However, we tend to look past the big league players involved to focus on the prospects and other young players who change teams. We have to fight our impulses to credit the trade "winners" for their foresight and admonish the "losers" for their shortsightedness, reminding ourselves that not all prospects pan out. Far from it.
Trade activity kicks into high gear around midseason, after teams have properly assessed their deficiencies. Contenders strive to improve their teams with an eye toward October, but they must also contend with the clock, in the form of the July 31 trade deadline.
Historically, more than one playoff hopeful has lived in the moment, sacrificing long-term gain for the gratification of now. In recent times, think of the Mets dealing away Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano in 2004, and the Dodgers sending Carlos Santana to the Indians for Casey Blake in '08.
In the hours leading up to the 4 p.m. Eastern trade deadline, teams possessing attractive big league veterans can hold out until their trade demands are met. This July, we saw organizations part with eight players who ranked among their Top 10 Prospects heading into the year. It's a list that includes such projected regulars as Rangers first baseman Justin Smoak, Twins catcher Wilson Ramos and White Sox righthander Dan Hudson.
Generally speaking, one need look no further than the caliber of big league players surrendered in trade to ascertain which teams brought back the most young talent. Without a doubt, starting pitchers starred as this summer's hottest deadline commodity. But then, they never really go out of style.
Rather than stack up individual prospects, here we opted to single out the clubs that added the most overall talent to their systems. Players are sorted by level of play, with older, more experienced players listed first.
Compiled by Matt Eddy, with ample contributions from Jim Callis, J.J. Cooper, John Manuel and Jim Shonerd.
July 29 • Traded RHP Roy Oswalt and $11 million to Phillies for LHP J.A. Happ, OF Anthony Gose and SS Jonathan Villar; subsequently traded Gose to Blue Jays for 1B Brett Wallace.
July 31 • Traded 1B Lance Berkman and $4 million to Yankees for RHP Mark Melancon and 2B Jimmy Paredes.
The Astros swallowed $15 million to trade off franchise icons in Oswalt and Berkman, but they did well to diversify their acquisitions, while emphasizing quality over quantity. In Wallace, Happ and Melancon, Houston received three players who can pay immediate dividends, while Villar and Paredes represent sound long-term investments. They both have exciting tools and profile at up-the-middle positions.
Brett Wallace, 23, Triple-A Las Vegas • A ready-now first baseman, Wallace batted .301/.359/.509 with 18 home runs in Triple-A. He has outstanding hand-eye coordination, and his inside-out stroke lets him drive balls to all fields. Wallace doesn't have tremendous raw power, but he's got a strong lower half and his feel for the zone gets him in hitter's counts where he can do damage.
J.A. Happ, 27, Philadelphia • Happ ought to fit in Houston as a No. 3 starter to complement Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers. At his best, he keeps hitters off balance with an upright, crossfire delivery of 85-90 mph fastballs and a very good changeup. He'll mix in a fringy breaking ball now and then for shock value. Happ's season has been interrupted by an elbow injury, which had limited the 2009 NL rookie of the year runner-up to three big league starts prior to the trade.
Mark Melancon, 25, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre • With a good, hard fastball that sits 92-94 mph, Melancon has the ingredients to pitch in middle relief. His curveball has regressed since his college days and is a fringe-average pitch, and he doesn't throw it for strikes consistently. Righthanded hitters (.817 OPS) have had more success with him than lefthanders (.750 OPS). Melancon's changeup, like his fastball, has some sink, and he had induced 12 double plays this season with a 2.6 groundout-to-flyout ratio in Triple-A.
Jonathan Villar, 19, low Class A Lakewood • Scouts rave about Villar's range and easy actions, saying he could play defense in the big leagues right now. "Defensively, it's all there—60 arm, very good range," one scout said. Villar runs very well and is aggressive in terms of stealing and taking extra bases. He'll need repetitions to refine his offensive game. Villar likes to swing at fastballs early in the count and rarely walks. The switch-hitter fared marginally better from the left side this season, batting .270/.333/.363 with both of his home runs.
Jimmy Paredes, 21, low Class A Charleston • The switch-hitting second baseman has played about a quarter of the time at shortstop or third base. Paredes' arm remains fringe-average, and he had committed 36 errors this season. Scouts agree that he profiles best in center field. However, Paredes has tools offensively and can be a dynamic player, thanks mostly to his solid line-drive stroke and above-average speed. Some scouts also expect Paredes to develop power as he gets stronger, takes advantage of the leverage in his swing and learns the strike zone. He's been over-aggressive this season, as evidenced by his .280/.312/.408 batting line.
July 9 • Traded LHP Cliff Lee, RHP Mark Lowe and $2.5 million to Rangers for 1B Justin Smoak, RHP Blake Beavan, RHP Josh Lueke and 2B Matt Lawson.
The Mariners held the deadline's top trade chip in Lee, the 2008 American League Cy Young award winner, and they cashed that chip in early, not waiting for teams to fall out of the race or for other top pitchers to land with contenders. Reportedly, Seattle had a deal in place with the Yankees that would have brought back Jesus Montero, but then the Rangers relented, including Smoak in their four-player offer to seal the deal.
Justin Smoak, 23, Texas • The No. 13 prospect in baseball entering the season, Smoak hit just .209/.316/.353 in 235 at-bats for the Rangers prior to his trade to the Mariners, where he's found the going even tougher. He started 10-for-63 (.159) for Seattle, prompting a demotion to Triple-A Tacoma. Smoak is an average defender, and the Mariners are betting on his bat. However, his power hasn't been in evidence at upper levels, particularly from the right side of the plate. One pro scout contacted by BA said a hitch in Smoak's swing was upsetting his timing, keeping him from maximizing his raw power. As a result, his overall athleticism was beginning to be questioned.
Blake Beavan, 21, Double-A Frisco • A towering, 6-foot-7 righthander taken 17th overall in the 2007 draft, Beavan was in the midst of an outstanding season, and scouts consider him a future No. 4 starter and innings eater. While he no longer throws in the mid-90s as he did in high school, he thrived with Frisco by commanding his 88-91 mph fastball and having a good feel for his changeup and slider. "He can really pitch," one pro scout with an AL organization said. "He doesn't need to throw hard to be effective. He has very good control, and it takes hitters one or two times through the order before they even start to get a feel for what he's doing."
Josh Lueke, 25, Double-A Frisco • Lueke has true plus stuff, with a 94-95 mph fastball that he combines with a sometimes above-average splitter and slider. Unlike many young relievers, control has never been a problem for Lueke—he notched a 62-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 38 innings in 2010. He missed almost the entire 2009 season because of legal issues. Initially charged with raping a woman he met in Bakersfield, his home base in the high Class A California League, Lueke pled no contest to false imprisonment with violence and spent 40 days in jail.
Matt Lawson, 24, Double-A Frisco • An aggressive, offensive-minded second baseman, Lawson also has played some left field and profiles more as a utility player than as a regular. He's a grinder with some pop, and he batted .277/.371/.438 with seven homers in 292 at-bats for Frisco.
July 25 • Traded RHP Dan Haren to Angels for LHP Joe Saunders, RHP Rafael Rodriguez, LHP Pat Corbin and a player to be named, expected to be LHP Tyler Skaggs.
July 30 • Traded RHP Edwin Jackson to White Sox for RHP Dan Hudson and LHP David Holmberg.
Arizona had no immediate trouble filling the holes in their rotation
left by the trades of top starters Haren and Jackson—they simply plugged in Saunders, a sixth-year
big league vet, and Hudson, who ranked as the White Sox's top pitching
prospect. (They also parted with catcher Chris Snyder and closer Chad Qualls at the deadline.) Among their other acquisitions, the Diamondbacks showed a preference for young, projectable lefthanders. Corbin, Holmberg and Skaggs all went between the 40th and 80th picks of the 2009 draft.
Dan Hudson, 23, Chicago (AL) • Though he certainly has a good arm—he sits in the low 90s and touches 94 mph—Hudson would not best be described as overpowering. His low three-quarters arm slot and long arm stroke make it difficult for him to get on top of his below-average curveball and slider. However, Hudson's funky delivery does provide cover for his changeup, which is quite effective versus lefthanded batters. He led the International League with 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
Rafael Rodriguez, 25, Triple-A Salt Lake • Success has been elusive for Rodriguez in the big leagues (5.51 ERA, 1.81 WHIP in 19 appearances), but he's been a steady performer in Triple-A for the last two seasons. While he doesn't profile as a high-leverage reliever, Rodriguez has three average offerings that would suit him in middle relief: an 89-93 mph fastball with sink and a pair of mid-80s secondary pitches in a changeup with split action and a slider with occasional tilt.
Pat Corbin, 21, high Class A Rancho Cucamonga • A natural athlete and a pitching coach's dream, Corbin eagerly attacks the strike zone with a solid fastball/slider mix. He pitches down in the zone with sink at 87-90 mph, and his ball alternately features cutting and tailing action. His changeup is less advanced, but he's shown a willingness to work on the pitch, flashing average from time to time. Corbin dedicated himself fully to pitching in 2009, and he's shown remarkable progress in just two years, hinting at a future as a strike-throwing, mid-rotation starter.
David Holmberg, 19, Rookie-level Great Falls • Despite his 6-foot-4, 220-pound build, Holmberg does not have premium velocity at this stage of his development. He sits at 86-88 mph and touches 90 now and then from a straight overhand delivery. What Holmberg lacks in present velocity, he makes up for with a pair of plus secondary offerings: a 12-to-6 curveball and changeup. That alone makes him a potential big league starter candidate or perhaps situational reliever.
Tyler Skaggs, 19, low Class A Cedar Rapids • The 40th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Skaggs represents the textbook definition of projectable—he's long-limbed, athletic and blessed with incredible arm speed. He delivers a lively 88-91 mph fastball down in the zone, and he could sit more comfortably at 92-93 when his upper body matures. His hard slider is a knockout offering that features two-plane break.
July 29 • Traded RHP Matt Capps and $500,000 to Twins for C Wilson Ramos and LHP Joe Testa.
July 30 • Traded 2B Cristian Guzman and $2 million to Rangers for RHP Ryan Tatusko and RHP Tanner Roark.
The Nationals kicked in $2.5 million to trade veterans on expiring contracts, but the ends justified the means. One of the top prospects traded this July, Ramos figures to succeed Ivan Rodriguez in Washington following the 2011 season—if not sooner. He has the tools to be a regular, while the Roark, Tatusko and Testa figure to settle into relief roles.
Wilson Ramos, 22, Triple-A Rochester • A notorious slow starter throughout his career, Ramos had heated up as the season went along. In 49 post-all-star-break at-bats, he went 19-for-49 (.388) with a homer and three doubles. He has two premium tools with his above-average raw power and arm strength, and he can be an above-average receiver as well. Ramos' defensive performance continued to attract the attention of scouts, as he was leading the International League by throwing out 19 of 38 basestealers (49 percent).
Ryan Tatusko, 25, Double-A Frisco • Tatusko's three-pitch repertoire got results in Double-A. He sits at 90-93 mph with an average curveball and the occasional split changeup. He's not overpowering, but batters have difficulty squaring him up because of his short arm stroke.
Joe Testa, 24, Double-A New Britain • Passed over in the 2008 draft and signed as a nondrafted free agent, Testa's best pitch is an average fastball at 88-91 mph that at times features some sink and tailing life. To project as a lefty specialist, he will need to hone either his curveball or slider to be at least average if not better. He had been hit hard in his first taste of Double-A (5.50 ERA, 1.76 WHIP), though with 50 strikeouts in 54 innings.
Tanner Roark, 23, Double-A Frisco • Roark pitches in the mid- to high 80s and tops out in the low 90s at times, and he backs it up with a curveball and changeup. He's around the plate with four pitches, though none grade as plus.
July 31 • Traded RHP Octavio Dotel and $500,000 to Dodgers for RHP James McDonald and OF Andrew Lambo.
July 31 • Traded LHP Javier Lopez to Giants for RHP Joe Martinez and OF John Bowker.
July 31 • Traded RHP D.J. Carrasco, SS Bobby Crosby and OF Ryan Church to Diamondbacks for C Chris Snyder, SS Pedro Ciriaco and $3 million.
The Dodgers and Giants, bitter National League West rivals, seemed only too willing
to deal their wares to the Pirates for Dotel and Lopez, a pair of low-leverage relievers. But this was just another typical trade-deadline frenzy for the Pirates and third-year general manager Neal Huntington. Last year, Pittsburgh sold off veterans in four July trades, bringing back the likes of Jeff Clement and Ronny Cedeno as well as nine other players who, charitably, could be said to require further development time. The Bucs fared quite a bit better in 2008, acquiring Jose Tabata, Bryan Morris, Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens and five others.
James McDonald, 25, Los Angeles (NL) • While McDonald will be out of options next season, he could fit as a back-end starter or power reliever in Pittsburgh. He still shows a plus fastball that touches 94 mph and an aggressive, attacking style. His curveball and changeup can be average or better at times, but he has battled his command and consistency, and thus hasn't been nearly as effective as he could be.
John Bowker, 27, Triple-A Fresno • Like McDonald, Bowker will have no minor league options remaining next season. He blasted 10 home runs in 350 plate appearances for the Giants in 2008, but since Bruce Bochy took over as manager, he's gotten just 163 PAs in two years. A lefty hitter, Bowker is strictly a platoon player and all his value is in his bat. Scouts consider him to have above-average power, and not just to the pull side. He slugged .565 in a long run with Fresno, where he batted .310/.388/.594 in 197 at-bats this season. Bowker is not particularly patient and tends to be too aggressive.
Joe Martinez, 27, San Francisco • Martinez tends to work backwards because he trusts his secondary stuff more than his fringy 86-91 mph fastball. He's a four-pitch righty who also features a solid-average changeup in the upper 70s. His slider and curveball are both fringe or below-average offerings. He doesn't endear himself to scouts by working with a slow tempo and rarely challenging hitters.
Pedro Ciriaco, 24, Triple-A Reno • A career .279/.314/.355 hitter entering the season in 2,729 minor league at-bats, Ciriaco got off to a slow start due in part to a ligament injury in his thumb. But he heated up in June and July, hitting a combined .295. Scouts report Ciriaco's speed, defense and throwing arm remain above-average, and his speed rates a 70 on the 20-80 scale. However, he has little power and is too free of a swinger to get on base enough to become a consistent factor as a basestealer.
Andrew Lambo, 21, Double-A Chattanooga • Lambo drew a 50-game suspension on May 1 for a second positive test for a drug of abuse. He reached Double-A as a 19-year-old in 2008, but his play had tailed off at that level the last two seasons. He has the tools to be an effective hitter, including a short swing, an all-fields approach, good pitch recognition and average power, but he has batted just .219/.278/.314 since returning from his suspension. With below-average speed and arm strength, he's limited to left field, though he shows decent instincts there.
July 22 • Traded 3B Alberto Callaspo to Angels for RHP Sean O'Sullivan and LHP Will Smith.
July 28 • Traded OF Scott Podsednik to Dodgers for C Lucas May and RHP Elisaul Pimentel.
July 31 • Traded OF Rick Ankiel and RHP Kyle Farnsworth to Braves for RHP Jesse Chavez, OF Gregor Blanco and LHP Tim Collins.
The Royals got what they could for a trio of 30-something veterans on expiring contracts, plus
Callaspo, who had been pushed off second base because of inconsistent
defensive play and faced the prospect of losing his job to top prospect
Mike Moustakas next year. Kansas City opted for a quantity approach, bringing on players with modest tools who might be able to help in supporting roles—but at least five of the seven acquisitions were pitchers.
Jesse Chavez, 26, Atlanta • Chavez's fastball is his best pitch as at times it reaches 95-96 mph, and he also throws a hard slider and changeup, neither of which is a plus pitch. The 26-year-old has run up a 4.87 ERA in 118 career big league games, with an unsightly rate of 1.5 home runs per nine innings, so he's purely a middle-relief option. Interesting footnote: Chavez, then with the Pirates, led all NL rookies in appearances in 2009.
Sean O'Sullivan, 22, Los Angeles (AL) • The burly O'Sullivan throws three pitches for strikes, but none of the offerings grade better than average. He sits in the high 80s and tops out at 92 mph with his sinker and is unafraid to throw his secondary stuff at any point in the count. O'Sullivan shows good separation with his changeup, while he adds and subtracts from his 75-80 mph curveball
Gregor Blanco, 26, Triple-A Gwinnett • Blanco had his chance as a big league regular in 2008, when he played 144 games in Atlanta and hit .251/.366/.309. No longer a burner as a runner, Blanco is a plus runner and just a fair basestealer. He most frequently employs a slap approach to try to take advantage of his speed. Blanco's a solid defender in center, and his best asset offensively is his ability to draw walks. He'll be out of options in 2011.
Lucas May, 25, Triple-A Albuquerque • Like Blanco, May will be out of options next season. In just his fourth year as a catcher, he has quick feet, plus arm strength and quick pop times behind the plate—he gunned down 20 percent of basestealers in Triple-A this year. His receiving ability is regarded as average to a tick below. While he isn't a huge offensive threat, May makes contact and can line the ball into the gap on occasion. He runs well for a catcher and projects as a backup.
Tim Collins, 20, Double-A Mississippi • The 5-foot-7 nondrafted free agent out of high school has become a legitimate relief prospect. Collins has averaged 15.4 strikeouts per nine innings in Double-A this season, thanks to his 89-93 mph fastball and his overhand curveball, a true plus pitch at times. Collins uses a high three-quarters delivery, which allows him to stay on top of his pitches and work down in the strike zone.
Will Smith, 21, Double-A Arkansas • Like O'Sullivan, Smith is a physical pitcher who works with three pitches but does not have a knockout offering. He pitches at 88-90 mph and works both sides of the plate, while mixing in a curveball that ranges from 72-80. He lacks a feel for his changeup, and it shows. This season, opposing righthanded batters battered him for a 1.010 OPS in Double-A.
Elisaul Pimentel, 22, low Class A Great Lakes • A late-bloomer who profile as back-of-the-rotation starter or reliever, Pimentel sits at 88-92 mph with a riding four-seam fastball. An easy arm action helps him disguise an average changeup, though his breaking ball is more cutter than slider.
7. BLUE JAYS
July 14 • Traded SS Alex Gonzalez, SS Tyler Pastornicky and LHP Tim Collins to Braves for SS Yunel Escobar and LHP Jo-Joe Reyes.
July 29 • Traded 1B Brett Wallace to Astros for OF Anthony Gose.
The deadline came and went and the Blue Jays still employed Jose Bautista, the major league leader with 33 home runs. That seemed to typify Toronto's approach at the deadline—the weren't exactly sellers, but then they weren't exactly buyers either. In both July deals, the Blue Jays traded prospects of their own to get young players they preferred. First, they jumped on a chance to buy low on Escobar, a steady defender who has hit .292/.311/.444 in 16 games for Toronto. Then they changed out Wallace for a player in Gose who is very nearly his direct opposite.
Jo-Jo Reyes, 25, Triple-A Gwinnett • Name a scouting platitude, and it's a safe bet it's been uttered about Reyes, the hefty, 6-foot-2, 230-pound lefty. He misses bats with two plus secondary pitches, he's aggressive, he throws downhill, his fastball gets up to 94 mph and his solid changeup has fade. That's the good news. But Reyes' performance record is strikingly discordant with his stuff. In four separate trials with the Braves, he went 5-15, 6.40 in making 37 starts and four relief appearances. He's been done in by poor control, in the form of 4.5 walks and 1.5 home runs per nine. He'll have to stick with the Blue Jays in 2011 because he's out of options.
Anthony Gose, 19, high Class A Clearwater • Gose led all minor leaguers with 76 stolen bases in 2009, when he batted .259/.323/.353 for low Class A Lakewood. While he remains an unfinished product with the bat, his speed, center-field defense and arm all draw raves from scouts—and even a few 70s on the scouting scale. He employs a slashing hitting style that lends itself to below-average power, though he will occasionally sting one the other way. Gose's pitch recognition needs significant refinement if he's to profile as a true on-base-oriented leadoff batter. He batted .263/.325/.385 with 36 stolen bases in 63 attempts this season.
July 31 • Traded C Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Red Sox for 1B be Chris McGuiness, RHP Roman Mendez, $350,000 and a player to be named.
It just seems wrong to write about the trade deadline and not include the Rangers, who made headlines in July for acquiring a quartet of big leaguers in four separate deals, getting Bengie Molina from the Giants, Cliff Lee from the Mariners, Jorge Cantu from the Marlins and Cristian Guzman from the Nationals. Even with its hyperactivity, Texas still found time to do a little selling of its own, packaging Saltalamacchia to Boston for three players and cash.
That last item—cash—played an integral role in the Rangers' summer strategy. They dealt a total of 11 players in five transactions, always bringing back money in return, to the tune of nearly $7.5 million. The ownership group headed by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan emerged victorious at the Rangers' bankruptcy auction, so the franchise ought to have a bit more financial stability if it chooses to swing an August deal . . . or four.
Chris McGuiness, 22, low Class A Greenville • McGuiness stands out most for his on-base ability, though that's not his only skill. He led NCAA Division I with 65 walks and ranked 12th with a .520 OBP as a junior at The Citadel in 2009. He batted .298/.416/.504 with 12 home runs this season. McGuiness also has a chance to develop average power from the left side of the plate, and he's a slick fielder at first base.
Roman Mendez, 20, short-season Lowell • Though he struggled in low Class A to start the season, prompting a demotion, Mendez had one of the best pure arms in the Red Sox system. He's still growing into his 6-foot-4 frame and could have a plus-plus fastball when he matures physically. He already can hit 98 mph on occasion. He's still refining a hard slider and a changeup, but they show promise.
WORTH NOTING• The Giants made three July trades for veteran relievers, first acquiring Chris Ray in the Bengie Molina deal with the Rangers, then Javier Lopez from the Pirates and, at the last minute, Ramon Ramirez from the Red Sox. Ramirez cost San Francisco Double-A righty reliever Dan Turpen, a 2007 eighth-round pick who who gets plenty of groundballs. He comes after hitters with a low-90s sinking fastball that can reach 94 mph, and he complements the heater with a changeup and slider that have the potential to be average offerings. Turpen, 23, will give up his share of hits, since he'll be in the zone and doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he can be a useful piece for the Red Sox in a middle-relief role.