New team, new outlook? 6 players who might benefit from a change of scenery

June 8th, 2024

Trade chips come in all shapes and sizes, from the young, talented prospect to the established veteran looking to move to a contender.

Then there’s the change-of-scenery candidate. That’s the player who, for whatever reason, has struggled or fallen out of favor in his current situation despite an abundance of talent. Sometimes a fresh start in a new uniform can rejuvenate a player, giving him a new outlook on the game with any prior baggage left behind.

Remember how much Sonny Gray struggled with the Yankees? Getting out of New York certainly did wonders for him. Ditto for Justin Turner, who never realized his potential with the Mets, then transformed into an All-Star with the Dodgers. Kevin Gausman was a league-average pitcher during his five-plus seasons with the Orioles, but his performance jumped significantly in 2018 after his trade to the Braves.

Which players could use a change of scenery between now and the July 30 Trade Deadline? Here’s a look at six candidates (listed alphabetically).

, RHP, Phillies

Abel has been on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list for each of the past four years, but the former first-round pick hasn’t been able to make his way past Triple-A. The 6-foot-5 right-hander has four solid pitches and struck out 11.1 batters per nine innings over his first three seasons in the Minors, but his 5.2 walks per nine have been an issue.

The Phillies possess one of the deepest rotations in the game with Zack Wheeler, Ranger Suárez, Aaron Nola, Cristopher Sánchez, Taijuan Walker and Spencer Turnbull, leaving no clear path for Abel. With top prospect Andrew Painter working his way back from Tommy John surgery, Abel might be a prime trade chip for the Phillies -- and a prime change-of-scenery candidate for other clubs.

, OF, Angels

Adell was featured on this list a year ago, and although he appeared to have finally turned a corner with a solid start in 2024 -- he hit nine home runs with 22 RBIs and an .862 OPS in his first 40 games -- the 25-year-old has leveled off since May 20, hitting two home runs with a meager .296 OPS over his past 14 games.

If teams believe that Adell’s first 40 games were an indication of the player he could become, it might behoove one to take a chance by trading for him. Adell will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season, giving a club three years of control for the one-time Top 10 prospect.

, OF, Cardinals

Carlson’s 2021 rookie season earned him a third-place finish in National League Rookie of the Year voting, but the 25-year-old has taken a step backward in each season since then. He was having a great spring before a collision with Jordan Walker resulted in a left shoulder sprain, one that set him back significantly. In his first 24 games this season, Carlson went 6-for-47 (.128) with no home runs or RBIs and a .368 OPS. He’s also posted -1 OAA, regressing on the defensive side as well.

The Cardinals have a number of outfielders seemingly ahead of Carlson on the depth chart (Brendan Donovan, Michael Siani, Lars Nootbaar and Alec Burleson) and they’re hopeful that Walker will return to begin fulfilling his potential at some point. Carlson is earning $2.35 million this season and is under control for two more years, so perhaps a fresh start away from St. Louis would help him find his 2021 stroke.

, 1B, Red Sox

Dalbec, a fourth-round pick in the 2016 Draft, was one of Boston’s top prospects for five years, ranking No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s Red Sox Top 30 in each year from 2019-21. He exploded onto the scene in 2020, hitting eight home runs with a .959 OPS in 23 games, then followed that up with a 25-homer/.792-OPS season in 133 games in 2021.

Since then, Dalbec has regressed badly. He hit 12 homers with a .652 OPS in 117 games in 2022, then spent most of 2023 at Triple-A, appearing in only 21 games for Boston. This season has been even worse -- Dalbec hasn’t taken advantage of the chances he’s been given, making it clear he’s not part of the team’s future plans.

Dalbec has a good glove at first base, but his bat hasn’t translated since his initial big league success. With no obvious future in Boston as he approaches the arbitration process for the first time, he could be a roll-of-the-dice reclamation project for another club.

Ramón Urías, INF, Orioles

Urías has started at four infield positions for the Orioles during parts of five seasons, his best year coming in 2022, when he hit 16 home runs while posting a 3.8 bWAR, starting 109 games between third base, second base, shortstop and DH.

The emergence of Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg -- and the eventual return of Jackson Holliday and arrival of Coby Mayo -- has relegated Urías to a bench role, though another team might see him as a useful regular or platoon player. Given Baltimore’s glut of infield talent, trading Urías -- who just turned 30 and has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining -- to help fill another need would be a logical move.

, 1B, White Sox

Vaughn has been a relatively productive hitter during his first three seasons in the Majors, averaging 18 home runs, 68 RBIs and a .735 OPS in 138 games a year. The 26-year-old is in the middle of his worst season, hitting five home runs with 20 RBIs and a .613 OPS in 57 games, part of the reason the White Sox entered the weekend with the worst record in baseball.

But Vaughn has shown the ability to produce at the big league level, so a team looking for some cheap power might be willing to deal for the first baseman. Vaughn is earning $3.25 million this season and is arbitration-eligible for two more years, and given the state of the White Sox and their rebuild, bringing in a young player or two might make sense. For Vaughn, playing for a contender could help bring him out of his funk, making a potential move beneficial for all involved.