MLB Teams Most Desperately Needing a Big Trade Entering Opening Day
As is normally the case, things were quiet on the trade front late in spring training as teams would rather play the wait-and-see game in hopes that they’re at least as good as they expect.
Outsiders, like myself, don’t have to be as optimistic when looking at a roster, though. Certain teams, at least on paper, are not good enough to stick around in the divisional race more than a few months.
Many of these teams, the Astros and Marlins in particular, are more in a rebuilding mode and not looking to trade away minor league talent in order to better their chances in 2013. Other teams that expect to contend for a playoff spot could find out rather quickly how necessary it is to look outside the organization for help.
Here are five teams that I feel could most benefit from a trade based on the look of their Opening Day rosters.
New York Yankees
Expectations shouldn’t be very high in New York during the 2013 season, which could be a challenging one. Just don’t tell that to Yankees fans.
They might not be calling for changes after an Opening Day loss to the Red Sox, but it won’t take much longer before things get ugly enough that general manager Brian Cashman will be on the phone trying to patch up several holes on the roster.
Whether it’s a starting rotation without very much depth if Ivan Nova or David Phelps struggles, Lyle Overbay at first base, Brennan Boesch/Vernon Wells in left field or Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervelli at catcher, the Yankees could stand to make a few upgrades right away.
The farm system doesn’t present much major league ready help, but there’s certainly enough talent in the lower levels to swing a deal or two. Top prospect Gary Sanchez might be the closest thing to untouchable, considering the lack of catching depth in their system. He could be in New York in 2015.
Mason Williams (pictured) and Slade Heathcott, on the other hand, are top center field prospects who could potentially be the centerpiece of any deal. Who could they target? Well, take your pick as far as which hole to plug and then look around the league at some rebuilding teams that might have some talent to spare.
Dealing a top prospect this far away from the trade deadline will be costly, but so would a losing season for the team with the highest payroll in the American League.
The Phillies have been the forgotten team in the NL East with the Nationals and Braves both heavy favorites for the division title and playoff spots. With Roy Halladay’s supposed decline and a back of the rotation with a not so intimidating Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan, opposing teams don’t fear a three-game series against the Phillies as much as they have the past few years.
But the biggest holes on the roster might not even be in the pitching staff. A lineup that includes an aging group of former superstars, a young center fielder, Ben Revere, who might be more Juan Pierre than Kenny Lofton and former prospect Domonic Brown (pictured), who is trying to avoid the bust label, could use some help.
That help will probably not come in the form of Delmon Young, their top offseason acquisition who is on the disabled list to start the season. Aside from the playoffs when he tends to be at his best, the 27-year-old Young has had back-to-back mediocre seasons and will be playing in right field for the first time since his rookie season of 2007.
If that’s not a recipe for disaster, it’s at least enough to be concerned that they could potentially fall out of the playoff race before the All-Star break.
With Tommy Joseph surpassing Sebastian Valle as the team’s “Catcher of the Future,” Valle could become a decent trade chip to go along with several young pitching prospects.
Lefties Jesse Biddle and Adam Morgan, the organization’s top pitching prospects, both have midrotation potential and could be in the majors by 2014. Either could be intriguing to a team willing to give up a starting outfielder.
San Francisco Giants
Even the World Series champs have some big question marks going into 2013. Will the Gregor Blanco (pictured)/Andres Torres platoon work out in left field? Will Tim Lincecum struggle again in 2013? Can Sergio Romo hold up as the team’s closer over a full season? Will Pablo Sandoval stay healthy and productive over 162 games?
They’ve kept the 2012 team together after re-signing a few key players and don’t have much help on the way in 2013. Another season of good health and production all-around, and we could see them in it right to the end once again. If that good health and production thing doesn’t happen two seasons in a row, which I’d guess is more likely, then this team needs some help.
Like the Yankees, they can’t entice teams with their upper-level minor league talent. Their best prospects are in the low minors, including starting pitchers Clayton Blackburn, Kyle Crick and 2012 first-round pick Chris Stratton. A package of one top pitching prospect and a position player prospect like shortstop Joe Panik or catcher Andrew Susac, and the Giants might not have to wait until July 31 to upgrade their outfield like they did when they traded for Hunter Pence in 2012.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays already made a big trade in the offseason, unloading James Shields and Wade Davis for a package of young prospects, including their right fielder of the near future, Wil Myers (pictured). That’s not gonna solve all their lineup issues if guys like Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson and James Loney don’t bounce back from bad seasons, though.
Despite the offseason blockbuster, they still have some pitching depth and could trade a big league ready prospect, Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi, if they really wanted to add another impact bat. Top shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee could also be a nice trade chip if they're happy with Escobar.
On paper, I don’t think they’re good enough. They’ve proven people wrong, however, on many occasions who have underestimated their “on paper” talent. In a tough AL East, the time we’re right could bury them in the standings if they don’t move quickly.
Getting beat up by the Astros, a team who could find it very difficult not to lose 105 games in 2013, on Opening Day won’t be enough to put the Rangers in panic mode. After all, they seem content with giving the fifth starter job to a guy, Nick Tepesch, who had a so-so season in Double-A last year and then gave up eight runs and 12 hits over five innings in his final spring start.
They’ve given the center field job to an unproven player, Leonys Martin. Newest lineup regulars Lance Berkman and A.J .Pierzynski are ages 37 and 36, respectively. The bullpen looks extremely thin with little known Michael Kirkman, Joe Ortiz and Tanner Scheppers claiming spots.
Sure, they could have help on the way in the rotation (Colby Lewis, Martin Perez) and bullpen (Joakim Soria) over the next few months. Top prospects Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt are also waiting in the wings. The Angels and A’s aren’t perfect teams either, but I see better teams when I look at the 25-man rosters up against each other.
Now that Elvis Andrus is locked up long-term, maybe they start finding out what Profar, the top prospect in baseball, could get them back in terms of talent for 2013 and beyond.