Ten Futures Gamers Who Made Attractive Trade Targets At The Deadline

Jean Segura

Jean Segura (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

As the all-star break gives way to the second half, most every team sets its sights on the July 31 trade deadline. Contenders seek to buy reinforcements through trade—already this summer Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, Ricky Nolasco and Matt Thornton have changed teams—while second-division clubs ply their veteran wares, willing to sell them for prospects who might transform them into contenders in the future.

In all likelihood, we saw at least one prospect that a team will hope is transformative in this year’s Futures Game. That’s because each of the past seven trade deadlines, save for 2010, has featured at least one of that summer’s Futures Gamers switch organizations in a July deal. Here we count down the top 10 such transactions in terms of overall impact supplied by the Futures Game target.

1. Rangers trade 1B Mark Teixeira and LHP Ron Mahay to Braves for C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, SS Elvis Andrus, LHPs Matt Harrison and Beau Jones and RHP Neftali Feliz (July 30, 2007)

The Futures Gamer: An 18-year-old Elvis Andrus entered the ’07 game halfway through and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout. He served as backup to Dodgers shortstop Chin-Lung Hu (Taiwan) on the World team. Andrus played for two high Class A affiliates that season, Myrtle Beach (Braves) and Bakersfield (Rangers), batting a composite .257/.338/.343 with 30 extra-base hits and 40 steals in 126 games.

The Buyer: The Braves won virtually the same percentage of games after (.518) making the Teixeira trade as they did before (.519) and finished 84-78, five games behind the Padres and Rockies for the NL wild card. Furthermore, Atlanta wound up trading Teixeira for Casey Kotchman about a year later, providing a cautionary tale to any organization considering the possibility of surrendering its top three prospects in any one deal.

The Seller: The Rangers had perhaps the best run of trades in recent history during the span of six months in 2007. They acquired five players who starred for their 2010 and ’11 World Series teams, getting Andrus, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz for Mark Teixeira, then David Murphy for Eric Gagne, then Josh Hamilton for Edinson Volquez.

2. Brewers trade RHP Zack Greinke to Angels for SS Jean Segura and RHPs Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena (July 27, 2012)

The Futures Gamer: Jean Segura started at second base and led off for the World team, going 2-for-3 with a run scored. The 22-year-old batted .304/.358/.413 with 25 extra-base hits and 37 steals in 102 games for two Double-A affiliates, Arkansas (Angels) and Huntsville (Brewers). Milwaukee gave Segura a 44-game trial after acquiring him, though he made more noise in the Dominican League, winning the batting title at .324/.379/.426 in 148 at-bats.

The Buyer: With the addition of Zack Greinke, the Angels improved their winning percentage from .546 to .554, but it was too little, too late and Los Angeles finished four games out of the wild card. The price in prospects they paid was substantial, compounded by the fact that they received no draft-pick compensation when Greinke fled to the Dodgers.

The Seller: Even worse news for the Angels followed in 2013, as they watched Segura blossom into a first-division shortstop with the Brewers and make the NL all-star team by hitting .325/.363/.487 with 11 homers and 27 steals. Incidentally, another former Halos prospect—Diamondbacks lefty Pat Corbin—also made the NL all-star team.

3. Astros trade OF Hunter Pence to Phillies for 1B Jonathan Singleton, RHPs Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid and OF Domingo Santana (July 29, 2011)

The Futures Gamer: Righthander Jarred Cosart pitched a clean eighth inning at the 2011 game, recording two of three outs via strikeout and throwing eight of 10 strikes. He finished the season with seven starts as a 21-year-old for Double-A Corpus Christi (Astros), though he spent the bulk of the first half at high Class A Clearwater (Phillies). He went 10-10, 4.12 overall with 6.3 strikeouts, 3.5 walks and 8.2 hits allowed per nine innings.

The Buyer: Hunter Pence kept up his end of the bargain, belting 11 homers and putting up a .954 OPS in 54 games as the Phillies won at a .632 clip in August and September (compared to .629 beforehand). They pushed the Cardinals to the brink in the NL Division Series, too, before losing in five games. Philadelphia kept Pence for only one year, turning him into catching prospect Tommy Joseph at the 2012 deadline.

The Seller: The Astros haven’t seen much return at the big league level just yet, though Cosart has one start under his belt and Jonathan Singleton and Domingo Santana are still very much alive as prospects. For his part, Cosart struck out a batter per inning this year at Triple-A Oklahoma City, and while his walk rate (4.8 per nine innings) remains worrisome, he’s difficult square up (7.2 hits and 0.5 homers per nine).

4. Rockies trade RHP Ubaldo Jimenez to Indians for LHP Drew Pomeranz, RHPs Alex White and Joe Gardner and 1B Matt McBride (July 30, 2011)

The Futures Gamer: The fifth pick in the 2010 draft, Drew Pomeranz got hit hard in the ’11 game, allowing four baserunners (three hits, one walk) and four runs (including a homer) in two-thirds of an inning. Making his pro debut that season, he went 4-3, 1.78 in 20 starts, striking out 119 and walking 38 in 101 innings as a 22-year-old at high Class A (Kinston) and Double-A (Akron and Tulsa).

The Buyer: The Indians fell off the pace after acquiring Ubaldo Jimenez, dropping from a .505 to .475 winning percentage, and finished with the eighth-best record in the AL, 11 games off the wild-card pace. Cleveland acquired Jimenez with two years remaining on his contract, but at the cost of nearly $11 million for a 5.07 ERA and 1.7 K-BB ratio, they wound up with cost-controlled mediocrity.

The Seller: The Rockies haven’t emerged as clear winners to this point, not while Pomeranz struggles to gain a foothold in the big leagues. In three trials with Colorado, he’s logged a 5.40 ERA and 1.59 WHIP over 132 innings. Alex White, meanwhile, is a member of the Astros organization, courtesy of the Wilton Lopez trade, and Joe Gardner and Matt McBride are off the Rockies’ 40-man roster entirely.

5. Marlins trade RHP Anibal Sanchez, 2B Omar Infante and 2013 supplemental first-round pick to Tigers for RHP Jacob Turner, C Rob Brantly, LHP Brian Flynn and 2013 supplemental second-round pick (July 23, 2012)

The Futures Gamer: Catcher Rob Brantly backed up starter Tommy Joseph for the U.S. team, going 1-for-3 with an RBI double. The 22-year-old batted .298/.340/.412 with five homers in 96 games split evenly between Double-A and Triple-A, then made his big league debut in mid-August and hasn’t returned to the minors.

The Buyer: The additions of Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante papered over two glaring holes on the Tigers’ roster and contributed about two wins to the Detroit effort, according to Baseball-Reference.com’s accounting. Overall, the Tigers played as well prior to the trade (.542 winning percentage) as they did afterward (.545), but the trade additions combined with Miguel Cabrera’s run to the Triple Crown vaulted Detroit to a three-game advantage on the White Sox in the AL Central.

The Seller: The Marlins in 2012 traded a dozen members of their 25-man roster, including Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle, Infante, Josh Johnson, Edward Mujica, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Sanchez. Among all the prospects Miami received in exchange, Brantly and Jacob Turner have been the healthiest and most effective in 2013. Brantly leads the team in starts behind the plate, where he’s thrown out 35 percent of basestealers, but his offense has been lighter than expected thus far at .237/.289/.301 (63 OPS+) in 186 at-bats.

6. Athletics trade OF Matt Holliday to Cardinals for 3B Brett Wallace, RHP Clayton Mortensen and OF Shane Peterson (July 24, 2009)

The Futures Gamer: A 22-year-old Brett Wallace started at third base for the U.S. team and went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks. He had a fine season with the bat in 2009, one year off the Arizona State campus, hitting .293/.367/.455 with 20 homers in 138 games for three minor league teams. As Wallace felt the inexorable pull of first base, however, his mid-range power became less attractive.

The Buyer: The Cardinals seem to come out way ahead in all their trades for star veteran position players, from Mark McGwire in 1997 to Jim Edmonds in 2000 to Scott Rolen in 2002. The Matt Holliday acquisition was certainly no different. Sensing that his trade value may never be lower than it was in July 2009—Holliday hit .286/.378/.454 with 11 homers for Oakland to that point, and his contract expired at the end of the season—St. Louis pounced, landing one of its cornerstone run-producers of the past half-decade. The Cardinals improved from a .535 club to a .603 club and coasted to the NL Central title.

The Seller: The Athletics retained Wallace for just 44 games—he hit .302/.365/.505 at Triple-A Sacramento—flipping him to the Blue Jays in December ’09 for Michael Taylor, whom Toronto had just received in its Roy Halladay trade with the Phillies. In hindsight, Oakland might have been better served letting Holliday walk and taking the free agent compensation draft picks, for none of the players involved directly or indirectly in the transaction has provided much value.

7. Indians trade LHP C.C. Sabathia to Brewers for OFs Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley, RHP Rob Bryson and LHP Zach Jackson (July 7, 2008)

The Futures Gamer: The seventh pick in the 2007 draft, Matt LaPorta started at first base for the U.S. team in the ’08 Futures Game, going 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. Drafted as a college senior, he spent the season as a 23-year-old at Double-A, batting .279/.386/.539 with 48 extra-base hits (22 homers) in 101 games.

The Buyer: This might be the best trade-deadline buy of the past decade. The Brewers acted quickly and decisively, parting with the previous year’s first-round pick to acquire C.C. Sabathia in time for him to make two pre-All-Star-Game starts. He contributed nearly five wins (4.9 WAR) to Milwaukee’s cause, and though their winning percentage improved only marginally from .551 club to a .562, that slight upgrade made all the difference when they squeaked out the NL wild card by one game over the Mets.

The Seller: Michael Brantley has turned into a solid contributor for Cleveland—though not really a profile left fielder with a .392 slugging percentage since 2011—but LaPorta was supposed to be the prize of this trade. He hit just .238/.301/.393 in more than 1,000 plate appearances with the Indians, however, while stopgap options like Russell Branyan and Casey Kotchman earned regular playing time. LaPorta lost his spot on the 40-man roster last November, and he’ll qualify for minor league free agency in November if he’s not back on a 40-man.

8. Rangers trade OF Kenny Lofton to Indians for C Max Ramirez (July 27, 2007)

The Futures Gamer: Catcher Max Ramirez served as starting DH for the World team, going 1-for-3 with a double, a strikeout and a run scored. The 22-at-the-time catcher hit .304/.419/.504 with 16 homers in 109 games (90 behind the plate) at the high Class A affiliates for the Indians (Kinston) and Rangers (Bakersfield) during the 2007 season.

The Buyer: Kenny Lofton contributed nearly a win (0.7 WAR) to the Indians down the stretch, then ended his career in style by batting 12-for-43 (.279) with a pair of steals and four runs scored during the 2007 postseason, his swansong. The Indians improved from a .583 club to a .610 club after the Lofton trade, flying past the Tigers to win the AL Central.

The Seller: Ramirez, meanwhile, cracked 17 homers and slugged .646 for Double-A Frisco in 2008, but he never quite clicked in the big leagues, washing out in 2010 after hitting just .217/.343/.357 in 45 career games for Texas. Ramirez’s lack of quickness behind the plate has relegated him to more of a first baseman/DH/backup catcher role at Triple-A the past three seasons.

9. Rays trade SS Julio Lugo to Dodgers for 3B Joel Guzman and OF Sergio Pedroza (July 31, 2006)

The Futures Gamer: A 21-year-old Joel Guzman started at third base for the World team and went 0-for-2 with two whiffs. He spent the entire season at Triple-A, batting .274/.327/.447 with 15 homers in 110 games—though his OPS took a big tumble when he moved from Las Vegas (.817) to Durham (.615).

The Buyer: The Dodgers surged from last place in the NL West prior to the trade (.476 winning percentage) to the division’s best record afterward (.667), claiming the wild card by three games over the Phillies. Julio Lugo contributed little offensively to the drive, batting .219/.278/.267 in 49 games, and was relegated to the bench when Jeff Kent returned to play second base in the playoffs.

The Seller: Los Angeles certainly experienced no seller’s remorse after parting with Guzman, who signed for a then-Dominican-record $2.25 million in 2001 and ranked as the No. 5 prospect in baseball in ’05. He never refined his defensive play or plate approach (career .297 on-base percentage at Triple-A), and he went on to accumulate just 24 games in the majors.

10. Mariners trade RHPs Doug Fister and David Pauley to Tigers for 3B Francisco Martinez, OF Casper Wells, LHP Charlie Furbush and RHP Chance Ruffin (July 30, 2011)

The Futures Gamer: Francisco Martinez received one at-bat (0-for-1) for the World team when he pinch-hit for starting DH Dayan Viciedo. Just 20-years-old at the time, Martinez batted .289/.321/.426 with 10 homers in 124 games for the Double-A affiliates of the Tigers (Erie) and Mariners (Jackson).

The Buyer: The Tigers coasted to an AL Central title, outpacing the Indians by 15 games, while playing .709 ball after the trade. Call it a terrific sense of timing or excellent pro scouting, but either way the Tigers have accumulated many of their brightest stars in trade, including Miguel Cabrera, Doug Fister, Austin Jackson, Jhonny Peralta, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer. This turned out to be one of the more lopsided transactions in Detroit’s favor, seeing as Fister has posted a 3.28 ERA in two calendar years with the club while contributed about eight wins of value—according to Baseball-Reference—and fortifying playoff rotations in 2011 and ’12.

The Seller: Given how many years of club control the Mariners sacrificed (four) when they traded Fister, they appear to have misread his value or overstated the value of the prospects they received in exchange. To date, reliever Charlie Furbush has been the most valuable of those acquired, though Chance Ruffin is getting a spin as a starter in the high minors this season and could surpass him eventually. Neither Casper Wells nor Martinez remain with the organization, and Seattle actually sold Martinez back to the Tigers in June.