Players Who Could Be Traded Before the End of Spring Training

Jason Martinez@@mlbdepthchartsContributor IMarch 15, 2013

Players Who Could Be Traded Before the End of Spring Training

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    With just over two weeks to go until Opening Day, rosters are starting to take shape and teams are starting to take inventory of their positional depth. A few teams will find themselves extremely vulnerable at certain spots and in pretty good shape elsewhere. 

    It’s true that you can never have too much depth because of the injuries that do occur regularly with baseball players. Position depth can disappear rather quickly, especially in the pitching department. Most teams can use up to seven or eight starting pitchers during the regular season, and that's if they’re lucky.

    But in many cases, you can’t stash certain players in the minors without exposing them to waivers first.  That’s why you’ll see a few trades go down during the last few days of Spring Training. Don't expect anything big—Juan Francisco for J.J. Hoover was the most notable trade just before the 2012 season started—but expect a few major leaguers to land 25-man rosters spots with a new team after being traded. 

    Here are a few players that could be changing teams in late March and some of the teams that could be potential landing spots…

Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton or Brian Matusz, Starting Pitchers, Baltimore Orioles

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    Of these three former prospects competing for a rotation spot, there’s a chance that one might win a spot, one could win a bullpen job and a third could start the season in the minors. Or the O’s could deal from an area of strength and move on to a team looking for some pitching depth, specifically young and controllable pitchers with upside.

    Speculation began early this spring in regards to the Orioles' rotation depth and pitchers that could potentially be moved.

    One rival exec expects #Orioles to talk about LHP Zach Britton in trades later in spring. Orioles’ surplus well-documented. Arrieta too.

    — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 22, 2013

    Arrieta, Baseball Prospectus’ choice for third-ranked prospect in the organization back in 2010, has shown flashes of becoming a very good big league pitcher, but his consistency level could not catch up to the Orioles’ rise in the AL East and it was no longer viable to let him learn on the job. The 27-year-old pitched out of the ‘pen during a September call-up, walking four batters and striking out 20 in 13.1 innings, but he also allowed 10 earned runs. 

    Britton, who had a solid rookie season in 2011, started the year on the disabled list with a shoulder injury and didn’t make his first big league start until mid-July. The lefty had a less-than-impressive 5.07 ERA over 60.1 innings the rest of the way. He was the No. 2 prospect, according to Baseball Prospectus, in the organization heading into the 2011 season.

    The real enigma is Matusz, the 4th overall pick in the 2008 draft, who appeared to have such a bright future ahead of him. After posting a 4.37 ERA in his first 40 big league starts with a 3.1 BB/9 and 7.3 K/9, he struggled badly as a starting pitcher and didn't start to look comfortable again until a short stint out of the bullpen last season (1.35 ERA, 13.1 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 19 K). The 26 year-old has had a good spring, too (10 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 11 K), and is in the mix for a rotation spot.

    The expected arrivals of the new crop of top-pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, in the near future make it more likely that the O’s explore deals for at least one of the aforementioned trio.

    Potential Destinations 

    Colorado Rockies
    Projected rotation: J. De La Rosa, J. Chacin, D. Pomeranz, C. Volstad, J. Francis 

    Houston Astros
    Projected rotation: B. Norris, L. Harrell, J. Lyles, P. Humber, E. Bedard

    Minnesota Twins
    Projected rotation: V. Worley, S. Diamond (DL stint likely), K. Correia, M. Pelfrey, L. Hendriks, C. De Vries

    San Diego Padres
    Projected rotation: E. Volquez, C. Richard, J. Marquis, E. Stults, F. Garcia

Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang or Ted Lilly, Starting Pitchers, LAD

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    With news that Zack Greinke might start the season on the disabled list with elbow inflammation (The LA Times), the Dodgers’ decision to bring eight starting pitchers to camp, all with guaranteed multimillion dollar contracts, isn’t as crazy as you might think.

    Of course, it helps that they can afford to keep all eight on their Opening Day roster because money does not appear to be an issue with the new ownership group. But do they really want to do this? Three veteran starting pitchers, all with an extensive injury history, forced to pitch out of the bullpen sounds like a recipe for disaster.

    Chad Billingsley’s elbow issues from 2012 also pose a concern, however, so stashing one of Capuano (pictured), Harang or Lilly in the bullpen is probably necessary. Expect one of the three to be elsewhere on Opening Day, though. 

    None have pitched particularly well this spring so the Dodgers are hoping that they can turn it around over the next two weeks to give them an extra bump in trade value.

    Potential Destinations

    Milwaukee Brewers
    Projected rotation: Y. Gallardo, M. Estrada, M. Fiers, C. Narveson, W. Peralta 

    San Diego Padres
    Projected rotation: E. Volquez, C. Richard, J. Marquis, E. Stults, F. Garcia

    Texas Rangers
    Projected rotation: Y. Darvish, D. Holland, M. Harrison, A. Ogando, R. Ross

Kyle Blanks or Jesus Guzman, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres

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    After several injury-plagued seasons, the 26-year-old Blanks (pictured) had become the forgotten man in the Padres’ organization.

    Remember #Padres OF/1B Kyle Blanks? He's still only 26. "When you're hurt, people think you're gone," he said.

    — Corey Brock (@FollowThePadres) February 26, 2013

    And now that he’s finally healthy and having a huge spring (14-for-35, 2 HR, 4 2B, 3B, 8 RBI, 7 BB, 6 K), he doesn’t appear to have a spot on the 25-man roster.

    He does have an option remaining so he could very likely start the season in Triple-A, where he first debuted way back in 2009. A few teams could use Blanks on their major league roster now, though, and he’s probably a better long-term fit on several other teams than with the Padres, who are set at first base with Yonder Alonso.  

    Since the Padres don’t necessarily have to trade Blanks and the asking price could be higher than most interested teams would be willing to meet, the Padres might find it easier to move Jesus Guzman, which would create a spot on the big league roster for Blanks. 

    Either player could provide an everyday option at first base for the Brewers or Yankees and then move to a bench role once Corey Hart or Mark Teixeira return from injury.

    Guzman has a career .895 OPS versus left-handed pitching. Blanks’ numbers against lefties aren’t great in a small big-league sample, but he’s hit them well in the minors. Both can play first base and either corner outfield spot, although not particularly well.

    Potential Destinations

    Boston Red Sox (long-term option for Blanks with M. Napoli a free agent after 2013 and no prospects waiting in the wings)

    Milwaukee Brewers
    Current option(s): A. Gonzalez, T. Green

    New York Yankees
    Current option(s): D. Johnson, J. Rivera, K. Youkilis (E. Nuñez to 3B?) 

    Oakland Athletics
    Current option(s): (B. Moss, D. Barton, no right-handed hitting platoon partner)

Michael Saunders or Casper Wells, OF, Seattle Mariners

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    The offseason acquisitions of Jason Bay, Raul Ibañez and Michael Morse have caused a bit of a logjam in the Mariners’ 2013 outfield picture, especially if center fielder Franklin Gutierrez can stay healthy. Note: He’s missed nearly a week with leg tightness, but doesn’t consider it to be serious.

    Interest in Wells (pictured) would likely come from a team looking for bench help. The 28-year-old is out of options and doesn’t appear to have a future as a big league starter, but he does play all three outfield spots and had an .891 OPS versus left-handed pitching last season.

    Saunders, who could be tough to lure away from the Mariners because Gutierrez is so injury-prone and because he’s a pretty good baseball player, had an impressive performance in the World Baseball Classic for Team Canada.

    Anyone in WBC having bigger coming out party than Michael Saunders so far? A 2-run HR today. Are we seeing #Mariners star in making?

    — Geoff Baker (@gbakermariners) March 10, 2013

    The 26-year-old, who can also play all three outfield spots, had 19 homers and 21 stolen bases in 2012. If he's moved, the Mariners will need to find a starting center fielder before the 2014 season, which is another reason that Wells would be the one moved and not Saunders.

    Potential Destinations  
    Boston Red Sox
    Current option(s): D. Nava, R. Sweeney

    Detroit Tigers
    Current option(s): Q. Berry, A. Garcia, D. Kelly, J. Kobernus

    Minnesota Twins
    Current option(s): A. Hicks, D. Mastroianni, W. Ramirez

    New York Mets
    Current option(s): M. Byrd, C. Cowgill, K. Nieuwenhuis, J. Valdespin, 

    New York Yankees
    Current option(s): B. Boesch, M. Diaz, M. Mesa, J. Rivera

Mike Olt, 3B, Texas Rangers

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    The Rangers don’t need to trade Olt, who could still play an important role during the 2013 season even if he starts out in Triple-A. Any preseason deal would have to fill a current hole for the Rangers, meaning they’d need to receive a starting pitcher in return. And considering Olt is the 30th-best prospect in baseball, according to Baseball Prospectus, the starting pitcher would have to be a good one.

    The 24-year-old, who is having a rough spring (4-for-26) after struggling in his first big league stint in 2012 (5-for-33), is still considered a big-time power-hitting prospect who could fit immediately in the middle of the lineup on several major league teams. On the Rangers, he could see time at both corner outfield spots, as well as first base.

    Plenty of teams around the league would love to have a major league-ready third base prospect such as Olt, but not too many have the starting pitching depth to spare at the start of the season. And if you're a team that has any hope of contending for a playoff spot—all but three or four teams probably feel that they do—then you’re not trading away one of your best starting pitchers for an unproven prospect.

    Potential Destinations

    Atlanta Braves
    Current option(s): J. Francisco, C. Johnson

    Chicago Cubs
    Current option(s): I. Stewart, L. Valbuena

    Houston Astros
    Current option(s): M. Dominguez

    Los Angeles Dodgers
    Current option(s): L. Cruz

    Oakland Athletics
    Current option(s): J. Donaldson, J. Lowrie