OF Chipper Jones, Braves— This week, I'm suggesting that you buy low on two players from the team with the best record in baseball. But in selling the deals, you will need to employ two different approaches. You can straight up “buy low” on Jones right now without any fancy sales pitches or acting jobs. Not that his numbers are terrible, but the fact is, he’s having his worst season at the plate since he was a rookie back in 1995. The Braves have somehow managed to put together one of the best offenses in the game this season without the typical contributions from Chipper…yet. Need I remind you, that he is usually a stone cold killer over the final weeks of the season? Over the past three years, Jones has a .383 batting average and 1.081 OPS in September. Trade for him now and ride his hot bat over the final month.
P Mike Hampton, Braves— With Hampton, the thing to do is to persuade the guy who has him to think he’s “selling high” because of his recent hot streak. Feign mild interest in Hampton, telling the owner who has him that you’re not going to overpay just because he’s won six games in a row. You’ve seen his stats the past two seasons and earlier this season for that matter and they aren’t pretty. Convince him that Mike is winning because of the team he plays for, not necessarily because he’s pitching so well. We all know better, don't we? Hampton is winning all these games because he’s keeping the ball down, pure and simple; his ground ball ratio has been fantastic over the past five weeks. Mike was the premier ground ball pitcher in the game three-four years ago, and he’s back to what he does best. You shouldn’t have to pay very much for Hampton. Buy low or don't buy at all. But if you do buy, you'll ge! t another five wins out of him by the end of the season if he keeps throwing like this.
Sell High 2B Placido Polanco, Phillies— No one ever questioned Polanco's ability to hit for average, as he has routinely hovered around .290. But he's been tearing it up in the second half (.400 average and 1.056 OPS in July) and has added power to his stat line. His 11 homers and 52 RBI already represent career highs, but how long will the Ryne Sandberg impersonation last? When a player is suddenly doing something he's never done before (e.g. hitting for power) there's reason to be suspect. Take advantage of his hot streak, stress that he qualifies at second base, third base, and shortstop (in most leagues) and deal him before the homers and doubles turn into lazy fly balls.
OF Shannon Stewart, Twins— Stewart is due. No, not due for a hit, he's been locked in since arriving in Minnesota—a .391 average and 1.033 OPS. What I mean is that he's due for an injury. Now, I realize that predicting injury isn't only guesswork, but also bad karma. That being said, the oft-injured Stewart could pull a hamstring brushing his teeth. It would not be nearly as much of a concern if he was playing on a grass field, but he's running around on the single worst surface in baseball. The Metrodome carpet is to legs what fast food is to lean muscle tissue. The turf will be replaced in time for next season, but for now it will continue to torment the hamstrings and Achilles' of anyone who plays on it. Stewart's value is growing higher with every multiple-hit game so trade him away for a sizeable return before his legs give in.
Hot Pickup P Jimmy Gobble, Royals— Top Jimmy is probably the Royals' best pitching prospect and he's played the role perfectly since being beckoned to the Show to replace the ailing Jose Lima back at the start of the month. The 22-year-old southpaw has gobbled up hitters in the two games he's started. His line: two starts, two wins, 12 1/3 innings pitched, one run, one walk, a 1.14 WHIP and a 0.73 ERA. Granted he's faced the Devil Rays in both games, but that shouldn't take away from his impressive start too much. Would you rather take a chance on a kid like this with a ton of upside or grab a veteran with a five-something ERA out of your league's free agent pool. Give me the potential every time. His next scheduled start comes Friday night against the division-rival Twins in the heat of a pennant race. Now we'll see what he's made of.
Dump of the Week 1B John Olerud, Mariners— Olerud came into this season as a career .300-hitter and member of the 20-home run club four of the last six years—hardly elite first baseman numbers, but very solid and very dependable nonetheless. This year has been a different story, though, as Olerud's batting average has declined each month and is down to .270. The homers? He only has nine. John is also in danger of not reaching 90 RBI for the first time in six years. Were it not for his two-homer, seven-RBI breakout performance back on August 2, Ole would have just three dingers and 22 RBI since June. He turned 35 last week; could it be he's completely jumped the shark? Don't waste any more time waiting for him to come around—the season will be over by then.