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Jesus Aguilar
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Digging In

New Locations, New Expectations?

by Nathan Grimm
Updated On: August 5, 2019, 12:43 am ET

When Jerry Dipoto closes a door, he opens a window.

(That's how the saying goes, right?)

The Major League Baseball trade deadline is exciting not only for the high-profile players changing teams, but also for the openings it creates on the teams that have decided to play for next year. For every trade of Proven Closer Shane Greene there's a chance for Closer-in-Waiting Joe Jimenez to suddenly take on fantasy value.

Our coverage of the deadline deals was rich in both quantity and quality, and the impact on the big names -- Zack Greinke, Trevor Bauer, Yasiel Puig -- is understood. But what of the smaller moves? What of the guys who stand to gain from Wednesday's trade deadline, whether because they moved to a better situation or a teammate's move to a better situation created a void that they are poised to fill.

Let's take a look at some of the moves at the margins, and what it means for some of the players involved.

Nicholas Castellanos

This is cheating, sort of, given that Castellanos was one of the most notable hitters dealt at the deadline. But his numbers this year have left something to be desired, and he might offer a buy-low opportunity given how much his situation improved with the move to the Cubs. In three games since the trade, Castellanos has batted second in the lineup, ahead of the potent trio of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez. The 27-year-old has had a bit of a power outage through the season's first four months, socking just 11 homers after blasting 26 and 23 in 2017 and 2018, respectively, but Wrigley Field is a decidedly hitter-friendly park for right-handed hitters, where Comerica Park plays relatively neutral. Expected stats don't anticipate Castellanos to see a drastic improvement in his hitting ability -- he's been a pretty league average hitter, with his .273/.328/.460 line being pretty representative of his skills this season -- but just the change in environment should be a benefit for the right fielder. He's rostered in 80 percent of Yahoo leagues, so this isn't a situation where he can be had for free in many instances, but if he's floating around it's certainly time to get in on the ground floor, and if a fantasy player has been holding onto him in hopes he finds a soft landing spot, rejoice. It's time to reap the benefits.

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Tanner Roark

This acquisition feels a lot like the Homer Bailey acquisition the A's made in the weeks leading up to the deadline -- not making many waves, but a cheap buy on a decent pitcher who should benefit from a move to Oakland. Roark's improvement may be even more drastic as he moves from one of the worst parks for pitchers, Great American Ballpark, to one of the best, Oakland Coliseum. For a guy getting ground balls at just a 36 percent clip and who was giving up 1.14 HR/9, making half his starts in the Coliseum -- and also getting to pitch in Safeco Field on occasion -- can only be a good thing. As with Bailey, who has turned in quality starts in three of his four outings since the trade, the A's clearly also think they can get some good work out of the 32-year-old Roark, who owned a 3.36 ERA before a rough month of July. If they can tweak his pitch mix slightly -- perhaps throwing even fewer sinkers than he has, despite already trending toward a career low in usage, and opting instead to throw more four-seamers and breaking balls -- it's not hard to see Roark becoming a useful pitcher in deeper mixed leagues and certainly in AL-only formats. A path, as we've noted, that was already blazed by Bailey just a few weeks ago.

Jesus Aguilar

In the Mets' trade conversations surrounding Noah Syndergaard in the days ahead of the deadline, it was suggested by New York Post columnist Joel Sherman that the team was hesitant to deal Thor to the Astros or Yankees for fear he would achieve another level with those analytically adept clubs. In the same way, when the Rays trade for a player these days, you have to sit up and take notice. So when they took an interest in Aguilar, dealing Jake Faria to the Brewers, it raised eyebrows. Of course, Aguilar has been good enough to stand on his own merits, hitting .274/.352/.539 with 35 homers just last year, but he'd struggled for much of this year and had lost out to Eric Thames in the playing time tug-of-war in recent weeks. The 29-year-old is still a talented hitter, though, and with a team like the Rays, who have proven with their usage of Travis d'Arnaud, Avisail Garcia, Brandon Lowe, Yandy Diaz and Austin Meadows -- and that's just the hitters -- that they can draw out the best in players, it's worth buying back in on Aguilar right now. If you need more metrics and fewer anecdotes, Aguilar has a .246 xBA, .447 xSLG and .342 xwOBA, some of the largest splits between his expected stats and his actual stats in baseball this year, as MLB.com's Andrew Simon noted. In his first game with the Rays, Aguilar reached base four times and scored two runs. Believe in their magic.

Franmil Reyes

Even with Reyes' success in San Diego, he was still part of a crowded outfield picture, with Hunter Renfroe, Wil Myers, Manuel Margot and Josh Naylor in tow. With the move to the Indians, Reyes goes from an outfield enjoying an embarrassment of riches to an outfield that was at times embarrassing for its offensive futility. Even with Yasiel Puig joining him in Cleveland, Reyes should have little competition for at-bats and, especially with the DH now in play, should have very few days off between now and the end of the season. Looking at the 24-year-old's line with the Padres one could likely draw some conclusions: he had 27 homers but was hitting .255/.314/.536 overall, a pairing that often means a player isn't making enough contact and is striking out too much. And while that's somewhat true -- he's struck out in 26.2 percent of at-bats this year -- he's actually been the victim of some bad luck that's weighed down his numbers despite stinging the ball as well as any player in the majors this year: his exit velocity and hard-hit percentage are both in the top 10 percent of hitters, he's cut his strikeout rate from 2018 and his expected batting average is actually .271. There was a lot trending in the right direction even before the trade, and the move out of Petco Park can only benefit Reyes. Few should be surprised if he enjoys one of those monster post-trade deadline stretches as the Indians angle for a spot in October.

Aaron Sanchez

If the Mets were afraid of dealing a talented young pitcher to the analytics-forward Astros, the Blue Jays had fewer reservations. They shipped Sanchez and Joe Biagini to the Astros for Derek Fisher (who is mildly interesting in his own right, a toolbox who is unlikely to ever hit enough at the major league level for all the tools to play, but if they do, look out) and Sanchez made his first start for the Houston club on Saturday. He had an unforgettable (and unhittable) debut, keeping the Mariners hitless through six innings while striking out six. Saturday's start was eye-opening, but the 27-year-old had actually been trending a little better in recent starts. Despite a 6.07 ERA at the time of the trade, Sanchez struck out 10 over 5 2/3 innings in his last start for the Jays before the trade after held the Indians to one run over five innings the start prior. What makes him really interesting is that he's always been a talented thrower, ranking high among top-100 prospect lists for years before becoming a regular in the Jays rotation. The main culprit in his struggles in recent years, to the point where the Jays would deal him for an iffy prospect, has been his sinker, which has gone from pretty good to pretty bad over the course of his major league career. Fixing that, or finding a way to be effective with a different repertoire, isn't easy, but if anybody can it might be the Astros, who boast a rotation rife with bona fide studs along with their cutting-edge analytics department. Given that he's rostered in just 27 percent of Yahoo leagues, Sanchez is a free shot at capturing lightning in a bottle as we head down the stretch.

Corey Dickerson

Dickerson's trade history isn't befitting of a player who's done what he has with the bat at the major league level. In recent years, the 30-year-old has been traded for spare parts (he was also traded for German Marquez, so, you know) and, most recently, for international bonus slot money and a player to be named later. This while carrying a career .285/.329/.500 line that, even outside of the friendly confines of Colorado, has still been .279/.320/.483. The Phillies would seem like a nice landing spot, what with that lineup and the comforts of Citizens Bank Park, but in the early days of his residency Dickerson was relegated to being a pinch-hitter while guys like Adam Haseley and Sean Rodriguez drew starts in left field instead. That's hard to reconcile, but it's a situation that seems destined to change given how good of a hitter Dickerson has proven to be. If and when he does get more regular reps, the ballpark and the lineup around him should be a boost, and with only the likes of Haseley, Rodriguez and, when he returns from the injured list, Jay Bruce to fend off, Dickerson could grab and hold onto the job for the long haul if he provides value out of the gate. He's definitely an NL-only consideration at this point, and in deeper mixed leagues there's a case to be made for his usefulness, even as we wait for the Phillies to realize it.