Best Prospect Trade Chips for Top 2013 MLB Contenders

Ben BerkonContributor IJuly 4, 2013

Best Prospect Trade Chips for Top 2013 MLB Contenders

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    The most exciting deadline trades are the ones involving big-salaried veterans and highly touted prospects. The juxtaposition of now versus future always makes for interesting debate and endless analytical speculation.

    Last trade deadline, for instance, the Milwaukee Brewers folded shop by dealing stud pitcher Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels for shortstop prospect Jean Segura. Even though the trade was panned at the time, Segura has since posted an elite .325 batting average with a park-adjusted 137 wRC+, 11 home runs and 24 stolen bases.

    With so many teams in the playoff hunt this season, the 2013 trade deadline is sure to boast its own brand of heated rumors and anticipated trades.

    Below is a list of the best prospect trade chips for top 2013 MLB contenders.

    All statistics (through July 2) sourced from Baseball Reference (including Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects rankings), FanGraphs and Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gausman

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    With Dylan Bundy now out with Tommy John surgery, Kevin Gausman has immediately emerged as the Baltimore Orioles' best pitching prospect and, subsequently, biggest trade chip.

    Gausman, 22, has been a bit better than his major league statistics suggest (6.30 ERA versus park-adjusted 3.54 xFIP), but the right-hander is obviously too good for the minors, where he’s posted a career 3.88 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 9.43 K/BB.

    Since the Orioles already addressed their weak rotation by acquiring starting pitcher Scott Feldman on July 2, the team might now target a second baseman, as Orioles second basemen have swatted a combined .234/.288/.354 line.

Boston Red Sox: Allen Webster

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    The Boston Red Sox have a number of good young players and prospects, including Will Middlebrooks (who was recently demoted to Triple-A), Jackie Bradley (who will likely replace free agent Jacoby Ellsbury in 2014), Henry Owens and Matt Barnes. They also have Allen Webster.

    Webster, whom the Red Sox acquired in their blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last August, has gotten knocked around in his first four major league starts, hurling a 9.50 ERA (versus park-adjusted 4.69 xFIP), 1.83 WHIP and 1.88 K/BB. But the 23-year-old also spun a 2.98 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 2.55 K/BB at Triple-A this season too.

    If the Red Sox decide to go shopping for an ace pitcher or dynamite closer, the team could use Webster to headline such a package. In fact, the Philadelphia Phillies—with Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon—might be an ideal trade partner.

New York Yankees: Tyler Austin or Mason Williams

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    It would be prudent of the New York Yankees to not put a dent in their farm system and just pack it in for 2013. But “giving up” isn’t in the Yankees’ vocabulary. Catching prospect Gary Sanchez is likely untouchable, but perhaps Tyler Austin or Mason Williams, the Yanks’ top two outfield prospects, could be made available in the right move.

    With Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, Kevin Youkilis and possibly even Derek Jeter coming off the books after the season, the Yankees could afford to add some big-salaried players at the deadline.

    Even though both outfielders have struggled a bit in 2013, dangling either Austin or Williams could still net the Bombers enough veteran talent to make a second-half run.

Toronto Blue Jays: Aaron Sanchez

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    The Toronto Blue Jays were busy this past offseason, acquiring Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and Mark Buehrle via trade. So far in 2013, however, the Blue Jays are in last place with a 41-43 record, 10 games out of first place.

    Even though their offseason pursuits forced the Blue Jays to surrender top prospects like Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Jake Marisnick and Justin Nicolino, their farm system is still brimming with talent.

    If the Jays are serious about competing this season, 21-year-old Aaron Sanchez, who has dominated Advanced-A with a 2.73 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 2.35 K/BB, would be their best chip.

Detroit Tigers: Nick Castellanos

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    Joaquin Benoit is doing a nice job closing games for the Detroit Tigers in place of Jose Valverde. But make no mistake about it, the Tigers would love to have a ninth-inning shutdown man.

    With a pretty weak farm system, any team looking to pawn a top closer will undoubtedly ask for top Tigers prospect Nick Castellanos.

    The 21-year-old outfielder has hit to the tune of a .296 batting average, .852 OPS, 11 home runs and an 11.2 percent walk rate at Triple-A this season. Baseball America also rated Castellanos as the 21st-best prospect in the game. 

Cleveland Indians: Francisco Lindor

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    Despite trading star hitter Shin-Soo Choo in the offseason, the Cleveland Indians are currently leading the American League Central with a 45-39 record. And with 27-year-old shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera under contract through 2014, the Indians could dangle top shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor.

    Lindor is best known for his glove and on-base skills, but the 19-year-old has raised his batting average 52 points to .309 this season. He has also posted a .792 OPS, 9.8 percent walk rate, 9.5 percent strikeout rate and 19 stolen bases at Advanced A.

    Considering the Indians also have another shortstop prospect in 18-year-old Dorssys Paulino, Lindor is arguably expendable.

Oakland Athletics: Michael Choice

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    The Oakland Athletics usually look to sell high on increasingly expensive players, not trade top prospects. That said, the Athletics did deal Carlos Gonzalez and Huston Street for Matt Holliday back in 2008.

    Considering the A’s are currently 49-36 and atop the American League West, general manager Billy Beane could potentially look to acquire an ace or slugger to better the team’s chances for a playoff push.

    While Beane might prefer to dangle 25-year-old second baseman Grant Green, teams would likely demand top outfield prospect Michael Choice instead. Choice, 23, has posted a .283 batting average, .809 OPS, 11 home runs and a 12.2 percent walk rate.

    The major league-ready Choice would certainly net the A’s an elite return.

Texas Rangers: Jurickson Profar

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    Considering that the Texas Rangers recently extended shortstop Elvis Andrus through 2022, it’s pretty obvious the team has no room for uber-prospect Jurickson Profar. The Rangers are currently using Profar in a super utility-role, but he is going to waste without a full-time gig in sight.

    According to MinorLeagueBall.com's John Sickels, Profar is the "best position prospect in baseball."

    With starting pitchers Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison all on the shelf, the Rangers could certainly use a few hurlers after Yu Darvish and Derek Holland in the rotation. If they could land an ace for Profar, they’d be silly not to pull the trigger.

Atlanta Braves: Alex Wood

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    J.R. Graham might be the most recognized prospect in the Atlanta Braves system, but Alex Wood is a year younger (22) and has hurled 15.2 innings of 2.87 ERA (versus park-adjusted 2.26 xFIP) ball in the majors.

    The Braves have mostly used Wood as a reliever, but the southpaw was a starting pitcher during his tenure in the minors, owning a career 1.72 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 3.76 K/BB.

    The Braves could covet a good overall third baseman in return for Wood, as Chris Johnson's .333 batting average cannot mask his lack of power (only five home runs) and abysmal fielding (minus-23.0 UZR/150 in 2013 versus career minus-17.4 rate). 

Washington Nationals: Brian Goodwin or Michael Taylor

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    With third base prospect Matt Skole recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Nationals might be less inclined to sell low on the future slugger. Instead, the Nats could offer up either Brian Goodwin or Michael Taylor, two top outfielders in their farm system.

    Goodwin, 22, was ranked as the 70th-best prospect by Baseball America. But Taylor, who’s also 22 years old, possesses similar tools and is a better runner.

    PLAYER HR BA WALK % SLG SB %
    Michael Taylor 6 0.255 8.1 0.736 87.5
    Brian Goodwin 7 0.256 11.2 0.749 61.5

    Since the Nationals already have Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth patrolling the outfield (at least through 2015), the team could flip either Goodwin or Taylor for an upgrade over Kurt Suzuki (and the injured Wilson Ramos) at catcher. 

Cincinnati Reds: Robert Stephenson

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    Since Daniel Corcino is stinking it up in Triple-A (6.57 ERA, 1.81 WHIP and 1.28 K/BB) and Tony Cingrani has quickly become a rotation fixture in the big leagues (3.40 ERA versus park-adjusted 3.43 xFIP), former first-round pick Robert Stephenson might become trade bait this summer.

    Stephenson, 20, who was rated the 56th-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America, has pitched to the tune of a 2.97 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 5.00 K/BB in 12 starts at Single-A.

    The Reds, who are four games out of first place, still have weaknesses at catcher, shortstop and left field, so dealing Stephenson might resolve at least one of those soft spots.  

Pittsburgh Pirates: Jameson Taillon

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    For the first time since the early 1990s, the Pittsburgh Pirates seem primed for a playoff run. In fact, they are 20 games over .500 and leading the National League Central by two games.

    Even though the Pirates have received surprising performances by starters Jeff Locke (2.12 ERA versus park-adjusted 4.19 xFIP) and Francisco Liriano (2.23 ERA versus 2.94 xFIP), the team still lacks a legitimate veteran ace. With stud prospect Gerrit Cole already a rotation fixture, the Pirates could look to trade their other pitching prospect, Jameson Taillon.

    Taillon, 21, has posted a 2.97 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 2.58 K/BB at Double-A. If made available, Baseball America's 19th-best prospect would certainly catch the attention of any team looking to clear payroll this summer.

St. Louis Cardinals: Kolten Wong

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    Given the emergence of Matt Carpenter at second base, prospect Kolten Wong has all of a sudden become expendable. Wong, 22, has swatted a .310 batting average, .827 OPS, five home runs, 11 stolen bases and a 7.6 percent walk rate at Triple-A this season. According to MinorLeagueBall.com’s John Sickels, Wong possesses a “steady glove” too.

    The Cardinals’ most pressing need is at shortstop. Despite a Gold Glove-worthy 12.1 UZR/150, Pete Kozma is only hitting .244 with a park-adjusted 60 wRC+, one home run and a 6.2 percent walk rate.

    If made available, Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies would be the perfect player for a Cardinals playoff run. 

Arizona Diamondbacks: Tyler Skaggs

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    The Arizona Diamondbacks organization is brimming with pitching depth. At the major league level, the Diamondbacks have a lot of good starters, including Ian Kennedy, Wade Miley, Patrick Corbin, Randall Delgado, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy. But they lack a true ace.

    Down on the farm, the team has Archie Bradley, David Holmberg and Andrew Chafin waiting in the wings, with Tyler Skaggs being the most touted of the bunch.

    The Snakes need an ace pitcher to further distance themselves from the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West. Even though Skaggs may have a bright future ahead of him, the Diamondbacks have a plethora of young, talented pitchers.

    According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers have been discussing a Tyler Skaggs for Yovani Gallardo swap. This rumor corroborates an earlier report from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, which stated that the Diamondbacks would only be interested in team-controllable assets.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Joc Pederson

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    Stud shortstop Corey Seager and pitcher Zach Lee are the two biggest prizes in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm system, so talented outfielder Joc Pederson is likely to be more available.

    Pederson, 21, has dominated Double-A pitching this season, hitting to the tune of a .299 batting average, .910 OPS, 14 home runs, 25 stolen bases and an 11.5 percent walk rate. Considering the Dodgers owe outfielders Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier almost $200 million combined—not to mention the emergence of Yasiel Puig—Pederson simply does not have a future with the team.

    The Dodgers roster has a lot of holes, but Juan Uribe as a starting third baseman is arguably the sorest thumb. Assuming the lowly Milwaukee Brewers make Aramis Ramirez available, the Dodgers could swap the pair and make an instant win-now upgrade.