Well folks, the high school and NCAA 2005-06 football seasons are now history and it won't be long before the NFL season fades away in the rear view mirror as well.
One thing is for certain though: the fantasy football season has been replaced by the fantasy baseball season. For those that don't understand why we in the heartland love the game of baseball, you're right...we didn't ask you. But for those of you that do "get it," let's talk some baseball.
Later, I will go over the off-season transactions that will have a major impact on fantasy baseball. First though, I must address the three teams that were the busiest in all of baseball this winter: the Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Mets and the Florida Marlins. This week we will focus on the Toronto Blue Jays.
This year's MLB hot stove has been smoking compared to past seasons, and much of that has to do with the activity of J.P. Riccardi, the general manager for the Toronto Blue Jays. After making vast changes to an underachieving Jays roster, 2006 may just be the most exciting year Blue Jays fans have experienced since their World Championship seasons of 1992 and 1993.
To inject the kind of talent needed to field a team worthy of competing in the AL East, someone had to go. Mentioned below are the notable departures.
The Blue Jays traded second baseman Orlando Hudson, 2005 AL Gold Glove Award Winner, to Arizona so that they could add a big bat to the middle of their lineup.
Hudson has double-digit power potential but is a liability with his low average. Miguel Batista was also asked to pack for Arizona. I'm guessing the Blue Jays found someone to replace him (wink, wink).
Right-hander Dave Bush, outfield prospect Gabe Gross and a minor leaguer were also sent packing in yet another Riccardi deal geared towards improving the Blue Jays' offensive punch. Bush was only an above-average performer in the rotation and Gross was a disappointment for the Jays after an incredible spring training. With Bush leaving, there was a spot in the rotation to fill. Hmmmmm.
Now for the good part--In order to justify dealing a Gold Glove winner, a 31 save closer and 20 percent of their rotation, solid acquisitions had to be made. J.P. Riccardi went into the MLB winter meetings with a goal to leave with a closer, a starter and an impact bat. Let's see how he did.
First, Riccardi went out and landed one of the two best closers on the market in B.J. Ryan, whose 36 saves, 2.43 ERA and 100 strikeouts in just 70.1 innings are nothing to balk at. He solidifies a weak Blue Jay pen and gives confidence to the pitchers who walk off the mound with a lead late in the game.
Speaking of guys that pitch late into the game, the Jays not only landed one of the best closers on the market, but landed the best starters as well. A.J. Burnett's stuff has never been questioned, but his mental toughness and ability to win has. He has an electric arm and is capable of striking out 200 batters annually.
The one-two punch of Halladay and Burnett could wreak havoc on the AL East, and your fantasy foes as well. Much has been made about Burnett's career mark of 49-50. Just a note; Randy Johnson was 49-48 at the same stage in his career.
As if signing two of the best arms in baseball was not enough, Riccardi pulled the trigger on a deal with the Brewers to bring Lyle Overbay's sweet line-drive swing to Canada. Overbay is nearing his prime, which could result in several seasons of .300-25-100-100. That was not a bad week's work for Riccardi and company. I guess now, he could rest.
Two days after Christmas you would have sworn that Santa and Riccardi had settled in for some much deserved rest, but no. The Jays pulled yet another deal to to bring Troy Glaus' 40 homers to town via Arizona.
And on the seventh day--
It is hard to imagine the Blue Jays could do much else to further improve their club, but the moves Riccardi made created a logjam at the corners.
Riccardi said at the winter press conference that Glaus would be the opening day third baseman for the Blue Jays. Lyle Overbay was brought over to play first.
This means that Cory Koskie (who is signed long-term), Shea Hillenbrand, and Eric Hinske will be competing for time at DH. Koskie's .966 fielding percentage at third could prove to be valuable to teams in search of a starting third baseman (the Twins come to mind).
The outfield situation could be fun to watch. Alexis Rios was once touted as a "can't miss" prospect. Scouts say his 6'5" frame will fill out, resulting in more power.
Regardless of how big he gets, or how conditioned he is, if he fails to run out another ball as he did in September of last year, he may not be around much longer.
Eric Hinske has said publicly that he would play in the outfield if it would help the team. Hillenbrand has dropped a ton of weight and could possibly have enough speed to make the transition. Know who the starters are before drafting your team.
I would also keep an eye on Dustin McGowan. He will be two years removed from major arm surgery but is said to have stuff as good as Halladay. He could very well end up being a sleeper in '06.
If you have any questions concerning keeper leagues, points leagues, auction leagues, prospects, sleepers, come-back players, etc., send me an email and I will address your question in print.
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