MLB Teams Still Stacked with Assets for 2016 Spring, In-Season Trades
No more big checks need to be signed. Negotiations have concluded. Though it may murmur quietly in the early stages of spring training, free agency is essentially over.
But that doesn’t mean that teams are done adding to their rosters. It only means it won’t be as simple as writing a check.
Now if a team wants to add, it will need a trade partner—and the assets to shop.
To identify those teams, they must be among the contenders. Any club in a rebuild will be looking to accumulate assets (translation: prospects) and not trade them away.
Instead, teams eyeing a World Series in 2016 might be willing to part with young, talented prospects to bolster their chances. We know the majority of the transactions come closer to the trade deadline, but the negotiations start now.
Teams will make calls, trying to determine which clubs are willing to trade which players. The marketplace has its constant ebb and flow. And regardless of the level of competition in the marketplace, whichever team holds the most assets is at an advantage.
Who might those teams be? You’ll have to wait for the season to progress. Or you can just read on.
The rebuild is over in Chicago. The Cubs are now contenders and should have a firm grasp on their shopping cart.
They had baseball’s best offseason with the signings of outfielder Jason Heyward, second baseman Ben Zobrist and pitcher John Lackey and the surprising re-signing of Dexter Fowler on Thursday.
But I doubt this team is done adding. Really, no contending team ever stops trying until after the waiver deadline.
The Cubs still have a strong group of prospects in their minor league system and are particularly loaded on position players. But they might have the luxury of holding on to their prized youngsters with the ability to trade major league talent.
Offseason additions have crowded the middle infield and outfield for the Cubs, relegating once-prized prospects Jorge Soler and Javier Baez to backup roles. At least, that’s how it appears at this point.
Am I saying that both players aren’t as highly regarded anymore?
No, plenty of teams still value their potential. But shortstop Gleyber Torres, arguably the organization’s best fielding middle infielder, is still in the minors. His eventual promotion only makes Baez’s future as a starter with Chicago less likely.
The same goes for Soler, who could find a starting spot next season if Fowler opts out of his deal but will also find more competition as other outfield prospects make their way to the major leagues.
Chicago needs to consider the futures of both players, as the Cubs are certain to get interest from teams in acquiring them and may be in need of more pitching after the season begins.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers trading prospects would be like Warren Buffet selling a company. Los Angeles wouldn’t even notice it.
Baseball America ranked the Dodgers’ minor league system as baseball’s best. They are loaded with prospects who are expected to be promoted over the next two seasons and have a huge television deal that essentially puts no restriction on what they can spend.
Overall, they may be baseball’s best-positioned team, including this season when they are the favorites to win the National League West.
Might they be willing to part with someone such as right-handed pitcher Grant Holmes, knowing they have a cache of other live arms? The Dodgers could easily improve this year’s squad without damaging a promising future.
The Dodgers have the assets to chase any player they would like, assuming that player is up for sale. Any team entering a bidding war with the Dodgers should be concerned because Los Angeles can outbid everyone.
New York Yankees
The Yankees may have a middling group of prospects, yet they may have the most intriguing one when it comes to a potential trade.
Shortstop Jorge Mateo, 20, made his United States debut last season and immediately garnered interest from teams. He figures to potentially be a career shortstop and is the Yankees’ best middle infield prospect.
The Yankees achieved their goal of getting younger up the middle by trading for Starlin Castro (25). They have Didi Gregorius, 26, playing shortstop, which could give reason to trade Mateo.
Would it be a wise move? No.
But expect Mateo’s name to come up in trade rumors this season. He played in only 15 games last season before breaking his left wrist. But that small sample size was enough to leave teams salivating over his speed.
Mammoth outfielder Aaron Judge (6'7") is the Yankees’ best prospect and is expected to join the big club this season. He should be untouchable, which makes Mateo the more likely candidate to be moved.
If the Yankees feel that trading Mateo for veteran help could lead to a World Series, they wouldn’t hesitate to make a deal.
Boston Red Sox
Yoan Moncada and Rafael Devers are untouchable. But the Red Sox have a top-rated system with other intriguing prospects.
Pitcher Brian Johnson has done well at the lower levels but doesn’t throw particularly hard. Yes, he’s their best pitching prospect, but that could easily change with a bad injury.
Teams are less likely to part with position players these days, valuing the team control over a young player. But with pitchers being so fragile, there may be a willingness to trade Johnson.
The Cubs, for example, appear to have the strategy of using homegrown position players and signing established free-agent pitchers. The Red Sox may do the same. And they have the big-market money to add big arms as they did with David Price this offseason.
Should the ability to spend in free agency in the future spur teams to part with young players? Possibly. It certainly allows those teams, particularly those in big markets, more flexibility in making deals that involve prospects.
Texas, right now, is the leading candidate to make the first big trade of the year.
With outfielder Josh Hamilton expected to miss at least the first month of the season, there’s moderate panic in Rangers camp. No contingency plan is in place, and with the American League West expected to be more competitive this season, Texas can’t afford to limp through the opening month of the season.
Luckily, the Rangers have an upper-echelon system.
While most teams' systems are more like a department store—they have a little bit of everything—the Rangers are more like a boutique that is heavy on one product.
Texas has prospects with power.
While it might be difficult to part with young talent in a division that includes a young, competitive Houston Astros team, trading a prospect may be the answer to the Hamilton problem. It may also net the Rangers a long-term fix if he continues to struggle with injuries.
New York Mets
Do they really need two?
Cecchini is expected to play in the majors this season. Rosario, 20, isn’t due until 2018 and could be attractive to a team in the midst a rebuild. Parting with a position player like Rosario would obviously be difficult because he could develop into a top prospect.
But if the Mets feel that Cecchini will eventually be their everyday shortstop, trading Rosario for a player who could help this season might be the prudent move. In order to be competitive in the trade market, the Mets may need to show a willingness to part with the youngster.