Instead of looking at performances, I spent the weekend at games and thinking about players I saw in terms of trade value, while thinking in a similar vein about prospects currently in organizations that are gunning for a post-season spot. Here are 10 players for winning teams who could be attractive trade bait over the next three weeks.
When the Reds used the seventh overall pick in the 2008 draft to select Alonso, it seemed odd considering the presence of Joey Votto. Two years later, Votto is a legitimate MVP candidate, while Alonso has yet to put up impressive numbers in the minors, while posting a career line of .279/.356/.431. He’s finally hitting, and at the perfect time, as the Reds system has gone a bit dry. The big first baseman is hitting .400 (22-for-55) in his last 13 games. Scouts still question his overall power ceiling, as he has just 18 pro home runs in 178 games, but a team that believes in his reputation more than his performance could be interested.
There are indications that the Padres have been given the go-ahead to enter the fray as buyers, but just how big a splash can they make? As desperate as they are for offense, would they be willing to offer up their top pitching prospect in return for a power bat? Jumped two levels to the Texas League this year, the 22-year-old Dominican is a 6-foot-5 wide-bodied beast who bears a physical resemblance to a young Jose Contreras while showing the combination of well above-average velocity and command that is rarely seen in the minors. It will take a bigger bat than those generally assumed to be on the market to pry him away from San Diego, but there’s still plenty of time for a surprise deal.
With an injury-filled season miring the Phillies in third place in the National League East, they’re anything but out of it, especially with the wild card. Those injuries also mean the Phillies are almost forced to make a deal, and the system features little talent at the upper levels other than untouchable outfielder Domonic Brown. When looking at lower-level players, tools are more important than numbers, and Gose is a player that thrills scouts, despite an unimpressive line of .266/.324/.393 in 88 Florida State League games. He’s a plus-plus runner who many think will develop some power, although he certainly comes with risk.
The best prospect on this list, Hellickson might not even be available, and even if he was, it would only be in a blockbuster. Unless the Rays want to make room for him by doing something drastic (like move Wade Davis to the bullpen), he’ll remain blocked, even though he’s been big league-ready since Opening Day. What the team would get in return for a potential No.2 starter with an above-average fastball, quality secondary offerings and arguably the best command and control in the minors is still to be determined, but there’s no obvious bat on the market to lure Hellickson for now.
The Red Sox are another team still in the thick of things despite a slew of injuries, as few expected two of their primary outfielders this year to be minor league veterans Daniel Nava and Darnell McDonald. So would they be willing to trade one of their more promising young outfielders for this year’s stretch run? Kalish is a player who has been garnering considerable attention of late, going 19-for-40 in his last 10 games to raise his Triple-A numbers to .333/.407/.457. He’s an above-average runner who has been successful in 19 of 20 stolen base attempts this year, his power projects as average, he works the count well and is a decent center fielder to boot. In other words, he has few weaknesses and is nearly big league ready- a combination that could make him the most asked about prospect in talks with the Red Sox.
The Braves enter the All-Star break with the largest lead of any team in the NL. They’re not expected to make any big moves this month, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be busy. The system is a tough one to deal with, as it offers little in the way of position players, and plenty of high-upside pitchers who the Braves have no interest in trading. One pitcher right behind their best, who could end up on the market, is Lopez, a 19-year-old Dominican whose 3.72 Sally League ERA isn’t especially impressive, but he’s held the circuit to a .220 batting average while sitting in the low 90s and touching 94 mph with a smooth, easy delivery. He’s still working on his secondary offerings, but for a team with a taste for risk, he’s one of those players with the ability to make a trade look good three years from now.
Long-considered one of the highest-ceiling outfielders around, Martinez’ career has been defined more by injuries than performance since being the biggest international signee in 2005. In his five years as a pro, he’s been spectacular at times, but he’s played in only 356 games, and never more than 90 in any one season. At .257/.320/.437 in 49 games for Triple-A Buffalo, he’s hardly setting the world on fire, but it’s easy to forget that he is still only 21 years old. There are plenty of teams who would love to see if he’s one of those ideal ‘change of scenery’ players.
One of the most surprising aspects of last Friday’s Cliff Lee drama wasn’t the Mariners stalling until Texas upped the ante by playing their Justin Smoak trump card, but was simply that the Yankees made their top prospect available. Most saw him as untouchable, despite having no clear path to the big leagues with New York, but now we know that the Yankees have the ability to contend with nearly any team concerning nearly every available player if Montero is on the table. Don’t worry about the .252/.328/.415 line for Scranton, as he still has the ability to be the best player traded before the deadline.
The Rockies have a should-have-been All-Star catcher in the big leagues with Miguel Olivio, while their top catching prospect, Double-A backstop Wilkin Rosario, put on a defensive show in Sunday’s Futures Game. In goes on from there, including Triple-A catcher Michael McKenry, a solid prospect in his own right who could interest teams, and Pacheco, who converted to the position two years ago and profiles as an catcher who can hit towards the top of the lineup due to excellent on-base skills. With a line drive bat and outstanding feel for the strike zone, Pacheco is hitting .332/.410/.453 while showing rapidly improving defensive skills. Catching is the best surplus to have, as plenty of organizations don’t have a single backstop that projects as a big leaguer.
Ramos was rumored to be part of a package the Twins were talking to Seattle about concerning a Lee deal, but he’s a puzzling prospect for many teams. He entered the year as one of the top catching prospects in the game, and earned some sterling scouting reports this spring, but other than a nice brief showing in the big leagues, his season has been a mess. He’s obviously available now that Joe Mauer signed his long-term deal, but his .210/.252/.310 line in 58 Triple-A games have cooled potential suitors in a big way. The selling point could be that Ramos knows he has little shot at a big league job with Minnesota, and that’s affecting his performance, but his trade value in considerably lower than it was three months ago.