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July 20, 2011

Future Shock

Prospecting for Trade Chips

by Kevin Goldstein

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I'm going to be straight with you. I am not a big fan of the trade speculation game. Don't get me wrong, I like the rumors and hearing inside scoop of what really is (or isn't) going on between teams, but the sitting around the fire (or bar, or TV) game of “What would Team X have to give up for Player Y?” just doesn't appeal to me. We can all figure out what would make both sides of the ledger even out on a talent level, but what we don't know is how big of a role the one player that shows up in nearly every deal, Mr. Cash Considerations, will play. As we've already seen with the K-Rod to Milwaukee deal, sometimes money (or relief from money) is all that matters in a deal. So let's think about real teams, real contenders, and what kind of prospects they might be dangling out there in an attempt to get that extra piece (or maybe even one of the big prizes) while reviewing what they are looking for based on recent discussions with several team executives.

American League
Boston Red Sox

What They Need: The Red Sox would like starting pitching, but they don't want to take on future salaries, so someone like Hiroki Kuroda could be an attractive target. There was some thought that they might enter the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes due to J.D. Drew's awful year, but Josh Reddick has quickly become the internal answer.

The Big Name: Ryan Lavarnway continues to crush Triple-A pitching, going 16-for-26 with six home runs in his last seven games to lift his averages at Pawtucket to a Ruth-ian .388/.460/.760. He's a substandard catcher, but he's gone from a good organizational player to somebody who could return real value.

The Extra Guy: 18-year-old Dominican righty Raul Alcantarra has shown good command and a ton of projection in the Gulf Coast League while allowing just 10 hits over 25 innings.

Chicago White Sox
What They Need: Chicago believes the answers to their problems are mostly internal, simply needing their own players to get better.  At the same time, though, Kenny Williams is one of the most aggressive GMs around.

The Big Name: A third-round pick last June, right-handed reliever Addison Reed has struck out 80 over 55 innings while advancing from Low- to Double-A, and if he doesn't go in a deal, he could be in the big leagues with his upper-90s fastball by September.

The Extra Guy: Double-A outfielder Brandon Short is a hitting machine with gap power and the ability to play left, center, and right, giving him all but a guaranteed role as a future fourth outfielder.

Cleveland Indians
What They Need: Cleveland is looking to add starting pitching, but they need to watch costs, and other teams wonder just how aggressive they will be.

The Big Name: Acquired from the Red Sox two years ago as part of a July deal for Victor Martinez, lefty reliever Nick Hagadone has found some command to go with his plus-plus fastball and is very close to big league ready as a late-inning reliever.

The Extra Guy: Cord Phelps can play second and third base but has no future in Cleveland with Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall slotted to man those positions well into the later part of the decade. His versatility, on-base skills, and obvious availability could have him on the move.

Detroit Tigers
What They Need: Like all contenders, the Tigers would like to shore up their rotation while also looking for some offensive upgrades in the outfield.

The Big Name: 20-year-old third baseman Francisco Martinez has made impressive strides at Double-A.  While he hit just .179 in April, he’s hit .309 since. His defense is well behind his bat, but with 2010 top pick Nick Castellanos coming on strong in his full-season debut at the same position, Martinez could be expendable.

The Extra Guy: Shortstop Gustavo Nunez was having a breakout year until he earned a promotion to Double-A, where his bat collapsed. Still, his defensive skills and speed could generate interest.

Los Angeles Angels
What They Need: Offensive help, particularly from the left side. That said, the industry is not convinced they'll entertain deals with an American League West title becoming more and more of a long shot by the day. “I'm not even sure they think it's for real themselves,” said one National League executive.

The Big Name: Once among the top pitchers in the system, left-hander Trevor Reckling has scuffled over the last two years while trying to command the strike zone better, but he remains an impressive athlete with plus secondary stuff.

The Extra Guy: While he's hitting just .241/.296/.378 for Low-A Cedar Rapids, center fielder Travis Witherspoon has the kind of tools and athleticism to produce big dreams from scouts and is exactly the kind of player that can help consummate a deal.

New York Yankees
What They Need: The one obvious need is a left-handed reliever, but the consensus among teams is that there is no consensus as far as the Yanks becoming heavy bidders for some of the bigger names out there.

The Big Name: Jesus Montero is the obvious pick here as he almost went to Seattle last year for Cliff Lee, but the thought that he has no future in New York is a false one. Both Jorge Posada and Russell Martin are free agents at the end of the year, leaving both the catching and designated hitter jobs available.

The Extra Guy: While he has a 5+ ERA at Low-A Charleston, right-handed reliever Tommy Kahnle has a pure power arm with consistent mid-90s heat and the ability to move forward with better command and some sharpening of his slurvy breaking ball.

Tampa Bay Rays
What They Need: The Rays seemed to be on the fence until their recent stretch of games against Boston and New York helped to decide their fate. They haven't gained enough ground and will not sacrifice their future for a pipe dream.

Texas Rangers
What They Need: With the incredible success of their rotation lately, the Rangers will focus more on the bullpen, and with Jon Daniels running the show, they'll be aggressive in the pursuit of Heath Bell and the various Toronto relievers who could be available.

The Big Name: The Rangers have more young arms with plus-plus command than there are hacked cell phones in England. It's an extreme position of strength, and with young pitching always the hottest commodity for selling teams, no team is better positioned to improve themselves than Texas. Right-hander Joe Wieland and southpaw Robbie Ross could be top targets if the best of their non-Martin Perez pitchers, Robbie Erlin, is deemed unavailable.

The Extra Guy: The Rangers have a plethora of young shortstops, and with Elvis Andrus already in the big leagues and Jurickson Profar earning raves at Low-A Hickory, 20-year-old speedster Leury Garcia could help complete a transaction.

National League
Atlanta Braves

What They Need: The Braves would like a better solution in center field and could throw Derek Lowe onto the market in order to free up some money to do so.

The Big Name: The Braves are not going to trade any of their stud young pitchers, but their second-level arms could generate interest. Right-hander J.J. Hoover and lefty Brett Oberholtzer have both impressed at Double-A, and while they lack high ceilings, they could be big-league ready by late 2012.

The Extra Guy: While he's a bit old for the level and has a scary injury history, outfielder Adam Milligan also has very real power.

Arizona Diamondbacks
What They Need: One National League scout said it all with, “If they fix that bullpen, they really do have a chance.”

The Big Name: Arizona is getting a breakout year from Paul Goldschmidt at Double-A, and with high-level 2009 draftees Bobby Borchering and Matt Davidson slugging in the California League, the organization is suddenly rich with bat-only first base types.

The Extra Guy: Keon Broxton is another one of those outfielders with tons of tools and little to show for it statistically. Prospects like that can get moved when a team is tempted to believe they know exactly why the prospect hasn't clicked, but this is often a sucker bet.

Cincinnati Reds
What They Need: The Reds have been rumored to be doing some big game fishing for not-necessarily-available starters like Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez and Tampa's James Shields. They needed a shortstop until remembering that Zack Cozart was at Triple-A.

The Big Name: While Yonder Alonso has scuffled a bit in left field defensively, he continues to hit for average, draw walks, and smack plenty doubles, making him of interest to several teams looking for a big-league ready first baseman. If the team really wants to make a splash, they could throw 2010 first-round pick Yasmani Grandal on the table since they have one of, if not the, best catching prospect in the game waiting at Triple-A in Devin Mesoraco.

The Extra Guy: 21-year-old right-hander Kyle Lotzkar is the pitching version of those toolsy outfielders. He can't stay healthy enough to move up the ladder, but he lights up a radar gun.

Milwaukee Brewers
What They Need: Despite already picking up Francisco Rodriguez, acquiring bullpen help is still in play for Milwaukee. More pressing is fixing the left side of the infield, though, and taking a chance that Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal can stay healthy would be a risky, but possibly brilliant, maneuver.

The Big Name: The Brewers are all but out on big names after acquiring Zack Greinke in the off-season, but right-handers Wily Peralta and Cody Scarpetta are upper level arms who combine big league stuff with frustrating inconsistency.

The Extra Guy: Khris Davis has put up big numbers at Low- and High-A over the past two years, but he's not especially impressive on a tools level, leaving him potentially over-valued by a performance-based team.

Philadelphia Phillies
What They Need: A corner outfielder who can provide some offensive punch from the right side. Carlos Beltran is an obvious, but complicated, target with Jeff Francouer and Melky Cabrera in their secondary sights.

The Big Name: The Phillies have a quintet of impressive starters at High-A Clearwater—all five legitimate prospects—and while there is no known available big leaguer that would pry Jarred Cosart away, righties Johnathan Pettibone and Julio Rodriguez both have No. 4 starter profiles in the big leagues.

The Extra Guy: First baseman Matt Rizzotti is a 270-pound power and on-base machine with no future as long as he's playing for a National League franchise.

Pittsburgh Pirates
What They Need: The Pirates won't trade studs, but they still want pitching and a first baseman who can hit. “Look, when else are they going to be in first place in late July?” joked one National League executive.

The Big Name: The Pirates will not trade young pitching as that remains the weakest part of their big league roster. They could play with the big boys by making available Double-A center fielder Starling Marte, a 22-year-old Dominican import who has returned from an injury-plagued 2010 season to hit .307/.343/.443 at Altoona.

The Extra Guy: While he hasn't lived up to expectations after being acquired from Atlanta in the Nate McLouth deal, center fielder Gorkys Hernandez has showed enough offensive skills to be a bench player considering he's one of the best defensive outfielders in the minor leagues.

St. Louis Cardinals
What They Need: It's no secret that the Cardinals need bullpen help. “Heath Bell is the guy they want,” said one American League scout. “I think he's their back up plan as well.”

The Big Name: While he's a pop-up player who entered the year with little fanfare, right-hander Trevor Rosenthal has shown above-average stuff and command at Low-A Quad Cities. Teams with more guts could ask for teammate Oscar Taveras, who has been hampered by hamstring problems but has hit .383 while healthy.

The Extra Guy: Outfielder Adron Chambers has the ceiling of a fourth outfielder, but he combines speed with a good approach and line drive skills.  He will be ready to compete for a job next spring.

San Francisco Giants
What They Need: The Giants might be in on Carlos Beltran, and they might not. Always one of the more secretive organizations in baseball, there is little feel for exactly what the Giants are doing other than they're looking to do something.

The Big Name: Francisco Peguero is a toolsy center fielder with a quick bat, plenty of speed, and a bit of power, but with 2010 first-round pick Gary Brown coming on strong at High-A San Jose, Peguero could be the odd man out, making him available. Every team will ask about 2009 first-rounder Zack Wheeler, but the Giants are expected to reject any interest in the right-hander unless an unexpected impact-level player becomes available.

The Extra Guy: Skinny right-hander Hector Correa is a Double-A reliever with a plus fastball/slider combination who has whiffed 57 in 57.2 innings.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

25 comments have been left for this article.

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