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July 28, 2011
Overrated Contender Trade Chips
The final week before the trade deadline was a snoozefest until Wednesday morning, when the Giants and Mets conditionally agreed to a deal that would send Carlos Beltran to the Bay, while the Cardinals, White Sox, and Blue Jays consummated a complicated 11-player exchange in which Colby Rasmus moved to Toronto and Edwin Jackson to St. Louis. Finally some prospects were dealt, but the way teams are more interested than ever in holding onto their own players might be the cause of the big trade holdup in the first place. In Buster Olney’s recent article on ESPN.com, an executive told him, “I think teams increasingly value (or over-value) their prospects. In general, most GMs would rather make financial errors than errors involving prospects.”
American League East
New York Yankees: The Yankees nearly sent uber-hitting prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle last year in a Cliff Lee deal, and as he's still blocked by Russell Martin in the big leagues, Montero is the name most teams are after when talking to the Yankees. “The biggest problem with Montero is that if he can't catch, and our scouts don't think he can,” said a NL executive, “then all you have is a designated hitter, so that cuts out half of baseball as far as interest goes.” In addition, Montero's second year at Triple-A has been below expectations, generating some questions about his attitude and work ethic.
American League Central
Detroit Tigers: The Tigers don't have many players to deal; they’ve taken prospects like righty Jacob Turner and third baseman Nick Castellanos off the table, but lefty Drew Smyly has created some buzz at High-A Lakeland with a 2.58 ERA, including a four-start streak in which he allowed two runs over 22 innings. A second-round pick in 2010, Smyly has yet to impress scouts as much as the stats would suggest. “He's just the perfect combination for a pitcher who gets over-hyped,” said an American League talent evaluator. “Not much velocity, but throws strikes and pitches in a very friendly league.”
American League West
Texas Rangers: The Rangers have the kind of young pitching to make any team envious, but yesterday an American League scout brought up a shocking name when trying to come up with an overrated Rangers prospect. The scout blurted out, “What about Martin Perez?” It's an understandable choice—the left-hander has three plus pitches but rarely dominates, but the scout added that he's worried about the direction his stock is going. “He throws harder now, but he also opens up in his delivery with it. He's still a top-20 prospect in the game probably, but he might have been a better pitcher two years ago than he is now.”
National League East
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies have been attached to numerous rumors this week, and one prospect frequently mentioned in these rumors is slugging first baseman Jonathan Singleton, who has received considerable hype despite not living up to last year's remarkable .407/.500/.704 first month for Low-A Lakewood. “He's a solid guy, but he's not a stud, which is what they are trying to market him as,” said an American League executive. “It's July 27. Go look up what he's done over the last calendar year and tell me if that looks like a top-25 prospect.” Sure enough, in the last 365 days, Singleton has hit .270 with just 11 home runs in 125 games.
National League Central
Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers emptied what was already a shallow system to acquire Zack Greinke, and while Caleb Gindl’s .296/.380/.477 line might look like a breakout year at Triple-A Nashville, one National League scout isn't convinced he'll ever be more than a fourth outfielder in the big leagues. “He can hit, he's a nice guy to have, and you are going to get big-league value out of him,” explained the scout. “But he's small, the power isn't there and the defense is just OK.”
Pittsburgh Pirates: Will they go for it? The other 29 teams are still wondering that, but they've lost a potentially big trade chip in catcher Tony Sanchez, who has gone from the catcher of the future to a player hitting just .235/.342/.311 in 85 games while throwing out a disappointing 21 percent of opposing basestealers. “I mean, this guy was the fourth pick in the draft, and now he's doing nothing,” said a National League executive.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals made their big move yesterday by acquiring Edwin Jackson, but many believe they're not done yet. St. Louis is said to be one of the leading contenders for Padres closer Heath Bell. While trading away Zack Cox, last year's first-round pick, might seem crazy on paper, the Cardinals did the same with Brett Wallace in 2009 to add Matt Holliday, so seemingly nothing would be off the table. Like Wallace, Cox has reached the upper levels of the system in his first full season, but his .276/.343/.395 line at Double-A has produced more questions than answers. “He's just not the kind of athlete that deserves a big-league deal,” said an American League scout in reference to Cox’s contract. “He's an average-only bad-bodied third baseman for me.”
National League West
San Francisco Giants: The Giants already got the big offensive prize with Carlos Beltran, but that doesn't mean they're done. Southpaw Eric Surkamp, who at one point rumored to be a part of the package heading to New York, has absolutely dominated the Double-A Eastern League with a 2.00 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 108 innings, but scouts don't see an arsenal that is anywhere near as impressive as the numbers. “He doesn't throw hard, but he has deception and good secondary pitches,” said a National League scout. “He's very good at what he does, but he's basically a trick-pitch lefty.”
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .