and know Drew was going to play 140-150 games, he'd be worthy of an early selection. Since there are no guarantees, you are probably better off drafting someone like Andruw Jones, who might not hit .300, but has been healthy his entire career. If Drew drops past the first eight or so rounds, he's worth taking, but anytime before that is not advised.

Orlando Cabrera signs a free agent contract with the Anaheim Angels

   Orlando Cabrera  /   SS
Born: 11/02/74
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Cabrera's overall numbers from 2004 weren't particularly impressive, but it's probably not a bad idea to throw the first four months of the season out the window. After all, it's hard to play well when your lineup protection (Vladimir Guerrero) is traded, your team plays many of its home games in another country and you're sick of losing. Cabrera hit .294 after Montreal traded him to Boston, and he now finds himself the starting shortstop for another elite American League team.

When content, Cabrera provides solid numbers in all five fantasy categories. He batted .297 with 17 home runs, 80 RBIs, 95 runs and 24 steals in 2003, and could produce numbers like that again now that he's reunited with the big bat of Vladdy. Furthermore, he's joining a team that led the Majors in steals last season, and could see his total jump in that category.

All told, Cabrera is a quality fantasy shortstop who should come at a bargain after an off-year. With several other shortstops capable of putting up good numbers, Cabrera should be yours for the taking in the early-middle rounds.

Joe Randa signs a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Reds

   Joe Randa  /   3B
Born: 12/18/69
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Randa, 35, batted .287 with eight home runs and 56 RBIs in 128 games for the Kansas City Royals. He missed one month after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee but came back to earn honors as the Royals Player of the Month in September.

Numbers like those from an aging third baseman are not good enough to warrant draft day consideration, unless you play in an NL-only league. At best, hope for .300-15-70, at worst .250-5-45.

His arrival in Cincinnati also means that Austin Kearns will remain in the Reds outfield, and not move to third base. Kearns had been working out in Lexington, Ky., and following a plan established by the Reds in an attempt to make the conversion from right field to third.

Carl Pavano signs a free agent contract with the New York Yankees

   Carl Pavano  /   P
Born: 01/08/76
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 240 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Pavano finally put it all together in 2004, finishing among the National League leaders in wins (18), ERA (3.00) and innings pitched (222 1/3). He was also a model of consistency for fantasy owners, putting forth a quality start (3 ER or less in at least 6 IP) in 23 of his 31 outings. Taking into consideration the usual mitigating factors, Pavano should be in line for another fine season in 2005. A groundball pitcher, he'll benefit from the solid infield defense of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. He'll also get plenty of support from an offense that slugged 242 homers and averaged 5.5 runs per game in 2004.

Of course, the real factor here is how well Pavano adjusts to pitching in the Big Apple. Plenty of good pitchers have wilted under the bright lights of the media capital (remember another young stud by the name of Javier Vazquez?), and there really is no reliable way to judge how Pavano will handle the move. Given his ability and 2004 performance, Pavano should be considered one of the top-15 fantasy starting pitchers heading into next season. You might want to err on the side of caution however, and allow room for a couple of rough stretches as he adjusts to life in the Bronx.

Jose Valentin signs a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers

   Jose Valentin  /   SS
Born: 10/12/69
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 195 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: R

Valentin always puts up power numbers (averaging 27 homers the past five seasons), but his batting average is low enough to keep fantasy owners away on draft day. Almost every year, you can find him floating around in the 14th round, when few other 25-plus HR players are still available.

Last year he belted a career-high 30 homers, but batted a career-low .216. His average in the second half was a dreadful .167 -- and that was over 198 ABs. Numbers like that can kill a fantasy owner's batting average for an entire season.

In LA, it could actually get worse. His power will suffer and unless he starts swinging for more singles, Valentin is almost guaranteed to finish with another average in the low .200s. Is a .220 average worth 25 homers? Probably not, unless you have a ton of players like Ichiro on your team.

Tony Womack signs a free agent deal with the Yankees

   Tony Womack  /   2B
Born: 09/25/69
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 170 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R

Womack experienced resurgence in St. Louis last season, a year after flirting with the Mendoza line. The second baseman batted .307 and collected 26 steals as the Cardinals leadoff hitter.

While he can still run, it is unlikely that he'll top 30 steals in New York, and even stealing 20 bases will be difficult if the Yankees end up batting him ninth.

Fantasy owners should be wary of his .226 average from 2003, and expecting him to top .300 again is being overly optimistic at this point in his career. If he sticks in the Yankees lineup, he'll give you a bunch of runs and a good amount of steals, but nothing in the power department. A risky pick unless you wait until the late rounds of your draft.

The San Diego Padres acquire outfielder Dave Roberts from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Jay Payton, infielder Ramon Vazquez, right-hander David Pauley and cash considerations

   Dave Roberts  /   LF
Born: 05/31/72
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

After being relegated to the Boston bench for the end of the 2004 regular season, Roberts returns to a starting role as the Padres center fielder. One of the true speedsters of the game, Roberts is fully capable of blowing past 50 stolen bases with a full season's worth of work (he stole 38 in 319 at-bats last year). He'll also bat leadoff in a solid Padres lineup, giving him the opportunity to reach the 100-run plateau for the first time in his career. The downside to picking Roberts is that he won't help your team batting average, and he hits a home run about once every blue moon. Of course, that's not why you'll be drafting him. Grab Roberts once Carl Crawford, Juan Pierre and Scott Podsednik are gone, and worry about making up for the power loss in the middle rounds.

Payton's numbers fell off after a career 2003 campaign, and they should continue to sink in Boston. With a formidable outfield already set, Payton will slide into Gabe Kapler's old role as a fourth outfielder and right-handed bat off the bench. Unless you are playing in a deep AL-only league, you're not going to get much value for his spot play.

Vazquez, who split the 2004 season between San Diego and Triple-A, provides some infield insurance for the Red Sox. As for Pauley, he spent the year at Class A and is years away from the Majors. Neither is worth keeping on your fantasy radar.

Cardinals acquire Mark Mulder from the A's for Danny Haren, Kiko Calero and Daric Barton

   Mark Mulder  /   P
Born: 08/05/77
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

Mulder instantly becomes the No. 1 starter the Cardinals have coveted and, surrounded by what is the National League's best offense, one of the top NL pitchers in fantasy baseball.

Mulder's numbers were a bit disappointing last year as he suffered through an uncharacteristic poor second half -- but proceeded to finish 17-8. Assuming he's healthy, he's sure to return to norm and fantasy owners can expect another near 20-win season with a sub-4.00 ERA and and a WHIP of around 1.20.

The A's get another hard-throwing young pitcher in the 24-year-old Haren, who figures to be a solid No. 3 starter in Oakland. He could be a great mid-round pick in AL-only leagues and should be a double-figures winner.

Calero joins a loaded Oakland bullpen where he'll fit in nicely in middle relief. Barton, 19, is one of the top catching prospects in the game and could be on the A's roster in two years or so. He hit .313 with 13 homers and 77 RBIs in Class A last year and walked 69 times.

Matt Clement signs a free agent deal with the Red Sox

   Matt Clement  /   P
Born: 08/12/74
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Clement put together another fine season in 2004, but was the unfortunate victim of a lack of run support (4.03 runs per start). Despite a solid 3.68 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 9.45 K/9, Clement went 9-13 in 30 starts.

Run support won't be a problem for Clement in Boston, where the Sox scored an average of 6.46 runs per game for their starters last season. He'll also be pitching in a ballpark that favors righties.

The biggest concern surrounding Clement was his poor showing in the final two months of 2004, where he actually fell out of the Cubs rotation late in the season. The 30-year-old posted ERAs of 5.60 and 7.36 in August and September, and won only two games after June 8. Two reasons for his failures were a lack of control (32 BB) and too many home runs (13) in his final 12 starts (63.2 IP).

Switching over to the AL won't help him either, but pitching for a team with such an explosive offense should allow him to get back on track in 2005. Expect 15 wins and 175 Ks if he is able to make 30-plus starts.

Oakland trades Tim Hudson to the Braves in exchange for outfielder Charles Thomas, southpaw Dan Meyer and right-hander Juan Cruz

   Tim Hudson  /   P
Born: 07/14/75
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 165 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Hudson has posted some of the best pitching numbers in the AL over the past six seasons and will be moving to one of the top cities for pitchers to make a living. The 29-year-old righty is an amazing 92-39 with a 3.30 ERA over his career, and he has been a yearly fixture in the AL Cy Young race.

Last season he missed seven starts due to hip soreness and finished the season with his highest ERA in four seasons (3.53), a mark that still ranked him fifth in the league. The other major concern for anyone owning Hudson last year was his dip in Ks -- he went from 6.08 K/9 in 2003 to only 4.91 K/9 in 2004. He also allowed more hits than innings pitched for the first time in his career.

Now that he'll have the privilege of pitching for Leo Mazzone in a good pitcher's park, there is an excellent chance that he'll return to his sub-3.00 ERA days. Expect Hudson to win 16-plus games with a 2.80 ERA, but don't draft him ahead of the Carlos Zambranos of the world, who will help you more in strikeouts.

Thomas was slated for a platoon with the Braves, and might end up doing the same with Nick Swisher in Oakland. Unless he lands a full-time job, he is only an option in AL-only leagues.

Cruz might get his long-anticipated shot at being a starter with the A's. The lanky right-hander has an outstanding fastball and has been compared by some observers as a raw Pedro Martinez. However, his lack of control cost him a starting job in the past, so wait to see if he lands a rotation spot before drafting him.

Meyer went 9-6 with a 2.49 ERA and 146/37 K/BB in 126.1 IP between Double-A and Triple-A last season. The 23-year-old throws in the low 90s and has a quality slider, but he will probably spend the first half of the season in the minors. He should only be considered in keeper leagues right now.

Adrian Beltre agrees to a free-agent contract with the Seattle Mariners

   Adrian Beltre  /   3B
Born: 04/07/79
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Last year, Beltre finally had the breakout year fantasy owners had been waiting for since 1999. His numbers -- .334-48-121 -- were way beyond anyone's expectations, and it is likely that anyone who owned Beltre for most of the year finished high in their league because they were able to grab him with a mid-round pick.

A move to Safeco Field is usually a bad thing for a hitter, but Beltre put up huge numbers while playing half his games at Dodger Stadium (.326-23-61). If he can produce like that in LA, he should be able to do it just about anywhere. Safeco Field and Dodger Stadium yielded an average of 8.5 runs per game in '04.

The other nice thing about owning a guy like Beltre is that he has proved he can battle through injuries, meaning fantasy owners don't have to worry about him sitting out a game here and there with minor ailments. He'll also turn 26 the first week of the season, so he should only continue to improve as a hitter.

While he'll have to adjust to AL pitching, there is no reason to think he won't smack 40 homers and bat .300 again in 2004.

The Mariners' addition of Beltre -- and Richie Sexson -- also means more run support, so the the value of Joel Pineiro and company has gone up ever so slightly.

The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Benito Santiago from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for minor league right-hander Leo Nunez.

   Benito Santiago  /   C
Born: 03/09/65
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 200 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Santiago, who turns 40 in March, takes over as Pittsburgh's starting catcher in 2005. Last season, he appeared in 49 games before a fractured hand ended his season in June. He showed he still had some pop left in his bat, hitting 10 doubles and six homers in only 175 ABs to go along with a respectable .274 average.

He's only worth starting in NL-only leagues or mixed leagues that require two starting catchers. There is no reason to draft him anytime before the last few rounds since there are plenty of other catchers who can bat .270 with 10-15 home runs.

Santiago was deemed expendable since the Royals intend to go with John Buck as their starter. Buck showed promise in 2004, hitting 12 homers in 238 ABs, but he will need to raise his average (.235 in '04) before he becomes a valuable fantasy asset at catcher.

Santiago's arrival in Pittsburgh means that catcher-in-waiting Humberto Cota will have to spend more time on the bench before he gets the opportunity to start on an everyday basis.

The Royals obtained outfielder Eli Marrero from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for minor league pitcher Jorge Vasquez.

   Eli Marrero  /   C
Born: 11/17/73
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Marrero's days of catching are behind him, and in 2004 he only appeared as an outfielder and pinch-hitter. He batted .320 (more than 70 points above his career average heading into '04) and socked 10 homers in just 250 ABs.

In KC, he will be stuck in a platoon role with Matt Stairs and Terrence Long, and will have little fantasy value unless he lands a full-time job. Plus KC GM Allard Baird is still looking for a young corner outfielder who can play on a regular basis, so Marrero could wind up with even fewer ABs than he had last season.

Marrero should only be considered in very deep AL-only leagues or if an injury opens up more playing time.

Edgar Renteria signs a free agent contract with the Red Sox

   Edgar Renteria  /   SS
Born: 08/07/75
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 200 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

A year after batting .330 with 100 RBIs and 34 steals, Renteria came back down to earth to put up decent fantasy numbers in 2004. While a .287 average, 10 homers, 72 RBIs and 17 steals is still above average for a shortstop, many folks who drafted Renteria in the early rounds were disappointed with the return they received on their investment.

The All-Star shortstop heads to the AL for the first time in his nine-year career, and will have the benefit of batting in the league's most potent offense. He should thrive in his new environment (Fenway's Green Monster can only help), and will have a slew of RBI opportunities during the season. His stolen base count, however, will probably not increase, as Boston is hesitant to run with so many lethal bats in its lineup.

While knocking in 100 runs will be difficult, it is reasonable to expect .300-15-90, with 100-plus runs and 15 steals. Renteria should still be considered a top five shortstop, and it will be a surprise if he lasts past the seventh or eighth round of any mixed draft.

Richie Sexson signs a free agent contract with the Seattle Mariners

   Richie Sexson  /   1B
Born: 12/29/74
Height: 6'8"
Weight: 235 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

A shoulder injury limited Sexson to just 23 games in 2004, hurting many fantasy owners who were relying on the big first baseman for power. Sexson averaged 36 homers from 1999-2003, knocking in over 100 runs in four of five seasons while usually batting around .270.

Playing 81 games a year in Seattle will make it difficult for Sexson to reach 40 homers for the third time in his career. Then again, Bret Boone has hit 120 homers the past four seasons (60 at both home and on the road), so it is certainly not out of the question.

Sexson's value will take a hit because of his injury and his new home ballpark. He could come cheap for a guy with 40-HR power, and if he's still sitting around in the mid rounds, grab him.

Pedro Martinez signs a free agent contract with the New York Mets

Martinez had his worst season in years, going 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 1.17 WHIP -- numbers that are great for an average pitcher, but not stellar for a future Hall of Famer. Despite his "down" year, Martinez is still one of baseball's premier pitchers, and won 182 career games before turning 33 in October.

   Pedro Martinez  /   P
Born: 10/25/71
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Shea Stadium is a great place for pitchers to make a living. Martinez has loved pitching there over his career, posting a 5-1 record and 1.17 ERA. He'll be leaving Fenway, a park that saw an average of 11.2 runs (3rd) scored per game (although the Red Sox offense had a lot to do with that), for a stadium that ranked 24th in the league (8.6 runs per game). His ERA the last three years was half a point lower on the road than at Fenway, so a move away from Boston should help. While the drop in offensive support will cost him a few wins (the Mets batted .249 as a team in 2004), his ratios and strikeouts should improve pitching at Shea and against NL lineups.

The huge concern surrounding Martinez is his shoulder. He has had trouble the past few years, and although he didn't miss a start in 2004, lasting past the seventh inning has become increasingly difficult for him. He has a ton of mileage on his arm, and even though 33 isn't that old, he has been throwing heat for 13 Major League seasons.

Even if he is only able to make 25 starts, he is still more valuable than most pitchers out there. He should still be considered a top 10-15 pitcher, but now that he is in a league with a bunch of great fantasy hurlers, his value won't be as high in NL-only leagues as it would have been in AL-only ones.

Corey Koskie signs a free agent contract with the Toronto Blue Jays

   Corey Koskie  /   3B
Born: 06/28/73
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R

Koskie will move right into the middle of Toronto's order and will be counted on to help fill the void left by Carlos Delgado. He'll take over third base duties for Toronto, pushing Eric Hinske over to first.

Last year, despite collecting 25 homers, Koskie disappointed many owners by hitting .251. His average was stuck in the .230s in August, causing quite a few fantasy owners to cut him loose and send him to waiverland.

There are also durability concerns with Koskie, who missed 44 games with a variety of ailments last season and hasn't played more than 140 games in any of the past three seasons.

He will be moving into a better hitters' park and playing in his native country, so expect a healthy Koskie to see a slight increase in his overall numbers. His combination of speed (usually good for 10 steals) and power at the corner gives him enough value to warrant a late-middle round draft selection, even if his batting average hurts you a bit.

Cincinnati acquires Ramon Ortiz from Anaheim in exchange for minor leaguer Dustin Moseley

   Ramon Ortiz  /   P
Born: 05/23/73
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 175 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Ortiz was very inconsistent in 2004. After posting a 9.28 ERA in the season's first month, he put up ERAs of 1.69, 1.16 and 2.92 from May through July. In August, things fell apart as his ERA shot back up to 5.84.

Most of that success came in relief, where Ortiz's ERA (2.76) was almost half of what it was as a starter (5.47). Cincinnati is planning on using him as a starter, so anyone drafting Ortiz will be taking a risk and must hope that he returns to his 2002 form (15-9, 3.77 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) instead of the pitcher he was in 2003 (16-13, 5.20 ERA, 1.51 WHIP).

A move to the NL should help, and he still has potential to become a solid everyday starter. But anyone planning on spending more than $5 or a late round pick should be careful with Ortiz. He could wind up back in the bullpen, and right now, it's anyone's guess as to which Ortiz will show up in 2005.

White Sox trade outfielder Carlos Lee to the Brewers for outfielder Scott Podsednik, right-hander Luis Vizcaino and a player to be named

Lee toiled under the shadow of White Sox sluggers Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordonez and Paul Konerko for the first few years of his career, but his continued improvement -- along with injuries to Thomas and Ordonez in 2004 -- have helped to turn him into a legitimate star. Now, he'll be asked to shoulder much of the offensive load in Milwaukee, where he slides into the cleanup spot between Lyle Overbay and Geoff Jenkins. Lee is coming off consecutive seasons in which he's averaged .297-31-106 and, at 28, appears to be in the prime of his career. This may be the year that his offensive growth comes to a halt, however. Miller Park isn't quite the hitters' haven that U.S. Cellular Field is, and the adjustment to a new league will likely lead to a few slumps. Still, Lee remains an excellent second-tier fantasy outfielder, especially with his ability to steal 10 or more bases.

   Scott Podsednik  /   CF
Born: 03/18/76
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 170 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

Of course, few are as good at stealing bases as Podsednik, who led the Majors with 70 last season. The trade to the White Sox will do little to affect his contributions in that category, so you can pencil Podsendik in for another 60-75 thefts right now. What he does in the other categories is a little more up in the air. After hitting .314 as a rookie in 2003, Podsednik sunk to a miserable .244 last season. Many will chalk it up to the dreaded sophomore slump, but the theory here is that Podsednik got a little carried away after an early season power surge (he had nine homers through June). With a renewed focus on his table-setting abilities, as well as a boost from U.S. Cellular Field, Podsednik should get his average back up to the high-.200s. That, coupled with his double-digit home run power, makes the 28-year-old the kind of speed guy you want to grab before too many rounds slip by.

Vizcaino heads to the White Sox's bullpen, where he'll serve as a setup man to Shingo Takatsu. Though he has closer's stuff, it's unlikely that Vizcaino will get more than the occasional save opportunity in 2004. He also doesn't post particularly impressive ERAs or strikeout/innings pitched ratios, so there's no point in giving him any fantasy consideration unless you play in a deep AL-only league.

Brewers trade Danny Kolb to the Braves for two prospects

After taking over the closing job for the Brewers midway through 2003, Kolb proved he could handle the reins for a full season in 2004. His overall numbers (39 SV, 2.98 ERA) were pretty impressive, but they in part masked his struggles over the second half of the season, when he blew four of 17 save opportunities and posted a 4.88 ERA. He also struck out just 21 batters in 57 1/3 innings overall, a remarkably low ratio for a closer with a live fastball. Still, Kolb is likely to get plenty of opportunities for a perennially contending team, so you can feel safe picking him after whiff masters like Eric Gagne and Brad Lidge are gone.

With Kolb taking over the back end of the bullpen, John Smoltz will return to his old job in the starting rotation. This should raise a number of red flags on your fantasy radar. Smoltz has undergone right elbow surgery four times, and he hasn't started since 2001. His stuff is still incredible, but the chances of him lasting a full season with an increased workload aren't very good. You're better off going after a younger, more durable pitcher until the later rounds.

Richard Hidalgo signs a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers

Hidalgo has been one of baseball's most inconsistent players the past five seasons. In 2000, he slugged 44 homers, 122 RBIs and batted .314. He followed that up with a .275 average and only 19 home runs in 2001, and saw his HR total drop to 15 in '02. Hidalgo bounced back in 2003, posting a .309-28-88 season.

   Richard Hidalgo  /   RF
Born: 07/02/75
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

He got off to a fast start in 2004, hitting .341 with four homers and 22 RBIs in the season's first month, but then batted under .200 with only three homers in May and June. In fact he didn't go deep once from April 14 - June 19. Then, right after every fantasy owner sent him to the waiver wire, Hidalgo responded by homering in five straight games to begin July and finished the month with solid numbers (.294-10-22). From there things went straight downhill again, bottoming out in September when Hidalgo only hit .114 to finish the season at .239.

But that doesn't mean you should write off the 29-year-old slugger yet, who will be moving to the friendly confines of Ameriquest Field in Arlington. As MLB.com's John Schlegel writes "For a power hitter looking for a second chance to prove that he still has what it takes to deliver offense, there are few opportunities as enticing as playing for the Rangers. Hidalgo will be placed in the middle of a tremendously talented lineup that could use pop from him but doesn't desperately need it."

His poor performance in 2004 lowers his value from where it was a year ago, and Hidalgo will come cheap for a guy with .300-30-100 potential. Keep him on your radar on draft day and grab him if he is around in the later middle rounds or goes for under $12.

Russ Ortiz signs a free agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks

   Russ Ortiz  /   P
Born: 06/05/74
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

An innings-eater who knows how to win, Ortiz has posted a total of 99 victories the past six seasons, winning at least 14 games in each campaign. He has pitched in 33 or 34 games every year, and has topped 200 innings every season but 2000 (195.2 IP). He'll supply you with an above average number of Ks and a solid ERA, but his high walk totals can be damaging to your WHIP (1.51 in 2004).

Ortiz will be leaving a great pitcher's park for one that favored hitters in 2004. He'll also have the league's lowest scoring offense supporting his cause, so equaling his 15 wins from last season will be difficult (Randy Johnson won 16 despite a 2.60 ERA and 0.90 WHIP). The addition of Troy Glaus will help, but unless Arizona adds some additional bats, the offense will struggle to give pitchers enough support to win many games.

The 30-year-old righty will lose a little value with this signing, but should still be regarded as a solid No. 3 starter in mixed leagues.

Steve Finley signs a free agent contract with the Anaheim Angels

   Steve Finley  /   CF
Born: 03/12/65
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 195 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

Finley always winds up falling later than he should at fantasy drafts because of his age. The 16-year veteran turns 40 in the spring, and it is a virtual certainty that he'll be available at your draft come the middle rounds -- something that usually doesn't happen with a player who hits 36 home runs the year before.

He has shown no signs of slowing down, and last year's power output was the highest of his career. While he won't hit .300 or steal 30 bases, Finley can still be counted on for a .280 average, and will probably run enough in Anaheim to steal 15-plus bases.

In leaving Dodgers Stadium (ranked 26th in runs scored in 2004), his power numbers should continue to be solid. It is always tough to say how a player will adjust to switching leagues (Finley last played in the AL with the Orioles in 1990), but Vlad Guerrero sure didn't have any trouble in 2004.

He's an excellent No. 4 or 5 OF option in mixed leagues, especially if he falls to the later middle rounds.

Troy Glaus signs a free agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks

   Troy Glaus  /   3B
Born: 08/03/76
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 240 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

After spending the first seven years of his career with Anaheim, Glaus heads to the National League, where he will be Arizona's starting third baseman.

Glaus, who has battled shoulder problems the past two seasons, hit .251 with 18 homers and 42 RBIs in 58 games for the Angels in 2004. He struggled after returning from surgery in August, batting .209 down the stretch.

He has only batted higher than .251 once in his career (.284 in 2000) and cannot be counted on to help your team in average. His RBI opportunities will also be limited hitting in a weak Arizona lineup that finished last in runs scored in 2004.

Don't expect anything more from Glaus than his standard .250 average, 30 homers and 85-90 RBIs. His fantasy value takes a hit with this signing, and he should no longer be considered a top-five fantasy third baseman.

Glaus' arrival in Arizona will most likely push Chad Tracy to either right field or first base.

Jeff Kent signs a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers

   Jeff Kent  /   2B
Born: 03/07/68
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

At 37, Kent is still one of baseball's top hitting middle infielders. He's knocked in 100-plus runs in seven of eight seasons, missing that mark only in 2003 when he sat out 32 games due to injury. He always bats in the vicinity of .300, and still has 25-30 home run power.

While his numbers in his two seasons in Houston were solid, they weren't as high as some people were expecting after he moved to Minute Maid Park. Playing in LA will not help his cause, and with Adrian Beltre gone to Seattle, there will be fewer run and RBI opportunities to go around the Dodgers lineup.

Even in LA, Kent remains a top option at second for fantasy owners. While he won't put up numbers like in his MVP season of 2000 (.334, 33 HR, 125 RBIs), .300-25-95 isn't too shabby.

Jermaine Dye signs a free agent contract with the Chicago White Sox

Dye bounced back in 2004, after an abysmal 2003 campaign in which he was hindered by a shoulder injury. The nine-year veteran raised his average almost 100 points (.172 to .265) and hit 20-plus homers for the fifth time in six seasons.

   Jermaine Dye  /   RF
Born: 01/28/74
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

However, Dye really struggled in the second half of the season, posting a .231 average, seven homers and 26 RBIs in 199 ABs, while missing time with a fractured thumb. His strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.6-to-1) was also the worst of any full season in his career.

Leaving Oakland for Chicago should boost his numbers. He'll be in a better hitter's park and will have a superior offense surrounding him. If he can stay healthy, it is not unreasonable to think the 31-year-old outfielder will blast 30-35 homers and drive in 100-plus runs. He probably won't hit .300, but he won't kill you in average, either.

Dye will make a solid third outfielder in AL-only leagues and a good option as a fourth or fifth outfielder in mixed leagues. Owners should be wary of Carl Everett, who will probably see less playing time with Dye in the everyday lineup.

Woody Williams signs a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres

   Woody Williams  /   P
Born: 08/19/66
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 200 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Williams, a flyball pitcher, will fit in well in San Diego's spacious PETCO Park. An average pitcher in his previous stint with San Diego (1999-2001), Williams developed into one of baseball's top starters working under the tutelage of St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan. He also had the advantage of playing in another pitcher-friendly park, Busch Stadium, where he was 25-8 with a 2.88 ERA in 47 starts.

At 38, Williams seems to have a lot left in the tank, and pitching in PETCO will go a long way in helping him improve his numbers after a mediocre 2004 campaign. He did win 10 of his last 13 decisions and started the first game of all three postseason series for St. Louis in October, going 2-0.

Expect 13-15 wins, an ERA under 4.00 and an average amount of strikeouts. He'll make a solid No. 3 or 4 starter in NL-only leagues.

Jon Lieber signs a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies

   Jon Lieber  /   P
Born: 04/02/70
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R

After making a successful return from Tommy John surgery, Lieber (14-8, 4.33 ERA) leaves the Bronx after one season and returns to the National League, where he won 20 games in 2001. He is expected to head a rotation of Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, Cory Lidle and Brett Myers.

Lieber is one of baseball's best control artists, issuing only 18 walks in 176.2 innings last season while striking out 102, for a 5.2-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has a tendency to induce ground balls (242 ground outs compared to 178 fly outs in '04), making him a good fit for cozy Citizens Bank Park. Lieber showed no signs of wearing down in his first full season since 2001, going 5-0 with a 3.12 ERA in the final month of the season.

While he won't do much to help you in Ks, he should win 15 games in Philadelphia, and his ERA is likely to drop a bit now that he's back in the NL. He'll make a solid end-of-rotation fantasy starter in 2005.

Al Leiter signs a free agent contract with the Florida Marlins

   Al Leiter  /   P
Born: 10/23/65
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

At 39, Leiter is still a quality pitcher (10-8, 3.21 ERA in 2004), although some of his numbers have started to decline. He is no longer a guarantee to pitch 200 innings (173.2 in '04) and his strikeout-to-walk ratio has been moving in the wrong direction for several years (1.11-1 ratio last season).

Leiter does not have overpowering stuff, but somehow finds ways to win games. He has not had a losing season since 1994, and has posted sub-4.00 ERAs in five straight seasons. He'll be returning to Florida, a place he has had excellent success during his career. He owns a 22-9 record and 2.77 ERA in 38 games at Pro Player Stadium, one of baseball's most pitcher-friendly parks.

If you are looking for a pitcher who can win you 12 games with a 3.50 ERA, Leiter is not a bad option. However, expect to take a hit in the K department and don't expect much help in WHIP, either.

Dustin Hermanson signs a free agent contract with the Chicago White Sox

The signing of Armando Benitez made Hermanson expendable in San Francisco. The White Sox will use him as a setup man, since Shingo Takatsu is already their closer. He'll split setup duties with Damaso Marte, but could get a chance to close if Takatsu struggles or gets injured.

While he did pick up 17 saves in 20 opportunities after becoming the stopper in San Fran, Hermanson's 4.33 ERA in relief was higher than most closers. His career numbers as a starter aren't very impressive either, so unless he assumes the closer role at some point, Hermanson should only be drafted in AL-only leagues as insurance for Takatsu owners.

Phillies acquire outfielder Kenny Lofton in exchange for right-hander Felix Rodriguez

   Kenny Lofton  /   CF
Born: 05/31/67
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

After a season spent shuttling between outfield, DH and the bench in New York, Lofton slides back into his familiar starting center field spot with Philadelphia. At 37 years of age, Lofton is no longer the gamebreaking force who drove opposing pitchers batty on the basepaths. Still, he's a lifetime .297 hitter, and remains capable of hustling his way to 90 runs and 20-plus steals. If you're looking for an extra outfielder in the late rounds of your fantasy draft, Lofton is a safe pick to provide solid numbers in three categories.

Of course, the addition of Lofton spells bad news for Marlon Byrd and his fans. Byrd showed a world of promise when he hit .303 with 11 steals two seasons ago, but a miserable 2004 season was apparently enough to convince the Phillies to move in another direction. The 27-year-old still has the potential to become a 20-20 guy, but it looks like he'll have to wait for a trade before he gets a chance to fully develop.

Rodriguez brings his power arm to the Yankees bullpen, where he'll join Tom Gordon in a setup role for Mariano Rivera. Though he's never been a closer, Rodriguez used to be the kind of reliever who could give your team a boost in strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. But he hasn't averaged more than a strikeout per inning since 2001, and his ERA over that span has been a pedestrian 3.54. Rodriguez may get a couple of save opportunities on Rivera's off days, but he probably won't warrant a fantasy roster spot outside of deep AL-only leagues.

Armando Benitez signs a free agent contract with the San Francisco Giants

   Armando Benitez  /   P
Born: 11/03/72
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Benitez has always been among the hardest-throwing pitchers in the game, but until recently, he also had to deal with accusations of being an underachiever and a hothead. Now, after the finest season of his 11-year career, he is arguably among the top fantasy closers in all of baseball.

With the Giants a perennial contender, Benitez will get plenty of opportunities to close out games. Just don't draft him with the expectation that he'll match the 47 saves and 1.29 ERA he posted in 2004 -- numbers like that rarely carry over for even the best of closers. A season of 40 saves and an ERA in the mid-2.00s is probably more like it.

Benitez's addition to the back end of the San Francisco bullpen means that the fantasy values of Dustin Hermanson and Matt Herges -- who each closed for the Giants in 2004 -- will take a serious hit. Hermanson is a free agent, and may find another chance to close, depending on where he ends up. Then there's the matter of Robb Nen, who is still trying to pitch his way back from serious rotator cuff surgery. Even if he does make the climb back to the Majors, the Giants are likely to take it very, very easy with their former closer extraordinaire.

Damian Miller signs a free agent contract with the Milwaukee Brewers

   Damian Miller  /   C
Born: 10/13/69
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Miller will be taking over the starting catcher job from Chad Moeller in Milwaukee, so he's definitely someone you want to keep on your radar if your league involves National League players. One of the more consistent offensive catchers in baseball, Miller has hit at least .270 in six of his eight Major League seasons, and has slugged between nine and 13 home runs in each of the last six.

Now, it's probably important to note that Miller's two sub-.270 campaigns have come in the past three years. He's also 35 years old, which means his best days are probably behind him. Still, Miller is durable (one trip to the DL in his career) and he's excellent on the defensive end (one error in 2004), which means he's going to get plenty of playing time in Milwaukee. Once the Pudges, Piazzas and Posadas are gone, Miller would make an an excellent choice as a backup catcher in mixed leagues.

Pirates trade catcher Jason Kendall to the A's for left-handers Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes

   Jason Kendall  /   C
Born: 06/26/74
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 195 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Kendall has been one of the most consistent fantasy catchers over the last few seasons, but there are a couple of factors you should keep in mind as he takes his act to Oakland: First, he'll have to adjust to a crop of mostly unfamiliar American League pitchers, and second, he'll be playing half his games in the pitching-friendly Network Associates Coliseum. Add it all up, and Kendall will be hard-pressed to hit .319 again in 2005. Still, his value in the other major fantasy categories makes him a valuable commodity. Kendall led all ML catchers in runs (86) and steals (11) last season, and given his age (30) and durability (147 games in 2004, second among ML catchers), it's unlikely that he'll slow down anytime soon. As long as you can count on power from other sources, Kendall remains an excellent starting option at catcher in all kinds of leagues.

   Mark Redman  /   P
Born: 01/05/74
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 245 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

Redman suffered through a disappointing 2004, but what was most baffling was how bad his home numbers (3-6, 7.46 ERA) were in comparison with those from the road (8-6, 2.90 ERA). If, for whatever reason, Redman just couldn't pitch well at Network Associates Colliseum, he doesn't have to worry about it any more. Now, he'll just have to worry about pitching for a Pirates lineup that packs considerably less pop than the one that backed him in Oakland. Redman has some familiarity with the National League batters he'll be facing, but he's still just a No. 3 or 4 starter who gets by with less than overpowering stuff. His ERA should improve from the 4.71 mark he posted in 2004, but his record (11-12) won't. If you're playing in a mixed league, you'll probably want to bypass him and take a chance on a guy with more upside in the draft.

Like an actor who sees his career go down the tubes after starring in a bad movie, Rhodes' fantasy value has dwindled to next to nothing after spectacularly coughing up the closer's job in Oakland. His numbers should return to respectable levels in the lower profile role of setup man, but the aging Rhodes lacks the sizzle on his pitches that used to chalk up excellent strikeouts/innings pitched ratios. And don't delude yourself into thinking that Rhodes could get another shot at the big time if incumbent closer Jose Mesa begins to falter; given Rhodes' history in that role (26 saves, 32 blown saves) the Pirates would likely hand the reins over to the young, hard-throwing Mike Gonzalez.

Nationals acquire outfielder Jose Guillen from the Angels in exchange for outfielder Juan Rivera and shortstop Maicer Izturis

   Jose Guillen  /   RF
Born: 05/17/76
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Guillen was the Angels' second-best hitter behind Vladimir Guerrero in 2004, and has averaged .302, 29 home runs and 95 RBIs over the past two seasons. He's also familiar with National League pitching, having played in the Senior Circuit as recently as 2003, and is in his prime at 28 years of age. With a resume like that, Guillen would make a fine addition as a second outfielder on your mixed-league fantasy team. The big question is whether or not he's going to shoot himself in the foot by squabbling with management again, but, given his talent, that's a chance you should be willing to take.

With Jeff DaVanon sliding in to take over the third outfield spot and David Eckstein holding steady at shortstop, Rivera and Izturis are unlikely to see more than part-time action with the Angels. Even if you're playing in the deepest of AL-only leagues, you'll want to look elsewhere for production.

   Troy Percival  /   P
Born: 08/09/69
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 235 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Troy Percival signs a free agent contract with the Detroit Tigers

Percival has saved at least 30 games for seven consecutive seasons, and his 316 career saves rank 12th all-time. If that means he's been one of the more effective closers in Major League history, it also means he's logged quite a few miles on the odometer. Percival's 2004 numbers -- 33 saves, 2.90 ERA -- look good at first glance, but study them in comparison with his 2003 totals. In a nearly identical number of innings pitched, Percival allowed 10 more hits and struck out 15 fewer batters last year. Can he still get the job done? Absolutely, but he can no longer be considered a top-tier closer.

The x-factor here is what happens with Ugueth Urbina. The Tigers picked up Ugi's option for 2005, but there really is no timetable as far as when he can be expected to return from a family crisis in Venezuela. It's possible that Urbina could show up to training camp on time, have a great spring and wrest back the closer job, but it's just as likely that he could remain out of the country until May. You may want to monitor the situation over the winter, but it's probably reasonable to expect another 30 saves from Percival in the upcoming season.

Francisco Rodriguez takes over full-time closer duties for Anaheim, and should be ranked as one of the top 5-7 fantasy closers in 2005.

   Cristian Guzman  /   SS
Born: 03/21/78
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 205 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: R

Cristian Guzman signs a free agent contract with the Nationals

Guzman is known primarily as a glove man, and there are probably about a dozen better fantasy options to take at shortstop. Still, he's not a bad guy to grab because of his upside. Guzman will turn 27 shortly before the start of the season, and he's already shown the kind of gap power (31 doubles in 2004) that could translate into home runs as he continues to mature. And let's not forget the promise he showed in an abbreviated 118-game season in 2001 (.302, 10 homers, 51 RBIs, 25 steals).

Guzman's top basestealing days may be behind him and he may struggle a bit with the adjustment to a new league, but he should be a pleasant surprise as a mid-to-late round pick.

   Vinny Castilla  /   3B
Born: 07/04/67
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 205 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Vinny Castilla signs a free agent contract with the Nationals

Let's start with the obvious -- Castilla, no longer in the thin air of Colorado, will not have another campaign of 35 home runs and 131 RBIs in 2005. So what can we expect from our cousin Vinny? Well, let's look at the recent evidence: In the three full seasons between his stints with the Rockies, Castilla averaged .256, 20 home runs and 76 RBIs a season. Those numbers aren't bad, but they're nothing special for a fantasy third baseman.

Even if you give Castilla the benefit of the doubt for remaining in the National League and knowing the pitching, he's unlikely to be worth more than a late-round pick at best.

   Omar Vizquel  /   SS
Born: 04/24/67
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 185 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: R

Omar Vizquel signs a free agent contract with the San Francisco Giants

With a solid 2004 season, Vizquel proved that the rumors of his demise were premature. A heady, experienced player, Vizquel will continue to find ways to get his hits and collect some steals. Of course, he's never really demostrated much power, and certainly won't now that he'll be playing half his games in pitcher-friendly SBC Park.

A .280-5-50-15 season is reasonable to expect, which means you probably don't need to consider taking him unless you play in an NL-only league.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.