Daily Dose: Sell high for the second half

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While the baseball world pauses for the All-Star break, here are a
dozen players who fantasy owners should be looking to cash in for
maximum value …

Jason Bartlett – Bartlett is batting .347 compared to his career
mark of .286 and has already homered eight times in 68 games after
never going deep even five times in a season previously, so he’s an
easy sell-high pick. His speed will give him plenty of value even if
his bat returns to career norms, so there’s no need to part with
Bartlett unless the offer is strong and someone is willing to overpay.

Nick Blackburn – Aside from great control there’s little in
Blackburn’s track record to suggest that he’ll keep up an ERA in the
low 3.00s. He entered this year with a 4.26 career mark, has the single
worst strikeout rate in the league at 3.9 per nine innings, and is far
from an extreme ground-ball pitcher. Blackburn is a solid starter, but
he’s just not this good and many people seem sold on him right now.

Ryan Franklin – Franklin has the absurd facial hair, sub-1.00 ERA,
and 21 saves of a shutout closer, but his low-90s fastball and modest
7.1 strikeouts per nine innings combined with an unsustainably amazing
.207 batting average on balls in play signal that he’s not long for the
unhittable category. If you can convince another owner to value him
like a truly elite closer, pounce on the offer.

J.A. Happ – Happ has gone from undervalued to overvalued in the span
of about two months, which is what happens when a rookie goes 6-0 with
a 2.90 ERA for the defending champs. In reality Happ is a 26-year-old
who had a 4.20 ERA with strong strikeout rates and poor control at
Triple-A. He’ll keep missing bats and should remain a solid starter,
but don’t expect his ERA to stay under 4.00.

Adam Kennedy – Kennedy came out of nowhere to bat .390 with a 1.084
OPS in May, but the 33-year-old career .276/.329/.392 hitter has batted
.237/.291/.349 since. He’s already fallen back down to earth, but
there’s still more to come and it makes sense to cash him in before the
inflated value completely dries up. He’s perhaps the least risky
sell-high player on this list, so just start shopping him.

Raul Ibanez – Setting aside his quarreling with a blogger and recent
return from a groin injury, Ibanez is having a career-year at the age
of 37 and those tend not to last. He never managed even a .900 OPS
prior to this season, yet is currently sporting a 1.015 OPS that ranks
third in the NL behind Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Ibanez is a
plenty good hitter, but he’s just not an MVP-caliber player.

Brandon Inge – Getting shut out in the Home Run Derby may be a sign
of things to come for Inge in the second half. He’s always had 20-homer
power, but going deep 21 times in 86 games is something entirely
different and maintaining a .268 batting average will also be difficult
given his .239 career mark. Catcher eligibility gives Inge plenty of
value no matter what, but a .240-10-35 second half is likely.

Jason Marquis – He came into this season with a 79-70 record and
4.55 ERA, so naturally Marquis has 11 wins and a 3.65 ERA in his first
year calling Coors Field home. Marquis has legitimately improved by
supplementing his usual horrendous strikeout rate and poor control by
inducing significantly more grounders, so he’s not doomed for a 6.00
post-break ERA, but there’s no first-half repeat coming.

Joe Mauer – You’ll never find a bigger Mauer fan than Yours Truly,
but the power that he displayed upon coming off the disabled list in
May was ultimately a fluke and while Mauer without power is still one
of the game’s elite all-around players in real life his fantasy value
will never be more inflated. If shouldn’t shock anyone if he wins a
third batting title, but he has just three homers in the past 35 games.

Kevin Millwood – After posting ERAs of 4.52, 5.16, and 5.07 during
his first three Rangers seasons Millwood is currently sporting a 3.46
mark that was under 3.00 as recently as last week. Nothing has changed
within the nuts and bolts of his performance, as Millwood’s strikeout,
walk, and ground-ball rates are all sub par while his ball-in-play
batting average is 35 points better than his career mark.

Scott Rolen – He’s stayed healthy enough to play in 77 of 90 games
while hitting .320 and one or both of those things figures to change in
the second half. Rolen has never hit even .300 before and 2003 was the
last time he missed fewer than 20 games in a season. Unless he
rediscovers the power stroke that appears to have vanished after 2006,
Rolen will disappoint a lot of owners down the stretch.

Ben Zobrist – Zobrist finally figured out big-league pitching and
added power to his resume last year, so what he’s done this season
isn’t quite as shocking as it first appears. With that said, whenever a
28-year-old career .222/.279/.370 hitter who slugged just 23 homers in
364 games in the minors goes off for 17 homers and a 1.012 OPS in the
first half … well, you can feel pretty safe selling high.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.