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This week in fantasy baseball

BaseballMajor League BaseballBaltimore OriolesMiami MarlinsMike LowellNew York Mets

Depending on what you read and who you listen to, the Orioles either will or will not acquire pitcher A.J. Burnett from the Marlins, and the trade will happen very soon, next week or not at all.

It's more or less a done deal, or it's unraveling as we speak. It's a move the Orioles have to make, or they're overpaying terribly for an inconsistent, injury prone pitcher.

Glad we got that cleared up.

From a fantasy standpoint, this is a good deal for the Orioles. They get a top-flight starter in Burnett and, potentially, a former All-Star who's having a lousy season in third baseman Mike Lowell. Burnett immediately becomes the ace of the O's staff and one of the best pitchers in the AL, an intimidating right-hander capable of throwing a 100 mph fastball. Lowell – well, it's tough to say where he fits, but it likely won't be at third base, where Melvin Mora is firmly entrenched.

But the Orioles aren't making this deal for Lowell. In fact, they're doing their darndest to make it without him. The key is Burnett, a legitimate No. 1 starter in the making who could anchor the O's rotation for years to come, something the team hasn't had since Mike Mussina headed north following the 2000 season.

Burnett's arrival could also give the club cause to send Sidney Ponson to the bullpen – as if Ponson's 6.04 ERA isn't cause enough. The argument for leaving Ponson in the rotation is that he eats innings, but whatever he's been eating, it ain't innings. He has the highest ERA of any regular starter in the majors and has won just twice since mid-May. He doesn't belong on anybody's fantasy team right now.

And now a look around the rest of the majors:

Who's hot

  • Barry Zito, Athletics: A big part of the A's about-face, Zito has allowed six earned runs in his past five starts, four of them resulting in wins.
  • Gary Sheffield, Yankees: You don't have to like him, but say this for Sheff – the guy can hit. So long as he's getting paid. Batting .351 with seven HRs, 20 RBIs in July.
  • Todd Walker, Cubs: On a tear since the break, batting .357 with three HRs in six games.
  • Mike Lieberthal, Phillies: Doing a nice job of salvaging a sub-par season with .375 July average, three HRs in his past four games. That's a start.
  • Tim Hudson, Braves: Returned to rotation with a splash, tossing six scoreless innings to beat the Mets. Gets Diamondbacks, Nationals his next two times out.

Who's not

  • Matt Clement, Red Sox: July ERA stands at 9.53 after Saturday's meltdown at Fenway against the Yankees. But maybe Clement is onto something – at least when you throw behind a guy, he can't hit it.
  • Randy Johnson, Yankees: It's just not the All-Star Game without the Big Unit making big swingers look silly. But somewhere, John Kruk breathed a sigh of relief.
  • David Eckstein, Cardinals: The fans' pick at shortstop, but All-Star manager Tony LaRussa asked if the pitcher could hit instead. Has a .182 average, one steal, one RBI in his past 13 games.
  • Mike Lowell, Marlins: The Marlins can't seem to give this guy away. Never hit for great average, but total power average (4 HRs, .355 slugging percentage) is cause for alarm.
  • Cristian Guzman, Nationals: Has earned a permanent spot on this list, but with the Nationals talking about luring Barry Larkin out of retirement, Guzman deserves special mention this week.

This weekend's matchups

American League

Baltimore at Tampa Bay
New York Yankees at Los Angeles Angels
Boston at Chicago White Sox
Toronto at Kansas City
Seattle at Cleveland
Minnesota at Detroit
Oakland at Texas

National League

Houston at Washington
Atlanta at Arizona
San Diego at Philadelphia
Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Mets
Chicago Cubs at St. Louis
Florida at San Francisco
Colorado at Pittsburgh
Milwaukee at Cincinnati

Send your fantasy baseball questions to dalexander@baltimoresun.com.

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