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The baseball season will be here before you know it, and that means draft preparation season begins now for fantasy players.

No matter what kind of league you play in, our experts have rankings for you. Read on for Tristan H. Cockcroft’s head-to-head categories rankings, or click here for points leagues or here for roto leagues.

Top 300

Note: “Elig. Pos.” is the player’s eligible position(s). Position eligibility is determined based upon a minimum of 20 games, otherwise the position the player appeared at most, in 2017. “Pos. Rank” is the player’s ranking at his ESPN primary position. Player ages are as of Opening Day, March 29, 2018.


Positional rankings

Note: Players are listed by position, and their overall rank is included if in the top 300. Players outside the top 300 are denoted by NR.

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MLB

MLB trade deadline – Where things stand for the four Chicago Cubs stars who could be dealt this week

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CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs‘ teardown is underway as Friday’s 4 p.m. ET MLB trade deadline approaches. Outfielder Joc Pederson (Atlanta) and reliever Andrew Chafin (Oakland) have already been moved — but the team still employs a handful of available players who could be next in the coming days.

Those names include homegrown stars Kris Bryant and Javier Baez plus de facto team captain, Anthony Rizzo. Then there’s all-world closer Craig Kimbrel and setup man Ryan Tepera, along with veteran starting pitcher Zach Davies — all players who will be free agents when the season ends. In other words, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer is very popular right now.

Here’s where things stand with those players as the Cubs’ current winning window comes to a close.

Craig Kimbrel

In what could have been his last performance as a Cub, Kimbrel did what he has often done in his career — get into some trouble then slam the door shut on the opponent. In a tie game with the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night, he allowed the first two batters to reach in the ninth before striking out the side.

His 0.49 ERA with just two blown saves has the top teams in baseball very interested in a closer who has returned to All-Star form after a bumpy stretch in his career.

Where he could go: The Dodgers might need him more than anyone else right now. Going into Tuesday’s game against the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles has given up the second-most runs in the National League in the ninth inning or later. L.A.’s 1-10 record in extra innings might be a bit fluky due to the current rules, but it’s still telling. Closer Kenley Jansen has blown five saves this season — three since the All-Star break. If the Dodgers want to repeat as champions they need an upgrade to the back of their bullpen.

Other possibilities include the Red Sox, Astros and Padres.


Kris Bryant

After a great start to the season, Bryant cooled off in June but has picked it up again. Since returning to the lineup after leaving a game last week due to hamstring fatigue, he has been on base over 50% of the time and has posted a .304/.400/.500 slash line in July. The bottom line: When healthy, Bryant is still a very dangerous hitter.

Where he could go: The Mets lead a small group of teams interested in the versatile player. They’ve had scouts attend at least the past three series for the Cubs. The Rays have also been in attendance — that was before and after their trade for Nelson Cruz. A surprise team or two showing interest wouldn’t actually be all that surprising given the fact Bryant can play all over the diamond. Some believe the Giants could be one of those teams.

Depending where he goes, the Cubs could pick up a big portion of his remaining $6.5 million salary in order to net a better prospect return. Pittsburgh did similar with Adam Frazier when they traded him to San Diego this week. That concept could apply to a Kimbrel trade as well.

There’s also the possibility that Bryant remains with the Cubs past the deadline, is given a qualifying offer, turns it down and the Cubs end up with compensation in that form. Industry sources have expressed mixed feelings on whether Bryant would stay or go this month, but as the deadline approaches, chatter has picked up.


Anthony Rizzo

It simply hasn’t been the best of contract years for the veteran first baseman, but he has shown some signs of coming out of a season-long slump. Rizzo homered in back-to-back games this week, and his OPS in July is approaching .800.

Where he could go: ESPN’s Buster Olney reports the Cubs and Red Sox have had discussions about Rizzo returning to the team that drafted him, but the likelihood is he remains with the Cubs through the deadline. Hoyer isn’t likely to just give away one of the most popular Cubs of this era, and the potential return probably won’t excite many people.

Rizzo, too, could be extended a qualifying offer as the Cubs continue to negotiate with him on a longer-term deal — if both sides are still interested.

“We have no idea what’s going to happen,” Rizzo said Monday. “It’s almost four years now since all the talk [began]. This could be it. We’ll face that when it happens.”


Javier Baez

There has been little trade chatter surrounding Baez, with most of it speculation about him being moved and then playing second base for a contender. The idea of him going across town to play for the White Sox — who lost second baseman Nick Madrigal for the season — would make waves in Chicago, but there hasn’t been any real traction for it. Baez is having a Baez-type season with plenty of home runs (22) combined with plenty of strikeouts (130).

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Javy Baez gets the winning hit for the Cubs in the bottom of the ninth, then gives an earful to Reds pitcher Amir Garrett.

Where he could go: Baez remains the best bet to stay where he is now and sign up long term with the Cubs before he reaches free agency in November. The sides were once close, right before the pandemic, and those discussions should start up again after the trade deadline passes.


Others who could be dealt

Reliever Ryan Tepera is getting a long look from scouts, with the White Sox, Phillies and Blue Jays in attendance for recent games. Tepera played in Toronto for five years before joining the Cubs. Starter Zach Davies might be part of the arms race out west. A return to the Padres, the team he played for last season, isn’t out of the question. The Dodgers’ uncertainty in their rotation could lead them to Davies — though he’s only a back-of-the-rotation guy on a contender.

Outfielder Jake Marisnick and reliever Dan Winkler are also good secondary additions for contenders looking to round out their rosters at the deadline.

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New York Yankees trade relievers Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson to Cincinnati Reds

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NEW YORK — The New York Yankees traded relievers Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson to the Cincinnati Reds late Tuesday night for a player to be named.

The move could signal the Yankees are pursuing a big addition to their bullpen and were looking to create room.

The deal was announced hours after New York won 4-3 at Tampa Bay, and Cincinnati finished off a 7-4 road victory over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.

The Yankees also made a bullpen move Monday, acquiring reliever Clay Holmes from the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor league infielders Hoy Park and Diego Castillo.

The 29-year-old Cessa went 3-1 with a 2.82 ERA in 29 relief appearances for the Yankees this season.

Wilson, 33, was 1-1 with a 7.50 ERA in 21 outings. The left-hander missed a combined 34 games during two stints on the injured list with left shoulder inflammation (March 29 to April 9) and a strained right hamstring (May 29 to June 30). He signed a one-year contract in February with a player option for 2022.

New York is nine games behind AL East-leading Boston and seven back of the second-place Rays, but much closer in the hunt for the second AL wild card.

Cincinnati is in second place in the NL Central, seven games behind Milwaukee, and also is chasing San Diego for the second NL wild card.

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Sources — Seattle Mariners finalizing deal for Tyler Anderson of Pittsburgh Pirates

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The Seattle Mariners, hours after trading their best reliever, are finalizing a deal to acquire left-handed starter Tyler Anderson from the Pittsburgh Pirates, sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Tuesday night.

It wasn’t immediately clear who the Pirates were getting in return.

Pittsburgh thought it had a deal for Anderson with the Philadelphia Phillies earlier Tuesday, but it fell through on medical review, sources said.

Seattle instead moved to acquire the 31-year-old Anderson, who is 5-8 with a 4.35 ERA this season. He’s set to become a free agent after the season.

Anderson spent his first four big league seasons with the Colorado Rockies before joining the San Francisco Giants as a free agent last season and then the Pirates this year. He’s gone at least five innings in each of his 18 starts in 2021.

Earlier Tuesday, Seattle traded right-hander Kendall Graveman to the Houston Astros as part of a four-player deal that baffled some considering the Mariners are just one game behind the Oakland Athletics in the AL wild-card race.

But Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto hinted more moves could be on the way — which turned out true with the team nearing the Anderson deal.

“It probably doesn’t as a standalone, but it’s part of a context that’s going to be an ongoing story over the next couple of days” as the trade deadline nears, Dipoto said when asked why the team traded Graveman.

“What comes next could be as early as tonight or tomorrow because we do plan on being active.”

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