MLB Trade Rumors: Top Prospects on the Trade Block, Holiday Edition
MLB fans aren't waking up this Christmas morning to find new top prospects on their favorite teams.
Contradicting the trends that apply to rest of the world, baseball shopping actually slows down during the holiday season. Agents and team executives are only human—that's what we're assuming, anyway—and they want to cherish this time of year with family and friends just like the rest of us.
However, a handful of major league-caliber players on the trade block can be obtained later this offseason.
To be clear, these aren't the only advanced prospects available. They're just the ones being pushed out the door to varying extents by teams desperate to address other needs. Their trade values have risen thanks to productive 2013 seasons, inflating expectations for what they may accomplish against the highest level of competition.
Although teams are reluctant to part with the Addison Russells, Aaron Sanchezes and Taijuan Walkers of their farm systems, don't doubt the possibility of these next-tier individuals getting relocated.
*Stats provided by Baseball-Reference unless otherwise specified.
5. Christian Colon, 2B, Kansas City Royals
As detailed here, Christian Colon's availability comes as an indirect result of the Omar Infante signing.
The Kansas City Royals went through the trouble of adding Colon to their 40-man roster (h/t Bob Dutton, The Kansas City Star) because they envisioned him competing for a reserve infielder's job in spring training. He has slashed .274/.339/.374 through four minor league seasons while splitting time between second base and shortstop.
With Infante solidifying the right side of the infield, however, speedster Emilio Bonifacio gets downgraded to the utility role that Colon was hoping for.
ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets that Kansas City is pushed up against its payroll limit. But with the back end of the starting rotation still very questionable, Colon could be involved in a trade for a Carlos Villanueva-like veteran.
4. J.R. Murphy, C, New York Yankees
J.R. Murphy made his major league debut in September and started a handful of games behind the plate for the New York Yankees. He earned the call-up at age 22 after setting career highs in plate appearances (468) and home runs (12).
The Yankees have a relatively weak farm system, but Murphy is actually one of the organization's surplus players. Their signing of Brian McCann eliminates him from starting consideration for at least the next couple seasons, and highly touted catching prospect Gary Sanchez is breathing down his neck after finishing 2013 at Double-A.
MLB.com's Phil Rogers sees a potential fit for Murphy with the Chicago White Sox. Their tandem of Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley grossly underachieved last summer en route to finishing in the AL Central cellar.
Alex Rodriguez's playing status for the 2014 season will be decided next month, tweets The Bergen Record's Bob Klapisch. If his 211-game suspension is dismissed, then the Yankees' only hope of avoiding the luxury tax would be to dump salary.
Packaging Murphy with an excess outfielder like Alfonso Soriano or Ichiro Suzuki could be the key to acquiring cheap, controllable pitching while getting beneath $189 million.
3. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Frustrated by a two-decade-long absence from the playoffs, the Toronto Blue Jays went all in last offseason. They cut ties with hyped prospects like Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino and Jake Marisnick to bolster their active roster with former All-Stars.
But even when embracing that free-spending mindset, general manager Alex Anthopoulos wasn't tempted to move top prospect Aaron Sanchez.
This past summer, the Toronto Star's Brendan Kennedy explained that prospect pundits had deemed him "the only untouchable in the Jays’ farm system." The Chicago Cubs offered Jeff Samardzija to Toronto at the winter meetings, according to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, but their insistence on acquiring Sanchez appeared to be a deal-breaker.
Nonetheless, the Jays remain very interested in veteran starters, and as always, Anthopoulos would rather find one via trade than with a long-term free-agent contract, per MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm. Aside from Sanchez, the GM admits that Marcus Stroman's name is frequently mentioned in talks with other teams.
This is a sell-high opportunity for the club, as the 22-year-old Stroman posted a 3.30 ERA last season with an enticing 10.40 K/9. He also participated in the Arizona Fall League, limiting the opposition to a .186 batting average in nine appearances, per MiLB.com.
The former first-round draft pick has just 20 professional starts under his belt, and due to size limitations—5'9", 185 pounds—not everybody is convinced that he'll stick in a rotation long term. Here's a chance for Anthopoulos to get a lot in return for Stroman while he still can.
2. Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
The Arizona Diamondbacks recalled Chris Owings to the majors in September, and over the final couple weeks of the regular season, he and Didi Gregorius shared playing time at shortstop.
Owings was one of the Pacific Coast League's best offensive players in 2013, as he slashed .330/.359/.482 in 125 games with 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases. The 22-year-old showcased that offensive potential with the D-Backs by posting a .291/.361/.382 batting line through 61 plate appearances.
Between Owings and Gregorius, Arizona appears to have two starting-caliber shortstops. There aren't opportunities for either to find playing time at another position, however. Paul Goldschmidt, Martin Prado and Aaron Hill all have long-term contracts.
With so few quality middle infielders available this offseason, it would behoove the front office to shop one of these controllable talents and use the return to address another area of the roster. Per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, they were both generating trade interest.
The D-Backs have not so quietly been in pursuit of a frontline starting pitcher. At the winter meetings, the club decided that Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka was its "No. 1 target," tweeted Rosenthal. Now that he's officially been posted, per Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, there's an opportunity to significantly strengthen the rotation without losing Owings.
Then again, the majority of MLB teams could get involved in the bidding, several of which could be more motivated to splurge on Tanaka. Moreover, none of the domestic free agents would inspire much confidence as rotation leaders.
So if general manager Kevin Towers is still committed to elevating Arizona into immediate championship contention, then he could approach the Philadelphia Phillies (Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee) or Chicago White Sox (Chris Sale) with Owings-centric trade packages.
1. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
A couple months into the 2013 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers had a difficult decision to make.
With superstar outfielder Matt Kemp headed to the disabled list, they were weighing whether to recall Yasiel Puig or Joc Pederson from Double-A, wrote Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. Both had been producing at a high level and received serious consideration.
They went with the former, of course, and don't regret it one bit.
Put general manager Ned Colletti on truth serum, and he would admit that the team wants to trade Matt Kemp, saving tens of millions of dollars in future payroll obligations. Such a move would also open the door for Pederson to ascend to the active roster next year, either as an injury replacement or late-season call-up.
But according to Dave Stewart, Kemp's agent, that scenario is currently off the table (h/t Jayson Stark, ESPN). Apparently, potential trade partners hold Kemp in low regard coming off a miserable campaign, which means he'll stay in L.A. until given the chance to restore his trade value with All-Star-caliber production in 2014.
With that said, the Dodgers aren't necessarily patient enough to wait for his bounce-back. Former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price is available now, and Ken Rosenthal tweets that Pederson's inclusion in a trade package could motivate the Tampa Bay Rays to move their ace.
Last summer, as one of the Southern League's youngest players, Pederson amassed a league-best 22 home runs while ranking among the top 10 in both on-base and slugging percentage.
Ely is a national MLB Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a sportscaster for 90.5 WVUM in Miami. He wants to make sweet, social love with all of you on Twitter.