While there have been plenty of MLB trade rumors this offseason involving top prospects Archie Bradley and Taijuan Walker, there's just one big problem: Neither pitcher is actually available.
Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers expressed to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com that "it would be very, very tough" to part with Bradley. Meanwhile, Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik explained to Greg Johns of MLB.com that the club has no "intentions" of dealing Walker.
Those decisions make perfect sense considering the tremendous upside that each of those pitchers possesses. The following list consists of a few top prospects who will be slightly easier to obtain than Bradley and Walker, but who will still be incredibly difficult to pry away from their respective clubs.
2013 Stats: 10-10, 3.22 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.3 K/9
Originally selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers as the 28th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Zach Lee spent the 2013 season with the club's Double-A affiliate.
While pitching for the Chattanooga Lookouts, the tall right-hander made 25 starts (plus three relief appearances) and posted a 3.22 ERA with an impressive 8.3 K/9 ratio. Due to that performance, Lee lands in the No.4 spot on the Dodgers' top-10 prospects list, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Badler also describes Lee as boasting the "best changeup" in the Dodgers' loaded farm system.
However, as Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com observes, Lee projects as a "middle of a rotation" starter as he lacks a "true plus out pitch." Of course, based on the lucrative contracts that middle-of-the-rotation pitchers like Ricky Nolasco and Jason Vargas have received, Lee could still develop into a highly valuable player.
It's likely for that reason that Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM recently remarked that a combination of Lee and outfielder Joc Pederson could be enough to snatch David Price away from the Tampa Bay Rays (via Ray Guilfoyle of SB Nation).
ETA: Late 2014
2013 Stats: 10-7, 3.41 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.8 K/9
Eduardo Rodriguez enjoyed a stellar campaign in 2013 as the Baltimore Orioles prospect finished his age-20 season in Double-A after earning a midseason promotion.
In 11 starts for the Bowie Baysox, Rodriguez went 4-3 with a 4.22 ERA while striking out 59 batters in 59.1 innings of work. While his stuff is impressive, Bernie Pleskoff of MLB.com explains that Rodriguez also possess all the intangibles:
...Rodriguez shows amazing poise and self-confidence on the mound. He has the type of mound demeanor that can carry him through the best of times and some difficult hiccups, should they arise. He doesn't get rattled.
That combination of talent and attitude attracted the interest of the New York Mets, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. The Orioles were not tempted by a potential swap for Ike Davis, though, as Puma tweets.
The Orioles will need to receive a far more lucrative offer if they have any intention of parting with a pitcher who could crack the starting rotation this summer as a 21-year-old.
ETA: Late 2014
- Triple-A: .330/.359/.482, 31 doubles, 12 home runs, 20 stolen bases
- MLB: .291/.361/.382, 5 doubles, 2 stolen bases
For now, the plan appears to be for Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings to contend for the Diamondbacks' shortstop job in spring training. Of course, that's assuming neither infielder gets traded before then, as Steve Gilbert of MLB.com points out.
Coming off a strong Triple-A campaign in 2013, Owings makes for a particularly compelling trade chip. As demonstrated in the video above, Owings is a smooth defender. Plus, he can also swing the bat.
Last year in the admittedly hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Owings posted a .841 OPS. Still, the shortstop would benefit from a more disciplined approach at the plate as he tallied just 22 walks in 575 plate appearances last year.
ETA: Early 2014
2013 Stats: .322/.443/.471, 33 doubles, 7 home runs, 23 stolen bases
The Boston Red Sox have big decisions to make regarding the future of the club's left side of the infield.
Will Middlebooks and Xander Bogaerts are already on the roster. There's still the potential that Stephen Drew could re-sign with the club, and then there's minor leaguer Garin Cecchini. The Red Sox drafted the third baseman in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB draft. Last year, Cecchini put up a .917 OPS with a remarkable .443 OBP while splitting time between Single-A and Double-A.
The impressive showing prompted the Miami Marlins to check in on the availability of the third baseman earlier in the offseason, according to Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. Gammons reports that Boston has "no interest" in a deal.
That's exactly the response that would be expected of Boston. If Middlebrooks bounces back in 2014, though, the club's stance on Cecchini could easily change.
ETA: Late 2014
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