MLB Trade Scenarios: Ranking All 30 Teams' Top Minor League Trade Asset
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Now that the MLB All-Star Game is in the books, attention will once again be turned back to the upcoming non-waiver trade deadline.
For the next 20 days, each MLB team will be making a decision as to the current makeup of their team. For contending teams, the push will be to acquire players who can help them now for the postseason push. For teams that fall out of contention, they’ll be looking more toward the future and possibly jettisoning current players who don’t fit into that future.
Oftentimes teams will use the farm system products to facilitate trades. For buying teams, they will no doubt be inundated with requests regarding their top minor league prospects.
Selling teams will be looking to bolster the farm systems, but in some cases they may also use current minor league players as trade chips to better facilitate a possible trade.
Here is a current list of each MLB team’s best minor league trade asset. Keep in mind that in many cases, minor league prospects are simply deemed untouchable, so if you’re thinking that Kansas City Royals prospect Wil Myers is a possible trade chip, guess again.
It also doesn’t mean that the players on this list are going anywhere, but it won’t stop teams from inquiring about them nonetheless.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Tyler Skaggs
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The Arizona Diamondbacks are loaded with pitching. Already this season, youngsters Wade Miley, Trevor Bauer and Patrick Corbin have been called up to help at the major league level. Archie Bradley is progressing nicely as well.
One pitcher who GM Kevin Towers could use to entice other teams is left-handed pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs.
Skaggs recently made the jump to Triple-A Reno after posting a 5-4 record and 2.84 ERA in 13 starts at Double-A Mobile. Towers will likely field inquiries regarding Skaggs’ status in the coming weeks.
Atlanta Braves: Sean Gilmartin
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The Atlanta Braves are just four games out of the lead in the NL East, and the rotation has taken some hits.
With Brandon Beachy lost for the season, the team has been on the lookout for a veteran impact starter. Buster Olney of ESPN reported that the Braves have shown interest in Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Zack Greinke, but only if they can work a long-term deal out beforehand.
The Brewers, or any other team that the Braves speak out, will likely inquire about prospect Sean Gilmartin. Gilmartin has posted nice numbers at Double-A Mississippi, with a 3.42 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 17 starts.
The former FSU star was the Braves' first-round selection in last year’s MLB draft, so GM Frank Wren would likely have to be blown away by a deal to unload Gilmartin.
Baltimore Orioles: Jonathan Schoop
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With both Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado about as untouchable as it gets in terms of prospects, if the Baltimore Orioles decide to upgrade their roster for a postseason push, selling teams may be asking about prospect Jonathan Schoop.
Schoop, ranked as the No. 82 prospect in all of baseball during the preseason, is hitting .250 with eight HR and 30 RBI at Double-A Bowie. Originally drafted as a shortstop, Schoop was moved to second base in 2011 and has made the transition smoothly thus far.
Boston Red Sox: Bryce Brentz
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The Boston Red Sox are certainly in a tough spot right now, tied for last place in the AL East with the Toronto Blue Jays and 9.5 games behind the New York Yankees.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz could both be returning to the lineup this week, which will provide a boost. But at this point, GM Ben Cherington hasn’t declared his intentions for the rest of the season.
If Cherington indeed decides to buy, he’ll likely field requests about prospect outfielder Bryce Brentz. Brentz hit 30 HR last year in his first full professional season and is currently hitting .289 with 10 HR and 39 RBI in half a season at Double-A Portland. Strikeouts remain a concern, but it’s clear Brentz projects as a solid power-hitting option in the near future.
Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez
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The Chicago Cubs are essentially in full rebuild mode, so it’s likely that they won’t be dealing away any prospects.
However, one particular prospect who could intrigue other teams would be Javier Baez.
Baez is hitting .310 with six HR and 14 RBI in 35 games at Single-A Peoria. However, with Starlin Castro in place at shortstop, Baez would likely have to transition to third base to get on the fast track in Chicago.
Chicago White Sox: Keenyn Walker
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Chicago White Sox outfield prospect Keenyn Walker has thus far displayed the ability to be an impact top-of-the-order hitter in his brief minor league career.
With Single-A Kannapolis, Walker is hitting .275 with a .389 on-base percentage and 38 stolen bases. While not quite in the realm of prospect Billy Hamilton for the Cincinnati Reds, Walker clearly has the ability to be a game-changer with his speed.
GM Kenny Williams has already started the upgrade process by bringing Kevin Youkilis on board. He will likely continue to look for upgrades, and Walker’s name is likely to be brought up by teams that Williams will be in contact with.
Cincinnati Reds: Daniel Corcino
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It appears that the Cincinnati Reds are in a dogfight in the NL Central along with the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.
As such, GM Walt Jocketty will be looking for options to make his team better in the second half. The Reds have shown interest in bolstering their outfield, making inquiries about both Carlos Quentin and Juan Pierre thus far.
The Padres and Phillies, as well as other teams, will likely ask Jocketty about the status of prospect pitcher Daniel Corcino. Corcino has posted a 3.16 ERA in 17 starts thus far at Double-A Pensacola, with a 1.255 WHIP and 88 strikeouts in 94 innings of work.
Cleveland Indians: Scott Barnes
Just before the All-Star break, the Cleveland Indians recalled relief pitcher Scott Barnes from Triple-A Columbus to replace Nick Hagadone.
It will be Barnes’ second stint with the Tribe, struggling his first time up in June in posting a 7.71 ERA in five appearances. Barnes was transitioned to the bullpen this year after being drafted as a starter, and he responded by posting a 3.51 ERA and 10.3 K/9 rate for Columbus.
If Indians GM Chris Antonetti looks to acquire help for a postseason push, teams may look at Barnes as an option for their bullpens.
Colorado Rockies: Chad Bettis
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The Colorado Rockies will be more likely at this point to be sellers at the trade deadline, courtesy of their 33-52 record and last-place standing in the NL West.
While it’s improbable that the team will part with any prospects, pitcher Chad Bettis would net a nice return. Bettis, drafted in the second round of the 2010 MLB draft, has matured nicely, posting a 3.34 ERA in 17 starts at Advanced Single-A Modesto, with a 9.8 K/9 rate and tidy 1.102 WHIP.
Detroit Tigers: Andy Oliver
Much of the talk surrounding the Detroit Tigers has been about adding another impact starter and possibly a second baseman.
In order to do that, GM Dave Dombrowski will likely have to pony up a promising prospect. That prospect could be starting pitcher Andy Oliver.
Oliver is in his second full season at Triple-A Toledo, and is still struggling with his command. Oliver has a 6.8 BB/9 rate thus far in 2012, and high pitch counts have limited him to just over five innings per start. Detroit may decide that Oliver could use a change of scenery.
Houston Astros: Jonathan Villar
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Of any team in the majors, the Houston Astros are one of the most likely not to want to part with any of their top prospects.
GM Jeff Luknow has made building the farm system one of the top priorities of his administration after years of neglect.
If the Astros were so inclined to even listen, however, Jonathan Villar’s name would likely be a hot topic of conversation. Villar, picked up by the Astros in the 2010 midseason trade that saw starter Roy Oswalt moving to the Philadelphia Phillies, is currently hitting .263 with 10 HR and 48 RBI at Double-A Corpus Christi.
Villar could find his path to the majors blocked if the Astros decide to keep shortstop Jed Lowrie around long-term.
Kansas City Royals: Cheslor Cuthbert
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The Kansas City Royals signed Nicaraguan third base prospect Cheslor Cuthbert for $1.35 million in 2009—at just 19 years old, he has already moved up to the Advanced Single-A level.
This year, Cuthbert is finding the higher levels a bit tougher, hitting just .232 in 77 games for the Wilmington Blue Rocks.
With Mike Moustakas firmly in place for the Royals and under team control for several more years, could Cuthbert be made available for the right asking price?
Los Angeles Angels: John Hellweg
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The Los Angeles Angels have found their groove, just four games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West and in first place among wild-card contenders.
Much of the talk surrounding the Angels lately has been about their starting rotation and the possibility of an upgrade there.
Former GM Tony Reagins depleted the farm system with the trades involving Dan Haren and Alberto Callaspo in recent years, so the Angels aren’t blessed with a bevy of prospects. However, one in particular who is likely to draw interest would be pitcher John Hellweg.
Jean Segura and Garrett Richards are likely untouchable, so Hellweg will draw interest. Thus far in 2012, Hellweg has posted a 4-8 record and 3.48 ERA in 18 starts for Double-A Arkansas. Walks are still a bit of a concern with a 4.9 BB/9 rate, but Hellweg’s repertoire is considered a plus if he can improve his command.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Allen Webster
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The Los Angeles Dodgers will no doubt welcome back their star center fielder Matt Kemp after the All-Star break, but it seems pretty clear that they’ll continue to look for other offensive weapons to help Kemp out as well.
Pitcher Allen Webster could be used as a chip to acquire that needed bat. Webster, drafted in the 18th round of the 2008 MLB draft, is the second-highest rated prospect in the Dodgers farm system, according to Baseball America.
Thus far in 2012, Webster has posted a 4.30 ERA in 19 appearances at Double-A Chattanooga, 14 of them starts. Webster was moved to the bullpen earlier in the season, but has posted a 2.25 ERA in seven starts since returning to the rotation.
Miami Marlins: Chad James
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The Miami Marlins have made an attempt to bolster a sagging offense with the acquisition of Carlos Lee, but could still make further moves. Rumors have had the Marlins seeking additional outfield help as well.
The Marlins aren’t blessed with a bevy of quality top-tier prospects, but do have some chips to use. Southpaw pitcher Chad James could be one that holds value for other teams.
James, drafted by the Marlins in the first round of the 2009 MLB draft, has posted a 4.60 ERA in 16 starts thus far for Advanced Single-A Jupiter. James is still considered a budding star, but in order for the Marlins to attract that one big piece, a budding star will likely have to be considered.
Milwaukee Brewers: Tyler Thornburg
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The Milwaukee Brewers are still holding out hope to salvage what has thus far been a lost season, but time is running out.
At five games under .500 and eight games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central, owner Mark Attansio will soon have to render a decision about whether or not to buy or sell.
Attansio has been loath to assume a selling position in the past, so if that continues, prospect pitcher Tyler Thornburg would be an attractive option for many teams.
Thornburg earned a promotion to the big club last month, making his major league debut against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 19. Thornburg worked 5.1 innings, giving up five runs on seven hits in the no-decision.
Minnesota Twins: Oswaldo Arcia
Minnesota Twins outfield prospect Oswaldo Arcia got a chance to show off his skills this past Sunday in the Futures All-Star Game, and based on his performance, he likely raised more than a few eyebrows.
In his first at-bat for the World Team, Arcia took a 98 mph fastball from Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Jameson Taillon and laced it into right field for a double. Arcia also took a 97 mph pitch from New York Mets prospect Zack Wheeler and grounded out sharply to third base.
Hard to say the youngster was overmatched.
Arcia is hitting a combined .303 between Advanced Single-A and Double-A ball this season. While the Twins aren’t likely to be dealing prospects anytime soon, Arcia would be a name that would interest any number of teams.
New York Mets: Cesar Puello
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The top four prospects in the New York Mets farm system— Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Brandon Nimmo and Jeurys Familia—are all likely untouchables in terms of possible trades. But the Mets do have other attractive chips, including center field prospect Cesar Puello.
Puello could very well be a piece that the Mets use in order to acquire veteran bullpen help. Puello is currently hitting .239 in his second season at Advanced Single-A Port St. Lucie. Puello has outstanding speed and great range, and at 6’2” and 200 pounds, he has the ability to drive the ball.
New York Yankees: Dellin Betances
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Could this be the year that the Killer Bees are finally broken up?
The New York Yankees are sitting at the top of the standings in the AL East at the All-Star break, with a seven-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles. While moves don’t necessarily have to be made, it would be difficult to think that GM Brian Cashman will be inactive at the trade deadline.
Dellin Betances could finally be considered for trade, especially considering his ongoing struggles with command. Betances and Manuel Banuelos were both at one time considered untouchable, however with Banuelos spending the majority of the 2012 season on the disabled list and Betances still struggling with a 1.80 WHIP, patience could be wearing thin for the Yankees.
Oakland A’s: Jermaine Mitchell
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On Sunday, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reported that the Oakland A’s view themselves more as sellers at the trade deadline, despite surging in early July to finish with a .500 record at the All-Star break.
If that’s the case, then prospects for the A’s are likely safe. But Jermaine Mitchell is a name that would intrigue many opposing GMs.
Mitchell, drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB draft by the A’s, is still the eighth-ranked prospect in the A’s farm system despite his somewhat advanced age of 27.
Now toiling for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, Mitchell is hitting .236 with three HR and 25 RBI. Of all of the top prospects in the A’s system, Mitchell would likely be considered the most expendable.
Philadelphia Phillies: Jonathan Pettibone
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With the Philadelphia Phillies currently mired in last place in the NL East, it’s becoming more apparent that they’re likely to be selling rather than buying.
Even with the return of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, along with the possible return of Roy Halladay in the next few weeks, it may be too little too late.
However, if for some reason GM Ruben Amaro decides to make a run for it, prospect pitcher Jonathan Pettibone will generate interest.
Pettibone has been solid this season at Double-A Reading, posting a 7-6 record and 3.65 ERA in 16 starts. Pettibone won’t impress anyone with his velocity, posting just a career 6.3 K/9 rate in the minors, but he has largely succeeded with an array of pitches that could serve him well in the future as a mid-rotation option.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Kyle McPherson
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The Pittsburgh Pirates have done an outstanding job stocking the cupboard in recent years with their farm system. While top prospects Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell and Starling Marte are about as untouchable as it gets, pitcher Kyle McPherson is likely to draw interest.
McPherson, drafted in the third round of the 2008 MLB draft, was on the disabled list for much of the season with shoulder inflammation, but returned in mid-June. McPherson features a solid array of pitches and has shown the ability to command each one of them, as evidenced by his career 1.075 WHIP.
San Diego Padres: Austin Hedges
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It’s an obvious stretch to think that the San Diego Padres will be parting with any of their prospects given their current record of 34-53.
If other teams were so inclined to inquire, however, catcher Austin Hedges would draw considerable interest.
With Yasmani Grandal in place seemingly for the long haul, Hedges could be used by GM Josh Byrnes to attract even more talent. With the relative dearth of solid catching prospects, Hedges would definitely have value for several teams.
Hedges is currently hitting .251 with seven HR and 32 RBI at Single-A Fort Wayne.
San Francisco Giants: Tommy Joseph
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The San Francisco Giants appear to be in a dogfight with the Los Angeles Dodgers for control in the NL West.
The Giants would like to add to offense and could use catching prospect Tommy Joseph as a valuable chip to go after that need.
Joseph, who went 1-for-1 with a double, a walk, an RBI and a run scored in Sunday’s Futures All-Star Game, is hitting .252 with five HR and 28 RBI at Double-A Richmond and has thrown out 48 percent of runners attempting to steal, showing more than solid skills behind the plate.
Seattle Mariners: Francisco Martinez
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Signed out of Venezuela in 2008 by the Detroit Tigers, third base prospect Francisco Martinez was sent to the Seattle Mariners in the trade involving starter Doug Fister last year.
Martinez is currently on the disabled list rehabbing a left hamstring injury, but he is likely to make his return within the next 10 days to two weeks. Martinez is a speed-burner, with 21 steals in 58 games before his injury.
With prospects Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Nick Franklin almost locks to be considered untouchable, Martinez will no doubt generate interest amongst opposing GMs.
St. Louis Cardinals: Zack Cox
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The St. Louis Cardinals seem to be preparing for a fight to the finish in the NL Central, now just 2.5 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates heading into the second half.
The Cardinals could be looking to bolster their starting rotation now that Chris Carpenter is definitely lost for the season and with Jaime Garcia still on the disabled list.
In order to get, you have to give, and GM John Mozeliak might be persuaded to give Zack Cox in order to get that attractive pitching option.
Cox, drafted in the first round of the 2010 MLB draft, is currently hitting .258 with six HR and 25 RBI at Triple-A Memphis. Cox has moved quickly up the ladder for the Cards, however with David Freese in his way at third, Mozeliak could be persuaded to part with him if the right deal came along.
Tampa Bay Rays: Alex Colome
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If there is one thing the Tampa Bay Rays have plenty of, it’s pitching.
Obviously dealing from a position of strength, GM Andrew Friedman has plenty at his disposal as he looks to possibly upgrade for a postseason push.
Pitcher Alex Colome would likely draw considerable interest. At Double-A Montgomery this year, Colome has posted a 4.72 ERA in 10 starts and recently threw a gem in an eight-inning effort against Mobile, allowing only one run on five hits while striking out eight in eight innings of work.
Colome has one of the liveliest arms in the Rays organization, so Friedman would likely have to be blown away in order to let him go.
Texas Rangers: Neil Ramirez
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The Texas Rangers will be looking to keep hold of their slim four-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West, and GM Jon Daniels will no doubt be scanning the MLB landscape for possible upgrades.
In order to get that upgrade, however, Daniels will likely have to give up one of his prospects, and Neil Ramirez could well be that man.
After a disappointing first half with Triple-A Round Rock, Ramirez was demoted to Double-A Frisco in June. Ramirez has outstanding stuff, but clearly struggled against better hitting at the higher level.
Still, Ramirez is considered a solid prospect who will draw considerable interest.
Toronto Blue Jays: Aaron Sanchez
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Currently mired in last place in the AL East along with the Boston Red Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays have yet to declare their intentions in terms of buying or selling at the trade deadline.
GM Alex Anthopoulos has never been shy in exploring deals, however, and if so inclined to go after a key piece, Aaron Sanchez could be a prospect worth giving up to get that coveted piece.
Sanchez, drafted in the sandwich round of the 2010 MLB draft, was recently named Midwest Pitcher of the week for the last week of June. Sanchez has posted an 8-0 record and 0.72 ERA at Lansing this year, striking out 70 batters in 62.2 innings of work with a 1.021 WHIP.
Washington Nationals: Eury Perez
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If I were Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, I personally would not consider using center field prospect Eury Perez as a trade chip. But no doubt opposing GMs would covet him.
Perez, signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Nats in 2007, has thrived at Double-A Harrisburg this season, posting a .294 average with 26 stolen bases.
The Nats don’t consider Bryce Harper to be their long-term answer in center, preferring to play him in the corner for the long haul. Perez would be the yin to Harper’s yang, but if Rizzo is looking to upgrade this season to try and lock up the NL East title, Perez’s name will be brought up in numerous conversations with opposing GMs.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.