Assembling Perfect Cliff Lee Trade Packages for Top 5 Suitors
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is asking for three or four top prospects in return for Lee, as well as the assumption of the remainder of his contract.
Given that information, there are only a few organizations with both the financial flexibility and depth on the farm to make a run at the 34-year-old left-hander. And while it’s increasingly doubtful that any team would be willing to part with such a significant portion of its future under those circumstances, there are several clubs expected to at least kick the tires over the next 24 hours.
Here’s a look at five teams capable of putting together a loaded prospect package to land Cliff Lee before Wednesday’s deadline.
Boston Red Sox
Xander Bogaerts, SS-3B
Ranked as the No. 3 prospect, Bogaerts has emerged as one of the top young hitters in the minor leagues over the last three seasons, as he projects to hit for both average and power at the highest level.
Arguably the most untouchable prospect in the game, the 20-year-old has continued his rapid ascent of Boston’s system this season by raking at both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. And considering that he’s started the past six games at the hot corner, it seems as though the organization is preparing to promote him to the major leagues in the near future.
Brandon Workman, RHP
After excelling at both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket over the first half of the season, Workman was called up to the major leagues in early July. While the promotion was mostly a result of injuries to the team’s starting rotation, it also allowed the organization to showcase the 24-year-old to other teams.
Workman has pitched well in both of his starts with the Red Sox, allowing four total runs on nine hits with a 9/3 K/BB ratio in 12.1 innings. And if Boston is intent on adding a top-notch starting pitcher before the deadline, there’s a realistic chance that Workman will be part of the deal.
Garin Cecchini, 3B
Recently ranked as the No. 35 prospect, Cecchini has been one of the more consistent hitters in the minor leagues over the last two seasons and jumped on the prospect radar in a big way as a result. Although he projects to have a plus hit tool with equally impressive on-base skills at maturity, the 22-year-old lacks the power typically associated with a third baseman.
Furthermore, with the Red Sox seemingly prepared to move forward with a combination of Jose Iglesias and Xander Bogaerts on the left side of the infield, Cecchini lacks a clear path to playing time with the organization.
St. Louis Cardinals
Michael Wacha, RHP
Wacha has enjoyed a quick rise to the major leagues after the Cardinals selected him in the first round of the 2012 draft. The 22-year-old right-hander, who was ranked as our No. 18 prospect, was lights out across three levels during his professional debut last summer with a 0.86 ERA and 40/4 K/BB in 21 innings.
And even though the 22-year-old’s dominant showing in spring training nearly earned him a spot in the Opening Day starting rotation, the organization ultimately assigned him to Triple-A Memphis to begin the 2013 season.
After a hot start at the level, the Cardinals promoted him to the major leagues in late May, where the right-hander registered a 4.58 ERA with 14/4 K/BB over three starts before returning to the minor leagues. And don’t read too far into Wacha’s reduced workload in the coming weeks; the organization is simply trying to keep him fresh in anticipation of a late-season return to the major leagues.
Carlos Martinez, RHP
After a trio of impressive starts at Double-A Springfield to begin the 2013 season, the Cardinals promoted Martinez to the major leagues to shore up their then-struggling bullpen. But after appearing in seven games, the 21-year-old was optioned to Triple-A Memphis where he’s thrived as a member of the starting rotation.
With an arsenal that’s highlighted by a plus-plus fastball and devastating changeup, Martinez has the pure stuff to get major league hitters out. The only question is whether he’ll be used as a starter or reliever in his return to the major leagues.
Stephen Piscotty, OF
Like Wacha, Piscotty is a 2012 first-rounder who’s moved at an accelerated pace through the Cardinals’ system, as he recently received a promotion to Double-A Springfield after an impressive first half at High-A Palm Beach. While the 22-year-old projects for only one above-average tool (hit) at the highest level, he’s a well-rounded prospect with a high baseball IQ and gets the most of his ability.
Kevin Gausman, RHP
The No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Gausman boasts one of the best arms in the minor leagues with a fastball that works consistently in the mid-to-upper-90s, as well as a true 70-grade changeup.
However, the 22-year-old right-hander was rushed to the major leagues this season, and his tendency to work up in the zone was exploited by major league hitters and resulted in seven home runs in 33.1 innings during two stints with the Orioles. Regardless, Gausman has one of the highest ceilings among all pitching prospects and will likely be utilized in some capacity over the final two months of the season.
Mike Wright, RHP
Selected in the third round of the 2011 draft, Wright, a 6’6” right-hander, got off to a slow start this season with Double-A Bowie but has really turned the corner over the last month. With a deep four-pitch mix that includes a plus fastball and above-average slider, the 23-year-old has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter and could be ready for an audition during the 2014 season.
Jonathan Schoop, INF
Schoop, the Orioles’ top position prospect, has always responded favorably to aggressive minor league assignments. Considering that he was handed an Opening Day assignment to Triple-A Norfolk, there’s a decent chance the 21-year-old would have already reached the major leagues had it not been for a stress fracture in his back that resulted in over two months on the disabled list.
While he’s capable of playing several infield positions, Schoop projects as an above-average everyday second baseman at the next level and could be ready for an everyday role as early as mid-2014.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Joc Pederson, OF
With a major league outfield comprised of Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, 21-year-old Joc Pederson represents the Dodgers’ best trade bait.
After a breakout 2012 season in the hitter-friendly California League, Pederson has improved his prospect stock with a strong sophomore campaign with Double-A Chattanooga. However, despite his projection for an above-average hit and power tool, some scouts remain divided about his potential to be an everyday outfielder in the major leagues.
With that being said, Pederson likely would be given a chance to develop at a healthier and more reasonable pace with a different organization.
Zach Lee, RHP
The Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2010, Lee has come into his own this season while repeating Double-A Chattanooga. Even though he lacks a legitimate plus offering, the 21-year-old right-hander has a deep arsenal that’s highlighted by an above-average fastball and slider. And while he’s always received high marks for his command and feel for pitching, Lee has made strides this season in his ability to miss bats, recording 101 strikeouts (compared to only 27 walks) in 108.2 innings against considerably more advanced hitters in the Southern League.
Onelki Garcia, LHP
A third-round draft pick of the Dodgers in 2012, Garcia logged only two innings (one start) during his professional debut last summer. However, he showed the organization enough to warrant a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga for the 2013 season.
In his first full season as a professional, the 23-year-old got off to a slow start with a 4.00 ERA and 13-15 K/BB ratio in 18 innings spanning four starts. Due to his control problems, the Dodgers relegated the left-hander to the bullpen where he’s been lights out over the last two months.
As a reliever, Garcia has posted a 0.35 ERA with 14 hits allowed and a 28-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25.2 innings. There’s a chance the Dodgers attempt to utilize him as a LOOGY later this season, but it looks like he’ll serve as trade bait for the time being.
Gregory Polanco, OF
Recently ranked as our No. 12 overall prospect, Polanco, 21, has rapidly developed into one of the top outfield prospects in the game thanks to a combination of athleticism, multiple plus tools and secondary skills that are highly advanced for his age.
Coming off a breakout 2012 campaign at Low-A West Virginia, Polanco made quick work of the pitcher-friendly Florida State League this season, posting an .836 OPS with 23 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases in 57 games before a midseason promotion to Double-A Altoona.
And while he’s been challenged at the more advanced level, the left-handed hitter has still impressed with a .798 OPS and more walks (23) than strikeouts (17) through 35 games.
Tyler Glasnow, RHP
Even though the Pirates house top prospects such as Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco and Alan Hanson, Tyler Glasnow represents their most intriguing trade chip heading into the deadline.
The 6’7” right-hander’s stock has taken off this season thanks to his dominance at Low-A West Virginia. Beyond his sexy 2.24 ERA and .149 opponent batting average, the 19-year-old currently paces the South Atlantic League with 128 strikeouts (compared to 50 walks) in 92.1 innings.
Yes, Glasnow comes with a considerable amount of risk, but the final product could be a front-of-the-rotation starter and well worth the investment at the trade deadline.
Nick Kingham, RHP
A fourth-round draft pick in 2010, Kingham had an up-and-down full-season debut last year. However, the 21-year-old has rebounded in a big way this season, registering a 3.01 ERA with 110/28 K/BB in 113.2 innings between High-A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona. With the potential for three above-average-to-plus offerings at maturity, the right-hander’s improved command this season has been a revelation, and he’s currently on pace to reach the major leagues in late 2014.