One reason that prospects throughout baseball command so much attention from fans and analysts is because of their importance to the offseason trade machine.
In some ways, prospects are even more exciting to see included in trades because they possess an unknown quantity. If a six-year veteran gets traded, while it can be fun for fans, it doesn't have the same feel because you know what that player is.
The beauty of young players developing in the minors is they could be anything. Even someone who is the third prospect in a trade package has a chance to become a star. It's not likely, but there's a better-than-non-zero shot it happens.
As the MLB offseason kicks into high gear, we wanted to track some of the notable prospects who could find themselves on the move. Rumors are starting to fly hard and fast, so there's a lot to digest.
Prospects listed are ranked in descending order, with my personal choices reflecting their ranking. We will keep track of all the latest developments on the prospect trade front.
Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
MLB ETA: 2014
Potential Impact: All-Star outfielder with MVP-level offensive production
Even though the St. Louis Cardinals have no incentive to move Oscar Taveras at this moment, one of the great luxuries of having a great, deep farm system and young MLB roster is you can explore any and all opportunities.
Jim Bowden of ESPN reported that the Texas Rangers and Cardinals can benefit each other if they choose to make a move this offseason:
Rangers &Cardinals remain strong potential trade partners with STL wanting Profar or Andrus & TX wanting Miller and/or Taveras and/or Adams— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) November 11, 2013
A Jurickson Profar-for-Taveras move has been talked about on blogs and message boards for nearly a year because the Cardinals need a shortstop and the Rangers need a corner outfielder, but it also seems like one of those great fantasy trades instead of reality.
Taveras is a special talent who probably would have debuted in St. Louis last year had injuries not limited him to 46 games. He still hit .306/.346/.462 despite not being right for virtually the entire season.
Another problem the Cardinals face if they decide to move Taveras is what happens in right field. Carlos Beltran has held the fort down for two years, but he is a free agent who will turn 37 in April and might look for more money/years than the Cardinals want to offer.
Given Taveras' natural hitting ability, to say nothing of his upside as a middle-of-the-order MVP candidate, the Cardinals would have to be overwhelmed by any package to consider trading him.
MLB ETA: 2014
Potential Impact: Above-average right fielder with speed and power
The Los Angeles Dodgers have certainly shown no fear when it comes to trading prospects if they believe it would help them win a championship now. More important than that, they have been willing to add payroll hand over fist.
An improving farm system with star potential at the top could provide the impetus for the Dodgers to go back into the trade market this offseason. Outfielder Joc Pederson, 21, who just completed an excellent season at Double-A (.278/.381/.497, 22 home runs, 31 stolen bases) would appear to be the most expendable.
The Dodgers already have a crowded outfield in the big leagues with Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig. Pederson has the status and upside to build a trade package around to upgrade a hole at, say, second base.
Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily spoke to several general managers who believe the Dodgers could actually upgrade an area of strength (starting pitching) with a package of players that includes Pederson, if they choose to do so:
But, suggests several general managers, the Dodgers can avoid the loss of their number one pick and the slot money if they trade for David Price and get Masahiro Tanaka from Japan. "They have the minor league talent to get Price," says one GM. "If they would trade Corey Seager and Julio Urias (the 17-year old lefthanded pitcher) and a couple out of Zach Lee, Joc Pederson or Chris Withrow, it would get it done."
Outfield depth is an asset for the Dodgers right now, so trading someone from that pool to upgrade the roster seems like a smart play. It also hurts Pederson's cause that all four players on the big league team are signed long-term, even though Ethier and Crawford are platoon players at this point.
MLB ETA: 2014
Potential Impact: Middle-of-the-rotation starter, high-floor No. 3
Also mentioned in the Gammons Daily piece as a possible mover in a David Price deal, Zach Lee has been on the prospect radar since he was drafted in 2010.
There was some thought the Dodgers, then in dire financial straits under the McCourt family, punted the pick three years ago because Lee was considered unsignable as a two-sport athlete with a commitment to play quarterback at LSU.
Lee chose baseball and has been slowly rising up the minor league ladder ever since. He just completed his most successful season with a 3.22 ERA, 131-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 142.2 innings pitched.
While Lee's stuff has never become the top-of-the-rotation quality that it was projected to be when he was drafted, the 22-year-old features a strong arsenal with four pitches rating average or better and, unsurprising for an LSU football recruit, tremendous athleticism that allows him to repeat his easy mechanics.
The Dodgers do have openings in the back of the rotation, but with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and the possible addition of Masahiro Tanaka, the team can attempt to address another opening by making Lee a key piece in a big deal.
I'd be surprised if that deal actually involves Price, but given the way this front office operates, would it really be an upset?
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