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5 buy-low trade targets for fantasy owners

Goldschmidt, Jansen among stars who could be available at a discount
MLB.com

Baseball is back. Better yet for readers here, so is fantasy baseball -- and this column, where each week, we'll dissect a batch of buy-low candidates.

That term covers players whose performance to date has been either less than expected or not necessarily indicative of their underlying skill set or potential production going forward. In short, these are the players you want to target now via trade, before they get a little luckier, healthier or plain better. Maybe they're showing signs of breaking out, ready to take on a new role or returning from injury. That makes them intriguing trade targets with upside.

Baseball is back. Better yet for readers here, so is fantasy baseball -- and this column, where each week, we'll dissect a batch of buy-low candidates.

That term covers players whose performance to date has been either less than expected or not necessarily indicative of their underlying skill set or potential production going forward. In short, these are the players you want to target now via trade, before they get a little luckier, healthier or plain better. Maybe they're showing signs of breaking out, ready to take on a new role or returning from injury. That makes them intriguing trade targets with upside.

Sure, the season's not even a week old, but it's never too early for your first trade offer. Start by seeing if you can snag one of these five buy-low options.

Paul Goldschmidt, first baseman, D-backs

Why not start things off with a should-be stud, right? After all, it's not often you can even attempt to buy low on a perennial first-round fantasy selection like Goldschmidt. If there's ever going to be a time, though, it's now.

The 30-year-old went hitless through his first four games on the heels of a sluggish finish last season (.171/.250/.305 in September/October), and concerns about how Chase Field's new humidor might impact hitters are still fresh. Fantasy owners can play up all of that and take advantage if the Goldschmidt owner in your league is panicking or even questioning last month's decision to take him in Round 1.

In reality, Goldy's decline decline in production at the tail end of last season can be attributed to a right elbow injury. And while the humidor effect could cut into Goldschmidt's stats some, it's hard to envision one of the most consistent, durable fantasy stalwarts over the past five years losing much in his age-30 season.

Video: LAD@ARI: Goldschmidt lifts a double to center field

Kenley Jansen, reliever, Dodgers

Speaking of panicking, just about every Jansen owner is probably doing some of that right about now. The consensus No. 1 fantasy closer, Jansen is supposed to be the automatic, immortal, draft-and-don't-worry-about-him-at-all Mariano Rivera of this generation.

Instead, Jansen has pitched twice in the first five Dodgers games, lost once and blown his only save opp the other time, giving up homers to the light-hitting Joe Panik and Chris Owings. Oh, and there's also worry over reduced velocity, as his average fastball in 2018 is sitting at 90.4 mph after being 93 mph or above each of the past three seasons. Simply put, Jansen, who already has walked a pair and has yet to record a strikeout, has opened the season looking nothing like the pitcher who set the MLB record with 50 strikeouts before issuing a walk just last year.

Look, all of the above issues -- not to mention, Jansen's struggles in last year's World Series -- are enough to get any owner rattled. Perhaps it's even enough to make you think twice when inquiring about his availability. Maybe an injury is in play here. But until we hear otherwise, let's chalk this up to an elite closer with the utmost job security having two poor early season performances. Rather than freak over such a small sample, it's better to bank on a 30-year-old who has posted a 1.81 ERA, a 0.73 WHIP, an 11.3 K/BB ratio and 124 saves over the past three years.

Daniel Murphy, second baseman, Nationals

The buy-low case for Murphy is pretty straightforward: He's a 33-year-old middle infielder who's been slowed all spring after having offseason microfracture surgery on his right knee. The good news? Murphy ran the bases Monday for the first time since undergoing the procedure, so he continues to make progress.

In case you need a reminder, here is Murphy's average season over his two years in Washington: .334/.387/.569 with 45 doubles, 24 homers and 98.5 RBIs over 143 games -- a number Murphy at least could approach if he's able to return by late April.

Once back, he'll be placed in a prime spot in a Nationals lineup that is one of the deepest, most dynamic in the sport, thanks to tablesetters Adam Eaton and Trea Turner along with on-base/slugging machines like Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper. You're gonna want in on that action.

Manuel Margot, outfielder, Padres

A popular breakout candidate during draft season, Margot hasn't made good on his promise so far. He's just 2-for-16 (.125) to start with nary an extra-base hit or stolen base. Combine that with the fact that not much is expected from the rebuilding Padres -- already 0-4 -- and it's easy to see Margot's owner giving up on him sooner rather than later if the center fielder doesn't show some signs of life.

If you're looking for possible buy-low targets, one trick is to mute the early negative noise and focus on what made the player a promising pick leading up to draft day. In this case, Margot was a three-time Top 100 prospect, peaking at No. 23 on MLB Pipeline's list prior to 2017, when he hit 13 homers and stole 17 bases in only 126 games as a rookie.

Also on the plus side? Margot has as many walks as he does whiffs (three). Again, small-sample-size caveats apply, but it's a potential sign the 23-year-old's plate discipline could be progressing.

Video: MIL@SD: Margot sacrifices bat for RBI single in 4th

Madison Bumgarner, starter, Giants

Avoiding a left-handed pitcher who fractured the pinky finger on his pitching hand after being hit by a comebacker and requiring surgery less than two weeks ago? That's a good rule of … thumb.

But with Bumgarner, there's some precedent that he's capable of coming back from an early injury and performing. While he wasn't his usual self after returning from last year's freak dirt bike accident that injured his throwing shoulder, he was still quite effective. Still only 28 years old, Bumgarner has it in him to recover and prove he's once again capable of pitching like the ace who sported a 2.88 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and a 9.6 K/9 from 2014-16.

Chances are, whoever owns Bumgarner in your league drafted him before the incident on March 23, meaning said owner is hurting for a healthy arm, like, now. Float a proposal that would provide immediate pitching quantity, and you could wind up getting much more back in pitching quality once Bumgarner is ready to rock in June.

Jason Catania is a fantasy writer for MLB.com.