MLB Teams with the Most Assets Left to Trade This Winter
Most MLB teams will enter spring training next month with at least a few question marks that need to be answered. Other question marks could present themselves during camp because of an injury or a player not performing up to expectations.
In any case, some teams are in much better shape than others when it becomes necessary to acquire major league talent with so little time before the start of the season.
Entering a 162-game season with as much depth as possible and a strong farm system in place is important, but here are five teams that could probably afford to roll the dice and trade for a major league player without sacrificing those essential elements of the organization.
Two of the team's major offseason targets, Matt Garza and Masahiro Tanaka, are off the board, leaving the Arizona Diamondbacks with only a few more front-line starter options on the free-agent market.
Should free agents Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez or A.J. Burnett sign elsewhere or just not fit for whatever reason, the D-Backs have plenty of valuable chips if they want to acquire a starting pitcher via trade.
While it would be difficult to pry away top pitching prospect Archie Bradley, he's good enough to headline a trade for Rays pitcher David Price, who still has two years left of club control. It probably won't happen, but the D-Backs are one of the few teams that could probably pull it off.
Other top-of-the-rotation starters who could be made available, including Homer Bailey, Justin Masterson and Max Scherzer, would also be costly, but the inclusion of Bradley probably wouldn't be a requirement.
One of the team's two very good young shortstops, Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings (pictured), could be a major part of a deal to acquire a one-year rental, along with one of three very good low-level pitching prospects—Aaron Blair, Jose Martinez and Braden Shipley.
Two minor league relievers, Jake Barrett and Matt Stites, could also be showcased as potential closers who are close to being big league-ready.
The presence of Bradley and the young relievers also gives the D-Backs the ability to shop a big league pitcher. Signing one of the remaining free-agent starters would further bolster the rotation picture, giving the team even more ammunition for the trade market.
Boston Red Sox
No team in baseball has more pitching depth than the Boston Red Sox, who currently have six good-to-very-good big league starting pitchers on their roster and several high-profile pitching prospects in the upper minors, including Allen Webster (pictured), Matt Barnes, Henry Owens and Anthony Ranaudo.
The Sox's position-player depth shouldn't be overshadowed, though, with Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. expected to handle shortstop and center field duties, respectively, in 2014 and a few other prospects who aren't too far behind.
Should Stephen Drew end up returning on a multi-year deal as the starting shortstop, the team would then hold a potential major trade piece in third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
If the Tampa Bay Rays were willing to deal David Price to a division rival, which is highly unlikely, the Sox might be in the best position to do it. As things stand, they're likely to hold on to their prospect depth and only use it as trade bait if the right superstar player becomes available.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Until the Los Angeles Dodgers know that center fielder Matt Kemp is back to full health after offseason ankle and shoulder surgeries, they'll likely hold on to Andre Ethier. At some point, however, they are very likely to have four very good outfielders, with Ethier holding the short end of the stick when it comes to playing time.
Whether they trade Ethier or not, the presence of Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford in the Dodgers outfield makes it hard to see prospect Joc Pederson (pictured) getting much of a chance to play in the near future.
The 21-year-old outfielder, who posted an .878 OPS with 22 homers and 31 stolen bases in Double-A last season, will likely start the season in Triple-A, but his role in the Dodgers' future success could come as a valuable trade chip to help acquire an impact player.
In addition to Pederson, shortstop prospect Corey Seager would be highly coveted on the trade market, as would pitching prospects Julio Urias, Zach Lee and Chris Anderson.
Since the Dodgers showed interest in Masahiro Tanaka, I wouldn't count them out on a trade for a front-line starter prior to the start of the season. They have the resources to make it happen, both financially and in trade pieces.
St. Louis Cardinals
Once again, the St. Louis Cardinals are stacked with young talent heading into the offseason and will be hard-pressed to find playing time for every deserving regular.
Jon Jay (pictured) appears to have lost his center field job to Peter Bourjos, while top prospect Oscar Taveras could keep first baseman Matt Adams from his first crack at regular playing time. If the 21-year-old Taveras, who missed most of 2013 after ankle surgery, comes back strong and impresses in spring training, he could win the starting right field job, and Allen Craig would become the starting first baseman.
Adams and Jay will be valuable players on the Cardinals' bench but could be more valuable to another ballclub looking to make them everyday players. Right fielder Stephen Piscotty is also on the fast track and could push for playing time late in the 2014 season.
The pitching staff is also quite crowded, with 15-game winner Lance Lynn not guaranteed a rotation spot with the emergence of youngsters Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller and the expected return of Jaime Garcia.
Carlos Martinez could be the next young star to crack the rotation, although he could be more valuable out of the bullpen in 2013.
Tampa Bay Rays
It's hard to see the Tampa Bay Rays trading staff ace David Price and returning to the playoffs for the fifth time in seven seasons. But the fact that he hasn't been traded could have more to do with the Rays not getting what they feel is a fair return as opposed to their ability to replace his production.
With Alex Colome, Enny Romero (pictured) and Jake Odorizzi waiting in the wings at Triple-A, the Rays could be more prepared than any team in baseball to replace their No. 1 starter.
Trading Price would only add to their crop of impressive prospects, which also includes shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, who was off to a 19-for-45 start in Triple-A before a knee injury ended his 2013 season. If the team plans on sticking with Yunel Escobar, Lee could become a valuable trade chip once he proves he's back to full health.