Fantasy Baseball Offseason Tracker: Liam Hendriks to White Sox could set off chain reaction of closer signings

Your Fantasy Baseball league may not draft for another few months, but the transactions that could decide your championship are already happening. We’re analyzing offseason moves as they happen right here.

The biggest closer domino has fallen. The market is set at four years, $54 million (with some tricky terms for that fourth year), which could lead to a chain reaction in which Brad Hand, Kirby Yates, Trevor Rosenthal and Mark Melancon all find a new ninth-inning home. Last year, Hendriks actually improved upon his breakout 2020 and should face less skepticism this time around. He’s most likely the second reliever off the board, after Josh Hader. The Athletics are expected to fill their closer vacancy in-house, with left-hander Jake Diekman already identified as a leading candidate. Aaron Bummer, who was the White Sox’s top internal candidate to close, will remain in a setup role. —Scott White

Between this move and the Josh Bell trade, the Nationals lineup is looking pretty interesting all of a sudden. They had an opening in the outfield with Adam Eaton moving on, so nobody noteworthy suffers from this signing. Schwarber looked like he had turned a corner when he hit .250 with 38 homers in 2019, notably cutting down on his strikeouts in the second half, but he crashed hard last year. He’s worth a late-round flier for some cheap power, but keep in mind the Nationals could still find a right-handed platoon partner for him. —Scott White

The Lindor move seemed inevitable with free agency on the horizon, but snagging Carlos Carrasco as well makes this trade a completely transformational one for the Mets, vastly improving both their lineup and starting rotation. The Fantasy impact is most significant in the ripples of the deal, where less clutter in the Mets infield means more secure roles for Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis. For a complete breakdown from Chris Towers, click here. —Scott White

When a team acquires a 2020 Cy Young runner-up just a day after acquiring a 2018 Cy Young winner, the real-world implications are seismic, but the Fantasy Baseball impact of this deal is fairly minimal. Because the Padres seem more interested in contending than the Cubs do, you can trust in the strength of Darvish’s supporting cast now, but he was already a borderline top-five starting pitcher and likely second-round pick. His 2021 outlook remains mostly a matter of whether he sustains the gains he’s made in his mid-30s, and since they date back to the second half of 2019, the odds are good.

Zach Davies becomes less interesting with this deal. Though the Padres got the most out of him by having him throw his best pitch, the changeup, more than ever, his 2.73 ERA was unsustainable by virtually every metric, and without the benefit of a premium supporting cast, he’s most likely not overpowering enough to make his own way. —Scott White

Frustrations over Blake Snell’s usage reached a boiling point when the Rays removed him after just 73 pitches in what ended up being the deciding game of their World Series loss to the Dodgers. In 17 starts between the regular season and playoffs, he never did end up going six innings, which put a damper on his ability to contribute in Fantasy even though he has remained one of the game’s most electric bat-missers since his Cy Young-winning 2018. No team is as unorthodox in its pitching usage as the Rays, and just by virtue of leaving them, there’s hope for Snell coming closer to a front-line workload. It has nowhere to go but up, and with the effect it would have on his totals (namely wins and strikeouts) he’s back in the conversation as a top-20 starting pitcher.

Of the four players going back to the Rays, the most interesting are Luis Patiño, a 21-year-old pitching prospect who got a chance to debut in relief this year, and Francisco Mejia, a 25-year-old who was once considered the game’s top catching prospect. Patiño is still a work in progress, but he’s equipped with the sort of power arsenal that could make him a front-liner in his own right if the Rays follow through on their developmental track record. Mejia remains a liability behind the plate, but the Rays have been so lacking in production there that they’re sure to give him more of a look than the Padres, with recently acquired Austin Nola and up-and-comer Luis Campusano, would have. —Scott White

Ha-Seong Kim signs with Padres

Go Padres go! Not even a full day passed after they added Snell and the team reached an agreement with Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim. Kim, 25, is coming off a career year with the Kiwoom Heroes where he slashed .306/.397/.523 with 30 home runs and 23 steals. Throughout his seven-year career in the KBO, Kim consistently showed the ability to both hit for power and steal bases, evidenced by his 133 home runs and 134 steals. What makes Kim even more intriguing has been his plate discipline at such a young age. Since 2016, Kim has yet to strikeout more than 14.1% of the time. In fact, Kim actually recorded more walks (75) than strikeouts (68) in 2020. There’s a lot to be excited about. The biggest question, of course, is will it translate?

Based on this analysis from Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs, the talent level of the KBO can best be compared to “somewhere between Double- and Triple-A”. If you scroll further down that article, you’ll find some lofty ZiPS projections on Kim, pegging him to be a near 20-20 contributor in year one. Kim becomes the third KBO hitter to come over to the states following Jung-Ho Kang with the Pirates and Byung-Ho Park with the Twins. Kang had some nice seasons with the Pirates while Park didn’t fare as well. As a rookie with the Padres, I would expect Kim to play second base and bat toward the bottom of a stacked lineup. There could definitely be an adjustment period, but I would modestly project a .260-.270 batting average with 15-17 home runs and 10-12 steals. If he does that, he’s absolutely on our radar as a middle infielder Roto/H2H categories and maybe even H2H points leagues as well. —Frank Stampfl

A return of Wil Crowe and the Eddy Yean, both unremarkable pitching prospects, seems awfully small for a 28-year-old making less than $5 million who hit 37 homers with a .936 OPS in 2019, which might suggest that the Pirates believe Bell’s 2020 struggles weren’t just a short-season blip. It would be one thing if his power simply regressed to the level we saw prior to his 2019 breakout, but the more curious development was a bloated strikeout rate that betrayed his longstanding contact skills. The Nationals believe he can still be a middle-of-the-order bat, though, and will give him a chance to knock in Trea Turner and Juan Soto. The improved supporting cast makes Bell a slightly more attractive rebound candidate after the top 12 first basemen are off the board, but the Pirates’ lack of faith is nonetheless disconcerting. —Scott White

The Mariners may have been the team in most desperate need of a closer and perhaps signaled their ambitions for 2021 by making a move for Montero, who claimed the role for the Rangers during the short season. His departure gives him more job security while also freeing up some of the clutter at the back end of the Rangers bullpen, where Jose Leclerc and Jonathan Hernandez are now poised to compete for the closer role, barring another move. —Scott White

Holland regained some of his lost velocity in his return to the Royals last season and wound up playing a major late-inning role, finishing just one behind team saves leader Trevor Rosenthal. He wound up getting most of the save chances after Rosenthal was shipped to the Padres, but it was more of a committee situation, which makes his return to the Royals on just a $2.75 million deal less than definitive. He’s the odds-on favorite for saves as of now, but Josh Staumont, Scott Barlow and Jesse Hahn could also factor into that mix. —Scott White

Though Renfroe’s layover with the Rays was a disaster statistically, it wasn’t enough to cost him a chance at another starting job, hence him signing on to replace Jackie Bradley in the Red Sox outfield. His extreme fly-ball and pull tendencies figure to play well at Fenway Park, especially if you look back to 2019, when he hit 33 homers in just 440 at-bats for the Padres. He’s still a one-trick pony for Fantasy purposes, but short of Coors Field, there may not be a better place he could go to restore his value.  —Scott White

Though the Mets didn’t make a splash as big as J.T. Realmuto, they nonetheless earmarked their catcher for the foreseeable future by inking McCann to a four-year deal, and it’s a positive outcome as far as Fantasy Baseball goes. The 30-year-old wasn’t expected to follow up on his All-Star 2019, which is why the White Sox brought in Yasmani Grandal last offseason, but he actually improved on it — and without as inflated a BABIP. The prospect of playing more regularly again makes him arguably a top-10 catcher for 2021. —Scott White

A surprise non-tender this offseason, David Dahl quickly finds a new home with a team that can sorely use another bat. Whether his will come through for the Rangers after another injury-plagued season with the Rockies is another matter. While it’s true he hit .302 with an .877 OPS in 2019, much of the credit goes to the BABIP-boosting effects of Coors Field, especially when you consider he’s not a particularly disciplined hitter. And while it’s possible all the injuries have prevented him from meeting his full potential, his age-27 season might represent his last hope to make good on it. —Scott White

Nate Lowe traded to Rangers

Despite an impressive minor-league track record and some steady buzz over the past couple years, Lowe has had trouble breaking into an overcrowded Rays lineup and didn’t even make an appearance during their 2020 AL championship season. This deal liberates him by putting him on a team that could desperately use him, and while an excessive strikeout rate has defined his limited time in the majors so far, the opposite has been for him true in the minors, where he has hit .313 with a .418 on-base percentage and .962 OPS since the start of 2018. Expect him to get some late-round looks. —Scott White

Eaton is back where he had the best stretch of his career, joining a burgeoning lineup that happened to have a gaping hole in right field last year, and given his on-base skills, it’s possible he plays a table-setter role for big bats like Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. It’s about as good a destination as you could hope for if you’re banking on a bounce-back season for Eaton. The 32-year-old had his own poor showing in 2020, but the White Sox are counting on the track record over the much smaller, albeit more recent, sample. —Scott White

After hitting just .199 in 2020 and then having his option year declined by Cleveland, Santana faced an uncertain future in which he might have to scrape and claw for at-bats as a 34-year-old with a limited defensive profile. But by inking him to a two-year, $17.5 million deal, the Royals showed they’re committed to having him in their lineup, which is the way it should be. He still knows how to get on base, actually leading the majors in walks this year, and had his usual expected stats on Statcast, suggesting he may have just been off to a slow start in the shortened season. —Scott White

The Giants never did settle on a closer in 2020, which is kind of manager Gabe Kapler’s MO, but there may be a new clubhouse leader now that Wisler has signed on. A surprise non-tender for the Twins this offseason, Wisler finally figured out what works for him after failing as a pitching prospect years ago: sliders, sliders and more sliders. He threw the pitch a whopping 83 percent of the time, which made him difficult to square up, and while he may have benefited from some good home run luck, the Giants’ park should help with that. —Scott White

The first bombshell trade of the offseason brought the White Sox another front-line starter and the Rangers a cost-controlled pitcher who has already tasted some success in the majors. Both players benefit from the deal, as Scott White explains here, given that Lynn’s penchant for going seven-plus was wasted on a bad Rangers lineup and Dunning’s pitch selection got worse under the tutelage of then-pitching coach Don Cooper. —Scott White

The Angels finally seemed to settle on Mike Mayers as their closer late in 2020, and he seemed like a reasonable choice for 2021 as well given his 2.10 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 12.9 K/9. But with Iglesias, they can stop wondering and just plug in a guy who has led his team in saves four years in a row. Of course, it creates an opening at the back end of the Reds bullpen, but they have a couple worthy contenders in Lucas Sims (2.45 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 11.9 K/9) and Amir Garrett (2.45, 0.93, 12.8). Since the former is right-handed and the latter left-handed, a committee is possible, at least to start out. —Scott White

With Andrelton Simmons expected to depart via free agency, the Angels had an opening at shortstop that they could have filled with utility player David Fletcher, but acquiring Iglesias allows them to keep Fletcher versatile and adds to their stable of contact-first hitters. Iglesias isn’t some up-and-comer, though, and the prospect of the career .278 hitter batting anywhere close to .373 over a full-length season is low. His limited power/speed profile makes him a better fit for deeper Fantasy leagues. —Scott White

Signing with the Royals keeps Minor a starter for now after his role was thrown into doubt at the end of 2020, but it may be short-lived if Jackson Kowar and Daniel Lynch follow in the footsteps of Brady Singer and Kris Bubic and ascend to the majors this year. Minor’s one full year as a reliever came with the Royals in 2017 and was an unmitigated success, and while he did follow it up with two decent years as a starter, his velocity decline in 2020 may have stamped out that path for him. —Scott White

Sure, $15 million may seem like too much dough for a guy who put up the numbers Morton did in 2020, but the Braves have a good track record with these one-year reclamation deals (see Josh Donaldson, Marcell Ozuna). And besides, Morton appeared to find his form again after an IL stint for a sore shoulder, not only regaining a mile per on his fastball but also delivering a 3.48 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 10.5 K/9 in nine starts between the regular and postseason. The 37-year-old’s best may be behind him, but he apparently still has something left. —Scott White

Brace yourself for a tidal wave of sleeper takes now that Smyly in line to be a starter again, with the Braves striking early this offseason to end the suspense. The injury-prone lefty added almost 3 mph to his entire arsenal in his second year back from Tommy John surgery and developed a penchant for missing bats as a result. His 14.4 K/9 rate that would have ranked first among qualifiers, ahead of Shane Bieber. His outings were short and his season once again truncated by injury, but his newfound skills are enticing if he can sustain them. —Scott White

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