Like it or not, if you root for a team that is in contention--I'm looking at you Milwaukee, Atlanta, Colorado, Arizona, Texas and Tampa Bay--you're likely to witness one or more big-name prospects heading out of town before this year's trade deadline.
It's simply a part of the game.
When it comes to fighting for a playoff spot down the stretch, only "right now" matters, and teams turn out to be more than willing to sacrifice their future for the sake of securing a spot in the next series. Just look at how the Brewers ransacked their farm system of three big-name talents (Jake Odorizzi, Brett Lawrie and Jeremy Jeffress) in order to secure the services of pitchers Shaun Marcum and Zack Grienke for the coming season.
So as nice as it is to think that guys like James Darnell, Mike Minor (above) and Jake McGee might be safe from the firing (or trading) squad, get ready to take a look at the guys who are most likely to see their contracts change hands before this trade season is over.
At this point in time it's too easy to pick on Jesus Montero as trade bait. Only time will tell if the Yankees are willing to part with him. Until then, let's take him off the board and look for the next most likely catcher to be traded this year.
The Reds have two catchers who would probably rank in the top ten amongst all minor league backstops in Devin Mesoraco and Yasmani Grandal.
And while the Reds enticed Grandal to sign a less lucrative contract ($2.99 million over five years) as the 12th-overall pick by giving him a Major League deal, I don't think there's any way you can make the argument that Grandal is a better offensive player than Mesoraco.
And since their defensive abilities are about even, you have to give the edge to Mesoraco, who is having a terrific season at Triple-A. He's much cheaper than Grandal, and the age difference between them is negligible.
It's tough to start with consecutive Reds, but the simple fact is that Dusty Baker loves veterans, which has led to a traffic pileup of prospect talent at the Reds Triple-A affiliate in Louisville.
Alonso has been rumored as trade-bait for a couple of seasons now. You have to admit, his chances of competing with Joey Votto, aka the 2010 National League MVP, are slim to none, no matter how well he's been hitting.
If the Reds are still in contention come late July, which they are likely to be, it would only make sense to shed a few prospects for some upgrades to their rotation and bullpen. Alonso could bring in some decent talent.
The Indians surprised just about everyone when they turned to Phelps as an offensive upgrade at second base a few weeks ago, instead of going with the more highly touted offensive juggernaut, Jason Kipnis.
A lot has changed since then.
Phelps looked completely overwhelmed in his 19-game trial with Cleveland, batting a mere .196 in 49 at-bats. In the meantime, Kipnis tore the cover off the ball at Triple-A, was named to the Futures Game Team USA roster, and started the game off with a bang, hitting a leadoff homer, one of only two home runs hit in the game.
Since they play the same position, it's likely that Phelps is going to have to find another position, find another organization, or accept life as a super-utility guy.
With Elvis Andrus manning shortstop, the Rangers have no need for top prospect Jurickson Profar AND Leury Garcia
The road to the shortstop position in Texas has too many roadblocks for Garcia to find a home with the big-league club.
For starters, the Rangers have a Gold Glove caliber shortstop on their big-league roster in Elvis Andrus, who was named to the A.L. All-Star Game roster last year and is widely considered one of the top young shortstops in the game.
Behind Andrus, they have Jurickson Profar. You may have seen him at the Futures Game this past weekend. If you didn't, you missed a guy with tools oozing out of his hands, feet and bat. Profar is currently hitting .270 with 20 doubles, six triples and eight home runs as a 19-year old in Low-A ball. He also has five more walks (40) than strikeouts (35).
That doesn't leave much room for Garcia, who is currently playing in High-A ball. He's hitting well (.273), but he doesn't have much power to speak of, and his plate discipline is way behind Profar's.
With the Rangers trying to fight off the Angels for a playoff spot, it might make sense to include Garcia in a deal to bring a veteran to Arlington.
Darnell got off to an incredibly hot start this season, hitting .333 with 17 home runs and 62 RBI in 76 games for Double-A San Antonio, before earning a promotion to Triple-A just days before being named to the Team USA squad for the annual Futures Game.
Unfortunately, he's not the top producing third baseman in the Padres system.
That honor falls to Jedd Gyorko, San Diego's second-round pick from last year's draft. Gyorko is hitting .361 on the year with 20 homers and 81 RBI in 88 games. He too recently received a bump up a level, to Double-A, taking Darnell's spot on San Antonio's roster.
While Darnell has a solid track record in the minors, Gyorko is a better prospect, meaning he'll likely get the nod when the time comes for the Padres to pick who they want manning the hot corner long-term for their big-league club.
Cowgill broke through last season for the Diamondbacks, setting career-highs in most offensive categories.
This season, he's been even better, approaching those marks he set last year in runs, home runs and RBI with two months of the minor league season left to play.
Through 86 games, he's hitting a ridiculous .355 with 20 doubles, seven triples, 12 home runs and 59 RBI. He's also added in 26 steals.
With Arizona hunting a playoff berth in the very competitive National League West, it might make sense to deal Cowgill, a player who has put forth incredible offensive production, in favor of keeping some of the other players in their system like A.J. Pollock and Marc Krauss, whose offensive potentials are just as good, if not greater.
His stock will never be higher.
Don't get me wrong, Minor is a very talented pitcher, but like this year's No. 2 overall pick Danny Hultzen, Minor has a limited ceiling. He's most likely to end up as a No. 2 or 3 starter, and the Braves system is full of guys who have much higher ceilings.
Guys like Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, and Arodys Vizcaino.
And don't forget they're being added to a rotation that already includes Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrgens and Brandon Beachy.
One, or more, of these guys are going to be expendable. Minor seems like the one that I'd be most willing to part with.
A long-time starter in the minors (117 GS coming into 2011), McGee was tested out of the Rays bullpen down the stretch last year and he looked pretty solid.
His performance was enough to earn him a spot in the Rays pen to start the season. Unfortunately, he didn't perform like he did in 2010, racking up a 5.14 ERA in 11 outings and issuing more walks than strikeouts. He found himself back in the minors for the rest of the month of May and he hasn't been back since.
Luckily, McGee appears to have regained his form pitching for Triple-A Durham. He's only surrendered two earned runs since June 19th and has dropped his ERA to 2.70 in 24 appearances. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 38:8 is very strong and more in line with the numbers he posted in 2010.
It looks like the Rays are going to keep him in the bullpen for the foreseeable future, and while he might play a big role down the stretch this season, the team might find it easier to go out and get a veteran who they know can be trusted in the clutch.
That could leave McGee as one of their best pieces of trade-bait. Teams could be further enticed by his history as a starter.