Every MLB Team's Best Minor League Trade Chip
With the 2013 trade deadline set to expire next Wednesday, most teams are busily exploring the market with the hope of adding the final piece needed for a run at the postseason.
The Chicago Cubs got the party started on Monday evening, trading veteran starter Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers in exchange for rookie right-hander Justin Grimm and prospects Mike Olt and C.J. Edwards, as well as two players to be named later.
While the Cubs have been the most active team on the trade front so far, there will likely be a flurry of deals that transpire over the coming week. However, a few organizations share a similar interest in netting prospects and strengthening their farm systems. And with so many playoff races likely to come down to the wire once again, it’s a safe bet that more prospect-based trades will take place in the near future.
So, in anticipation of the July 31 trade deadline, here’s a look a every team’s best prospect trade chip.
Nick Delmonico, 3B-1B, Baltimore Orioles
Update: The Orioles traded Delmonico to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday in exchange for the two-month rental of reliever Francisco Rodriguez.
With Chris Davis and Manny Machado entrenched at their respective corner infield positions for the foreseeable future, Delmonico could be made available as the Orioles target last-minute starting pitching prior to the trade deadline.
The 21-year-old has struggled to stay on the field since the Orioles popped him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, but has showcased an intriguing blend of above-average power and on-base skills across both Class-A levels over the last two seasons.
Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox
Ranked as our No. 35 overall prospect in the Top 50 Midseason Update, Cecchini has managed to stay healthy this year and is putting up monster numbers as a result. In possession of one of the more advanced bats in the minor leagues, the left-handed hitter is hitting a robust .344/.455/.528 with 110 hits, 40 extra-base hits, 18 stolen bases and 58/60 K/BB this season in 91 games between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland.
While I’m sure Boston would love to give him a crack at the major leagues before the end of the 2014 season, there’s simply no logical place for him in the everyday lineup. Since he lacks the power commonly associated with a big league third baseman, the 22-year-old is probably a cleaner fit at second base. But considering that there are rumors of a Dustin Pedroia extension floating around, it’s doubtful that Cecchini gets a look at the position. Therefore, at least as of now, the most likely scenario is that Boston uses him to land an established reliever before the trade deadline.
Slade Heathcott, OF, New York Yankees
As a result of the injuries and underperformance from their top prospects, the Yankees lack strong trade chips in their system. And since it’s doubtful that they’d be willing to part with catching hopeful Gary Sanchez, their next best option could be outfielder Slade Heathcott.
Although he’s struggled to stay on the field and been overexposed this season at Double-A Trenton, the 22-year-old outfielder still flashes both the loud tools and potential that led to his selection in the first round of the 2009 draft.
Enny Romero, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are once again in an enviable situation headed into the trade deadline due to their surplus of young starting pitching. While top prospects such as Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi have already been called upon to contribute in the major leagues this season, the organization still houses several other promising arms that are still a few years away.
More specifically, Enny Romero represents an intriguing trade candidate as a 22-year-old with success at the Double-A level. The left-hander has the pure stuff to be effective at the highest level—whether as a starter or reliever—but has been held back due to fringy command and lack of a consistent third pitch.
A.J. Jimenez, C, Toronto Blue Jays
After trading away a majority of their once-promising farm system since the end of the 2012 season, the Blue Jays, much like the Yankees, lack a legitimate trade chip headed into the deadline. Although top prospect Aaron Sanchez technically could still be an option, it’s difficult to imagine the organization parting with the right-hander after dealing Noah Syndergaard (Mets) and Justin Nicolino (Marlins) during the offseason.
Assuming that they feel confident with a combination of J.P. Arencibia and Josh Thole moving forward, Toronto could potential dangle 23-year-old catcher A.J. Jimenez with the hope of landing a starting pitcher before the deadline.
Jared Mitchell, OF, Chicago White Sox
It’s not a secret that the White Sox will be sellers at the trade deadline. But with that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if they also make an under-the-radar deal strictly involving minor league players. One player who may fit the bill is outfielder Jared Mitchell, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2009.
Once considered a top prospect in the organization, the 24-year-old hasn’t been the same player since suffering an ugly, season-ending ankle injury during spring training in 2010. For a team that believes that the outfielder has untapped potential, Mitchell could be an interesting buy-low candidate at the deadline.
Ronny Rodriguez, SS-2B, Cleveland Indians
Having already been moved over to second base due to the midseason promotion of top prospect Francisco Lindor to Double-A Akron, Rodriguez’s place in Cleveland’s long-term picture is fading fast. And it’s only a matter of time until the organization offers their current second baseman, All-Star Jason Kipnis, a contract extension.
If the Tribe ultimately decide to target pitching at the trade deadline, it’s a safe bet that the 21-year-old will be dealt as part of a larger prospect package for an established pitcher.
Danry Vasquez, OF, Detroit Tigers
Like many other teams fighting for a playoff berth, the lack of depth in Detroit’s system could hurt its chances at landing a much-needed bullpen arm by the trade deadline. Top prospect Nick Castellanos is obviously its most attractive trade chip, though the organization may not want to part with its lone top-tier prospect just yet.
A more realistic trade scenario might involve Danry Vasquez, a 19-year-old outfielder who’s made significant strides in his development this season at Low-A West Michigan. Although he’s only started to scratch the surface of his potential, Vazquez may represent Detroit’s best chance at securing a late-inning arm before the deadline.
Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Kansas City Royals
Beyond top prospects such as Kyle Zimmer, Bubba Starling and Raul "Adalberto" Mondesi, the Royals’ system is a shell of what it was prior to the offseason trade that sent Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard to Tampa Bay. They still have a few change-of-scenery candidates in pitchers John Lamb and Chris Dwyer, but both have fallen off so much over the last two years that the return would be minimal.
A more attractive trade candidate is third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, especially if the organization still considers Mike Moustakas its long-term guy at the hot corner. Still only 20 years old, Cuthbert’s performance over the last two seasons has fluctuated as a result of aggressive assignments. And while he’s struggled since a midseason promotion to Double-A, his combination of tools and experience gives him considerable trade value at this point in his career.
Travis Harrison, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Considering that the Twins won’t contend for anything this season and have been actively strengthening their system since the beginning of the 2012 season, it’s doubtful that they’ll be interested in dealing any prospects before the trade deadline. The only exception would be if the opportunity arises to land a power arm.
While 20-year-old Miguel Sano is already on the fast track to the major leagues, he’s also potentially blocking the path for Travis Harrison, their supplemental first-round selection in 2011. Although it’s very unlikely that the Twins risk breaking up their top-ranked system at the deadline—at least not this year—Harrison would likely be the only notable prospect made available.
Delino DeShields, 2B, Houston Astros
Much like the Twins, the Astros’ loaded system is growing stronger every day, so it doesn’t make sense for them to add pieces at the major league level over the next week. However, one prospect that could be made available is second baseman Delino DeShields, especially after the Astros recently signed Jose Altuve to a four-year, $12.5 million extension through 2017, with club options for the 2018-2019 seasons. The only other possibility would involve moving DeShields to center field, though he’d still be blocked by fellow prospect George Springer.
Since a straight-up prospect swap involving the 20-year-old wouldn’t necessarily command a better player in return, the Astros could get creative and package him with Bud Norris for one or two high-end prospects.
C.J. Cron, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
In possession of baseball’s worst farm system, the Angels simply lack the talent needed to pull off a blockbuster trade before the 2013 trade deadline. Top prospect Kaleb Cowart clearly is their most enticing chip. However, the hope is that the he’ll be ready to take over for Alberto Callaspo in 2015. That leaves first baseman C.J. Cron, the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2011, who’s blocked by Albert Pujols through the 2021 season.
Realistically, the Angels may not get more than a back-end starter for Cron, as he’s a 23-year-old, right-handed-hitting first baseman who’s hit only eight home runs in 95 games this season at Double-A Arkansas. But if they insist on adding an arm at the trade deadline, moving Cron may be their only hope.
Sonny Gray, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Yes, Sonny Gray was called up earlier this month to provide bullpen depth. However, his brief stay in the major leagues may have also served as an audition for other teams.
After an up-and-down season at Double-A Midland in 2012, Gray has bounced back in a big way this year by dominating the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League and missing more than a bat per inning. More importantly, the right-hander showcased legitimate swing-and-miss stuff during two appearances out of the bullpen, striking out six batters over four scoreless innings.
If the organization believes that Brett Anderson will return for the final month of the season and views Dan Straily as a potential fifth starter moving forward, then Gray could be made available at the trade deadline.
Stefen Romero, OF-2B-3B, Seattle Mariners
The Mariners’ future arrived ahead of schedule this season. First, Nick Franklin was promoted to play second base over Dustin Ackley in late May. Two weeks later, it was Mike Zunino, who was followed by Brad Miller at the end of June. But there’s one position prospect still on the outside looking in: Stefen Romero.
Primarily a left fielder but also capable of playing second and third base, Romero is blocked at each position at the major league level. However, the 24-year-old can flat-out hit, and will hit if given the opportunity. And it may not be a terrible idea to try to deal him at the deadline for a solid, change-of-scenery-type player.
Luis Sardinas, SS-2B, Texas Rangers
Had I written this article a day earlier, then I would have labeled Mike Olt as the Rangers’ best trade chip. Well, that’s no longer the case after he was dealt to the Cubs on Monday as part of the Matt Garza deal.
With Olt out of the picture, the organization still has an intriguing trade candidate in shortstop Luis Sardinas. The 20-year-old switch-hitter has the chance for at least an above-average hit tool and already possesses plate discipline that’s mature for his age. Defensively, he has the speed, glove and instincts to handle either middle infield position at highest level.
Christian Bethancourt, C, Atlanta Braves
After trading Randall Delgado and Zeke Spruill during the offseason and graduating both Julio Teheran and Alex Wood to the major leagues, the Braves won’t have the luxury of trading surplus arms at the deadline as they have in previous years.
Catcher Christian Bethancourt could serve as their best trade bait, especially if the organization plans to re-sign Brian McCann during the offseason and use Evan Gattis as a backup. Regarded as one of the better defensive catchers in the minor leagues, Bethancourt is only 21 years old and has raised his OPS nearly .200 points this season in his second tour of the Southern League.
Jesus Solorzano, OF, Miami Marlins
The Marlins have been focused on dealing major-league players and rebuilding their farm system over the last year, and once again will be sellers at the trade deadline.
Clearly not interested in moving prospects, the organization could conceivably try to make an under-the-radar prospect swap and target a change-of-scenery candidate. And if they take that route, outfielder Jesus Solorzano may be the best trade chip, as he’s 22 years old and yet to make it out of Low-A due to a raw approach.
Cesar Puello, OF, New York Mets
The New York Mets are another team that isn’t interested in dealing prospects before the deadline. In fact, if anything, they may look to add a few fresh faces to their steadily improving system.
Although they need all the outfield prospects they can get at this point, they do have an intriguing sell-high candidate in Cesar Puello. The 22-year-old is in the middle of a breakout season for Double-A Binghamton and finally showcasing the power-speed combination that the organization envisioned when they signed him in 2007. At the same time, most teams probably wouldn’t touch Puello with a 39-and-a-half-foot pole after he was named in the ongoing Biogenesis scandal this spring.
Mitch Walding, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
Unless the Phillies package a prospect with Cliff Lee, Michael Young, Chase Utley or Jonathan Papelbon as part of a deadline deal, it makes little sense for them to tamper with their farm system. But for the sake of this article, let’s just pretend as though they’re interested in moving a prospect. In that case, third baseman Mitch Walding represents the organization’s most intriguing trade chip.
Blocked at the hot corner by 20-year-old Maikel Franco at Double-A and 23-year-old Cody Asche at Triple-A, Walding, 20, has struggled to drive the ball consistently in each of the last two years. And if he doesn’t turn the corner during the second half of the 2013 season, the Phillies may ask him to repeat Low-A Lakewood next year.
Brian Goodwin, OF, Washington Nationals
Given their unexpected struggles this season, the Nationals could emerge as a surprise buyer at this year’s trade deadline. And with a system comprised of mostly once-injured, high-risk arms and toolsy position prospects, they might just have enough to intrigue other teams.
Set to employ an outfield of Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth for years to come, the Nats could potentially dangle 22-year-old Brian Goodwin as trade bait leading up to the deadline. Viewed as the team’s top position prospect, Goodwin, the No. 34 overall pick in the 2011 draft, is an outstanding athlete with an above-average combination of speed and left-handed pop. Although his plate discipline is raw and will require at least another year of seasoning in the minor leagues, he has the potential to be a top-of-the-order center fielder at maturity.
Josh Vitters, 3B, Chicago Cubs
After the Cubs selected Kris Bryant with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft and acquired Mike Olt from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal, the window seemingly has been slammed shut on Josh Vitters.
After struggling mightily during a two-month stint in the major leagues late last summer, Vitters’ slow development and underwhelming performance ultimately forced the organization to cut him from their long-term plan. Although he’s only 22, he’s a candidate to be designated for assignment following the 2013 season. So it might make sense for the Cubs to attempt to move him—possibly as part of a bigger package—in the coming week.
Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
After surging up the prospect ranks last season thanks to a breakout performance at the plate and record-setting 155 stolen bases, Billy Hamilton has come back to life this season at Triple-A Louisville. The 22-year-old’s fringy hit tool and approach have been exploited by more advanced pitching and, in general, have regressed. However, it’s worth noting that he’s still been a menace on the base paths while making an admirable transition to center field.
If the Reds want to make a splash at the deadline, then they’ll have to make Hamilton available. And why not? Sure, he’s the fastest player in baseball and capable of impacting a game in a multitude of ways, but he’s also blocked at every outfield position and probably won’t be major league-ready by the start of the 2014 season.
Yadiel Rivera, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
Thanks to the emergence of All-Star Jean Segura in his first full season with the Brewers, the team’s search for a legitimate shortstop is finally over. However, while they have decent depth on the farm, the organization is still several prospects short of legitimizing their system.
While it’s unlikely that they’d be interested in a prospect-only deal, the Brewers could package a player such as 21-year-old shortstop Yadiel Rivera with Yovani Gallardo or Francisco Rodriguez before the deadline.
Luis Heredia, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
With the a system comprised of numerous top-50 prospects such as Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco, Alen Hanson and Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates could technically land any player they want at the trade deadline if they were to make a combination of the aforementioned prospects available. But just as has been the case in each of the last two seasons, there’s simply no way that the organization will be willing to part with a significant part of their future for a short-term gain.
Outside of their top prospects, the Pirates possess an intriguing trade chip in 18-year-old Luis Heredia, a 6’6” right-hander who’s currently making his full-season debut for Low-A West Virginia. With a durable frame, promising arsenal and advanced feel for pitching, Heredia has the potential to reach the major leagues before his 21st birthday.
Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals envisioned Wong as their future second baseman when they selected him in the first round of the 2010 draft. However, the emergence of All-Star Matt Carpenter at the keystone this season has turned the 22-year-old into enticing trade bait.
With an above-average glove and potential plus hit tool, Wong has little left to prove in the minor leagues. However, because he lacks a path to consistent playing time at the major league level, the organization may be better off exploring his trade market—possibly in exchange for a shortstop—over the next eight days.
Chris Owings, SS-2B, Arizona Diamondbacks
If Owings was part of any other organization, he might have already received a promotion to the major leagues due to his strong performance this season in Triple-A. But as a member of the Diamondbacks organization, Aaron Hill and Didi Gregorius currently block the 21-year-old at both middle infield positions.
Along with teammate Matt Davidson, Owings is likely to be one of the more big league-ready position prospects on the trading block. And because the team’s starting rotation has been ravaged by injuries this season, there’s a realistic chance that Arizona flips him—and Davidson—for an established starter before the deadline.
Tyler Matzek, LHP, Colorado Rockies
Currently trailing the Dodgers by four games in the NL West, the Rockies could be buyers at the trade deadline if they believe they can make a run at the division. However, the fact that they lack high-end prospects makes such a scenario less likely.
If they were to make a prospect available in the coming week, left-hander Tyler Matzek is the leading candidate. Selected No. 11 overall in the 2009 draft, Matzek has maintained his swing-and-miss stuff over the years and is holding his own at Double-A Tulsa, but his command has never evolved as hoped. The Rockies have stuck with him through the ups and downs, but it may be time to cut their losses and sell high with the 22-year-old.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Few prospects have improved their stock this season as much as Joc Pederson. After a breakout performance last year in the California League, the 21-year-old has put himself on the major league radar this season with a strong showing at Double-A Chattanooga.
With no obvious spot for him in the Dodgers’ outfield moving forward, Pederson is likely to be one of the better prospects on the block leading up to the deadline. And considering the organization’s eagerness to add in order to “win now," there’s a realistic chance that Pederson is dealt over the next week.
Cory Spangenberg, 2B, San Diego Padres
After a disappointing 2012 season in the California League, Spangenberg was jumped on the depth chart by Jedd Gyorko, who has since established himself as the Padres’ everyday second baseman. And although he’s made improvements this season and reached Double-A for the first time, his long-term future with the organization is unclear.
The Padres could make the 22-year-old available if they try to add a starting pitcher before the deadline. However, they may not be willing to part with him after less than two full seasons in their system.
Gary Brown, OF, San Francisco Giants
After asserting his presence with an eye-opening 2011 campaign in the California League, Brown has steadily regressed with each subsequent season. That being said, his combination of plus speed and defense has enabled his mobility up the organizational ladder, though he no longer projects as anything more than a defense-oriented, reserve outfielder.
Since the Giants are unlikely to part with a promising young arm such as Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton or Clayton Blackburn, Brown will likely serve as their top trade chip headed into the deadline.