The Spin: When to cut a big-name player in fantasy baseball


Jose Abreu #79 of the Houston Astros

It’s been a rough start to the season for José Abreu — bringing back bad memories for fantasy managers. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

José Abreu has put together an excellent career. He was the 2020 AL MVP. He’s driven in 100 or more runs in six seasons, he’s batted over .300 four different times, he’s led the league in hits, RBI, slugging percentage. He’s made three All-Star teams, won three Silver Slugger Awards.

And today he’s a free agent in one of my key leagues, courtesy of a drop from me. One of the biggest keys to being a good fantasy manager is knowing when to move on.

The Spin check-in coming off the weekend. (Banner by Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

The Spin check-in coming off the weekend. (Banner by Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

The first thing to accept about moving on is that it’s an inexact science. It’s possible, maybe even likely, that Abreu will be added somewhere else in the 15-team league where I just dropped him. He’s a big name. He’s tied to the Astros offense, a deep group. Maybe my draft mistake will ultimately morph into someone else’s pickup win.

But as we pursue the topic of cutting fantasy players, let’s start with the first essential truth: often the biggest fantasy mistake a manager can make is being too afraid of making a mistake. And if you never cut a player who later goes on to accrue fantasy value elsewhere, you’re playing far too conservatively. You need to trust your instincts. If you’re incapable of deciding until definitive proof shows itself, you’re going to consistently get beaten to the punch by your more aggressive rivals.

There are logical reasons for an Abreu cut. He’s in his age-37 season, and he’s coming off a lost year: .237/.296/.383. All of his Baseball Savant sliders are pinned to the left-hand side, the ominous side. Abreu did have 90 RBI last year, propped up by the excellent Houston offensive undertow, but he’s no longer enjoying the same lineup real estate. The Astros have a new manager, too; Dusty Baker retired, with Joe Espada taking over.

The first two weeks of the season have been ugly for Abreu: .111/.180/.133, two walks, 14 strikeouts. He’s managed four piddly singles and one double, driven in one run. Meanwhile, interesting first base prospect Joey Loperfido is crushing at Triple-A: 10 homers in 14 games, .333/.429/.895 slash. And maybe the Astros can’t wait too much longer to try something else; they’re off to a messy 6-11 start.

Abreu is signed through the 2025 season, making 19.5 million in each of the next two years. But at some point, Houston needs to consider this a possible sunk cost. Every win matters, especially in a vastly upgraded AL West. Houston has won this division in six of the past seven seasons, but it’s only a slight favorite over Texas and Seattle at the moment. (I’m not sure the market has it right, either; I would favor the Rangers).

I realize the majority of my readers don’t play in leagues as deep as my 15-team example; that’s why Abreu’s roster tag currently shows at a modest 31%. For many of you, Abreu was someone you’ve already cut or perhaps someone who went undrafted in your league. You might be a few steps ahead on this case, and for that, I salute you.

Who else can we consider dropping? Start with some closers who have gone bad. José Leclerc has been a mess all season and the Rangers have already moved him off high-leverage work. There are several plausible replacements for the ninth inning, including David Robertson and Kirby Yates. I can’t fathom why Leclerc is still rostered in 60% of Yahoo pools.

Abner Uribe is a more proactive drop, though his roster tag is similar to Leclerc’s — Milwaukee’s temporary closer holds at 64%. But Uribe has coughed up two straight save chances and is sitting on a 7.50 ERA and 1.83 WHIP. The Brewers fancy themselves contenders, which means Uribe probably has a tenuous hold on the job. And the hope is that Devin Williams (back) could return around the All-Star break.

How many starts are you going to give Triston McKenzie? He’s been awful in his first three turns (6.23 ERA, 1.77 WHIP), and he’s walked 12 batters against just five strikeouts. His fastball has dropped all the way down to 91.0 mph, and he’s getting a swinging strike just 5.6% of the time. I don’t know anyone who can succeed with these peripherals. McKenzie picked up some drop traction in the past fantasy week but is still carried in 68% of Yahoo teams.

Hunter Brown was a therapeutic drop for plenty of Yahoo managers last week after he allowed nine runs in a grizzly inning at Kansas City. Brown hasn’t recorded more than 12 outs in any of his three starts, and obviously, you can’t get wins with that profile. The Astros could consider a Brown demotion if he doesn’t show something this week, and the matchup couldn’t be nastier — Atlanta faces off with them on Tuesday. Brown still carries a spot in more than half of Yahoo leagues.

Usually, I’m making an add/drop with the idea of improving my team, but sometimes it’s just nice to add something fresh to the roster. Occasionally I’ll drop a player because it also limits my portfolio liability to that player; it’s a diversification play. I also accept that it’s logical to shop a slumping player in a trade before you cut the cord, but if you’re in an experienced, heady league, that’s often not going to work. Sometimes you just have to click the release button and accept that someone else might try an upside move down the road.

Again, I plead with you: don’t play scared. Trust your instincts. You can’t wait for proof in this game.



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