In a perfect world, teams that are competing for playoff spots would have pieces in their farm systems to offer up as pawns at the Trade Deadline to bring in Major Leaguers who can help for the postseason push.
Of course, perfection is rarely attainable. Teams jockeying to play deep into October have varying degrees of farm system strength at their disposal. Teams that annually compete know how hard it is to win at the Major League level and maintain a strong pipeline at the same time.
Some have managed to do that, and some organizations are better situated to be buyers at the Deadline than others. Here’s a list of nine contending teams that have prospects at the ready should they want to add big league talent down the stretch.
Even after the Nelson Cruz deal, which sent two top 30 pitchers in Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman to the Twins, the Rays have a very enticing combination of elite-level talent and depth. There’s a lot of talent up the middle, a big reason why Xavier Edwards was picked as a potential trade target in our story identifying one such prospect from each team.
San Diego hasn’t hesitated to trade prospects to win, as evidenced by the acquisition of Adam Frazier for a trio of prospects. They also dealt the aforementioned Edwards to the Rays in Dec. 2019 to get Tommy Pham and Jake Cronenworth, both of whom are contributing to the Padres’ run this year. They still have four Top 100 prospects, including Luis Campusano, a young catcher with offensive upside (San Diego did trade Francisco Mejia to the Rays in the Blake Snell deal after all).
Within spitting distance of a Wild Card spot, the Mariners have been relying heavily on their farm system to compete and will likely continue to do so, with Logan Gilbert establishing himself as a leading Rookie of the Year candidate. Outfielders Jarred Kelenic and Taylor Trammell have been up-and-down in the big leagues, though Kelenic is back up again. There is some pitching depth in this system Jerry Dipoto could deal from without getting rid of any Top 100 types.
4. Blue Jays
The Blue Jays will have to decide how close they are to contending this season, with a young team on the precipice of becoming a powerhouse behind All-Star Game MVP Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is just 22 years old. There are still five Top 100 guys in this system, all in Double-A or higher, and there are some exciting lower-level players who could be used in trades without parting with any of those upper level guys.
There’s some serious outfield depth here (four of the top nine in the system), which is why Alexander Canario was highlighted as a potential trade target. Much of the Giants talent is further away, with eight of their top 10 yet to play above A ball. You have to figure Marco Luciano and Joey Bart, their top two prospects, are off limits, but the Giants have the best record in baseball and a chance to play deep into the postseason, so one has to wonder if there are any limits to bring a ring home to the Bay area.
Teams looking for young middle infielders might want to call Cleveland, because there are 12 of them in its top 30, four in the top 10. The team went big in 2020, getting five players from the Padres that helped them both earn a playoff spot last year and plan for the future. Cleveland is one of those teams that could be on the fence in terms of competing, but there are five Top 100 players to choose from.
The system isn’t quite as rich as it once was because of graduations and trades as they try to win every year, but we also know the Dodgers won’t shy away from trading what they do have. Just ask Jeter Downs, a Top 100 caliber prospect who was sent to the Red Sox in the Mookie Betts deal, just over a year after the Dodgers got him from the Reds. Los Angeles has just three Top 100 guys currently, but could top prospect Keibert Ruiz be dangled?
We’re getting to the part of the list where the farm systems aren’t as deep, but the willingness to use them to enhance the chances of going to playoffs is strong. New York does have four top 100 guys, and we’d all fall off our chairs if they dealt top prospect Jasson Dominguez. But there are some high-end young arms with tons of velocity, like Luis Medina, who could draw interest.
9. Red Sox
Boston had the lowest-ranked farm system on this list when the season started, though it should be noted that Jarren Duran is now helping out in Boston and an arm like Brayan Bello has taken a big step forward in 2021. Knowing they will be buoyed by a strong 2021 Draft class headlined by Marcelo Mayer could embolden them to go all in.