Each MLB Team's Biggest Trade Chip Midway Through 2019 Spring Training
Major League Baseball's spring training season isn't exactly a hotbed for trade activity, but every team has something to barter with just in case.
We've taken a closer look at each team's best trade chip—mainly prospects for contenders and expendable veterans for everyone else—through the midway point of the 2019 exhibition season.
Performances in spring games were a factor for some, but we more so considered players' general appeal based on their age, contract status and track record. Some are certainly more readily available than others, but all could hypothetically be moved at some point in 2019.
We'll proceed in alphabetical order by city.
Arizona Diamondbacks: LHP Robbie Ray
If it's between Zack Greinke, David Peralta and Robbie Ray, only Ray is presently the right combination of young, affordable, controllable, talented and hot.
The 27-year-old was an All-Star in 2017, and he boasts a rate of 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings dating back to 2016. He slumped early in 2018, but he recovered with a 2.65 ERA and 78 strikeouts over 57.2 innings in his last 11 starts.
Ray, who's under club control through 2020, has picked up from there through his first three spring outings. Albeit with a modest 4.70 ERA, he's dominated with 13 strikeouts in 7.2 innings.
According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, the Arizona Diamondbacks have demanded more for Ray than what the Seattle Mariners got for James Paxton. Even if it's not right away, the D-backs may actually get their wish if the left-hander keeps rolling.
Atlanta Braves: OF Cristian Pache
In light of how many of their pitchers have come down with injuries this spring, the Atlanta Braves should probably hold on to the best arms in their No. 2 farm system.
Cristian Pache, on the other hand, might be available.
Per MLB.com, the 20-year-old outfielder entered the spring as the No. 37 overall prospect in MLB. He was mainly known for his speed, arm strength and hitting acumen. Now Pache is teasing some power with five extra-base hits (including two home runs) in 13 spring games.
"This kid just keeps doing it," Braves manager Brian Snitker said, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman. "He just keeps improving. It's been a good camp for him."
There's no indication that the Braves are actively shopping Pache. But if their pitching crisis gets any worse, he'd be a prime candidate to be moved for a veteran, star-caliber pitcher.
Baltimore Orioles: RHP Mychal Givens
Coming off a 115-loss season, what the Baltimore Orioles need more than anything is for their veteran holdovers to build up enough trade value to be worthy of deals for young talent.
Alas, the early returns from spring training aren't so good. Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner, in particular, are only putting more dents in their compromised trade value.
In a scenario like this, Mychal Givens wins by default.
He isn't doing so hot in his own right this spring, as he's allowed nine runs and struck out only three batters in four appearances. But he's still a 28-year-old with three years of club control, and he has his 3.12 career ERA out of a late-relief role.
Givens isn't worth a lot. But unlike most Orioles, he's worth something.
Boston Red Sox: 3B/1B Michael Chavis
The Boston Red Sox have three catchers right now, yet room for only two on their Opening Day roster. However, neither Christian Vazquez nor Blake Swihart nor Sandy Leon may be worth as much on the trade market as Michael Chavis.
The 23-year-old began the spring as the best prospect within Boston's MLB-worst farm system, and he only boosted his stock with his work in the batter's box. In 11 games before he was reassigned to Triple-A Tuesday, he clubbed four homers and racked up a 1.152 OPS.
Chavis' stock is clouded somewhat by the 80-game suspension he served for performance-enhancing drugs in 2018. Yet what he's doing now is only the latest example of how well he hits when he's on the field.
If they don't simply want to stash him behind Rafael Devers, Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce until they need him later, perhaps the Red Sox will consider dealing Chavis for a late-inning reliever they need now.
Chicago Cubs: SS Nico Hoerner
The Chicago Cubs share a couple dilemmas with the Red Sox. They, too, could use help in their bullpen, but they'd have to trade from a farm system that's only marginally better than Boston's.
Still, at least said system has Nico Hoerner.
The Cubs took the 21-year-old shortstop out of Stanford with the No. 24 pick in the 2018 draft. He promptly hit well in the minors and in the Arizona Fall League, and now he's making the most of his spring action. In five games, Hoerner has gone 5-for-7 with three extra-base hits and a walk.
The Cubs could hypothetically call Hoerner, who ranks as MLB.com's No. 100 prospect, up as soon as this year, but maybe only if their impressive middle infield depth withers away. Otherwise, their best possible use of Hoerner might be in a trade.
Chicago White Sox: 1B Jose Abreu
The Chicago White Sox have never seemed enthused about the idea of trading Jose Abreu. Even as recently as December, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that they had "no intention" of moving him.
Yet that was before the White Sox knew they would miss out on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Sans either one of them, a return to contention in 2019 is all but out of the question. Sooner or later, they'll need to consider moving their pending free agents.
Starting with Abreu.
The 32-year-old is a two-time All-Star who's averaged an .869 OPS and 29 homers in five major league seasons. So it goes now, as he's raking with a .927 OPS and two homers through 11 spring games.
The only downside to Abreu's trade value is his $16 million salary for 2019. Despite that, the White Sox could still probably cash him in for a couple prospects.
Cincinnati Reds: 3B Jonathan India
The Cincinnati Reds are technically contenders going into 2019, but they're hedging their bets on short-term assets like Yasiel Puig, Scooter Gennett, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Tanner Roark.
A team in this spot shouldn't be in any hurry to deal its best prospects. In this case, the Reds almost certainly won't be trading Nick Senzel, Taylor Trammell or Hunter Greene at any point in 2019.
But Jonathan India? Maybe.
The 22-year-old Florida alum is ranked by MLB.com as the league's No. 53 prospect, but he may not be ready for the majors until 2021. By then, he may be blocked from playing time at ideal positions by both Senzel and Eugenio Suarez.
According to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, the Reds were willing to discuss India with the Miami Marlins in a possible deal for J.T. Realmuto. Though that didn't pan out, it may not be the last time India's name comes up in trade rumors.
Cleveland Indians: 3B Nolan Jones
Surprised not to see Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer mentioned here?
Don't be silly. Though both aces launched a thousand trade rumors over the winter, it's too late for the Cleveland Indians to move them now. At least until next winter, Kluber and Bauer are staying put.
The Indians are more likely to deal one of their prospects. Since right-hander Triston McKenzie is hurt again, Nolan Jones is the best they have to offer right now.
Jones, 20, was a second-round pick by the Indians back in 2016. His bat came to life in 2017, and it improved in 2018 to the tune of a .283/.405/.466 batting line and 19 homers. He presently ranks as MLB.com's No. 67 prospect.
Jones is blocked from third base by Jose Ramirez, so the Indians might consider moving him for major league help. As it happens, they need some in their outfield.
Colorado Rockies: 3B Colton Welker
With Nolan Arenado due to stick around for the next eight years, the Colorado Rockies don't need an heir apparent at third base.
Perhaps that will be Colton Welker's ticket out of their farm system.
The 20-year-old has boosted his stock quite a bit since the Rockies chose him in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. To wit, he finished 2018 with an .872 OPS and 13 homers at Single-A. He entered the spring as MLB.com's No. 95 prospect, and he put up a 1.500 OPS in 10 spring games before he was reassigned to the minors Monday.
All the same, Welker might not be ready for Colorado until 2020. Even if the Rockies move him to first base between now and then, he'll still be looking up at Daniel Murphy and/or Ryan McMahon.
Ultimately, the Rockies may be best served moving Welker for a pitcher or an outfielder.
Detroit Tigers: RF Nicholas Castellanos
If he had his druthers, Nicholas Castellanos would have been jettisoned out of the Detroit Tigers' ongoing rebuild before spring training even opened up.
"He wants to win and understands the direction of the franchise right now is to procure prospects," Castellanos' agent, David Meter, told Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press in January. "That being said, he would rather start with his new club going into spring training."
That didn't happen, but Castellanos' value hasn't dropped in the meantime. He still boasts an .831 OPS since 2016, and he's living up to it with an .860 OPS through nine spring games.
The caveats remain his poor defense, $9.95 million salary and pending free agency after 2019. But whether it's sooner or later, the Tigers should eventually cash him in for a prospect or two.
Houston Astros: Of Kyle Tucker
Need an example of the term "sitting pretty?" Look to the Houston Astros. They're coming off consecutive 100-win seasons and they have the No. 7 farm system in MLB.
Unequivocally, Houston's best prospect is right-hander Forrest Whitley. But because he's destined to be in the big club's starting rotation in the near future, the title of the system's top trade chip falls to Kyle Tucker.
The 22-year-old outfielder got a rude awakening in the majors last year, yet he still ranks as MLB.com's No. 8 overall prospect. He is, after all, a veritable bucket of tools who put up a .989 OPS with 27 homers and 20 stolen bases at Triple-A in 2018. He posted a solid .757 OPS this spring before he was reassigned Tuesday.
There isn't much room for Tucker in an outfield consisting of George Springer, Josh Reddick and Michael Brantley, so perhaps the Astros will move him for an impact arm somewhere down the line.
Kansas City Royals: 2B Whit Merrifield
However, Merrifield's new deal may not stop teams from asking about him.
The Royals are rebuilding, after all, and Merrifield is an awkward fit for a long-term outlook. He's been worth 9.4 wins above replacement since 2017, according to Baseball Reference, but he's also 30 years old. His prime could end sooner than his new deal does.
For now, Merrifield is showing no signs of slowing down with a 1.122 OPS in spring training. If he keeps that up into the regular season, the Royals might eventually get an offer for him that they simply can't refuse.
Los Angeles Angels: 1B Matt Thaiss
The Los Angeles Angels' top trade chip should be Jo Adell, the all-talented outfielder who ranks as MLB.com's No. 14 prospect.
Alas, Adell is going to be out for 10-to-12 weeks with hamstring and ankle sprains. Meanwhile, fellow top prospects Griffin Canning and Brandon Marsh aren't having particularly good springs.
This spot therefore goes to the Angels prospect who's boosted his stock the most this spring: Matt Thaiss.
He hit well with an .802 OPS at Double-A and Triple-A in 2018, and now he's working on a 1.171 OPS via a barrage of extra-base hits in spring action with the Angels.
Trouble is, the Angels need to keep first base and designated hitter open for Albert Pujols and Justin Bour, as well as for Shohei Ohtani whenever he's healthy. Thaiss, 23, may serve their short-term interests best as a trade chip.
Los Angeles Dodgers: OF Alex Verdugo
Not unlike the Astros, the Los Angeles Dodgers are an elite team that's sitting on a top-10 farm system. Within that system are plenty of goodies they might deal.
By default, Alex Verdugo is the most attractive of the bunch.
One catch is that he only has a .669 OPS this spring. Another is that the 22-year-old comes with work ethic questions. To wit, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register that Verdugo needs "growth in routine, the preparation part of it, the consistency part of it."
All the same, Verdugo is the No. 1 prospect in the Dodgers system, as well as the No. 35 prospect in all of baseball for MLB.com. And at this point, the sweet-swinging outfielder would be just as wasted in a major league platoon role as he would be in the minors.
The Dodgers might be better off trading him for, say, an arm.
Miami Marlins: RHP Drew Steckenrider
Sans Realmuto, the Miami Marlins are all out of in-their-prime stars to cash in for prospects as they seek to rebuild.
The best chip they have left? It's debatable, but it's probably Drew Steckenrider.
The right-hander has walked four and allowed six hits in the process of giving up seven runs this spring. And that's in only 4.1 innings spanning five appearances.
Yet Steckenrider has other credits to boost his value. One is a 3.35 career ERA. Another is the .545 OPS he held righty batters to in 2018. He's also 28 years old and under club control all the way through 2023.
The Marlins won't need controllable relievers until their rebuild is complete. In the meantime, the best one they have is worth a few young players on the trade market.
Milwaukee Brewers: OF Corey Ray
If the Milwaukee Brewers are going to make a big move in 2019, chances are it'll be for an established ace who can slide into the vacant No. 1 slot in their rotation.
In exchange, they might offer Corey Ray.
The 24-year-old initially struggled after the Brewers took him with the No. 5 pick in the 2016 draft, but he came through with an .801 OPS, 27 homers and 37 stolen bases at Double-A in 2018. Now he's lighting up spring training with an .848 OPS and two homers through 14 games.
However, Ray does need to improve as a hitter before he can break through as a major league regular. Even if he does, he might be blocked by Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Ryan Braun anyway.
Rather than play the long game with Ray, perhaps the Brewers will flip him to further their short-term World Series aspirations.
Minnesota Twins: SS Royce Lewis
If any team is going to snap Cleveland's American League Central winning streak in 2019, it'll be the Minnesota Twins. They've added about as much as the Indians have subtracted.
Still, the Twins would look better with an ace starter or ace closer. If they want to go for broke for one or the other on the trade market, they'll offer Royce Lewis.
Because of an oblique strain, Lewis didn't get into any spring games with the Twins before he was reassigned to minor league camp Sunday. The toolsy 19-year-old nonetheless looms large as the organization's No. 1 prospect, as well as the league's No. 5 overall prospect for MLB.com.
However, Lewis may not be ready for The Show until 2020 at the earliest. Another complication is that he's blocked from shortstop by Jorge Polanco, whom the Twins extended in February.
Presumably, the Twins don't want to move Lewis. But in their current situation, he can't be untouchable.
New York Mets: SS Andres Gimenez
The New York Mets might look to move outfielder Juan Lagares or first baseman Dom Smith, both of whom are superfluous in an offensive depth chart that runs deep.
But if they really have a mind to make an impact trade, they may have to move shortstop Andres Gimenez.
Unlike fellow top prospect Pete Alonso, the 20-year-old Gimenez is probably another year away from being ready for the majors. And the Mets may not have a place to play him when that time comes. Their middle infield is due to be held down by Amed Rosario and Robinson Cano for a while.
Yet as a solid two-way talent who ranks as MLB.com's No. 58 prospect, Gimenez has good baseline value. He further helped it with an .833 OPS in nine spring games with the Mets before his reassignment Tuesday.
Should the Mets start to feel their shallow rotation depth, Gimenez may be the trade chip they look to cash in.
New York Yankees: OF Estevan Florial
The New York Yankees didn't have any apparent needs when spring training opened, but the health woes for Luis Severino and CC Sabathia have revealed a problem with their rotation depth.
If the problem doesn't eventually fix itself, they'll have to consider shopping Estevan Florial.
The 21-year-old is the best prospect left in New York's diminished farm system, as well as MLB.com's No. 57 overall prospect. He has tools galore, and he's shown them off in putting up a .931 OPS with a homer and four steals in 11 spring games.
Florial has only advanced as far as High-A, however, so he's still a couple years away from the majors. By the time he is ready, there's no guarantee there will be an outfield spot for him.
Rather than wait and see, the Yankees might flip him for an arm that could help them take the American League East back from the Red Sox.
Oakland Athletics: INF Franklin Barreto
The Oakland Athletics' two best prospects are left-hander Jesus Luzardo and catcher Sean Murphy, both of whom figure to latch on with the big club sooner than later.
Former top prospect Franklin Barreto, on the other hand, might be expendable.
The 23-year-old was a regular in prospect lists between 2015 and 2018 before finally losing his rookie eligibility amid an unspectacular showing with the A's last season. He's otherwise been a strong hitter throughout his pro career, including right now to the tune of a 1.070 OPS in 13 spring games.
Trouble is, there's no clear home for Barreto in Oakland's crowded infield. Per Jane Lee of MLB.com, he has a better chance of becoming one of the moving parts in the A's outfield.
Alternatively, perhaps the A's flip him for an impact starting pitcher for a rotation that's dangerously short on talent.
Philadelphia Phillies: OF Dylan Cozens
The Philadelphia Phillies have sacrificed plenty of money and prospects in their effort to build a World Series contender, but their major league roster still isn't without imperfections.
These could be addressed with trades of top prospects Alec Bohm or Adonis Medina, but the Phillies would be wiser to keep them as potential solutions for third base and their rotation, respectively.
They'd be better off moving a prospect who's MLB-ready and intriguing, yet wholly expendable. Basically, Dylan Cozens.
The 24-year-old has clubbed 88 homers in the minors since 2016, and he's raking in spring training with a 1.131 OPS and three homers. Yet he comes with an extreme strikeout habit, and there's little room for him in Philly's outfield.
Rather than wait for these issues to resolve themselves, the Phillies might deal Cozens while his value is up.
Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Mitch Keller
The Pittsburgh Pirates probably shouldn't be looking to swap any of their prospects for an established veteran. But if anybody goes in such an arrangement, it should be Mitch Keller.
The Pirates don't have a clear and present need for Keller, however, and it happens that he's hitting bumps in the road as he gets closer to the majors. He struggled upon reaching Triple-A in 2018, and he got lit up in three spring outings before the Pirates reassigned him to minor league camp.
Under the right circumstances, the Pirates may be better off moving Keller than waiting for him to right his ship. In their case, that could mean a trade for a slugger their offense sorely needs.
San Diego Padres: C Francisco Mejia
It's extremely difficult to find talent at catcher right now, which puts the San Diego Padres in an enviable position.
They're set to roll into 2019 with Austin Hedges, who's an elite defensive catcher, and Francisco Mejia, who's arguably baseball's best catching prospect. That could be fine by them, but there's a chance the Padres will use one to land a No. 1 starter.
Mejia, 23, would offer the better chance of actually bringing one home. Though he's not as established as Hedges, his upside is higher because of what he can do offensively. He boasts a .799 career OPS in the minors, and he's presently raking with a 1.275 OPS in spring training.
In a perfect world, the Padres might ship Mejia back to Cleveland in a trade for Kluber. More realistically, he might be dangled for a Michael Fulmer if he succeeds in bouncing back from a rough 2018.
San Francisco Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner
The San Francisco Giants aren't in any hurry to sell their remaining veteran wares. But whether they open up shop sooner or later, Madison Bumgarner is their prized possession.
Granted, there's a case for hugely underrated lefty Will Smith. But Bumgarner's creds are just too much. He's a four-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion. Indeed, he's one of the best postseason pitchers in MLB history.
Bumgarner, 29, only needs to recoup the trade value he lost amid injuries and diminished fastball velocity in 2017 and 2018. Things are looking up in this regard. He's healthy this spring, and Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic reports he's been clocked as high as 93 mph.
At $12 million, Bumgarner won't exactly be cheap in his final season before free agency. But if he is indeed all the way back from his injuries, that shouldn't hamper his trade value too much.
Seattle Mariners: RF Jay Bruce
The Seattle Mariners are loaded with veterans as they march toward the 2019 season. But as they look to "reimagine" their roster, any of them could be moved at any time.
Perhaps their two most obvious trade candidates are veteran sluggers Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion. Between the two, it's Bruce who's doing more to play his way onto another team this spring.
Through 11 games, the 31-year-old is rocking a 1.130 OPS with a pair of homers. Though the year as a whole was a lousy experience, this is a case of him picking up where he left off in 2018. He finished the year with a solid .811 OPS and six homers in the second half.
Provided they're willing to eat some of the $28 million remaining on his contract through 2020, the Mariners might actually be able to get something for Bruce if he keeps hitting like this.
St. Louis Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill
One member (Carlos Martinez) of the St. Louis Cardinals rotation is already hurt. Two more (Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright) plus a top prospect (Alex Reyes) come with durability questions of their own.
As Bernie Miklasz of The Athletic argued, signing Dallas Keuchel is the easiest fix for what ails St. Louis' starting pitching depth. But if the Cardinals prefer a trade, they might dangle Tyler O'Neill.
The 23-year-old lost his rookie eligibility in 2018, but that's really the only "bad" thing to happen to him over the last year or so. He performed well at Triple-A and the majors last season, and now he has a .997 OPS and four homers in spring training.
There could be a job for O'Neill in the Cardinals outfield, but only if Marcell Ozuna, Harrison Bader, Dexter Fowler and/or Jose Martinez lose theirs first. If not, the Cards might look to flip O'Neill for a starter rather than let him waste away at Triple-A.
Tampa Bay Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe
The Tampa Bay Rays' situation isn't too dissimilar from that of the Pirates and Reds. They're a contender, but not one that should mortgage its future via trades of prospects.
But if there is a good one the Rays can spare, it's potentially Brandon Lowe.
As of now, Lowe is Tampa Bay's No. 7 prospect and, more importantly, its projected starting second baseman for Opening Day. He's earned the latter honor with a 1.362 OPS through 10 spring games.
If Matt Duffy ever recovers from his troublesome hamstring issues, however, Lowe would presumably cede second base to 2018 Rookie of the Year candidate Joey Wendle. He'd instead have to serve as a utility player.
Rather than let Lowe settle into that role, the Rays might look to move him to a team willing to trade an established slugger for a long-term second baseman.
Texas Rangers: RHP Jose Leclerc
Presumably, the Texas Rangers signed Jose Leclerc to a contract extension because they want to keep him for a while. But in so doing, they also boosted his trade value even higher.
Leclerc, 25, posted a 1.56 ERA and 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 2018. At the outset of spring training, he was also under club control through 2022.
Well, now he's controlled through as far as 2024, wherein his salary would max out at $6.25 million. If he stays on his current track—which lately includes nine strikeouts in 3.2 spring innings—he stands to be the most underpaid reliever in baseball.
In light of the Rangers' ongoing rebuild, Leclerc is in a similar position to the one Brad Hand was in this time last year. He was fresh off signing a three-year extension, yet the Padres still traded him months later. Perhaps the Rangers will ultimately do the same with Leclerc.
Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Marcus Stroman
After publicly expressing dismay with his contract situation in February, Marcus Stroman has gotten started on pitching his way off the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019.
Through three spring outings, the 27-year-old righty has racked up a 2.25 ERA while allowing only four hits and a walk in eight innings. He's struck out seven.
This signals that Stroman may be ready to return to form following a brutal 2018 season. It began with shoulder inflammation during spring training, and he never really got on track en route to a 5.54 ERA over 19 starts. This was after he broke out with a 3.09 ERA over 201 innings in 2017.
Stroman is controlled through 2020, so the Blue Jays don't have to move him anytime soon. But since they're rebuilding and he's apparently disgruntled, it'll be an easy call to do just that if he stays on his current trajectory.
Washington Nationals: SS Carter Kieboom
Save for a late-inning reliever and perhaps insurance for their Bryce Harper-less outfield, the Washington Nationals don't have any glaring needs going into 2019.
Still, Carter Kieboom might not want to get too comfortable.
The 21-year-old presently has all sorts of value on account of two things. One is that he's MLB.com's No. 25 prospect. Another is that he's boosting his stock with a 1.373 OPS and three homers (including two off Justin Verlander on Tuesday) through 14 spring games.
However, it'll be tough for Kieboom to crack the Nationals infield in 2019. They're set with Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Brian Dozier and Ryan Zimmerman around the horn.
Next season will be a different story, as Kieboom could slot into holes left by Rendon, Dozier or Zimmerman if they depart as free agents. But if any glaring needs do manifest between now and then, the Nats may just as soon trade him for the sake of their World Series pursuit.