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October 19, 2012

Prospect Push

Prospect-for-Prospect Trades

by Jason Churchill

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Clubs don't often make trades unless some major-league talent is involved. The typical swap is centered on the immediate needs of a contending club or one that plans to do so in the immediate future. So, while one side may sacrifice pieces of the future in the form of top prospects, the other is looking to add such assets to its organization in exchange for veterans.

There are instances, however, where it appears two teams match up well in prospect-for-prospect trades that benefit all parties, most of which include talents who are close to being big-league ready. Here are five such examples.

Note: The suggested trade scenarios below may require additional pieces to complete if broached in the real world; focus instead on how the prospect needs match up, not how plausible a straight one-for-one swap is. 

SS Ronny Rodriguez to St. Louis Cardinals
RHP Tyrell Jenkins to Cleveland Indians

The St. Louis Cardinals' starting pitching depth goes beyond top prospect Shelby Miller and down to right-handers Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Tyrell Jenkins. The Cards also boast depth in the outfield and have an impact right field prospect on the way. What they lack down on the farm and on the 25-man roster is a long-term answer at shortstop.

Ronny Rodriguez possesses a plus arm, average range and above-average power at the plate and has convinced many that he can stick at shortstop for the long haul. He's within a few years of the big leagues and could burst onto the scene for the Redbirds in 2014, likely snatching the job from Pete Kozma or whatever veteran might be brought in between now and then.

The Cleveland Indians have Asdrubal Cabrera signed through 2014 and 2011 first-round draft pick Francisco Lindor, one of the top prospects in the game, working his way through the ranks, rendering Rodriguez expendable in the right deal. The Indians lack pitching options, both now in the big leagues and down the road. An arm like Jenkins fits the the future and would immediately give the Indians a starting pitching prospect to dream about.

RF Oswaldo Arcia to Seattle Mariners
LHP James Paxton to Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins needs starting pitching in the worst way and the Seattle Mariners need offensive production from anywhere on the field. While GM Jack Zduriencik is certainly going to seek proven MLB talent this offseason, adding a hitter like Oswaldo Arcia—who could mash his way into the big leagues next summer—is perhaps the next best option. The Mariners have starting pitching depth and, even if they moved James Paxton in a trade, left-hander Danny Hultzen and right-hander Taijuan Walker would remain.

The Twins aren't built to win in 2013, but could rebound sooner than later with a rebuilt rotation. The lone option within their own farm system is right-hander Kyle Gibson, but more is necessary if they wish to stave off multiple losing seasons going forward. Paxton profiles as a No. 2 starter and flashes ace stuff with inconsistent control and command. His best pitch is a curveball that serves as an out pitch and he sat 92-96 with his four-seam fastball in 2012.

The left-handed hitting Arcia entered this past season with questions surrounding his ability to handle left-handed pitching. After his slow start, he started to stay back better after his promotion to Double-A. There's plus power in the bat and he showed better discipline and a more patient approach than in years past. He's not a finished product, but another similar step forward next spring and he'll be ready for the big league test. Such a timeline fits well with the Mariners' chances to contend in 2014.

3B Mike Olt to Arizona
RHP Trevor Bauer to Texas

Mike Olt could fit into the Rangers' plans in 2013 as a first baseman, but he could also be trade bait as the club looks to improve both their outfield and starting rotation. The Arizona Diamondbacks have identified their needs as shortstop and third base, and Olt is an above-average defender at the hot corner and is primed to break through at the plate in the majors next season. It's also worth noting that Olt is a better defender than D-backs prospect Matt Davidson and his bat is a full year or more ahead.

The Diamondbacks have expressed their desire for Trevor Bauer to make specific adjustments—perhaps to his pre-game regimen that includes playing loss toss from one outfield corner to another—and rather than hoping he complies the club could maximize his value in trade.

Arizona can afford to make such a deal thanks to the presence of a young corps of big-league pitchers in Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill , Wade Miley and Daniel Hudson, and due to the emergence of Tyler Skaggs, who passed Bauer as a prospect over the summer. The Snakes have depth, too, namely Archie Bradley, Chase Anderson, Andrew Chafin and David Holmberg. Bauer, who finished very strong in Triple-A issuing just four walks in 22 frames, could step into the Rangers' starting rotation immediately and would likely benefit from the presence of both veteran pitchers and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.  

RHP A.J. Cole to New York Yankees
CF Mason Williams to Oakland Athletics

The Yankees traded for two young pitchers last winter—right-handers Michael Pineda and Jose Campos, acquired in the trade with Seattle—and hoped to pair them with their own young arms in Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos to form a young group to lead their rotation for years to come. That didn't work out, as Betances is the only one of the four that did not spend significant time on the disabled list in 2012, and it's looking like he belongs in the bullpen, anyway.

As a result, the Yankees lack high-ceiling pitching in their system that don't have surgeries on their resume (Banuelos is expected to miss all of 2013 after having Tommy John surgery, Campos did not have surgery but missed most of the season, and Pineda had shoulder surgery and his timetable for a full recovery is unknown) and adding A.J. Cole to the mix would reset the club's fortunes.

Cole projects as a No. 2 starter who can reach the mid-90s with his fastball and can put away hitters with a curveball that teases as an out pitch. His changeup has come along steadily since signing a pro contract and his control is well above-average at this stage. With improved command of his arsenal within the zone there's room for his ceiling to rise.

Williams, if he remains with the Yankees, is the heir apparent in center field and could be on the Opening Day Roster in 2015. He's a future All-Star based on his tools and polished approach to the game, and he offers above-average defense that could result in a Gold Glove-caliber career. The A's have a hole at that position and could use someone to take over soon, since Coco Crisp's contract is up following next season. The club attempted to slide former shortstop and first round pick Grant Green to center field, but the transition hasn't been smooth.

3B Nolan Arenado to Miami Marlins
1B/OF Christian Yelich to Colorado Rockies

The Marlins have a need in the outfield, too, but Christian Yelich profiles best at first base, where Logan Morrison is expected to take over in 2013. Filling a need at third with Nolan Arenado—a player who may have fallen out of favor in the Colorado Rockies organization—by sacrificing Yelich appears to be a perfect fit.

Arenado should end up a .280 hitter with 20-plus home run power; while he's not a great defender, he's shown he can handle the position when he's focused. A change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered for the 21-year-old.

Yelich, whom scouts deem an outfielder only in title, could take over at first base for the Rockies in a year or two and features a line-drive approach that figures to play well at Coors Field. He's not likely to hit a lot of long balls, but he could pepper the gaps with doubles and his approach and swing set him up to hit for high average.

The Rockies should be fine at third base without Arenado, as Chris Nelson, a natural shortstop, took to his new position this past season and ended the season with strong offensive numbers, including a .345/.379/.503 mark after the trade deadline.

16 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Gotribe31

I really like Ronny Rodriguez, but agree that deal would make a ton of sense for both teams. Indians have Dorssys Paulino and Tony Wolters as SS options as well (although Paulino likely ends up at 3B and Wolters is a better fit for 2B), and even Juan Diaz in AAA.

Strange that the club can acquire so much depth at a position like SS but fail to groom even an average LF or 1B.

Oct 19, 2012 07:42 AM
rating: 0
 
Jason A. Churchill

Gotribe31,

The Indians have had some problems developing players in many areas, but it appears the reason for that is a resistance, for the most part, to invest heavily in the draft for the better part of the last decade.

Many young players are going to fail, so while the majority of clubs are stockpiling their system to give themselves a better chance at producing talent, the Indians are one of the 8-12 that punted high in the draft, went safe rather than for the best talent or simply made scouting mistakes -- which is going to happen to every team.

I wrestled with the idea of proposing a trade of Francisco Lindor for an outfield bat such as Oscar Taveras or a starting pitching prospect, but I tried to stay as realistic as possible and I know how much the Indians love Lindor.

Oct 19, 2012 07:47 AM
rating: 0
 
randolph3030

Thanks Jason, I dig this kind of never-gonna-happen-but-fun-to-think-about stuff.

Can you expound on Yelich's defense? I know this is simplistic, but he stole 30 bases in '11 and 20 in '12 and KG graded him at 55-60 speed last season - how can a guy with above-average speed and some semblance of athleticism be so totally unacceptable in LF? Or is it just that his bat is so far ahead of the D, that it's not worth waiting? I can think of Gerald Perry and Gregg Jefferies, but not many others.

Oct 19, 2012 08:09 AM
rating: 1
 
Jason A. Churchill

Yelich does run well enough, but his lateral range is fringy. The biggest issue is his throwing motion, however, and as he fills out his speed grade is likely to move closer to average, too. Although considering baseball speed includes being able to round bases without losing momentum as well as move laterally, I'd never have given him a 60 grade.

In the end I wouldn't call Yelich's projected outfield defense totally unacceptable, but the scouting world is always looking for the most ideal situation. He's better out there than Logan Morrison.

Oct 19, 2012 08:17 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I don't understand the Arrendo trade suggestion. Basically, you think the Rockies should trade down by trading a third baseman for a first baseman with an inferior bat? Why not just move Arrendo over to 1B?

Oct 19, 2012 09:46 AM
rating: 0
 
Behemoth

I don't see much evidence that Yelich's bat is inferior to Arenado's.

Oct 19, 2012 14:25 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I spoke off the cuff and I'll defer to you.

I was judging by the comments about Arenado being a ".280 hitter with 20-plus home run power" vs "[Yelitch] not likely to hit a lot of long balls, but he could pepper the gaps with doubles and his approach and swing set him up to hit for high average." so I didn't research and assumed Arenado had a better bat. Looking at their numbers so far since I haven't seen either play, it might be fair to argue Yelich has the better bat.

Oct 19, 2012 14:59 PM
rating: 0
 
Jason A. Churchill

Richard,

In circumstances like Arenado's, there are times when a change of scenery is needed for both club and player. This may be one of those times.

Also, there's not a lot of evidence that Yelich's bat is inferior. It could go either way and I'd bet on Yelich, despite the slight power advantage for Arenado. Probability is a major factor in evaluating developing talent.

Oct 19, 2012 09:56 AM
rating: 0
 
batts40

Enjoyed the article, glad to see the prospect content here is going to continue to be excellent.

Oct 19, 2012 10:14 AM
rating: 1
 
Jason A. Churchill

batts40,

Thanks for the kind words. The group BP has put together here is very good and the areas of expertise spread across all areas of the game, too. Pretty cool.

Oct 19, 2012 10:19 AM
rating: 0
 
Clemente

Fun article. Everyone of these trades should be made. I expect GMs are too timid, and like most people overweight the risk versus the gain.

Oct 19, 2012 12:07 PM
rating: 0
 
Philliesfan1964

I would suggest Darin Ruf and a pitcher to Colorado for Arenado would fit both teams' needs

Oct 19, 2012 12:17 PM
rating: 0
 
JoshC77

It would need to be a heckuva pitcher though...

I wouldn't want to trade Arenado for an oldish guy in Ruf (who has barely been tested above AA) and a mediocre pitcher.

Oct 19, 2012 12:24 PM
rating: 0
 
Jason A. Churchill

Ruf isn't an everyday player on a first division team. Arenado at least has a chance to be that kind of player.

Oct 19, 2012 12:55 PM
rating: 0
 
Jason A. Churchill

Richard,

Arenado does have more power potential, but Yelich could be a .300 hitter with on-base skills to go with his John Olerud level power. Not saying he's Olerud, though if he maxes out that's not a bad standard to cite.

Oct 19, 2012 15:04 PM
rating: 0
 
mmason

So happy for you Jason. Love the new content.

Oct 19, 2012 17:27 PM
rating: 0
 
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