MLB Trade Rumors: What Movable Prospects Have Maximized Their Value This Spring?
Generally, when some of a team's best prospects are having a good spring, the first thing that comes to mind isn't whether or not they've improved their trade value—but that's one of the greatest things about baseball.
After you get past watching your favorite team don their spring uniforms for the first time and you have a general idea of what the team will look like when it takes the field on Opening Day, some of the spring's most impressive players will have found new homes with minor league affiliates, the most notable of which are the team's promising young talents.
Despite tearing the cover off of the ball or throwing scoreless inning after scoreless inning, the team isn't ready to promote your favorite prospect. Their performances haven't gone unnoticed, however.
Scouts have been following your team all spring long, watching some of the most promising young arms and slick defenders, lights-out relievers and thunderous bats in case your team comes calling later on in the season when a prospect just won't cut it. In order to add that timely veteran, you'll have to part with some promising young talent.
So with that in mind, which prospects' hot spring starts will make them hotter commodities on the trade market in the near future?
Ryan Lavarnway, C, Boston Red Sox
OK, I'm probably making quite a stretch here by suggesting Ryan Lavarnway, as the reasons for the Boston Red Sox to keep him stack up in his favor. That said, there are a few reasons—and teams—that could force the Sox to make a decision later on in the season.
I say that it's a stretch simply because talented catchers aren't prospects that come along everyday. Once in a while, a team finds a diamond in the rough who can stick behind home plate, and they're often rewarded in the long run. With reports surfacing just a couple of days ago that the Red Sox would like to add a minor-league catcher for depth, trading a talented catcher like Lavarnway doesn't seem to make much sense. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek at the major-league level, Lavarnway provides some injury insurance and a catcher for the future.
At the same time, however, there are some non-contending teams that would love to have a catcher like Lavarnway. Oftentimes, a good catcher is the last piece to a non-contender's rebuilding equation, and while the Red Sox would love to hold on to him, if they feel that they can upgrade for a World Series run at the trade deadline, they may be inclined to move him.
There are some teams that never seem to have enough catchers, and if I had to speculate, teams like the Houston Astros—which seem to lose a catcher to injury every year—and the Kansas City Royals are just a few teams that would certainly have interest in the young catcher.
According to scouting reports, Lavarnway is a big-bodied catcher who can handle the bat well. He may not be winning any Gold Gloves behind the plate any time soon, but his defense is adequate, as long as he produces with the bat at the major league level. At more than one minor league stop, he's shown that he can hit for average and power, as well as get on base at a strong clip.
He certainly helped his own cause in camp with the Red Sox this spring. Though the sample size was extremely small (because personally, I believe the Sox sent him down far too soon), he collected three hits in eight at-bats, including a double and a home run, driving in three runs along the way.
Manny Banuelos: LHP, New York Yankees
Following a Red Sox prospect, why not skip to their ultimate rival, the New York Yankees?
Manny Banuelos is one prospect that Yankees' fans simply do not want to see on this list. Along with fellow pitchers Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman, Manny Banuelos is a member of a group that Yanks' fans are now calling the "Killer B's," and with good reason—Banuelos is just one of three prospects with very, very good stuff.
That said, the presence of those other two legitimate prospects may make one of the "Killer B's" expendable, and teams would jump at the chance to acquire a young, left-handed talent like Banuelos.
The Yankees, which are linked to trade targets every season, would love to acquire a top-of-the-rotation arm to heat up the pennant race. If they're going to do that, they'll need to part with a guy like Banuelos. Earlier in the offseason, the Minnesota Twins were allegedly asking for both Banuelos and Betances for their ace, Francisco Liriano, but the Yankees turned them down, and rightfully so.
Banuelos has emerged as one of the game's best prospects over the last few seasons, and if the Yankees had any sense at all, they'd hold on to him for a long, long time. However, this is the game of baseball, and to get something in a trade, you have to give something. The state of the Yanks' rotation now may have an impact on their rotation of the future.
Banuelos, who has a very easy delivery from the left side and command of a couple very good pitches, would seemingly help net the Yanks' a proven major league starter. This spring, he turned a couple of heads by logging 7.2 innings and allowing just five hits—none of which led to an earned run against the young starter. En route to punching out 10 and walking just four, more than a few people believed he was ready to help the Yankees this season.
Yonder Alonso: 1B, Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds are in quite a different position with first-base prospect Yonder Alonso, and it's a problem that most teams would love to have. With reigning National League MVP Joey Votto locked up for the next few seasons, the team doesn't have a place to play one of their top prospects, making him an obvious trade candidate.
There are teams out there that would love to have a guy like Alonso in their lineup. He's a big guy at first base who handles the bat well and who won't kill you with his defense. He's shown that he has the ability to hit for power and average, and if Votto wasn't the Reds' everyday first baseman, he'd already be in the major leagues. If the Reds are looking to upgrade at the trade deadline, they should have no problem including Alonso in a deal.
Despite knowing this, Alonso only helped his own cause this spring—in a big way. In 30 at-bats, he collected nine hits, including a triple and a home run while driving in two more runs and walking twice. As long as he doesn't completely bottom out in the first half of the season at Triple-A, he should find a new home as the Reds' look to upgrade at the deadline.
Dayan Viciedo: 3B, Chicago White Sox
Dayan Viciedo is the type of "prospect" who is in an interesting situation with his current club. While he has the tools to be a major-league player and he has already logged major-league innings, he's struggled with bouts of inconsistency that have left him without a starting job or defined role. With Mark Teahan's job already up in the air, finding playing time for Viciedo may be a struggle, thus making him a trade chip.
Though he does have the tools to be an above-average hitter at the major-league level, he has terrible plate discipline and, in my own personal opinion, it's a surprise that he's had any success at all against major-league pitching to this point in his career. At this point, he'll be a streaky hitter at best. However, a new home could change all of that. At this point, he's a raw talent, but a talent nonetheless.
He showed a real glimpse of that talent with a phenomenal spring. He collected 10 hits in 23 at-bats, including a double, bringing his spring average to .435. If he can show some consistency and plate discipline, he shouldn't have a problem getting a major-league job, be it with the White Sox or another team.
Allen Craig: 1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Allen Craig can't seem to catch a break in St. Louis. Not only is he blocked by the best first baseman in the game in Albert Pujols, but the trio of Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus and Lance Berkman, as well as a good fourth outfielder in Jon Jay, should keep Craig out of a lot of games in St. Louis. A good young hitter and fielder, the Cardinals could look to upgrade at the trade deadline, with Craig as a key piece.
If the Cardinals want to make one last run at a World Series with Albert Pujols under contract, trading Craig for a rental player may not be a bad idea. He handles the bat well, as he showed over the second half of last season, and he is an adequate defender at multiple positions.
More importantly, the Cardinals are giving Craig a ton of at-bats this spring, and he's running with the opportunity. He's posted a slash line of .314/.417/.412, with a home run and a couple of doubles. To date, he's also collected nine walks, which is rather impressive.
Jerry Sands: 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Despite their financial situation, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been in plenty of trade rumors over the last couple of seasons. It was reported that they had conversations with the Toronto Blue Jays about Roy Halladay and with several teams about Cliff Lee. Last season, they were reportedly in negotiations with the Milwaukee Brewers about Prince Fielder. While I personally believe that the Dodgers should be growing their own talent, as in years past, they've shown they're not afraid to trade good prospects for top talent.
Jerry Sands is quickly becoming a top talent. He just has the look of a power hitter, and over the last couple of seasons, his bat has quickly risen to the top of many scouts' lists. He projects to be a very good hitter at the major league level. Despite being limited in position at first base, you wouldn't find many teams not interested in Sands.
In his second spring with the Dodgers, Sands was very impressive as a non-roster invitee. He's collected eight hits in 22 at-bats in a Dodgers' uniform, blasting two home runs and walking four times. Though I think the Dodgers will likely hold on to him, he could be a big prospect moved in a trade.
Casper Wells: OF, Detroit Tigers
The next couple of guys aren't your prototypical top prospects, but they are a couple of guys who can really help a team that wants to make a serious playoff run, which may be why the Detroit Tigers eventually hang on to young outfielder Casper Wells. The 25-man roster is looking quite crowded with outfielders, however, and if they need to upgrade at another position, Wells could be a trade chip.
Wells hasn't really been considered much of a top prospect for much of his career, and now that he's getting older, for a prospect, he may be running out of opportunities. That said, he does have a nice blend of tools. He'll probably never hit for average, but he does have some good power and speed. Any team looking for a good fourth outfielder would love to have Wells.
Maybe for that reason, among others, the Tigers have been showcasing Wells this spring. He's already collected 39 at-bats and he has posted an impressive slash line of .308/.449/.538, with two home runs and an impressive 10 walks. If the Tigers are heading into a playoff run around the trade deadline, they'd be well advised to hold on to him. They could also look to upgrade at another position as well, however, and trading Wells could be the key.
Darren Ford: OF, San Francisco Giants
Darren Ford isn't the type of guy who you'll find on many top prospect lists, if any at all. In his brief call-up with the eventual world champions last season, he was used primarily as an upgrade on the base paths for the likes of Pat Burrell late in games. Now with a crowded outfield and no room for a guy like Ford until rosters expand in September at the earliest, could the Giants move Ford as part of a bigger package in a trade?
Offensively, he isn't going to be very impressive, and he'll probably never be a starting outfielder for a contender at the major-league level. That said, however, if he can play above average defense, he should be valuable to a team looking for a late-inning defensive replacement and, more importantly, a guy who can absolutely fly on the base paths.
This spring training, you may not see very many impressive numbers. In 21 at-bats, he has just four hits, one of them being a home run. He's walked just twice. Despite that, the Giants are already using him to their advantage. In limited playing time, Ford has nine steals. He may not be the centerpiece to any deal, but this is the type of role player who could help a team win the World Series.
Mark Trumbo: 1B, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
After years of inconsistency, Mark Trumbo finally seemed to put things together last season in the Los Angeles Angels' system. The only problem? The lumbering first baseman is blocked at the major-league level by Kendrys Morales at first base, and with the designated hitter's slot looking quite full as well, the Halos simply don't have a place to put the slugger. On the bright side, someone will.
Ever since he was drafted, scouts have been more than impressed with Trumbo's power. To put it simply, when the man makes contact with the ball, it goes a long, long way. The problem is, when he doesn't make contact with the ball, which is quite often, he ends up looking kind of foolish and lost at the plate. Despite that, there are several teams ready to bring the young talent to the major leagues, and Trumbo would be a welcomed addition.
He did a very good job of pushing his name out into the open this spring, when he collected 16 hits in 47 at-bats, putting together a slash line of .340/.354/.766, with five home runs and 13 RBI. That said, he also struck out 12 times, which he'll need to cut back on moving forward.
Jemile Weeks: 2B, Oakland Athletics
The Oakland Athletics as a whole are an interesting team to keep an eye on this season, but second base prospect Jemile Weeks is an interesting name. This is pure speculation on my part, but if he does anything in the minor leagues akin to what he did in spring training, he could become a target for other teams via trade.
The greatest knock in his game has been his health, so it is kind of hard to say just how good he can be. That said, he's shown flashes of being a five-tool player, and good second basemen are extremely hard to come by.
With a very underrated pitching staff, the A's could be in a position to contend at the trade deadline and could look to add some offense. With guys like Grant Green and Adrian Cardenas in the system, Weeks is a name they probably wouldn't mind hearing in a package. He is a good defensive, and potentially offensive, second baseman.
He completely tore the cover off of the ball when he got to the plate this spring. He collected 10 hits in 23 at-bats, including three doubles—something you can expect a lot of out of Weeks. He could be a quality second baseman in the future of a rebuilding club.