Luxury Trade Market Not as Fluid as it Appears

Warning, the following article has nothing to do with the Phillies, if you want to bail, I won’t judge you.

Last week the Red Sox and Padres swapped Drew Pomeranz and Anderson Espinoza. Espinoza has widely been regarded as a Top 20 prospect in the game, and whenever a prospect of that caliber is moved it starts to have everyone discussing how the market has shifted. When a prospect of that caliber is moved for a player not thought of as elite (even though Pomeranz has been pitching like an ace this year) it especially kicks off the pieces about how other teams must capitalize on the market and move their young players for star prospects. Outside of the obvious caveats about prospects being risky, this ignores the availability of those top prospects. Last winter (and in other forms through that summer) I wrote about a potential Hamels trade and how the market for him was limited to a few teams because only a few teams had the players to make such a deal happen. The market for high end buying is much the same right now.

For this exercise I am going to use Keith Law’s Midseason Top 50  both because it is the most recent and I like it the best (I don’t agree with all of Keith’s rankings but I think it represents something not smoothed by consensus making). What I am going to start with is creating a new list of top prospects, but only those on contending teams.

Alex Bregman (Astros), Lucas Giolito (Nats), Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox), Yoan Moncada (Red Sox), Julio Urias (Dodgers), Rafael Devers (Red Sox), Tyler Glasnow (Pirates), Victor Robles (Nationals), Alex Reyes (Cardinals), Amed Rosario (Mets), Kevin Newman (Pirates), Joey Gallo (Rangers), Austin Meadows (Pirates), Lewis Brinson (Rangers), Gleyber Torres (Cubs), Ian Happ (Cubs), Eloy Jimenez (Cubs), Kyle Tucker (Astros), Clint Frazier (Indians), Alex Verdugo (Dodgers), Chance Sisco (Orioles), Raul Mondesi (Royals), Dom Smith (Mets), Michael Kopech (Red Sox), Luis Ortiz (Rangers), Cody Bellinger (Dodgers), Yohander Mendez (Rangers)

That is still a lot of prospects so I am going to narrow it down with some other criteria:

  • Remove the Red Sox prospects, they have already made a giant move, they may lurk, but their Top 3 prospects are only going to move more something special enough it is never really on the market. That leaves Kopech who is unlikely to be a headliners for a star.
  • I feel comfortable removing Bregman, Giolito, Reyes, and Urias from the list. All three are MLB ready and likely to provide close to the value of anything they are traded for (with obvious caveats about unforseen players hitting the market). If the Dodgers weren’t giving up Urias for Hamels they aren’t giving him up for the things available.
  • I am removing the Pirates prospects from here. They are 8.5 games out of the division and 2.5 games out of the Wild Card. Given their conservative nature over the past few seasons they aren’t moving top prospects for a chance at the Wild Card.

Now that we have that out of the way let’s take the list above and group it by teams (With some additions of recently promoted prospect type players):

  • Nationals: Victor Robles, Trea Turner (not listed, in majors)
  • Mets: Amed Rosario, Dom Smith
  • Rangers: Joey Gallo, Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz, Jurickson Profar, Yohander Mendez
  • Cubs: Gleyber Torres, Ian Happ, Eloy Jimenez
  • Indians: Clint Frazier
  • Dodgers: Alex Verdugo, Cody Bellinger
  • Astros: Kyle Tucker
  • Royals: Raul Mondesi
  • Orioles: Chance Sisco

It is clear that the Rangers have the pieces to make a deal. It is also clear that they have the pieces to trump anyone else’s deal. The Nats have the closest thing to Espinoza available in Victor Robles, except he is a hitter, has a good defensive floor and is a level higher, making him that much more difficult to pry away. Amed Rosario is an interesting piece with the Mets, but he fits an organizational position of need. The Cubs have the guys to make a deal, but I think there is a legitimate question about what they might be buying. They are still the best team in baseball when fully healthy and have a sizeable lead in the division.

That means if you are the Rays with a pile of arms, the Braves with Teheran, or the A’s with Sonny Gray surveying the market you aren’t seeing a lot except from the Rangers. Now it is a buyers market because the Rangers know that you don’t really have other markets to sell to, so your choice becomes to either make a deal or hold on to your asset. Teams could look to deals that are quantity over quality, which puts teams like the Astros and Indians more in play, but many of the systems don’t have the depth to match a top prospect being included.

Now all of this should not hurt what should be a sellers market on lower end pitching. There is a small supply of competent pitching, and when you are talking the prospects needed to acquire an arm like Jeremy Hellickson, all teams have those kind of players in some form. This should allow the sellers to get solid deals.

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.