Top Potential Suitors, Trade Packages for Didi Gregorius or Chris Owings
The Arizona Diamondbacks don't necessarily have to trade either one of their two young shortstops currently battling for the starting job.
Both Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings, the two talented players involved in the aforementioned battle, have minor league options and could be sent to Triple-A to start the season. They might even benefit from the experience.
And for a playoff hopeful like the D'backs, it could be extremely valuable to have a strong option waiting in the wings in case the big league starter struggles or gets injured.
But young and controllable big league-ready shortstops like Gregorius and Owings, who have the potential to be very good offensively and defensively, are at a premium around the league and it's rare that an organization has the shortstop depth to even consider trading one.
This is why the D'backs, who have several good shortstop prospects throughout their farm system, could be open to moving one now, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic recently pointed out.
While Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers acknowledged that trade talks have been limited due to Stephen Drew's presence on the free-agent market, he would trade one of his shortstops in the "right deal" and mentioned a "top-notch catching prospect" and upper level pitching as potential returns.
Here are four teams that might target either Gregorius or Owings in a deal this spring and the trade packages it could take to get a deal done.
Through 715 big league plate appearances, Miami Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria has a .580 OPS, five homers, 34 walks and 128 strikeouts. While the Marlins think the 24-year-old can be a Gold Glove award winner, the reality is that he might not ever hit enough to warrant regular at-bats.
On the rebuilding 2014 team, it's worth throwing him out there everyday to see if he can make progress at the plate. But if they feel confident that Gregorius or Owings is a much better all-around option now and in the future, it could be worth exploring a deal.
With Jarrod Saltalamacchia signed through 2016, young catchers Rob Brantly and Jacob Realmuto (pictured), who are likely to start in Triple-A and Double-A, respectively, appear to have limited opportunities in Miami.
Pairing the 22-year-old Realmuto, who was chosen by Baseball America as the best athlete and best defensive catcher in the organization, with lefty Justin Nicolino, ranked as the team's seventh-best prospect by Baseball Prospectus, could be enough to land Gregorius, who posted a .704 OPS with seven homers in 103 games as a rookie in 2013.
The Marlins' projected lineup with Gregorius would look something like this:
1 Rafael Furcal, 2B
2 Christian Yelich, LF
3 Giancarlo Stanton, RF
4 Garrett Jones/Jeff Baker, 1B
5 Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
6 Marcell Ozuna, CF
7 Casey McGehee, 3B
8 Didi Gregorius, SS
Pedro Florimon Jr. hit nine homers and stole 15 bases while showing off tremendous range on defense in his 133 games at shortstop for the Minnesota Twins last season. Was it enough to completely ignore his brutal .280 on-base percentage and 115 strikeouts? Probably not.
And that's why the Twins can't be ruled out as a potential trade partner for Gregorius and Owings. And their deep and talented farm system, ranked No. 1 in baseball by Baseball Prospectus, more than likely has the player(s) to get a deal done without taking too much of a hit.
It would be tough for a team with one of, if not the worst starting rotations in baseball to give up its top pitching prospect, but it may be Minnesota's only chance to land a starting shortstop with Owings' array of tools.
Right-hander Alex Meyer (pictured), the 32nd-ranked prospect in baseball by Baseball Prosepctus, in a straight-up deal for Owings, who Baseball Prospectus ranked four spots higher at 28, would be one of the rare top prospect-for-top prospect deals. But it could be a major win for each side.
The Twins could have one of the better all-around middle infield combinations in the game within two-to-three years—second baseman Brian Dozier had a .726 OPS with 18 homers and 14 stolen bases in 2013—while the D'backs would have two front-line young starters in Archie Bradley and Meyer to lead their rotation in 2015 and beyond.
The Twins' projected lineup with Owings would look something like this:
1 Alex Presley/Aaron Hicks, CF
2 Brian Dozier, 2B
3 Joe Mauer, 1B
4 Josh Willingham, LF
5 Oswaldo Arcia, RF
6 Trevor Plouffe, 3B
7 Jason Kubel, DH
8 Chris Owings, SS
9 Kurt Suzuki/Josmil Pinto, C
New York Mets
Thus far, the price hasn't been right in the New York Mets' pursuit of free agent Stephen Drew. As a result, they're prepared to go into the 2014 season with Ruben Tejada as their starting shortstop.
But if they really were satisfied with Tejada, who has a career .642 OPS and two homers in 345 big league games, as their long-term answer at the position, they likely wouldn't be pursuing Drew to any degree.
Finding a young and controllable option could be more to general manager Sandy Alderson's liking, which is why it wouldn't be a surprise if they had interest in Gregorius or Owings.
While Marc Carig of Newsday reported that the Mets don't seem to be a fit because of the D'backs' willingness to acquire a young catcher, they could have the upper level pitching prospect that it would require.
Rafael Montero (pictured), who profiles as a No. 3 starter in the majors, might not be enough to land the 22-year-old Owings, who had an .841 OPS with 12 homers and 20 stolen bases in Triple-A last season. Straight-up for the 24-year-old Gregorius, who had a .789 OPS against right-handed pitching in 2013, could make sense, though.
Here's what the projected Mets' lineup would look like with Gregorius:
1 Eric Young Jr., LF
2 Daniel Murphy, 2B
3 David Wright, 3B
4 Curtis Granderson, RF
5 Ike Davis, 1B
6 Chris Young, CF
7 Travis d'Arnaud, C
8 Didi Gregorius, SS
New York Yankees
Finding a successor for future Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter, who will retire at season's end, doesn't necessarily need to start until next offseason. The potential list of free-agent shortstops, which could include Hanley Ramirez, Jed Lowrie and J.J. Hardy, is impressive.
The team's immediate need, however, which is finding infield depth behind the 39-year-old Jeter, who is returning from ankle surgery, the oft-injured Brian Roberts at second base and a bevy of unproven third base candidates, including utilityman Kelly Johnson, could lead them to finding their shortstop for 2015 and beyond.
With Brian McCann expected to be the Yankees' catcher for at least the next several seasons after signing an $85 million free-agent deal this offseason, they could be willing to part with their top prospect, Gary Sanchez (pictured), who is likely to start the season in Double-A and could be ready to contribute at the major league level by 2015.
The 85th-ranked prospect in the game, according to Baseball Prospectus, Sanchez might not be enough to land Owings, who is ranked 28th. But including Rafael De Paula, a 22-year-old pitching prospect who struck out 96 batters while posting a 2.94 ERA in 64.1 High-A innings last season, could sweeten the pot just enough.
With Owings in the fold, the Yankees would have a solid backup plan in place for Roberts at second base and Jeter at shortstop in 2014. Also, he'd already have a good sense of what it's like to play in New York by the time he takes over for a legend in 2015.
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