Each MLB Team's Biggest Trade Chip Midway Through Spring Training

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2018

Each MLB Team's Biggest Trade Chip Midway Through Spring Training

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    As spring training churns forward and we draw closer to Opening Day, impact trades are an ever-present possibility. 

    With that in mind, let's examine all 30 teams' biggest trade chip at the exhibition slate's midpoint. Some are prospects on teams that figure to be buyers; others are veterans on clubs that are likely to sell.

    To be clear: We're not suggesting all or even most of these players will be dealt before the end of spring. Many will be held until the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline and beyond. 

    Each, however, represents a wheel-and-deal opportunity for their respective clubeither to enhance a contender or restock a rebuilder.

American League West

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    Houston Astros: OF Kyle Tucker

    Recently, we wrote about how the impending arrival of Houston Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker could vault the defending champions' offense from filthy to flat-out unfair.

    Tucker has 11 hits in 28 Grapefruit League at-bats, including a double, a triple and four home runs. He's the Astros' top prospect for a reason.

    The 21-year-old has also yet to reach Triple-A and is blocked in the outfield by Marwin Gonzalez, George Springer and Josh Reddick from left to right. Tucker's name floated on the rumor winds this winter, including in a potential swap for Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, per Sirius XM's Craig Mish.

    That deal wasn't consummated, but if Houston wants to pull off a headline-grabbing trade at any point this season and go all-in for a repeat, Tucker's stock is sky-high.


    Los Angeles Angels: INF David Fletcher

    The Los Angeles Angels are set in the middle infield with shortstop Andrelton Simmons and second baseman Ian Kinsler.

    David Fletcher is making a case for a backup role with a superlative spring. The 23-year-old prospect has gone 11-for-29 with a pair of doubles, good for a .379 average and .903 OPS.

    He's also raised his profile as a trade piece should the win-now Halos go searching for help in the bullpen or at the back of the rotation.


    Oakland Athletics: 2B Jed Lowrie

    Are the Oakland Athletics buyers or sellers? The answer, as always, is both.

    The small-market A's aren't afraid to add veterans, as they proved by inking 31-year-old catcher Jonathan Lucroy on Saturday for one year and $6.5 million, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. They're also willing to offload established players to reload their farm system at any time.

    We could highlight a rising young performer such as 22-year-old left-hander A.J. Puk (8 IP, 0 ER, 6 SO), but it's exceedingly unlikely the A's would consider trading him for anything less than Mike Trout and the moon.

    Instead, Oakland would look to swap someone like veteran second baseman Jed Lowrie, who has picked it up a bit after a slow spring start and is entering a contract year.


    Seattle Mariners: 1B Dan Vogelbach

    With offseason acquisition Ryon Healy sidelined by hand surgery, the door is open for slugging Seattle Mariners prospect Dan Vogelbach. 

    After some past disappointments, Vogelbach is kicking the door down with 10 hits in 20 at-bats, including five doubles and a pair of homers. 

    Healy could be ready by Opening Day or soon after. Manager Scott Servais said Healy was "moving along very quickly" in his recovery, per Shannon Drayer of ESPN 710 Seattle. 

    Vogelbach remains in the running for a spot and could vault past Healy if he keeps raking. He could also be a piece that lands the M's some much-needed pitching depth as they try to bust their 16-year postseason drought.


    Texas Rangers: LHP Cole Hamels

    Cole Hamels isn't going anywhere this spring. The Texas Rangers are hoping to compete, and the veteran left-hander is the backbone of their rotation.

    Speaking of the rotation, the Rangers are planning to make it six-deep. Hamels is not a fan of the idea. 

    "It's not part of baseball," Hamels said flatly, per MLB.com's Dave Sessions. "I know that's the new analytical side of trying to reinvent the wheel, but I was brought up in the minor leagues on the five-man, and that's what I'm designed and conditioned for." 

    If that discontent festers and the Rangers get off to a sluggish start, don't be surprised if the four-time All-Star is on the market.

American League Central

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    Chicago White Sox: RHP James Shields

    A raft of young arms are ready to break through with the rebuilding Chicago White Sox. It's only a matter of time until James Shields gets phased out of the rotation.

    The 36-year-old right-hander hasn't posted a sub-5.00 ERA since 2015, but he's hinted at his former All-Star self with a strong spring. Sprinkle on the usual small-sample caveatsas you should with all the stats cited here—but note that Shields sports a 2.25 ERA with three strikeouts and one walk through four innings.

    He's continuing to hone a new delivery with a lower arm slot, per MLB.com's Alan Eskew, and it's yielding positive results. 

    Shields wouldn't net a trove of blue chips, but he could add value in a trade for the already prospect-rich ChiSox.


    Cleveland Indians: C Yan Gomes/Roberto Perez

    Chances are, top Cleveland Indians prospect Francisco Mejia will begin the 2018 season at Triple-A. He's making that a tough call for the Tribe this spring.

    Through 10 games, Mejia is hitting .444 with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI. His time as Cleveland's catcher is coming soon. 

    When it does, the Indians will likely jettison one member of their current veteran catching duo, Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez. Neither is an offensive force, but they're capable receivers with postseason experience who would draw ample interest.


    Detroit Tigers: SS Jose Iglesias 

    The Detroit Tigers are in the beginning stages of an overdue rebuild and should keep trying to cash in veterans.

    Shortstop Jose Iglesias is hitting .300 in the Grapefruit League. He also entered spring with a trade target on his back.

    "If I need to go, I will go happy because that means another team wants me as well," Iglesias said, per Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. "But I just come here to compete and be the best I can be for the team and the best I can for baseball. Whatever happens, happens."

    Detroit could seek cost-controlled pitching in exchange for the 28-year-old Iglesias, who is set to hit free agency after the 2018 season but is a relative bargain at $6.28 million.


    Kansas City Royals: INF Adalberto Mondesi

    The Kansas City Royals are apparently hoping to contend, as they signaled by bringing back shortstop Alcides Escobar and third baseman Mike Moustakas and signing veteran outfielder Jon Jay.

    All came on one-year deals, so it's not as if K.C. mortgaged its future. If the goal is to make a move in the American League Central, however, the Royals may need further reinforcements. 

    They could leverage infielder Adalberto Mondesi, who is blocked at shortstop by Escobar and at second base by Whit Merrifield. Mondesi posted an .879 OPS with 21 stolen bases last season at Triple-A and is hitting .308 with a home run and triple so far this spring.

    The 22-year-old could be a part of the Royals' future, or he could boost their roster in the present if he's dealt. It all depends on the direction the team wants to take.


    Minnesota Twins: OF Ryan LaMarre

    Outfielder Ryan LaMarre has opened eyes in Minnesota Twins camp, as he's hit .500 through 11 games with two home runs and a triple.

    That said, it'll be difficult for him to crack the outfield with the Twins, with Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler slotted from left to right and Robbie Grossman and Zack Granite leading the field for the fourth and/or fifth outfield gigs.

    As a 29-year-old journeyman, LaMarre won't score the Twins a massive haul. He is, however, a prime sell-high candidate who could bring back bullpen depth for the Twinkies, who are hoping to compete while hanging on to their top prospects. 

American League East

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    Baltimore Orioles: C Andrew Susac

    The Baltimore Orioles are probably going to give the starting catching job to Caleb Joseph. Behind him, they have No. 3 prospect (per MLB.com) Chance Sisco, who appears ready for the big leagues. 

    That doesn't leave room for Andrew Susac, who battled a staph infection early in spring but has three hits and a home run in five at-bats. 

    The O's acquired Susac from the Milwaukee Brewers in early February but could flip the 27-year-old backstop—who has MLB experience with the Brewers and San Francisco Giants—for much-needed pitching depth.


    Boston Red Sox: C/INF Blake Swihart

    Blake Swihart is hoping to make the Boston Red Sox Opening Day roster, possibly as a super-utility player. He's done everything in his power so far, as he's gone 11-for-29 with seven doubles and a home run in spring training.

    The Red Sox don't have an obvious spot for the 25-year-old. Hence a report from Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal that, "Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is being flooded with calls from fellow executives, asking if Swihart is available in a trade."

    Swihart's value has dimmed since his top-prospect apex. But he could be cashed in for bullpen depth, particularly a reliable late-inning left-hander.


    New York Yankees: OF Clint Frazier

    It's been a frustrating, scary spring for New York Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier. The 23-year-old suffered a concussion after colliding with the outfield wall and has battled lingering symptoms that have kept him out of action.

    "It sucks," Frazier said, per Dan Martin of the New York Post. "This has to be the worst injury I've ever had."

    Frazier's recovery is obviously more important than baseball. But the injury has further hampered his path to playing time with the Yankees, who have a crowded outfield depth chart.

    Injury concerns aside, Frazier has all the tools to be an MLB stud and would undoubtedly attract many trade suitors. 


    Tampa Bay Rays: RHP Chris Archer

    The Tampa Bay Rays jettisoned third baseman Evan Longoria, right-hander Jake Odorizzi and outfielder Corey Dickerson this winter. Will ace Chris Archer be next?

    The 29-year-old two-time All-Star is locked into an affordable contract through 2021 with a pair of club options. He'd elicit a huge return for the Rays. He's also a franchise icon.

    The Rays almost certainly won't deal him this spring, but a trade to a contender come July feels more likely than in the past, given Tampa Bay's recent machinations.


    Toronto Blue Jays: OF Teoscar Hernandez

    At one point, it looked like Teoscar Hernandez might have a shot at a starting role in the Toronto Blue Jays outfield.

    Now, the 25-year-old is blocked by the Jays' acquisition of Randal Grichuk and signing of Curtis Granderson.

    He's also hitting well in the Grapefruit League, with seven hits and two home runs in 24 at-bats. The Jays could keep him for outfield depth, but he'd interest any number of teams and could bring back some useful pieces for Toronto, which seems set on contending in 2018. 

National League West

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    Arizona Diamondbacks: OF Socrates Brito

    Once a rapid riser for the Arizona Diamondbacks, outfielder Socrates Brito has been hampered by injuries. The 25-year-old has been healthy this spring and rapped out three hits in 10 at-bats, including a mammoth home run.

    He's also looking up at A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Steven Souza Jr., Yasmany Tomas, Jarrod Dyson, Chris Owings and Jeremy Hazelbaker in the D-backs outfield.

    The Diamondbacks may not want to give up on Brito, but other teams would come calling if they did.


    Colorado Rockies: INF Brendan Rodgers

    Colorado Rockies fans will balk at this. Rodgers is the team's top prospect and a widely perceived star of the future.

    The 21-year-old is also blocked in the middle infield by Trevor Story at shortstop and DJ LeMahieu at second.

    Story seemed expendable in 2017, as he hit a scant .239. He's stormed back this spring by hitting .471 with a 1.689 OPS. Suddenly, he looks like the Rockies' shortstop of the present and future once again. 

    Where does that leave Rodgers, who has 10 hits and two home runs in 34 spring at-bats? The Rocks could stash him at Triple-A and wait for the right time to promote him. Or, they could use him as the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal as they try to get past last season's NL Wild Card Game loss.


    Los Angeles Dodgers: OF Trayce Thompson

    The Los Angeles Dodgers have a glut of youngsters, journeymen and former stars competing for playing time in the outfield. Trayce Thompson could be the odd man out.

    The 26-year-old showed flashes in 2016 with L.A., but he doesn't have a clear path to playing time in 2018.

    He's acquitted himself well enough in the Cactus League, tallying seven hits in 21 at-bats, though none have gone for extra bases. At this point, his greatest value to the loaded Dodgers is probably as a trade piece. 


    San Diego Padres: LHP Brad Hand

    The San Diego Padres are rebuilding. Sure, they signed free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, but they should be looking to acquire and hoard prospects.

    Southpaw reliever Brad Hand looked like an obvious trade candidate all winter, and he still does. The Pads inked Hand to a three-year, $19.75 million extension in January. In some ways, that made the 27-year-old All-Star more attractive.

    The Astros, for one, could use left-handed bullpen depth. San Diego should explore a trade and look to boost its minor league ranks.


    San Francisco Giants: 1B/OF Chris Shaw

    San Francisco Giants prospect Chris Shaw is blocked at first base by Brandon Belt and Buster Posey, when the latter needs time off from the rigors of catching. He's blocked in the corner outfield spots by Andrew McCutchen and Hunter Pence.

    At the same time, he's posted a .996 OPS with three doubles and two home runs this spring. The Giants could use that power, but they could also swap Shaw to boost the back end of their starting rotation or strengthen their bullpen.

National League Central

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    Chicago Cubs: OF Mark Zagunis

    An on-base machine who's hitting .333 this spring, Mark Zagunis could have a place on Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon's Opening Day roster.

    Then again, the Cubs outfield is laden with options. At age 25, Zagunis has little to prove in the minors.

    This may be the moment for the Cubbies to leverage Zagunis' value. His versatility and skill set offer ample appeal, and Chicago has enough MLB depth to let go of a few ancillary pieces.


    Cincinnati Reds: OF Billy Hamilton

    There's no way the rebuilding Cincinnati Reds are trading away prospects. That leaves veterans, including speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton.

    Hamilton was the subject of trade speculation this winter and is hitless in 25 spring plate appearances.

    He's flashed his trademark brilliant defense, however, and remains one of the game's top base stealers. 

    The 27-year-old will never be regarded as an offensive force, but his other skills mean he could land the Reds a decent return.


    Milwaukee Brewers: OF Domingo Santana

    After the Milwaukee Brewers signed Lorenzo Cain and acquired Christian Yelich in late January, they opened up trade possibilities for their existing young outfielders.

    That includes Domingo Santana, who hit .278 with 30 home runs and 15 stolen bases for Milwaukee in 2017. Santana is 25 years old and under club control through 2021.

    The Brewers should hold out for a massive haul, but Santana is an expendable piece who's hitting .308 with two doubles and a home run this spring.


    Pittsburgh Pirates: INF/OF Josh Harrison

    The Pittsburgh Pirates kicked off their fire sale by trading ace Gerrit Cole and McCutchen this winter. 

    Super-utility player and two-time All-Star Josh Harrison understandably asked to be traded next, and he didn't back down at spring's outset.

    "I spoke what I spoke. I said my feelings, but I can't control certain things," Harrison said, per Kevin Gorman of the Tribune-Review. "All I can control is me."


    St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Luke Weaver

    With top prospect Alex Reyes poised to return from Tommy John surgery and No. 2 prospect Jack Flaherty waiting in the wings, the St. Louis Cardinals could deal 24-year-old Luke Weaver, who has struck out five in five spring innings.

    The Cards shouldn't trade Weaver for just anyone. However, as Ryan Fagan of Sporting News speculated, St. Louis could use its surplus of young pitching to acquire the Rays' Chris Archer and give the archrival Cubs a run for their money in the National League Central.

National League East

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    Atlanta Braves: RHP Julio Teheran

    Julio Teheran has fanned five in nine spring innings while yielding no runs. He's on track to be the Atlanta Braves' Opening Day starter.

    At the same time, Atlanta could move the 27-year-old to gild a minor league system that Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter already ranked the game's best.

    The Braves are loaded with young talent but are a year or two away from serious contention. Expect Teheran's name to pop up in summer trade rumors. 


    Miami Marlins: C J.T. Realmuto

    The Marlins traded their entire 2017 starting outfield (Giancarlo Stanton, Yelich, Marcell Ozuna) and their second baseman (Dee Gordon) this offseason. Catcher J.T. Realmuto's name also came up, but so far he's remained with the Fish.

    He's hitting just .211 this spring. The team's new ownership group fronted by Derek Jeter, however, is set on selling any valuable major league assets.

    It seems a matter of when, not if Realmuto will don a new uniform.


    New York Mets: OF Brandon Nimmo

    Brandon Nimmo is making his case to be the New York Mets' Opening Day center fielder. The 24-year-old is hitting .345 with a 1.187 OPS in the Grapefruit League. 

    On the other hand, the Mets are anticipating center fielder Michael Conforto's return from shoulder surgery. With Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce slotted into the corner spots and Juan Lagares also in the mix, Nimmo could have more value in trade for the Amazin's, particularly if they find themselves in need of pitching.


    Philadelphia Phillies: 2B Cesar Hernandez

    Top Philadelphia Phillies position-player prospect Scott Kingery is charging hard. The 23-year-old has eight hits in 22 at-bats with three home runs in the Grapefruit League.

    That should rekindle speculation around second baseman Cesar Hernandez, who was the subject of trade rumors this winter.

    The 27-year-old could be part of the Phils' future, but he could also gird their farm system and clear a path for Kingery.


    Washington Nationals: RHP Erick Fedde

    With franchise player Bryce Harper in his contract year, the time is now for the Washington Nationals.

    After winning four of the last six NL East crowns but failing to advance past the Division Series, the Nats shouldn't hesitate to make moves. They have few obvious weaknesses. If one opens up, they could dangle top pitching prospect Erick Fedde. 

    The 25-year-old hasn't been perfect this spring, yielding 11 hits and three earned runs in nine innings. He has struck out six, though, and displayed the stuff that might make him a piece of Washington's next chapter or the centerpiece of a win-now trade.


    All statistics and prospect rankings current as of March 10 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.