Usatsi_7456311_crop_north
USA Today

The free-agent and trade markets have been quiet since the conclusion of December’s Winter Meetings. However, with the Jan. 24 deadline for a team to reach a deal with Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka edging closer every day, it’s only a matter of time until things pick back up.

The few starters who are still on the marketnamely Ervin Santana and Matt Garzaare likely to receive more lucrative contracts once the winner of the Tanaka sweepstakes is announced, so they’re wisely holding out until then. And once those pieces fall into place, there will likely be more activity on the trade front as well.

With that said, it’s not surprising that there is a complete lack of reasonable prospect-based trade rumors at the moment. However, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden proposed several interesting trade scenarios earlier this week in a pair of articles about the missing links for every American and National League team (subscription required).

So, in the absence of prospect rumors, I thought I’d breakdown a few of his suggested trades in the aforementioned articles in order to determine the short- and long-term impact of the moves.

Preview_crop_north
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

The last Brewers pitching prospect drafted in the first round that developed into an impact major-league starter was Ben Sheets in 1999. Since then, the organization has struck out repeatedly when drafting a pitcher in the first round.

Milwaukee drafted college right-hander Eric Arnett in 2009, who’s now a 25-year-old reliever that has yet to graduate from A-ball. They targeted upside the following year and drafted prep right-hander Dylan Covey in the first round. However, Covey decided not to sign and ultimately honored his commitment to the University of San Diego.

And while many pitchers from the 2011 draft—Jose Fernandez, Gerrit Cole and Sonny Gray, for example—have each made an impact in the major leagues, Milwaukee’s pair of first-round picks from that year, college pitchers Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley, have struggled to climb the minor-league ladder and lack favorable long-term projections.

The Brewers finally landed a much-needed power arm this past June, drafting prep right-hander Devin Williams with its first pick (coming in the second round). The 19-year-old is a project and will need time to develop in the minor leagues, but the finished product has the potential to be a solid No. 2 or 3 starter.

Hi-res-7801694_crop_north
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

If we learned anything from the 2013 offseasonwhen Wil Myers, Travis d’Arnaud, Trevor Bauer, Noah Syndergaard, Jake Odorizzi and Jake Marisnick were each involved in blockbuster deals—it’s that very few prospects are “untouchable” when the right trade opportunity is on the table.

However, there are those young players that are so valuable to their organization that they’re unlikely to be included, or even discussed, in any potential deal. Those prospects are usually expected to fill a void at the highest level and generally have upside that discourages any conception of a trade; they're studs and the future of their respective franchises.

Here’s a look at each MLB team’s untouchable prospect for the 2014 season.

163495602og000_crop_north
Getty Images

This is the search for Major League Baseball's next superstar.

This tricky, treacherous venture isn't about highlighting youngsters who might be above-average players. No, this is about unearthing those with the potential and ability to be among the very best, those who possess the talent and skill to make themselves into perennial All-Stars and/or MVP and Cy Young Award candidates—and soon.

In short, if this search were to take out a classified ad, the write-up would include something like: "seeking the next Mike Trout or Paul Goldschmidt, the next Matt Harvey or Jose Fernandez."

That player exists somewhere in the baseball world and should rise to prominence in the very near futureeven as soon as the 2014 season. This is simply about uncovering him (or them).

Hi-res-7503810_crop_north
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With the offseason acquisition of Brett Anderson from the Oakland A’s, the Colorado Rockies' half-decade-long quest for a mid-rotation left-hander is officially over.

In 2009, the Rockies selected prep standout Tyler Matzek in the first round of the draft. Two years later—with Matzek issuing walk after walk in A-ball—the organization once again tried its luck by selecting Oregon product Tyler Anderson with the 20th overall pick. The 24-year-old put up solid numbers in the hitter-friendly (High-A) California League in 2013, though there’s concern about whether his arsenal—specifically, his lack of a true plus pitch—will translate at the highest level.

The arrival of Colorado’s youth movement during the 2014 season has the potential to transform the team’s already promising starting rotation in to one of the best in the National League.

Flame-throwing right-hander Jonathan Gray, the second overall pick in the 2013 draft, should move quickly next year, opening the season at Double-A Tulsa before reaching the majors ahead of schedule.

Hi-res-7503404_crop_north
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With a wave of impact prospects poised to reach the major leagues as early as late 2014 and more high-ceiling talent developing in its lower levels, a strong case can be made that the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system is the best in baseball.

Even after the graduation of Gerrit Cole to the major leagues last season, the Pirates still boast a deep collection of high-end pitching prospects. It shouldn’t be long until right-hander Jameson Taillon—the second overall pick in the 2010 draft after Bryce Harper—joins Cole in the big league rotation, and Nick Kingham isn’t far behind after a breakout 2013 campaign between High- and Double-A.

In the lower levels, 6'7" right-hander Tyler Glasnow absolutely dominated last year during his full-season debut, holding opposing hitters to an anemic .142 batting average while piling up a South Atlantic League-leading 164 strikeouts in 111.1 innings for Low-A West Virginia.

The system also stands out for its outfield depth, with top prospect Gregory Polanco on the verge of reaching the major leagues and taking over as the Pirates’ everyday right fielder. Beyond Polanco, switch-hitter Josh Bell’s potent bat suggests breakout potential and could result in a taste of Double-A late next season, while 2013 first-rounder Austin Meadows and fellow New York-Penn League standout Harold Ramirez will both make their full-season debuts at Low-A West Virginia.

Hi-res-175467925-jake-marisnick-of-the-miami-marlins-misses-a-fly-ball_crop_north
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Miami Marlins’ farm system is a shell compared to its pre-2013 state, though that was expected following the graduation of two monster prospects in Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich.

Fernandez ranked among the major league leaders in numerous statistical categories, including first in opponents’ batting average (.182) and hits allowed per nine innings (5.8 H/9), fourth in WHIP (0.98) and fifth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.75 K/9). Fernandez’s 2.19 ERA was the second-best mark in the major leagues as well as the lowest by a rookie starter in either league since 1970.

On the other side of the ball, Christian Yelich, 22, emerged as one of the best young hitters in the game following a call-up in late July, as the sweet-swinging left-handed hitter posted a .288/.370/.396 batting line and 116 wRC+ in 273 plate appearances, per FanGraphs.

Down on the farm, the Marlins have one of the deepest collections of left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, with four young hurlers who have already experienced success at or above the Double-A level. While top prospect Andrew Heaney has the realistic upside of a No. 3 starter, the team’s other southpaws—Justin Nicolino, Adam Conley and Brian Flynn—are better-suited for a role in the back of a rotation.  

Hi-res-7637868_crop_north
Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Reds’ system ranks in the bottom half among all 30 MLB teams, but it’s rich with players that should contribute in the major leagues over the next several years.

Billy Hamilton obviously is the first name to come up in any conversation regarding the future of the Reds. However, focusing solely on Hamilton overshadows the fact that the system is rich with outfield talent.

22-year-old Yorman Rodriguez’s prospect stock is on the rise after a long-overdue breakout season in Double-A, as is the stock of 2012 first-rounder Jesse Winker following his impressive full-season debut in Low-A. Last but not least is Phil Ervin, the 27th overall pick in the 2013 draft, who posted a .989 OPS with nine home runs in 200 plate appearances this past summer during his professional debut.

On the mound, right-hander Robert Stephenson made a surge up the organizational ladder last season behind a near-elite fastball and devastating breaking ball, and he enters the 2014 season ranked as the team’s top prospect.

Hi-res-7503412_crop_north
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

For the third consecutive season, the Arizona Diamondbacks prospect pool is headlined by a host of promising young pitchers.

Archie Bradley, the 21-year-old phenom, will enter the 2014 season ranked not only as the team’s top prospect, but also as baseball’s top pitching prospect. After dominating at Double-A Mobile for a majority of last season, Bradley will audition for a spot in the Opening Day rotation, though he’s more likely to arrive in the major leagues around midseason.

Beyond Bradley, the Diamondbacks' first- and second-round picks from 2013 rank high on this year’s list, with college right-handers Braden Shipley and Aaron Blair both ranking within the team’s top five prospects and poised for their first full professional campaigns. Rounding out their crop of impressive young arms is Jose Martinez, a 19-year-old who boasts some of the best arm speed in the minor leagues.

In terms of positional talent, middle infielder Chris Owings enters 2014 ready to make an impact in the major leagues. Last year, the 22-year-old was named the Rookie of the Year and MVP of the Pacific Coast League before holding his own over 20 games with Arizona as a September call-up.

Hi-res-7821976_crop_north
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres’ farm system is one of the finest collections of high-ceiling talent among all 30 teams, highlighted by Austin Hedges, the top-ranked catching prospect in the minor leagues; Max Fried, one of the more projectable left-handed pitchers; and the criminally underrated right-hander Matt Wisler.

The organization addressed its lack of power-hitting prospects last June when it selected Mississippi State outfielder Hunter Renfroe in the first round of the draft. Meanwhile, fellow outfielder Rymer Liriano will make his highly anticipated return to the field next year after Tommy John surgery cost him the entire 2013 season. 

The Padres also have a pair of right-handed pitchers looking to return to the major leagues next year. Burch Smith finished 2013 with a strong showing in the rotation after he was rushed to the majors earlier in the year, and Casey Kelly—who also missed the entire 2013 season after Tommy John surgery—will try to regain the form that helped him reach the majors in late 2012.

And for what it's worth, I still consider Joe Ross to be a high-ceiling pitching prospect and believe he's poised for a breakout performance next season.