Winter baseball signings and their fantasy effects

Raul Ibanez will bring his 23 HRs, 110 RBIs and .293 batting average to a more potent lineup.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There are still quite a few big names who have yet to find a home for next year, but as we head into the New Years' holiday we look at the early signings and how it will change the fantasy landscape.

Remember, when a player changes teams through free agency, it changes more than just the player's wallet size. It also leaves a hole with his old team that must be filled. Could his replacement be a "fantasy sleeper"?

Today we look at the offensive side of the ball.

Raul Ibanez, OF, Philadelphia - Ibanez will bring his 23 HRs, 110 RBIs and .293 batting average to a more potent lineup (Seattle - 671 runs scored vs. 799 for the Phillies) and a more hitter-friendly park (Safeco Field to Citizens Bank Park). On the other hand, the Phillies lineup is now more left-hand oriented than ever because they added Ibanez and subtracted Pat Burrell. Will he bat fifth behind Ryan Howard or will the Phillies bat the right-handed hitting Jason Werth in that spot and drop Ibanez to sixth? Could he bat third in front of Howard and see a lot more fastballs until Chase Utley returns to the lineup?

Losing Ibanez might give Wladimir Balentien a clear shot at a starting position in the Mariners outfield (2008 - 71 games, 243 at-bats, 23 runs, 7 HRs, 24 RBIs, .202 batting average). However, Balentien will bat much lower in the lineup so most of Ibanez's RBI opportunities could go to DH/C Jeff Clement.

Edgar Renteria, SS, San Francisco - Renteria (69 runs, 10 HRs, 55 RBIs, .270 batting average) is headed from a powerful offense in Detroit (No.5 in runs scored last season with 821) to a "pop gun" Giants lineup (No.29 with just 640 runs scored). You must expect his numbers to drop as both the opportunity to knock in runs and be driven in will drop dramatically.

Adam Everett should start at shortstop for Detroit, but batting ninth in the lineup will have limited fantasy value.

Rafael Furcal, SS, LA Dodgers - Furcal (34 runs, 5 HRs, 16 RBIs, .357 batting average in just 36 games) began the 2008 season "on fire" and only a back injury prevented him from having a huge season. If healthy he could easily score 100+ runs and steal 30 bases because of his speed and the good young hitters behind him in the lineup.

Casey Blake, 3B, LA Dodgers - Blake as always been a professional hitter and last year was no exception. He hit .274 with 21 HRs and 81 RBIs for both Cleveland and Los Angeles. He will probably bat sixth in a "Manny Ramirez-less" Dodger lineup.

Nick Punto, SS, Minnesota - Punto will remain the Twins shortstop, but his fantasy value is limited by his opportunities at the bottom of the Minnesota lineup. He hit a respectable .284 last season, scored 43 runs and stole 15 bases in just 338 at-bats.

Juan Rivera, OF, LA Angels - Rivera signed a three-year deal with the Angels and seems to be the replacement for OF/DH Garret Anderson. In 2006 he hit 23 HRs and knocked in 85 runs, but last year in limited opportunities he hit .246, with 12 HRs and 45 RBIs.

Among others still to be determined are: OF Manny Ramirez, 1B Mark Teixeira, OF Pat Burrell, OF/DH Milton Bradley, OF Bobby Abreu, 1B Jason Giambi, C Ivan Rodriguez, OF Rocco Baldelli, 2B Orlando Hudson, C Jason Varitek, OF Jim Edmonds, 3B Joe Crede, OF Ken Griffey Jr., OF Willy Taveras, 3B Ty Wigginton, 2B Jeff Kent, 2B Ray Durham and OF Eric Hinske.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at

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