"It's the most wonderful time of the year!"
It's not the most original statement, but for baseball fans, especially those of middle-of-the-road teams, there are few times of the year that hold as much excitement as the months leading up to spring training.
Hope is alive (even for my Orioles) and everyone is on (somewhat) even footing. Teams like the Padres and Royals have the ability to become headline news-makers, even if it's just for a day, and teams like the Brewers and Blue Jays can give the Yankees and Red Sox a run for their money in terms of "offseason rankings."
It's the time of the year when you're favorite team is just one or two trades away from contending, or rebuilding.
It's already been a busy season, with high-profile players like Mark Reynolds, Adrian Gonzalez and Dan Uggla already traded and settling into new homes, and for all we know, that's just the beginning. Kansas City's Zack Greinke, Minnesota's Francisco Liriano and Milwaukee's Prince Fielder all could be on the road fairly soon.
So, without further ado, let's examine what exactly it is that each team should be looking for, who's left in terms of "tradeable" talent and check out what kind of prospect chips each team has to play with.
Starting with the American League.
First Baseman, Starting Pitching, Relief Pitching
1) Prince Fielder- The Orioles are in dire need of an offensive first baseman. Mark Teixeira could have plugged the hole a few years ago, but he knew that signing with the Yankees would give him the best chance to win a World Series. And bingo, he did! The O's are clearly never going to be able to sway a big free-agent bat, so it looks like they're going to have to trade for one. They have some pieces that would interest any organization, especially the Brewers. If both sides wanted, this deal could get done in a heart-beat.
2) James Loney- If the O's can't bring in Fielder, the next best option would probably be Loney. The Dodgers have shown that they would be willing to part with him, and the O's need some help at the position. He's been excellent in stretches that he hasn't been hurt, and could probably be locked down to an extension easier than Fielder.
3) Mark Buehrle- The O's have a very young rotation. And while they had Kevin Millwood last year to eat innings, this year they just have Jeremy Guthrie. They could use a strong veteran presence, especially if their still in contention in a packed AL East come June and July. I doubt Buehrle would have as much interest in coming to Baltimore as the White Sox would have in bringing some of the O's best prospects to Baltimore.
Prospect Trade Bait
1) Chris Tillman, RHP- Tillman was supposed to be the best of the O's young pitchers. Over the past two years, though, he's been surpassed by Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and possibly even Zach Britton. Should he fail to win the fifth starter's job this spring training, he could be an interesting piece. He could headline a package deal for Fielder or Loney, or just about anyone else.
2) Ryan Berry, RHP- Berry was touted as a first-round pick coming out of Rice in 2009. But he experienced some control and velocity problems and the O's were lucky enough to snag him in the ninth-round. Since signing, he has pitched as a starter and reliever and has done well at both. He has a ceiling as a middle-of-the-rotation starter and could be a nice add-on to a package.
3) Brandon Cooney, RHP- Cooney is the Orioles closer of the future. He's big, throws hard, and has had success every chance he's had to close. He had ten saves with short-season Aberdeen in 2008, and notched 22 saves between Delmarva and Frederick in 2009. Should the O's fail in their attempts to bring in a seasoned young veteran to close in the next two years, Cooney could be an intriguing option for teams.
4) Ryan Adams, 2B/3B- Adams had an outstanding season in 2010. He ranked near the top of the minor leagues in doubles, and hit .298. He also hit 15 homers and drove in 68 runs. And he posted the best fielding percentage of his career. He could have a future in Baltimore if he cuts down on his strikeouts and keeps improving his fielding. Or he could have a future elsewhere.
5) Brandon Waring, 3B/1B- Waring has as much, if not more, power than anyone in the organization. He also strikes out at a Mark Reynolds-ian pace and set a career-low with his .242 average last season. Still, he hit 22 homers, and will most likely bash at Triple-A next season, leaving the O's with a dilemma. Keep him, and maybe move him to first-base, or trade him?
Relief Pitching, Catcher
1) Joe Blanton- Blanton has become expendable in Philly since the Cliff Lee signing, and word on the street is that the Sox and Phillies have had some talks about the big guy.
2) Ryan Doumit- Doumit has been great in Pittsburgh whenever he's been healthy. But with Tony Sanchez rising through the ranks, and playing Major League caliber defense right now, he's not going to be around long. The Pirates have already reportedly begun shopping him around, and one team you would have to think would be interested is the Red Sox. They have a amalgam of backstops right now, but no clear number one guy. Doumit could be that, and would probably shine given regular playing time on a contender for the first time in his career.
3) Matt Lindstrom- Lindstrom is also on the market apparently. The Astros could probably get a pretty good haul for him, but the Red Sox might have the most appealing pieces. Lindstrom could either give the Sox another insurance policy for Jonathan Papelbon, or could lock down a late-inning role, something the Sox have been seeking.
4) Heath Bell- If the Sox really jump off the Papel-wagon, they could set their sights on Bell. He has been outstanding the past two years for San Diego, and will probably be in a price-range that will out-pace the Padres ability to spend.
5) Mark Buehrle- If the Sox are able to move Dice-K, possibly out west, they could stand to add another veteran arm. Buehrle would probably love to get a serious chance at a pennant, and I'm sure wouldn't mind the move. And the Sox have some desirable pieces.
Prospect Trade Bait
1) Lars Anderson, 1B- Anderson has basically been rendered moot with the trade for Adrian Gonzalez. At one time he was the first-baseman of the future in Boston, a similar hitter to Kevin Youkilis. But somewhere along his path, he lost his ability to hit for average, and then for power. He regained his stroke last season, and with Anthony Rizzo's name floating around the trade rumor mill, it looked like Anderson might finally get his shot. And the Gonzalez happened. With Casey Kelly gone, he is basically the Sox biggest bargaining chip.
2) Felix Doubront, LHP- Doubront is another in a long line of pitchers who will most likely never get a shot in Boston, and like most of the others, he could find himself on his way to somewhere else, as a part of a package to bring another big name to Beantown. He pitched well in 12-games for the Sox, as both a starter and reliever, which should give him more flexibility when Theo Epstein inevitably starts shopping him.
3) Michael Bowden, RHP- Bowden has the same story as Doubront. A former first-round pick, he has had numerous cups of coffee in Boston, but has yet to stick. He's made over 60 appearances at the Sox Triple-A affiliate, so he could end up elsewhere if he can't find a permanent home somewhere in Boston's rotation or bullpen.
4) Che-Hsuan Lin, OF- With Reymond Fuentes in San Diego, Lin represents the Sox best all-around outfielder. He has gap power, great speed and excellent plate discipline, the best in the system. It's been hard to young outfield prospects to stick in Boston, so Lin could be another in a long line, especially with the Carl Crawford signing.
5) Will Middlebrooks, 3B- Middlebrooks had arguably the best season of any Boston minor leaguer last year. He still struck out 121 times and hit only .276, but he showed excellent balance, hitting 12 homers, driving in 70 runs, and scoring 69 of his own. With both first- and third-base filled for years to come, Middlebrooks might have to find another organization to find relevance.
Catcher, Relief Pitching, Starting Pitching
1) Zack Greinke- If any team could get Greinke, it's the Yankees. Especially now that they've missed out on Cliff Lee. I've read the reports that say he's not going to New York but they're the Yankees. If they want him, they'll get him, even if it means they give up way too much, which would make a ridiculously deep K.C. farm system even better.
2) Francisco Liriano- If, somehow, the Yankees miss out on Greinke, then the team might turn to Minnesota's Liriano. The Twins would most certainly trade him to a playoff rival, because they know they could get some premium talent in return.
Prospect Trade Bait
1) Jesus Montero, C- Montero is arguably the best hitting prospect in the minor leagues. But he won't be there for much longer. He showed he can dominate Double-A, and warmed up to Triple-A pitching near the end of last season. He should be in New York sooner than later. Still, these are the Yankees. They've made it known, especially last season during the Cliff Lee trade talks that Montero is very much on the table. He could be the centerpiece of deals for Greinke, Liriano, or heck, even Carlos Beltran.
2) Hector Noesi, RHP- Noesi had a brilliant season for the Yankees, pitching his way through three levels all the way to Triple-A, and emerging as a top prospect in the process. Let's be honest though, there is no security less secure than as a top minor league pitcher for the Yankees. Noesi should be in line for a crack at the big league rotation as early as spring training, but honestly, where will the Yankees find room for him?
3) Brandon Laird, 3B/OF- Laird established himself as a legit prospect this season too. Primarily playing third-base, Laird crushed 25 homers and drove in 102 runs. He also hit for a solid average (.281). Laird had always been a middle-tier prospect, but his demolition of Double-A pitching took his stock to a whole new level. But again, where will he play? There has been talks of a move to the outfield, but in New York it's hard to give any spot to an untested rookie.
4) Andrew Brackman, RHP- A former first-round pick, Brackman has had one heck of an up-and-down career so far. He was arguably the most disappointing pitcher of the 2009 season (2-12. 5.91 ERA, 76 walks in 106.2 IP) and somehow, one of the most surprising of 2010 (10-11, 3.90 ERA, 126:39 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 140.2 IP). He has a big time arm, and a bright future, but the same thing was said about fellow big guy Joba Chamberlain.
5) Eduardo Nunez, SS/3B- Nunez has had a steady climb through the ranks, culminating in a 2010 season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, in which he hit .289 with four homers, 50 RBI, 55 runs and 23 steals in 118 games. Nunez's future took a hit when the Yankees re-signed Derek Jeter to a new three-year deal. By the time that contract runs out Nunez will be 26 and in his ninth year of pro ball. His stock is pretty high right now, so the Yanks might be wise to include him on a deal for someone who can help them at a position that ISN'T currently occupied by a future Hall of Famer.
First Base, Catcher, Outfield
1) Nolan Reimold- The Rays have reportedly been high on Reimold, and when he's healthy, what's not to like? He has tremendous power, can hit for average and has a little speed on the bases. He hasn't been completely healthy in more than a year, and spent all of last season dealing with a sore achilles, which affected his speed and power. He's still a young guy, and could fill a corner spot for the Rays quite nicely.
2) Justin Upton- The Rays are one of the few squads that actually have the pieces it would take to hash out a deal for B.J.'s brother. Adding Justin would not only give the Rays more speed and more power, but it would also give them an outfield comprised of three natural center-fielders. Think of the space they could cover.
Prospect Trade Bait
1) Jake McGee, LHP- McGee and Wade Davis were supposed to be on the same timetable, and were supposed to lock down the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in the Rays rotation for the next five years, and while Davis has arrived, McGee has taken a bit longer due to some arm troubles. He's fully healthy and appears to be on a different road to the big leagues, via the bullpen. Some see McGee as the Rays closer of the future thanks to his plus stuff and bulldog mentality on the mound. He could fetch a pretty penny on the trade market.
2) Alex Torres, LHP- The Rays have about as much left-handed pitching depth as any team in the minors. Torres is just another solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. Last season for Double-A Montgomery, Torres went 11-6 with a 3.47 ERA and an eye-popping 150 strikeouts in 142.2 innings. He has been just as impressive every other season, posting high win totals and low ERAs. His one issue is with walks. He issued 70 of them last season, and 85 the year before. Still, with an arm like his, he could be a major prize to someone looking to deal with the Rays.
3) Jeff Malm, 1B- Malm is better known for his high-school days in which he mashed his way to home run records and multiple state titles. These days, he's just your average run-of-the-mill Rays prospect in the lower levels of the minors. His performance to date hasn't been that all impressive, but you know he's got some plus-plus raw power in his bat, and if any team can bring it out, it's the Rays
4) Matt Gorgen, RHP- Gorgen has quietly developed into possibly the finest minor league relief prospect. He has yet to post an ERA over 2.00 in his three pro seasons, has held batters to an average under .200 for three consecutive seasons, and for his career has more strikeouts than innings pitched. This past season, he posted a 1.65 ERA with 22 saves, and 47 strikeouts in 49 innings for the Rays Double-A squad. He too, would make a great add-on for a big name bat.
5) Alex Colome, RHP- Colome is a relatively scrawny guy, but don't let that fool you. He throws some serious cheese. Colome struck out 126 batters in 118 innings this past season, completing an amazing turnaround from his first two seasons in which he compiled a 1-11 record and an ERA over 5.00. Since then, he's posted a 13-10 record and a 3.01 ERA.
Outfielder, Second Base, Relief Pitching, Starting Pitching
1) Zack Greinke- Strangely enough, the one team that has the best shot at making a deal for Greinke is the Blue Jays. With their recent acquisition of Brett Lawrie, they could take a swing at the All-Star righty, and offer quite the package to the team with the deepest farm system in recent memory.
Prospect Trade Bait
1) Brett Lawrie, 2B/OF- Lawrie just came over from Milwaukee in the Shaun Marcum deal. Some see this move as a pre-cursor to trading for Greinke. Either way, Lawrie is an exceptional bargaining chip. The Royals are stacked everywhere except for up the middle (2B, OF). Lawrie could be a potential filler for either position. His bat is special.
2) J.P. Arencibia, C- The Jays are the most stacked team in baseball when it comes to prospects behind the dish. They have Travis d'Arnaud, Carlos Perez, and Arencibia, who made his debut last season, swatting three homers in his first game. He may have the most upside offensively of the bunch, but his defensive skills leave much to be desired.
3) David Cooper, 1B- Cooper was supposed to make the jump to the big leagues quick. And while he didn't make the jump as fast as Ike Davis, he's still right on schedule. He hasn't developed his hit-for-average tool, but he has been hitting for plenty of power (20 HR in 2010). In fact, he's doubled his HR production each season, from five in 2008, to ten in 2009, to last year's 20, which came with 78 RBI, and an impressive walk-to-strikeout ratio. Cooper could be a Davis-like player for the Jays, or any other team looking to steal away some talent.
4) Jake Marisnick, OF- Marisnick is another interesting case, and would almost certainly be a part of any deal for Greinke. He is the best athlete in the Jays system, and has drawn comps to Torii Hunter. He's a good hitter and has solid power, but so far his best tool has been his speed. He is a guy to keep an eye on in 2010, regardless of what organization he's playing in.
Relief Pitching, Second Base, Catcher
1) Tyler Clippard- Clippard was amazing last season for the Nationals, especially early in the season. He won 11 games, struck out 112 batters in 91 innings and posted a 1.21 WHIP. The White Sox have been seeking some late-inning relief ever since closer Bobby Jenks left town. The White Sox had one of the best bullpens in the Majors last season, and if Chris Sale remains in the pen, they should still be quite good, but if they move him back into a rotation, they could use some help.
2) Jake McGee- McGee is another interesting option. Like Sale, he has primarily been a starter, and similarly, he might end up in a bullpen long-term. If the Rays have any desire to move him, the Sox could probably get him for a good price.
3) Eddie Kunz- Kunz is another young bullpen piece that the Sox should have their eye on. He had a disastrous 2010 season, but showed some promise, especially as a reliever. He throws hard and is a very big guy, similar to Jenks. He could be a back of the bullpen guy for years to come.
Prospect Trade Bait
1) Anthony Carter, RHP- Carter has been one of the White Sox top arms for a few years now. He hasn't ever been that amazing, but he's still put together solid campaigns wherever he's been. He worked his way up to Double-A last season, pitching primarily as a reliever for the first time, and the experiment worked well. He saved 22 games, and posted a career-low 3.92 ERA. He could make an intriguing piece for any team looking for a middle-of-the-rotation arm, or a bullpen piece.
2) Josh Phegley, C- The Sox are currently flush with catchers. Behind the recently signed A.J. Pierzynski, they have their backstop of the future Tyler Flowers. And behind Flowers they have Phegley, a solid defensive catcher taken in the first-round back in 2009. He made some progress with the bat last season and finished the year on a tear (.318 in Sept.). Like Flowers, Phegley is knocking on the door, but has no place to go. He could find his opportunity elsewhere.
3) Lucas Harrell, RHP- Harrell is another interesting arm who appears to be blocked at the big-league level. He's spent the last year and half at Triple-A, where he's posted solid, but not eye-popping numbers. He has some control issues and he gives up a ton of hits, but he could be a solid back-end guy in a rotation.
Outfield, Third Base, Second Base, Starting Pitching, Relief Pitching
1) Raul Ibanez- The Indians don't have a lot of pop in their lineup, and the Phillies need to ditch the right-fielder, so on paper it looks like these teams are a perfect match. Philly could recoup a little bit of the prospect power they've shed over the past few years as well.
2) Daisuke Matsuzaka- Cleveland could be another interesting option for Dice-K should the Sox choose to move him. They're in need of some solid veteran starters, and they also have some depth in case he is once again felled by injury mid-season.
Prospect Trade Bait
1) Jason Kipnis, 2B- Kipnis had probably the best season of any second-baseman in 2010. He hit .307 with 16 homers and 74 RBI. He was a doubles machine and carried his momentum over to an impressive run in the Arizona Fall League. He could find himself in Cleveland this season, or he could just as easily find himself on the move to somewhere else if the Indians can find a franchise cornerstone type to build around.
2) Nick Weglarz, OF- Weglarz has been impressive at every level of the minors thus far, and 2011 looks to be the year that he finally gets his shot to break onto Cleveland's depleted roster. He'll have a hard time cracking their top-three though if Grady Sizemore can get healthy and Shin-Soo Choo returns to his All-Star level play from last season. That could make him interesting trade bait.
3) Jason Knapp, RHP- For a guy who has pitched only 37 times, Knapp sure has seen a lot. He was pegged as an up-and-coming arm in the Phillies system, with a fastball that reaches the high 90s, and then was subsequently dealt to the Indians for Cliff Lee, where he is now one of Cleveland's top prospects. He is still young, and the verdict is far from being in on him, so he's always at risk of a trade.
4) Nick Hagadone, LHP- Hagadone is another cast-off starter from Boston. He pitched exceptionally well during his time in Boston's system, and had a great intro to Cleveland, striking out 89 batters in 85.2 innings between High-A and Double-A. He could be a great fit into a rotation or, as the Indians have been testing him, as a reliever.
5) Hector Rondon, RHP- Don't forget about Rondon, who was shut down last season and required Tommy John surgery. Before his injury, he threw in the mid 90s and was a strikeout machine. He worked his way up to Triple-A this past season, and could be the next Troy Patton, a highly touted pitcher who gets traded while still off rehabbing from major arm surgery.
Outfield, Second Base, Starting Pitching
1) Raul Ibanez- The Cliff Lee signing means that the Phillies need to clear some space on their ledger, and Ibanez could be the first to go. The Tigers could use another big bat in their outfield, especially if Brennan Boesch suffers a sophomore slump.
2) Ryan Ludwick- Ludwick's name has reportedly been mentioned in numerous conversations in Detroit. He too could make sense to add some more punch to a lackluster Detroit outfield.
3) Josh Willingham- If Ludwick is not an option, Willingham could be. He could probably be gotten for much cheaper, and without sending as much talent out of town.
Prospect Trade Bait
1) Daniel Fields, OF- Fields is an intriguing prospect and could have a lot of teams eying him if the Tigers interest in an outfielder is legit. He's got good power and is pretty solid all-around.
2) Casey Crosby, LHP- Crosby is the Tigers top arm behind Jacob Turner, which means he's also the most "tradeable." He's a big lefty, who throws pretty hard and has some excellent secondary stuff. He had a great 2009 season, but was shut down midway through his 2010 season with swelling in his elbow. He's another guy who could be a centerpiece of a deal for Ibanez or Ludwick.
3) Cale Iorg, SS- Iorg was supposed to be Detroit's shortstop of the future, but somewhere along his way, he lost his hitting stroke. He has struggled to a .222 and .215 average the past two seasons, and appears to be on his way to losing favor in Motown. He still has an outside shot at becoming a fixture in the Tigers lineup, but only if he can pick things up with his bat in 2011. If not, he could be looking at a trade in his future.
5) Casper Wells, OF- Wells is another young Tigers outfield prospect who could soon be on the move. He has hit for power at every stop in the minors and had a very impressive big-league debut in 2010. That big-league experience could prove vital for the Tigers if they are looking to package him in a deal for a big bat.
Outfielder, Second Base, Relief Pitching, Starting Pitching
1) Justin Upton- The Royals are one of the only teams who have all of the pieces to make a serious run at Upton. They have amazing players at third-base, first-base, catcher, and shortstop, as well as right- and left-handed pitching. Upton could easily be had for a combo of Mike Moustakas, Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy, John Lamb, Mike Montgomery and Chris Dwyer. The only real weakness in K.C.'s system is outfield depth, and Upton could fill a huge hole.
2) Carlos Quentin- Quentin is another interesting option. The Royals might eventually have to move either Hosmer or Myers to right-field, but for the time being, that spot is occupied by Jeff Francouer, who is as streaky as they come. Quentin could fill the position both short- and long-term.
3) Jesus Montero- The Royals are the one team out there who can realistically position themselves for a run at other team's top prospects. That's how good their minor league system is. They have had a ton of interest in Toronto's Brett Lawrie, and they should be just as interested in Montero, the best bat in the minors. They could position him at first-base, let Hosmer move to left-field, and still fit Myers in.
Prospect Trade Bait
1) John Lamb, LHP- Lamb had an outstanding 2010 season, and emerged as the most consistent of K.C.'s talented quintet of starters. He was a strikeout machine and posted one of the lowest ERAs in the minors. He should be pitching at Double-A to start the season, with an outside shot a big-league opportunity come the end of 2011.
2) Danny Duffy, LHP- You know Duffy has to be really good, when he can step away from the game for half the season, and then come back and pitch better than ever, not to mention throw harder. He too, should start in Double-A, in a rotation for the ages. He and Lamb could be centerpieces to a big deal for Upton or Quentin.
3) Chris Dwyer, LHP- Dwyer is the least-known of the Royals' left-handers, but he'll be making waves soon enough. In his full-season debut, he went 8-4 and posted a 3.00 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 102 innings. Some team could jump on him early, before he becomes the next John Lamb.
4) Derrick Robinson, OF- Robinson has more speed than just about anyone in the minors. He stole 50 bases last season, and that was an off-year for him. He stole 69 the year before and 62 in 2008. And this past season, his bat really came alive. He set career-highs in just about every offensive category and proved he can be more than just a speed guy.
5) Jordan Parraz, OF- Parraz is the best all-around outfielder in K.C.'s system and he's lucky enough to be overshadowed by all the other big names. He's plenty good in his own right, and should find himself with a big-league opportunity as early as this season.
Second Base, Shortstop
1) Cesar Izturis- For a guy who rarely hits above .270, Izturis sure has been in demand the past few seasons. That's because they know how much of an impact he makes on defense, and no team values defensive impact as much as the Twins, who happen to have a hole at short with their trade of J.J. Hardy to the Orioles.
Prospect Trade Bait
1) Joe Benson, OF- Benson has slowly improved since joining the Twins as a second-round pick in 2006. He looks as if he's finally come to a point where he could help the big-league club. He has great power, and decent speed that will play well at the Twins new confines. He could be an attractive piece for a team looking to add a platoon outfielder.
2) Liam Hendriks, RHP- Hendriks was sensational last season, issuing only 12 walks in 108.2 innings. That's the kind of control that earns you a future in Minnesota, but with a dearth of pitching talent in their system, the Twins would be wise to flip someone for a middle-infielder. And Hendriks might be able to bring in the greatest haul.
3) Carlos Gutierrez, RHP- Gutierrez is another pitcher who's knocking on the door to Minnesota. He arrived in Triple-A near the end of last season and should start there. Still, even with his potential, he hasn't shown a Twin-like ability to throw strikes, and has some issues with walks. That means he could easily be on his way out of town to a team that values upside over control.
4) Oswaldo Arcia, OF- Arcia had an amazing season in the Appy League, ranking near the top of the leaderboard in just about every offensive category. He is one of the Twins top prospects, and has tons of upside and projection ahead of him. He could be the centerpiece of a trade if the Twins are seriously
Third Base, Starting Pitching, Relief Pitching
1) Justin Upton- The Angels have now missed out on V-Mart, Cliff Lee, Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, so you know they're going to try to make a splash. They would be wise to try to add Upton to an impressive outfield. Upton could eventually slide over into Hunter's spot in RF when uber-prospect Mike Trout is ready and give the Angels one of the most athletic outfields.
2) Carlos Quentin- Another option is Quentin. He could force Hunter back over to center and give the Angels a little more pop in their outfield.
3) Zack Greinke- Greinke is a long-shot, only because the Angels farm system isn't what it used to be, but he could probably be had for a combo of Howie Kendrick, Hank Conger and Garrett Richards, along with a few other minor pieces.
Prospect Trade Bait
1) Hank Conger, C- Conger is one of the top catching prospects in the minors and this could be the season he finally gets a chance in L.A. He's easily the most complete backstop on the Angels roster, with an ability to hit for average, solid power and good defense. He could be a great chip for the Angels to play.
2) Garrett Richards, RHP- The Angels were lucky to hold onto Richards after a few trades that left their system pretty bare. The right-hander is a legit top-of-the-rotation starter and has been excellent in the 34 starts he has made since signing out of the 2009 draft. If the player is right, Richards could be a centerpiece of a deal.
3) Mark Trumbo, 1B- Trumbo has HUGE power. But he's just another in a long line of players who are blocked at the big-league level. The Angels have been tinkering with him in the outfield, but he's going to be a defensive liability just about anywhere they can find room for him. And then there's the chance that he could be the next Brandon Wood, superstar in the minors, super-sucky in the big-leagues. The Angels would be wise to move him before they find out if he's the latter.
Starting Pitching, Shortstop, Relief Pitching, Second Base
1) Daisuke Matsuzaka- Dice-K would be a perfect fit in Seattle. There's a strong Asian community there, and playing for a smaller market team would take some of the pressure off of him. Not to mention the fact that the Mariners need the help big time.
Prospect Trade Bait
1) Dan Cortes, RHP- Cortes has made his mark in the White Sox and Royals organizations as a starter, but the Mariners are trying his hand at reliever, and the results appear to be pretty good so far. He could be a great chip in a trade with a team looking for young, cheap, promising relievers.
2) Greg Halman, OF- Halman, his high strikeout numbers and his low averages, may have finally worn out their welcome in Seattle and despite him being on the verge of a permanent big-league call-up, he could be on the move soon. The Mariners have been repeatedly frustrated by his lack of progress and inability to take coaching. My guess is if they can include him in any deal, they'll try to do so.
3) Josh Fields, RHP- David Aardsma has been solid in the closer's role in Seattle, good enough that fomer college closer Fields could be looking for a new role, or a new team. Fields has been used as more of a set-up guy in his two pro seasons, and could be an interesting option for teams looking for a young up-and-coming late-inning guy.
5) Josh Lueke, RHP- So it looks like the Mariners didn't do all of their homework on Lueke, who had rape charges filed against him. They already had to suffer the embarrassment of defending bringing him to Seattle. The thing is, Lueke is really, REALLY good, and the M's will just have to do more justifying when he arrives in the big-leagues next season.
Starting Pitching, Relief Pitching, First-Base, Designated Hitter, Catcher
1) Matt Garza- Now that Lee is no longer an option, the Rangers will most likely turn to Greinke and Garza. Garza could actually be the better option. He's just as good, if not better than the Royals ace, and could be gotten for much less than it would cost to deal for Greinke.
2) Zack Greinke- Getting Greinke should still be priority number one for the Rangers. If he can make the improvement that most of the Rangers starters have made under the tutelage of Mike Maddux and Nolan Ryan, then he could get even better, which would be scary.
Prospect Trade Bait
1) Martin Perez, LHP- Perez is borderline "untouchable," but if the Rangers had a legit shot at either Garza or Greinke, they would almost certainly have to include him. Perez is one of the best lefties in the minor leagues. He had a bit of a rough year last season, but he was a teenager pitching in Double-A so the fact that he didn't get demoted points to some progress.
2) Engel Beltre, OF- Beltre is another fascinating option. He had a great season, splitting time between High-A and Double-A. He did a little bit of everything, and has some projectable power in his bat. He could be a great add-on in a deal for either pitcher.
3) Robbie Erlin, LHP- With the season Erlin had last year (6-3, 2.12 ERA, 125:17 K-to-BB ratio), he would almost automatically be requested by either K.C. or Tampa. And while he may not be as good as his numbers indicated, he would still be a solid addition to a trade.
4) Leury Garcia, SS- Garcia is still a few years away from any though of the big-leagues, but it is troubling that he is already blocked at the shortstop position by Elvis Andrus, who isn't going anywhere. That means Garcia might be.
5) Wilfredo Boscan, RHP- Boscan has been a great international signing from Venezuela. He has been solid as a starter and has slowly worked his way up to High-A ball. He should make the jump to Double-A this season.
Shortstop, Third Base, Outfield, Starting Pitching
1) Justin Upton- The A's have plenty of depth in the outfield (Coco Crisp, Ryan Sweeney, David DeJesus) as well as some decent talent in the top levels of the minors (Chris Carter and Michael Taylor), but they don't have a true superstar at any of the OF positions.
They also don't have a true impact bat. Carter was supposed to be that, but he got off to a historically terrible start last season. And Taylor's power all but disappeared at Triple-A. A trade for Upton would make sense in that the A's have what the D-Backs are looking for. They have some good outfielders, and plenty of relief pitching.
2) Jorge De La Rosa- The A's also are in need of some depth in their rotation. Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill have tremendous upside, but neither have shown the ability to stay healthy for extended periods of time. Dallas Braden is average at best and Gio Gonzalez is a back-of-the-rotation guy.
De La Rosa would give them a solid veteran presence on the staff, and if he can stay healthy himself, he's capable of 200 innings and at least 10 wins. He just signed an extension with the Rockies, but it was only for two-years.
Prospect Trade Bait
1) Michael Taylor, OF- Taylor was supposed to be the future star outfielder for the A's, but somewhere along the road from Philly to Oakland, he lost his power stroke. After hitting a combined 39 homers between 2008-09, he hit only six in 2010. He was still a great run-producer (78 RBI), but the loss of power leads many to think he may not be the future All-Star he was tabbed as in Philadelphia.
2) Yordy Cabrera, SS- Cabrera was a part of the Athletics' great international haul in 2009. He most likely has a future at third-base, where the A's might eventually have to shift Grant Green, and where they already have Kevin Kouzmanoff, who they appear to happy with. Since Cabrera is so young, many teams might be willing to take a chance on him, asking for him to be included in any trade.
3) Chris Carter, 1B/DH/OF- Carter has huge power. He hit 31 homers last season and hit 28, 39 and 25 the three previous years. Still, not even the greatest power could detract from his inability to make contact last season when he was called up to Oakland. He struck out, grounded out, popped out, and did just about everything but hit one out.
He finished with three homers in a mere 70 at-bats, so you know the power is still there. He's already bounced around with three different teams, so you have to keep your eye on a player like that. He also won't be finding much time at DH with the A's recent signing of Hideki Matsui.
4) Michael Ynoa, RHP- Ynoa was the darling of the A's 2008 international crop, but since signing he's seen little of an actual ball-field. He's suffered through a few injuries, nothing real major, but enough to keep the A's from seeing whether or not he's worth hanging on to. An indication of how far he's fell, is that he wasn't included in the 2010 A's top-ten prospect rankings by Baseball America. Still, with the upside he has (mid 90s fastball and 6-foot-7 frame), you know he has caught other teams eyes.