Minor League Trading Arsenals: Post-Deadline Aftermath

The trading deadline has come and gone, and while it wasn’t quite as insane as last year’s, significant major leaguers and prospects of varying status changed uniforms in reasonably large numbers. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve taken a look at each club’s respective minor league talent arsenals, from which they might be able to obtain established talent. Now, let’s take a look backward, and see which clubs traded some future for the present, and vice versa. A handful of other clubs, on the other hand, offer brightness or bleakness all around.

As we have the last couple of weeks, we’ll rank the 30 minor-league systems based upon my midseason position-player and starting-pitcher rankings. If you aren’t familiar with my minor-league lists, here is a brief refresher. They aren’t pure top-prospect lists; they basically serve as follow lists, after which traditional scouting methods are used to tweak the order. Qualification for my lists are based upon a combination of performance and age relative to league/level. The younger a prospect is at each level, the less production is required to get him onto the list. At level-specific “optimal ages” (22 at AAA, 21 at AA, 20 at High-A, 19 at Low-A), a player qualifies regardless of performance. At level-specific, much older ages (26 at AAA, 25 at AA, 24 at High-A, 23 at Low-A), you can’t qualify for the list no matter how loud your performance. Only full-season league prospects are considered.

Does my method miss some prospects? A few. Defense-first guys at offense-scarce positions and pitch-to-contact types with high grounder rates sometimes slip through the cracks. I’m ready for those guys, and can easily go find them to add to my list in the adjustment phase. Still, the vast majority of productive major leaguers qualified for my lists at one point in time in their respective minor-league careers. This includes successful major-league relievers, most of whom started at some point in the minors. Of the many, many relievers in the All Star Game, only Mark Melancon and Darren O’Day never started as prospects. Every one of the others did, and qualified for my list. Exactly 303 position players and 144 starting pitchers made the cut this time around.

The first two columns in the table below list each club’s overall total and number of top-100 position players on my midseason list. The next two list each club’s overall total and number of top-50 starting pitchers on my midseason list. The next two columns add the two together to yield each club’s overall prospect total, and their number of higher-end prospects, while the final two columns update the totals for transactions that occurred by the trading deadline. The table is sorted by the current combined total of T100 position players plus T50 starting pitchers.

TEX 18 7 10 4 28 11 25 9
CUB 12 8 6 1 18 9 17 9
NYM 11 7 5 2 16 9 15 9
TB 14 5 6 3 20 8 21 8
HOU 19 9 6 2 25 11 20 8
PIT 15 6 6 2 21 8 20 8
PHL 14 4 5 1 19 5 22 7
MIL 10 3 3 1 13 4 18 7
ATL 11 6 6 2 17 8 17 7
MIN 11 5 6 2 17 7 16 7
LAD 7 3 7 3 14 6 14 7
NYY 17 4 7 3 24 7 23 6
BOS 12 3 7 3 19 6 19 6
CLE 14 4 4 2 18 6 19 6
COL 10 4 6 2 16 6 17 6
KC 11 3 10 2 21 5 19 4
OAK 11 2 11 2 14 4
CWS 7 2 5 2 12 4 12 4
SEA 6 1 3 2 9 3 11 4
BAL 5 3 5 2 10 5 9 4
WAS 5 2 4 2 9 4 9 4
SD 11 3 1 12 3 12 3
TOR 9 2 4 2 13 4 11 3
CIN 9 3 2 12 2 14 2
DET 9 1 9 1 10 2
MIA 6 1 2 1 8 2 9 2
AZ 9 4 1 13 1 13 1
STL 5 5 1 10 1 9 1
SF 3 1 4 7 1 6 1
LAA 2 1 4 6 1 6 1

Let’s look at a few clubs who were notably active — or inactive — at the deadline, and the impacts of their actions/inactions on their present and future:

THE ACTIVE CLUB WITH THE BRIGHTEST PRESENT AND FUTURE: Houston Astros – Throughout their deep, extended rebuilding process, the Astros have accumulated minor talent to the point that it was inevitable they would lose a prospect the caliber of Delino Deshields, Jr., in the Rule 5 draft. All along, they indicated that when the time was right, they would deal from their stacked deck to invest in their present. Well, the time is apparently right.

Scott Kazmir, Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers are all Astros, and despite the significant number of strong prospects sent packing, the club remains in the top tier with regard to minor league talent. Some of it, in the persons of Carlos Correa, Preston Tucker, and Vincent Velasquez, has already graduated to the big club, and the club reloaded in the 2015 draft, adding high-end prospects not yet reflected in the rankings above. The acquisition of Fiers could be a sneaky good one; a league average starting pitcher with four years of team control after 2015, who isn’t even arb-eligible until 2017? Sign me up. You can make the argument that he had as much or more trade value than Gomez. In any event, the Astros have greatly improved their 2015 chances while not dramatically reducing their minor league depth.

THE ACTIVE CLUB WITH THE BRIGHTEST PRESENT, WHO SOLD OUT THEIR FUTURE A BIT: Kansas City Royals – The Royals were the clear standout among AL clubs prior to deadline week, and they went all in, renting Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist at the expense of five minor league pitching prospects, all from the Double and Triple-A ranks. In the process, they made themselves an even more imposing October presence; a Cueto at the front of their rotation will help keep their bullpen fresh, and Zobrist gives them a quality injury replacement for Alex Gordon now, and an upgrade over Omar Infante later.

There is some risk here, however, as they have dealt from the weakness of their club, starting pitching, while simultaneously adding to it with Cueto. While only Brandon Finnegan, among the pitchers dealt, was potentially in line for postseason innings this October, any one of John Lamb, Sean Manaea, Aaron Brooks or Cody Reed could have been in 2016. Still, this is a bold move for now, and given the youth, athleticism and incredible health of this group, they project as legit contenders in the intermediate term.

THE ACTIVE CLUB WHO ENHANCED THEIR PRESENT, AT GREAT RISK: Toronto Blue Jays – Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the Jays didn’t improve their postseason chances by adding Troy Tulowitzki and David Price (not to mention Mark Lowe, LaTroy Hawkins and Ben Revere) to the club. When you take a step back and look at their 25-man roster and minor league system as a whole, the risks are apparent.

First, the ripple effects of these large transactions caused them to simply toss away Danny Valencia, a very useful offensive piece throughout the first half, and will also cost the similarly productive Chris Colabello some playing time. I tuned in the Jays-Royals game on Saturday, and witnessed a starting lineup that included both Munenori Kawasaki and Ryan Goins in the middle infield. Sure, it was a rest day for Tulo, but still….holes remain on this club.

Looking forward, the Jays had a middling farm system to begin with, and their organizational weakness is, and was, pitching. They are now a full 11 pitching prospects lighter after their deadline activities. Now a bunch of these arms aren’t huge losses, but a few of them, including Daniel Norris, Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro, Jesse Tinoco and Matt Boyd, could be. The Jays have pushed all of their chips to the center, and have greatly improved their nucleus at the top, but the middle to lower portion of their roster is still vulnerable.

THE ACTIVE CLUB WHO MIGHT HAVE IMPROVED THEIR PRESENT, WHOSE FUTURE REMAINS STRONG – New York Mets – It was quite a week for the Metropolitans, from the trade they didn’t make to the one they did, for Yoenis Cespedes. While Cespedes does add a legit threat in the middle of the order, he brings temptation, and risk. The temptation is to soup up the offense, put Juan Lagares on the bench, and play either Cespedes or Curtis Granderson in center field. That would be a mistake, costing their impressive young pitchers valuable outs. Lagares is a big part of the reason for the Mets’ run-prevention success, and the addition of Cespedes gives them the opportunity to ease Michael Conforto into the mix, in situations in which he can be expected to succeed.

Looking ahead, the Mets have a group of strong position player prospects who will nicely complement their young pitching nucleus in due time. They were able to add Cespedes to the middle of their lineup without disrupting this group. It’s been a long time since you could say that the Mets’ future looks exceptionally bright, but that day has arrived.

THE BUYER WHO MANAGED TO ADD AN IMPACT PROSPECT: Los Angeles Dodgers – It’s amazing what you can do when you possess the wherewithal to eat everyone else’s bad contracts, and to trade Hector Olivera while eating half of his hefty signing bonus. The Dodgers managed to add a long-term, cost-controlled starter in Alex Wood, while at the same time adding SS Jose Peraza, who is better than the best prospect they yielded, RHP Zachary Bird.

THE ACTIVE CLUB WHO HELPED THEIR PRESENT A BIT AND THEIR FUTURE A LOT, WHILE RETAINING A DEEP SYSTEM: Texas Rangers – They’re a fringe wild card team at best in 2015, but the Rangers managed to add Cole Hamels while retaining the top slot in the minor league arsenal rankings. In addition, they managed their cash flow by getting the Phillies to pay some of Hamels’ salary and absorb Matt Harrison’s hefty contract. Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson all remain, and all could soon join Rougned Odor in the lineup alongside veterans like Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo and Josh Hamilton. The Rangers could soon see their window as legitimate playoff aspirants reopen.

TWO ACTIVE CLUBS WHO ARE DEAD IN THE WATER NOW, THOUGH THE FUTURE IS BETTER THAN YOU THINK: Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers – Both clubs got prospect-heavy packages in exchange for Hamels, Revere, Gomez and Fiers, not to mention Jonathan Papelbon, Gerardo Parra and Jonathan Broxton, but fully zero of the prospects obtained are able to help right now. These clubs are good bets for top five overall picks in the 2016 draft.

That said, their minor league systems, long languishing near the bottom of the pack, make sharp upward moves thanks to these deadline deals. The Phils already had Maikel Franco and elite SS prospect J.P. Crawford in place, and now can supplement them with LF Nick Williams and C Jorge Alfaro. Pitching-wise, Aaron Nola is here, and Jake Thompson could soon join him, along with a few others obtained last offseason. The Brewers obtained two-thirds of their future outfield in the persons of Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana, with Josh Hader and Zach Davies adding much needed pitching depth. In addition, the Brewers’ 2015 early round draftees are off to fine starts in their professional debuts. The near term is rough, but it’s time to focus on the positive in Philly and Milwaukee.

INACTIVE CLUB WITH BRIGHT PRESENT, FUTURE: Chicago Cubs. They made a couple relatively minor moves, adding Dan Haren and Tommy Hunter, but kept their solid minor league nucleus intact, in support of their exciting young big league club. Do yourself a favor and watch a Cubs game soon.

INACTIVE CLUBS WITH BRIGHT PRESENT, BEGINNING TO SEE END OF ITS WINDOW: St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels – It wasn’t a big move, but the Cards’ acquisition of Brandon Moss in exchange for pitching prospect Rob Kaminsky was a notable one. It was just…..un-Cardinal-like. Moving a legit pitching prospect to fill a short-term hole with a complementary player is one thing when you possess a deep system, as the Cards have often had. Their system, however, is as lean as it’s been in recent memory, behind flamethrower Alex Reyes, and with the Pirates and Cubs going nowhere, the Cards need to strike now.

Sure the Angels have Mike Trout, but their system is quite barren. They were able to patch and fill, acquiring David Murphy, Shane Victorino, David Dejesus and Conor Gillaspie in small deals, but they are showing signs of wear, and will need to fill C.J. Wilson’s innings somehow down the stretch.

PRESENT, FUTURE LOOKING DICEY: Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers: All three of these clubs, to their credit, did sell off to some extent at the deadline. In doing so, they realized that they were not 2015 contenders, but didn’t recoup enough talent to move their minor league systems out of the bottom half.

The Mariners got a fair return from the Yankees for what Dustin Ackley has become, but they deserve blame for allowing him to fall to that level. Ramon Flores is a ballplayer type, who will give the Mariners some of the quality plate appearances that they need. The three prospects acquired for Mark Lowe don’t even qualify as lottery tickets; the best of them, Nick Wells, is more of a 50-50 raffle ticket. They did well in getting back-end starter candidate Adrian Sampson in exchange for two months of J.A. Happ.

The Reds moved out rentals Cueto and Mike Leake, adding four live arms and low-end power prospect Adam Duvall in return. In and of themselves, these are very reasonable moves, but there is very little impact in the system, while the Cards, Pirates and Cubs set quite a standard in the NL Central. Right now, the Brewers’ future even looks slightly better.

The Tigers had absolutely zero pitchers on my midseason pitching prospect list. Wisely, they added five arms along with infielder JaCoby Jones in exchange for Price, Cespedes and Joakim Soria. Norris is the best of the group, and has already slid into the rotation, but this doesn’t presently look like a club that will be challenging the Royals for AL Central supremacy anytime soon. These three clubs need to draft and develop their way out of their current predicaments, and don’t have the best track record in that area in the recent past.

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7 years ago

A couple years ago, Anthopoulos gave up Syndergaard and ton of other prospects for older, big name, expensive players. He seems to target veterans, regardless of the risk, over young, cost-controlled guys. The Jays have lost both quantity and quality in the process. Tough to tell if those young guys could’ve won any more games, though. Rookies are almost always unpredictable. (Except for Thor. No doubt he’s better than Dickey.)

Brock Holt!
7 years ago
Reply to  floating

Do prospects fly forever? Don’t think so.

But even if they did: still got Reid Foley, Osuna, Stroman, Sanchez, guy that got drafted this year and a bunch of others pitching wise. Position player wise they’re still pretty much in the same spot they were before the deadline.

7 years ago
Reply to  floating

I agree, floating. Thor seems like one of the only guys they’ve dealt under AA that could come back to bite them (and he’s a pitcher, so he’s probably going to break at some point – we just don’t know how long it will take to fix him).

Norris was a pretty polarizing guy in terms of ceiling/risk, and he’s clearly the best prospect they gave up this year. Plus, without a playoff appearance AA is probably toast so pushing all of his chips to the center seems like the right move.