The trade market is heating up—the deadline just over two weeks away—and we've already looked at the prospects with the highest trade values. But three squads that are enjoying success in the majors—the Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals—have very little on the farm to help swing a deal. This is obviously a problem for all three teams, as they're locked in competitive races with the likes of the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins and Cincinnati Reds; if you look at that link above, almost all of those squads have the necessary prospects to help make a trade.

Let's look at the situations in Atlanta, Chicago and St. Louis more closely to see why they lack the potential trade chips.

Atlanta Braves: Imbalanced, inflexible

The Braves don't have a particularly bad system, but it's headlined by top-of-the-line pitching prospects that aren't going anywhere. Julio Teheran is in the conversation for the top right-hander in the minors and, before he got hurt, Arodys Vizcaino was close to joining the discussion as well. Along with Randall Delgado, the Braves see the trio as future rotation fixtures; with them off the table, Atlanta has few chips left. Its top position prospect, Triple-A first baseman Freddie Freeman, is lined up to assume the big-league job next year. The drop-off from there is quite deep. Toolsy shortstop Mychal Jones could generate some interest, but not the kind that is going to get anything big in return. Another long shot is once highly rated outfielder Jordan Schafer, who is doing nothing at Triple-A this year except producing ugly scouting reports; he could be an extra player in a deal with a team willing to take a chance.

As disastrous as the Mark Teixeira deal was for Atlanta—both in terms of how much they gave the Texas Rangers to get him and what little they gained in sending him away—one player received in the package from Anaheim is starting to create some buzz among scouts. Originally signed in 2005 by the Angels as a draft-and-follow, righty Stephen Marek has been rejuvenated as a reliever and boasts a miniscule 0.69 ERA in 37 appearances split between Double- and Triple-A. His fastball has been up to 96 mph this year and his breaking ball is a plus power pitch. He's close to the big leagues and, if the Braves don't want to bring him up, others teams might.

Chicago White Sox: Nothing left

Chicago went from potential seller to buyer by landing in first place at the break thanks to a 25-5 run to close out the first half; but if you believe in the White Sox, you believe in this team as it stands right now.

The White Sox had a bad system entering the year and it's gotten worse due to some poor performances. Most notably, catcher Tyler Flowers is hitting just .198 since May 1 and, according to scouts, he's making no progress in his well-below-average defense behind the plate; some talent evaluators have said he's actually gotten worse.

One player who has taken a step forward while generating considerable interest from other teams is Brent Morel, but his availability depends on the White Sox making some difficult long-term decisions. With Paul Konerko and Dayan Viciedo already big-league corner infielders, Morel is the odd man out. Two months ago, moving Konerko seemed logical; now, that's out of the question because of the White Sox's contending status. A 2011 timetable for Morel is reasonable, but that's only assuming Konerko departs via free agency this winter.

A third-round pick in 2008, Morel isn't the next big thing, but he's nearly universally seen as a solid everyday third baseman down the road. Hitting .311/.356/.431 between Double- and Triple-A, Morel is more of an average/doubles hitter than a pure power threat. Scouts also love his max-effort style on defense. The White Sox envision a future with Viciedo at first with Morel manning the hot corner, but Morel could be the only player who could garner something important down the stretch.

St. Louis Cardinals: One is untouchable, the rest are "eh"

Entering the season, the Cardinals' system pretty much began and ended with 2009 first-round pick Shelby Miller, who for the most part has lived up to expectations by easily hitting 98 mph while striking out 72 in 52 1/3 innings during his full-season debut at Low-A. He's almost assuredly untouchable, but who does that leave for the Cardinals to dangle as bait? The answer is no one.

One scout who was recently assigned to watch the Cardinals' prospects and viewed the Double-A Springfield and High-A Palm Beach squads said, "I didn't write up a single position player as a future everyday big-leaguer." Things are really no different at Low-A Quad Cities, while the Triple-A Memphis roster is loaded with up-and-down types other than second baseman Daniel Descalso, who some see as a future second-division starter.

That's really the system's strength—a Triple-A squad loaded with players who are going to make it to the big leagues, albeit in bench and middle-relief roles. That kind of assurance and closeness has some value, but not enough to make a difference for the Cardinals.

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Given the above, I'd say the Braves maybe did OK with the Jays trade, if the SS prospect can play.
The Sox have nothing left even with prospects Jared Mitchell and Trayce Thompson? When Mitchell was drafted you raved about his upside. When Thompson went on a tear, you stated a scout said he was the real deal. Although both are on the DL, they are expected to return 100%. Recently promoted, Hudson and Viciedo have value. Flowers was once named the Southern League's best defensive catcher and Sox brass have stated their ongoing satisfaction with his improvement. Who to believe? I wonder how many scouts have self-serving interests and give biased opinions to the media (much like Scott Boras to his stooge Jon Heyman). Or maybe the scouting profession is simply like every other profession with its members ranging from very good to very bad. If only scouts went on record, we could judge both them and also the authors who incorporate scouts' opinions in their analysis/articles. Never to happen.
1. Tyler Flowers is not a good defensive catcher. Period. I feel VERY comfortable telling you that. That vote was not based on scouts voting. 2. Scouts don't have self-serving interests, and I avoid even the possibility of them. I NEVER ask scouts about players with their own organization, and I never ask scouts about players they signed. They can't go on the record because they are specifically told not to talk to the media.
Kevin, what about Mike Minor?
This was my question as well. With the Holy Trinity untouchable, Minor's name has been popping up in trade rumors for the past few weeks, and all indications are that the Braves would feel comfortable moving him in the right deal (presumably for some help in the outfield).
Kevin, do you see Sanchez/Salas/Reifer as filling "middle-relief roles" or do you think they are likely to be set up men/closers?
Is Brent Morel considered a better prospect than Josh Fields at his hyperbolic peak? Thinking of Fields, Drew Henson, David Kelton, Hank Blalock, Sean Burroughs, Dallas MacPherson, Eric Duncan, Andy Marte, Bill Rowell, Andy LaRoche, Alex Gordon, Joel Guzman, and Brandon Wood - third base prospects seem to include the highest proportion of huge disappointments over the last decade. What is the most likely reason for that? . . . or is it just coincidence . . . or a false impression? Speaking of disappointments whose rookie season was as a third-baseman, what are the chances Gordon Beckham's 2010 is an anomaly?
Third base is an odd position - it's considered to an offense-oriented spot, yet the defensive tools needed to play there are comparable (if not quite equal) to those needed to play second or short. Many prospects who can hit like a third baseman should end up being moved to another position by the time they hit the big leagues (Billy Butler, say) or early in their major-leage careers (Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Albert Pujols.) I seem to recall Kevin saying that most of today's top 3B prospects have potential positional issues as well. Conversely, prospects that can field the position well often have bats that would play at second or short, but not at third. It's a very difficult place to find a talent that fits.