Back Off: Top 2019 MLB Trade Assets Who Should Be Untouchable
This is the time of year when it's easy to get carried away with discussions of which players should be moved ahead of Major League Baseball's July 31 trade deadline.
In this instance, we're going to shift the focus onto players who shouldn't be traded.
This particular discussion covers four prospects whom buyers should keep completely off the table in trade talks, as well as six major leaguers whom sellers should resist cashing in.
We'll begin with the prospects.
Note: For consistent reference, we've used MLB.com's prospect rankings.
Alec Bohm, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
They've had nagging needs in their pitching staff all season, and their outfield suddenly requires more than just Bruce. Andrew McCutchen is out for the year with a torn ACL. Odubel Herrera was recently arrested and charged with domestic violence.
He's only a year removed from being picked by the Phillies at No. 3 in the 2018 draft, yet he's put himself on a fast track to the majors with a .340/.403/.535 batting line in his first full professional season. His defense is a work in progress, but those numbers are reflective of a truly exciting offensive profile.
Meanwhile, at the major league level, third base continues to be a sore spot for the Phillies. Even if he might not be ready until 2021, Bohm is a potential fix worth waiting for.
Yordan Alvarez, OF, Houston Astros
As they chase a third straight 100-win season and a second World Series championship in three years, the Houston Astros should be willing to do pretty much anything.
They could use an upgrade at first base and/or designated hitter and potentially a third ace behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. And with a top-10 farm system at Houston's disposal, there are few players the team can't pursue to fill these needs.
Yordan Alvarez should stay, however.
Alvarez was a relatively unknown teenager out of Cuba when the Astros acquired him from the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016. Now he's MLB.com's No. 26 overall prospect and arguably the best hitter in the minors.
After posting a .904 OPS and 20 home runs in 2018, Alvarez is now pounding on the door to The Show with a .353/.450/.755 slash line and 22 homers through only 54 games for Triple-A Round Rock in 2019. His power is legit, and he barely strikes out (46) more often than he walks (36).
Perhaps the only question is why the Astros haven't called the soon-to-be 22-year-old's number yet. Once they do, he might make an immediate impact in their 100-win and World Series pursuits.
Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays are on track for a franchise-record 99 wins, yet they still need to exercise caution with their approach to the trade deadline.
As good as the Rays are, the New York Yankees are leading the American League East despite myriad injuries that will eventually heal. The Rays also can't write off the Boston Red Sox as a threat.
Throw in the Rays' notoriously limited budget, and they have every reason to be protective of their best prospects. None more so than 18-year-old shortstop Wander Franco.
Although he doesn't have the name recognition of a Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or a Fernando Tatis Jr., Franco is in their company as the No. 5 prospect in baseball. That hints at his legit five-tool profile.
It's Franco's offensive profile that looms especially large right now. Even though he's been significantly younger than his competition, he's walked more often (50) than he's struck out (35) in the process of putting together a .340/.406/.560 batting line through his first 110 minor league games.
It may not be until 2021, but Franco is going to be a star when he arrives in St. Petersburg.
MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres
Over in the National League, the San Diego Padres are in a spot that's not too dissimilar from the one the Rays are in.
They attempted to build a contender over the winter, and that is what they have. But barely, as their 31-31 record puts them well behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West and only periphery of the NL Wild Card race.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Padres are seeking a No. 1 starting pitcher on the trade market anyway. They have what they need to go get one, as they came into 2019 with the best farm system in baseball.
Even still, they should put a force field around 20-year-old left-hander MacKenzie Gore.
Gore is not only San Diego's best prospect but also the game's top southpaw prospect. Such are the honors that one attracts when boasting four above-average pitches and above-average control. And Gore's performance is matching his hype. He boasts a 1.13 ERA and a 7.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio for High-A Lake Elsinore.
At this rate, it wouldn't be surprising if Gore was ready to join the Padres rotation by 2020.
Luis Castillo, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds also tried to build a contender over the winter, but their effort isn't working out as well.
They have indeed played well since a disastrous 1-8 start, but their 28-32 record still puts them in last place in the NL Central. And it's getting late early for them, as they'll have to make their pending free agents—e.g., Yasiel Puig, Tanner Roark and Scooter Gennett—available if they don't make up ground before July 31.
If things end up going south between now and then, the Reds might start getting a few calls about 26-year-old righty Luis Castillo.
He's been one of the season's best pitchers with a 2.38 ERA and 90 strikeouts through 75.2 innings. Between that and his club control through 2023, the Reds could command a huge haul for him in a trade.
Alternatively, they could keep him as the ace of their staff for the foreseeable future.
That would perhaps be a futile endeavor if the Reds' future was looking bleak, but their plus-39 run differential hints that they're better than they've played this season. And going forward, Castillo, Sonny Gray, Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Nick Senzel give them a strong core to build around.
Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals came into 2019 with one of the worst farm systems in baseball, and they now find themselves barreling toward a second straight 100-loss season.
Understandably, the Royals are already open for business, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. And they apparently have only two untouchables: shortstop Adalberto Mondesi and third baseman Hunter Dozier.
There actually is a case for the Royals to get what they can for Dozier. Although he's under their control through 2023, he's already pushing 28. Plus, he was an afterthought before breaking out with a .987 OPS through his first 52 games of 2019. The Royals arguably should sell high on him.
But Mondesi? He can and should stay.
Mondesi is also under club control through 2023, but he's four years younger than Dozier and a decidedly better player to boot. He was once rated as an elite prospect, and he's been living up to that billing with both strong offense—i.e., a .799 OPS, 20 home runs and 54 stolen bases—and defense over the last two years.
If anything, the Royals should be rushing to sign Raul's son to a long-term extension.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
The New York Mets are still another team that tried to remake themselves into a winner over the winter, but what they've actually wrought is more akin to a dumpster fire.
The Mets are a not-that-terrible 29-32 overall, but they're 20-28 dating back to April 13. Virtually nothing is functioning as intended, and neither the Philadelphia Phillies nor the Atlanta Braves have cut them much slack in the NL East race.
According to Andy Martino of SNY.tv, teams are already eyeing the Mets' trade chips. Free-agent-to-be righty Zack Wheeler is chief among them. But just like there were during the offseason, there are bound to be Noah Syndergaard rumors too.
These are the ones the Mets should resist.
Since he's a 26-year-old with a singularly lively right arm and club control that runs through 2021, "Thor" is a tremendously shiny trade chip in theory. But in reality, he's struggling with a 4.83 ERA and a career-worst strikeout rate. The Mets would be selling low on him.
Rather than do that, they can just as easily hold on to Syndergaard and try for a quick turnaround in 2020.
Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals have been playing well lately. But given how poorly they started the season, it feels like too little, too late.
At 28-33, the Nats are closer to last place in the NL East than they are to first place. Assuming their recent hot stretch fizzles, they're going to be in a position to sell at the deadline. At the least, they figure to cash in the considerable value of third baseman Anthony Rendon and lefty closer Sean Doolittle.
The Nats might also want to prepare for calls about their trio of aces: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin.
Trading any of the three would effectively kick off a rebuild, which is something the Nats can't not consider. After all, if their current season is merely the start of their post-Bryce Harper era, they might want to jettison three veteran aces with huge contracts ($525 million in total guaranteed dollars) while they can.
Or, the Nats could keep all three and turn their efforts to retooling for 2020 around said aces and hitters such as Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Trea Turner and Carter Kieboom. Given how much money they have set to come off their books this winter, that might be doable.