Though the trade market has been mostly quiet early in the offseason, with only a few minor deals having transpired since the Dodgers defeated the Rays in the World Series, recent history suggests that it shouldn’t be too long until a Top 100 prospect gets traded.
Specifically, there have been nine different Top 100 prospects who have been included in trades dating back to the completion of the 2018 postseason.
Two players from that group proved instrumental in their teams' success this past season, with Sixto Sánchez (acquired from the Phillies in February 2019 in the J.T. Realmuto deal) pitching the Marlins to their first postseason berth since 2003, and Brusdar Graterol (acquired from the Twins last February in the Mookie Betts trade) emerging as a lockdown bullpen force for the World Series-champion Dodgers.
The only trade so far this offseason that has involved prospects didn’t actually center around those prospects, as the Reds dealt Robert Stephenson and outfield prospect Jameson Hannah to Colorado for Jeff Hoffman and 18-year-old right-hander Case Williams on Nov. 25. But with roster decisions looming for every team as they look ahead to the 2021 season, it shouldn’t be long until trade activity begins to pick up.
So, which contenders could make moves? Here are 10 clubs with a realistic chance to win in 2021 and farm systems with enticing trade fodder:
Top 100 Prospects: 5
Top-rated prospect: Sixto Sánchez, RHP (No. 19)
The Marlins were one of baseball’s biggest surprises in 2020, as they overcame a COVID-19-fueled roster crisis early in the season to finish second in the NL East, securing the organization’s first playoff berth since 2003. Sánchez, who tied for seventh in the NL Rookie of the Year race, headlines a deep group of young, cost-controlled big leaguers around whom the club could build, and with 13 of their Top 30 prospects already on the 40-man roster, the Marlins have even more help on the way. At the same time, the fact that Miami’s system is deeper at some positions than others suggests the Marlins are more likely to capitalize on the quality of their depth than move a Top 100 prospect in a potential offseason trade. With that in mind, shortstop Jose Devers and outfielder Jerar Encarnacion, both members of the 40-man roster, as well as 2019 third-rounder Peyton Burdick are candidates to be included in a blockbuster deal.
Top 100 Prospects: 2
Top-rated prospect: Josiah Gray, RHP (No. 62)
That next year’s Dodgers roster should look a lot like their 2020 World Series-winning one bodes well for the franchise’s chances of reaching a ninth straight postseason, if not more. Despite their sustained success for much of the last decade, the Dodgers have never been a team to shy away from making a splash in the offseason trade market, even showing a willingness to give up multiple Top 100 prospects in the right deal. Keibert Ruiz, MLB Pipeline’s No. 68 prospect, is blocked by Will Smith behind the plate for the foreseeable future, but the 22-year-old switch-hitter could appeal to a team in the market for a potential long-term option at the premium position. Of course, the Dodgers could sweeten any deal by including one or more of their young infielders and/or hard-throwing pitching prospects.
Top 100 Prospects: 3
Top-rated prospect: Jasson Dominguez, OF (MLB No. 48)
While they no longer have the type of system they did even just a few years ago, the Yankees still have a pair of Top 100, big league-ready pitching prospects (Clarke Schmidt, Deivi García) and a host of other promising young arms on their 40-man roster including Luis Gil, Yoendrys Gomez and Luis Medina, none of whom are older than 21. Trading any of the aforementioned pitchers could go a long way in helping the Bronx Bombers more permanently address their aging starting rotation and other parts of their Major League roster facing imminent turnover. Estevan Florial and Albert Abreu are interesting change-of-scenery candidates as former Top 100 prospects who reached the Majors for the first time in 2020.
Top 100 Prospects: 4
Top-rated prospect: Nick Lodolo, LHP (MLB No. 44)
José García logged 24 games as Cincinnati’s regular shortstop this past season and, at age 22, he’s widely regarded as a high-upside shortstop prospect. But with the Reds in win-now mode, coming off their first postseason berth since 2013, they reportedly are interested in trading for a major upgrade at shortstop, with early offseason rumors linking the club to Francisco Lindor and Trevor Story. Acquiring a frontline shortstop would make García expendable and could prompt the Reds to include him in such a deal. The organization could also move a high-risk, high-reward prospect like 2017 No. 2 overall Draft pick Hunter Greene (MLB No. 47) to help command an even greater return.
Top 100 Prospects: 3
Top-rated prospect: Cristian Pache, OF (No. 10)
For a third straight year, the Braves took home first place in an increasingly competitive NL East only to come up short in the postseason. What’s more, the potential loss of free agent Marcell Ozuna -- last year’s NL leader in home runs (18), RBIs (56) and total bases (145) -- means the Braves could have an MVP-candidate-sized hole of production to fill on their 2021 roster. The team has remained patient with the development of 21-year-old switch-hitter Drew Waters, and the hope is that he’ll soon be ready to assume an everyday role in the Braves’ outfield. At the same time, trading a highly regarded prospect like Waters, No. 22 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100, for an established corner bat this offseason would give Atlanta a head-start in replacing Ozuna.
Top 100 Prospects: 6
Top-rated prospect: Wander Franco, SS (MLB No. 1)
With MLB Pipeline’s current No. 1-ranked farm system, the Rays are in the best position of any organization this offseason to execute a prospect-centered trade. They’re known for doing exactly that, too, with the acquisitions of Xavier Edwards and Randy Arozarena in separate deals last offseason representing the organization’s most recent success stories. The latter trade was particularly significant, as it saw the Rays uncharacteristically part with Top 100 prospect Matthew Liberatore, the team’s first-round pick in the ’18 Draft, in return for Major League players. Should they employ the same approach this offseason, the Rays could bolster their big league roster by moving No. 41 overall prospect Vidal Brujan -- a switch-hitting, 22-year-old speedster who could end up being blocked at both second base and shortstop for years to come.
Top 100 Prospects: 3
Top-rated prospect: Ronny Mauricio, SS (MLB No. 57)
Though memories of then-GM Brodie Van Wagenen’s December 2018 trade that sent Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to Seattle for Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz may haunt Mets fans for years to come, the organization has done well in recent years assembling a group of young, high-ceiling prospects via the Draft and international market. With nine age-21-or-younger players who have yet to reach the Double-A level ranked in the top 10 spots on their Top 30 list, the Mets could be an appealing offseason trade partner for most rebuilding clubs. Perhaps most importantly, under new owner Steve Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson, the Mets are eager to make a splash this offseason and have the resources -- whether it be high-end prospects who could be traded in blockbuster deals or simply the spending power needed to land a top free agent -- to make it happen.
Top 100 Prospects: 5
Top-rated prospect: Andrew Vaughn, 1B (MLB No. 13)
Trading prospects for big leaguers has not been the South Siders’ M.O. during their rebuild, and while it’s difficult to predict with any certainty that they’ll begin to do so this offseason, the organization certainly has the type of big league-ready Top 100 prospects -- Vaughn and Michael Kopech, namely -- needed to make a blockbuster deal. And with a new manager (Tony La Russa) and pitching coach (Ethan Katz) now in place, the team may decide to trade for players who better fit the organization’s new mold.
Top 100 Prospects: 0
Top-rated prospect: Jackson Rutledge, RHP
Finishing eight games below .500 the year after they won a World Series title was not how the Nationals envisioned their 2020 season playing out, and offseason rumors regarding the team’s interest in acquiring 2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant indicate that the organization sees itself as a contender going into ’21. Yes, the Nats have already expressed a reluctance in parting with either Jackson Rutledge or Cade Cavalli -- the club’s first-round picks in 2019-20 -- but the quality and quantity of the pitching prospects in Washington’s farm system should help soften the blow of losing either hard-throwing right-hander. And let’s not forget: the last time the Nationals traded from their wealth of pitching prospects, in December 2016, they sent Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López and Dane Dunning to the White Sox for Adam Eaton, a key contributor on Washington’s World Series-winning squad.
Top 100 Prospects: 5
Top-rated prospect: MacKenzie Gore, LHP (No. 3)
The Padres earnestly began to reap the rewards of their elite farm system in 2020, relying on numerous rookie contributors, including Top 100 Prospects Luis Patiño and Luis Campusano, and also cashing in on their incredible farm system by executing a few major Deadline deals, including the nine-player blockbuster with the Indians that brought Mike Clevinger to San Diego. Those trades (as well as some in-season prospect graduations) have detracted from the system’s overall strength and depth, but the Padres still have arguably the best crop of Top 100 prospects of all 30 teams, with four players ranked inside the Top 50. That group includes 2019 first-rounder CJ Abrams, an explosive athlete with an assortment of impact tools.