Looking Ahead: Which Prospects Could Be Traded This Winter?

Put this on your hot stove and cook it: We are still three weeks from baseball’s Winter Meetings and already the names of Minor League prospects — not just Major League players — are being bandied about as trade bait.

This is the world we live in — a world in which national, rumor-mongering ball writers and fans are growing increasingly savvy about not only teams’ complete 25-man roster, but their 40-man and beyond. If you’re anything like them, you’re also highly aware of many of your team’s Top 20 Prospects, guys who are perhaps years from getting to the bigs.

Will Chris Archer be traded for a third time this offseason? (Matt Burton/MiLB.com)

Which explains why there are already talks about the Reds potentially moving shortstop Didi Gregorius, the D-backs maybe (but probably not) parting with pitcher Trevor Bauer, among other ideas (that’s all they really are at this point) about clubs shipping off untested twenty-somethings.

So jumping in on the speculation? Don’t mind if I do. In fact, the next piece I will be working on for MiLB.com will focus on what type of “prospect packages” Major League execs need to be presented with to end, say, the Justin Upton Era in Arizona or the Jacoby Ellsbury Era in Boston.

As much interest as there is in prospects, however, it is still the the established Major League player that is the conversation-starter. The Red Sox would call the Giants to initiate Ellsbury-for-Gary Brown talks — it’s very unlikely such a deal would come about the other way around.

With that fact in mind, I present a list of prospects who could be moved based on their respective organizations’ depth (irrespective of their rumored interest in a big-time big leaguer like, say, the Rays’ James Shields or the Indians’ Asdrubal Cabrera because such interest is more likely to be rumored than real). Here are guys who are potentially expendable if their teams want to trade up this offseason:

Tampa Bay Rays – Starting pitcher Chris Archer or Alex Colome – Some would have you believe that GM Andrew Friedman needs to trade Shields or fellow vet starter David Price before their price tag gets out of hand, but Shields has club-friendly options through 2014, and it will be difficult to get equal value for Price. Friedman’s shortcut: Deal Archer or Colome and still have more than enough pitching both in the bigs and the pipeline.

Oakland A’s – Infielder Grant Green – The A’s are not in the habit of trading Major League-quality hitters with zero Major League service time, but this is a unique case. GM Billy Beane and brass need a shortstop and, by their own evaluations, Green is a below-average defender there. This is why they have tried Green in center field (unsuccessful), third base (ehh) and, most recently, second base (adequate). It’s all well and good that Green could be a good utility man, but his bat is too good to not play everyday. Swapping him for a player the A’s do deem a two-way player at short (Gregorius?) would seem to make the most sense.

Seattle Mariners – Infielder Nick Franklin or Stefen Romero –The M’s have and like Dustin Ackley at second and, apparently, don’t see Franklin as a strong enough defender at shortstop. (Another prospect, Brad Miller, who will begin next season at Double-A, could be the long-term solution there.) That leaves Franklin and, to a lesser degree, Romero (who could move to third base) stuck behind Ackley. For all the talk about dealing lefty starter James Paxton, why not keep their potential super-rotation intact.

More musings: If the Rangers deal a shortstop this winter, expect it to be Class A slick fielder Luis Sardinas. … If the Braves decide they can spend to resign catcher Brian McCann past the 2013 season, that would make defensive-minded backstop Christian Bethancourt expendable. … Speaking of catchers, the Marlins could deal J.T. Realmuto given the show Rob Brantly put on this year. … If the cash-poor Mets can reach an extension agreement third baseman David Wright, Wilmer Flores could be a casualty. … What do the Nats do with Anthony Rendon, a plus defender at third base, with face-of-the-franchise Ryan Zimmerman signed through 2019. Rendon, Washington’s top pick in 2011, will likely begin ’13 at Double-A and isn’t far from Show-ready. … Even if the D-backs don’t give up on Upton, it would seem logical to include A.J. Pollock in an offseason deal. He’s not in the team’s plans the way that Adam Eaton is.

2 Comments

Regarding the Miller in Seattle comments – don’t get too excited. He is a college guy that has played 149 pro games since being drafted and just because he can hit, does not mean he can play shortstop – Baseball is all about stats, right? 40 errors in 149 games. THAT IS A LOT OF ERRORS.

Playing three years of college with guys that didn’t get drafted and may never get drafted. What’s better, baseball training in college and come over to pro ball at 23, 24 years old? Or, start baseball training in the pros at 18?

Romero in Seattle. Same situation – Have you ever seen him (6’3″, 225 pounds) turn a double play? He reminds me of Catricala – good stick and inexperienced in the field.

Franklin eats, sleeps, and breaths turning double plays. At ST this year, he and Ackley were on a side field turning DP’s. I think Franklin was the tutor.

I don’t differ with you, except on this point: Typically, MLB clubs let their top MiLB prospects play the most difficult position they can handle until they prove they can no longer handle it. I think this is what Seattle is doing with Brad Miller, letting him play short and giving him an opportunity to improve there, cut down on his errors in 2013. This is because shortstops are harder to find than second baseman or third baseman. But thanks for the nuanced comment and for reading. Great stuff.

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