Hot Stove dealings impact fantasy for 2016
While the Winter Meetings may not have matched the frenetic pace of last year's event, there were many transactions in the past seven days that will impact next season's fantasy leagues.
Cueto heads west
For the first time in his career, Johnny Cueto will enjoy both a spot in the National League and a pitcher-friendly home park -- two factors that should help his fantasy value. Additionally, the righty will work in front of a strong defensive unit that includes Buster Posey, an excellent pitch framer. With the Giants, Cueto should look more like the pitcher who posted a 2.51 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP from the outset of 2011 until the moment he departed Cincinnati than the one who produced a 4.93 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP across 16 starts with the Royals.
Heyward leaves Cards for rival Cubs
Jason Heyward was not an elite fantasy outfielder during his single season in St. Louis, but he did post the highest batting average (.293) and stolen-base total (23) of his six-year career. As part of a suddenly scary Cubs lineup, the 26-year-old should be a strong five-category contributor in '16. But to become a top-tier fantasy hitter, the New Jersey native will need to top the 20-homer mark for the first time since '12 by altering an approach that led to a career-high ground-ball rate last season.
Astros upgrade bullpen with Giles
With stellar lifetime marks -- a 1.56 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and an 11.7 K/9 rate across 115 2/3 innings -- Ken Giles has needed fewer than two full seasons to establish himself as one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. Now on a rapidly ascending Astros squad, the 25-year-old should be a top-tier fantasy closer for '16. Giles' arrival in Houston should end the mixed-league usefulness for Luke Gregerson, who should slide back into the setup role that he has worked for much of his seven-year career.
The Phillies do not have a ready-made replacement for Giles. If Philadelphia does not add a more qualified reliever, a combination of David Hernandez, Luis Garcia and Ernesto Frieri could handle the ninth inning. Because the team is unlikely to generate a multitude of save chances in '16, it may not produce a mixed-league-worthy reliever.
Zobrist reunites with Maddon
Not one to make a huge contribution in the homers or steals departments, Ben Zobrist uses his strong plate skills (lifetime .355 on-base percentage), to be a steady mixed-league asset. If the defensively versatile veteran hits in a premium spot for the Cubs, he could compile roughly 85 runs and 65 RBIs in '16.
Castro gets fresh start in New York
Starlin Castro could benefit a great deal from a fresh start with the Yankees. Playing half of his games at the homer-happy ballpark in the Bronx, the 25-year-old could exceed 15 round-trippers for the first time in his career.
D-backs pay premium price for Miller
Shelby Miller surged out of the gate with a 2.38 ERA during the first half of last season, but his post-All-Star break mark (3.83) and lifetime 3.82 FIP combine to set a reasonable expectation for his first year with the D-backs. If he can win 12-14 games with a 3.80 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, the 25-year-old would be a useful mixed-league hurler.
Ender Inciarte has the wheels and contact skills to give the Braves a quality top-of-the-order option. Although his counting-stat totals could be limited by Atlanta's light-hitting lineup, he could very well make mixed-league owners happy with a .290 average, 20 steals and 75 runs.
Mets, Bucs make 1-for-1 swap
Neil Walker should not see a significant change in fantasy value following his move to the Mets, as neither PNC Park nor Citi Field are hitter-friendly venues. Though he is not a difference-maker, Walker should be a solid contributor in shallow leagues by hovering around the 15-homer and 70-RBI marks in '16.
With a lifetime 3.91 ERA, a 1.36 WHIP and a 7.0 K/9 rate, Jon Niese is unlikely to be a coveted asset in mixed-league drafts. But wise owners will note the success that Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has had in improving the effectiveness of several starters, such as Francisco Liriano and J.A. Happ. As a result, Niese is a strong sleeper candidate for next season.
Cabrera signs with Mets
Asdrubal Cabrera is among the steadiest fantasy shortstops, having compiled at least 14 homers, 58 RBIs and 66 runs in five consecutive seasons. But given that he does not make a notable impact in any single category, the native Venezuelan will be a late-round option in '16 mixed-league drafts.
Lind shipped to Seattle
This will be the first time Adam Lind has called a pitcher-friendly park home, which will hinder his ability to reach the 20-homer mark in '16. Additionally, the lifetime .213 hitter against southpaws could be ill-suited for a division that may contain eight left-handers among the four competitors' rotations.
White Sox solidify hot corner
Brett Lawrie did not post eye-popping numbers with the A's last season, but one number -- 149 games played -- stands out as a reason for optimism. Now back with a team in possession of a hitter-friendly home park, Lawrie may be ready to post his first 20-homer campaign.
Rockies add two closer candidates
Both Jason Motte and Chad Qualls have notable ninth-inning experience, but neither player is coming off an exceptional campaign. Expect the battle for ninth-inning duties to be waged during Spring Training, with the winner emerging as a viable lineup option in deep mixed leagues.
Mariners fortify bullpen
Those who draft Steve Cishek in a search for late-round saves should also utilize one of their final picks on Joaquin Benoit. Cishek would be a useful mixed-league stopper if he were to return to his peak form, but Benoit -- with his 42 saves, 2.35 ERA and 0.94 WHIP since the outset of '10 -- has also proven capable of finishing off games.