Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
This winter's edition of the Hot Stove League will commence in just a few short weeks. With that in mind, the time is now for offseason speculation to begin.
A few major organizational changes have already occurred, with Ozzie Guillen leaving Chicago for Miami, the Red Sox splitting ties with long-time manager Terry Francona and the Angels looking for a leadership change now that Tony Reagins is no longer their general manager.
In addition to front office adjustments, organizations will look to revamp their lineups in order to create a well-rounded product when the 2012 season begins.
Two teams that may be in need of major changes are the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs, though for different reasons.
The Braves are coming off a summer in which the National League Wild Card seemed to be their playoff spot all year, only to fall apart in September and miss the dance in the season's final hours.
The Cubs, meanwhile, are coming off a very poor campaign in which they never truly competed in the National League Central for any extended period of time.
Both teams also have promising young stars who disappointed in their own ways throughout the season.
Jason Heyward, the Braves' young right-fielder, had an outstanding rookie season but followed it up with a sophomore slump in 2011. His batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage each declined drastically.
That being said, Heyward is still only 22 years old and has the potential to become one of the game's best power threats.
Starlin Castro, the Cubs' young shortstop, had another great season at the plate and even led the National League in hits with 207. He continued to develop as a hitter, but his defense is still suspect and he has struggled to stay attentive in the field. A lack of focus is not a characteristic of winning teams.
Aside from his lack of attention, Castro was an All-Star in 2011 and could very well develop into one of the premier middle infielders in baseball.
The two organizations must now decide what is best for them as they attempt to get back to the postseason, and one potential move could be designing a trade involving two of the game's best young athletes.
Jason Heyward would immediately become the focus of the Cubs' offense and a threat in the middle of the order as he looks to regain the power that made him a top prospect. Chicago's coaching staff would need to focus on maximizing Heyward's potential as he attempts to distance himself from his disappointing second year.
Starlin Castro would take over at shortstop for the Braves, as Alex Gonzalez hits free agency this winter. The consistent winning atmosphere in Atlanta could be just what Castro needs to keep his focus on the game for a full nine innings.
Castro may have a bit more value at this point given the increase in his offensive production in 2011 compared to Heyward's regression. However, the two young icons have quite a few similarities including their youth, low salary, All-Star nominations and success at the Major League level.
The ramifications of this blockbuster trade would certainly impact each franchise in its own way, and it would also take quite some time to fairly evaluate. Each young player can certainly look forward to a bright future, but where will these careers take place?