There’s no real point to this — you’ve been warned — but here’s why this now exists:
It’s December and most owners are liars.
That’s it, that’s the reason. There’s so much time to dig, think, research, because there’s no news to lament, no rumors to kill. Just hours upon hours to scour the org rosters of 30 teams and their affiliates. And that’s what I did, looking for misfit talents, players running out of time in one organization, blocked or drowned prospects, and potentially expendable veterans.
There’s one from each of the 29 other teams in Major League Baseball. Some aren’t very exciting. Some are simply sensible and nothing more. But there are a few of intrigue, I’d say. All of them make sense, however. But this isn’t fantasy baseball, we’re not drafting a team from the other 29. This also isn’t about finding a trade package to acquire said player, so don’t ask.
Here we go.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Stefan Crichton, RHP
Crichton has been solid for Arizona the past two seasons with a 93-95 mph sinker and plus curveball. He’s rather ordinary as a middle reliever, but an accomplished one two years shy of arbitration status.
Atlanta Braves: Patrick Weigel, RHP
The Braves are looking to add incremental wins to their 26- and-40 man rosters, suggesting a minor league reliever is at least in play. He’s 93-97 with a slider that flashes above-average and a useful changeup. He’s on the Braves’ 40-man, but could be more valuable as a trade chip and roster spot.
Baltimore Orioles: Anthony Santander, OF
Baltimore remains in rebuild mode and might not be out of it for another year or two at least, so a player such as Santander is a possible trade chip. He’s not arbitration eligible until after next season, but could interest clubs this winter as a switch-hitting corner outfielder with average or better power. He’s significantly better as a lefty stick, and Seattle wants one of those — and need another outfield option, preferably one that hits left-handed, so …
Boston Red Sox: Chih-Jung Liu, RHP
Who knows what the Red Sox are going to do, but my guess is they’re going to spend enough to keep another awful season off the board, and that may also mean a few prospect-driven trade packages sent out to acquire more arms. Liu is 21 and a few years from the majors. He’s a bit undersized at 6-feet and 193 pounds, but he’s up to 96 mph and has a potentially-plus splitter and slider.
Chicago Cubs: Duane Underwood Jr., RHP
The Cubs may very well hit the rebuild button and if that’s the case anything is possible, including trading Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo. Underwood is a bit of an under-the-radar relief arm that may be ready to pop, despite ERAs and FIPs that tell a different story. He’s run xFIPS in the mid-3s two years running and is a legit three-pitch reliever who has thrown more strikes since he walked 18.8% of the batters he faced in 2018.
Chicago White Sox: Matthew Thompson, RHP
Thompson was a second-round pick in 2019 and has all the makings of an athletic mid-rotation arm with some upside. He’s just 20 and a few years away, and the White Sox opened a winning window in 2020 suggesting prospects such as Thompson are in play in exchange for big-league help.
Cincinnati Reds: Tyler Mahle, RHP
Stuff was finally met with quality performance in 2020 as Mahle posted a 3.88 FIP in 47 2/3 innings of work. He’s 93-96 with the fastball and the improvement of his upper-80s cutter-slider and curveball made a big difference. He’s just 26, is hitting arbitration for the first time this winter and could be a nice trade piece for the Reds as they try to add more focused impact to their postseason efforts.
Cleveland Indians: Carlos Carrasco, RHP
Carrasco could be part of a retool approach by the club this winter, one that likely includes trading shortstop Francisco Lindor. The right-hander is owed $47 million over the next four years, which is a bargain, despite Carrasco turning 34 early in 2021.
Colorado Rockies: Jon Gray, RHP
My favorite potential target for Seattle, the 29-year-old Gray has gone backwards since he posted a 3.18 FIP in 2017 over 20 starts. He’s still 93-97 with three useful secondaries led by a plus slider that prior to 2020 was one of the best in baseball. He has one year of control left at a third-year arbitration price, and the Rockies are looking to shave payroll.
Detroit Tigers: Daniel Norris, LHP
As the Tigers’ young arm push Norris to the bullpen, his value seems to be higher outside of Detroit. But even as a reliever, the lefty has a lot to offer, and he’s a free agent after 2021.
Houston Astros: Lance McCullers Jr., RHP
The Astros are a mess; Justin Verlander is out most or all of 2021, George Springer and Michael Brantley are free agents, Carlos Correa is a year from the open market, as is defacto ace Zack Greinke, so the future beyond 2021 is bleak on paper. McCullers is also a year from free agency, now deep into pricey arbitration status and might be worth more to the Astros in trade — to fill multiple holes and create a bit more payroll flexibility. Houston should be cutting bait on 2021, but even if they don’t, moving McCullers make sense.
Kansas City Royals: Scott Barlow, RHP
It looks like the Royals are trying to take a step forward in 2021, but the time to move Barlow is now — he’s been a consistent middle reliever and is now arbitration eligible — and could help KC land help elsewhere.
Los Angeles Angels: Jose Soriano, RHP
The Angels’ system is bottom third of the league but they’re more concerned about the big-league roster and an arm like Soriano could net the Halos a big-league reliever.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Dylan Floro, RHP
Floro is hitting arbitration this winter, and while the Dodgers aren’t afraid to spend seven figures on a reliever, Floro also could be a nice additional piece to a larger trade that lands the Dodgers an everyday outfielder or left-side infielder. He’s more of a middle reliever now, but the fastball-changeup combo is plus.
Miami Marlins: James Hoyt, RHP
Hoyt is 34 but will not be arbitration-eligible until after 2021, so the motivation for Miami to trade him isn’t high. But if the Marlins are looking to take a meaningful step forward with their 26-man roster, Hoyt could be available in a package. He’s always missed bats despite below-average velocity, and could be perceived an undervalued relief arm.
Milwaukee Brewers: Corey Ray, OF
Ray was the No. 5 pick in the same draft Kyle Lewis went No. 11 to the Mariners. He’s had multiple injuries along the way, and has yet to produce with any consistency. He’s 26 now and on the 40-man, but if the Brewers plan to win in 2021, Ray’s roster spot may not be stable.
Minnesota Twins: Nick Gordon, 2B
Yep, Dee’s brother. The arm and range fit shortstop fine and eventually he should hit for enough average to reach the majors, but like his older brother brings little power to the table. Nick is an average runner, so he has to get on base a lot to warrant everyday treatment, and he’s fallen out of favor in Minnesota simply due to other talents passing him by.
New York Mets: Steven Matz, LHP
The Mets are going to spend and trade big, and at least some of that is going to be about the rotation, which needs more probability and fewer hope-and-pray approaches. Matz’s stuff suggests he’s still capable of No. 3 starter production, but lack of availability and command problems have prevented that since 2016. He’s a pricey arbitration case that could be on the block.
New York Yankees: Anthony Volpe, 2B/SS
Volpe was on the Mariners radar in the 2019 draft, but he didn’t get to the club after Round 1. He’s a few years away from the majors so he’s not the next Yankees shortstop, but could easily be prime trade bait as the Bombers add to their roster moving forward.
Oakland Athletics: Jeremy Eierman, SS
With Marcus Semien a free agent, the A’s shortstop situation is unclear, but Eierman is down the depth chart a bit after Logan Davidson and Robert Puason. At this point, Eierman is more of a potential utility infielder, but needs work on the hit tool. Similar to Dylan Moore prior to the 2019 season.
Philadelphia Phillies: Hector Neris, RHP
Philly declined Neris’ option but now have a decision to make via the arbitration process. The right-hander was good in 2020 sans the 4% rise in walk rate but misses bats with 93-96 mph fastball and plus splitter.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Chad Kuhl, RHP
Kuhl, 28, has better raw stuff than his performance suggests — 92-96 mph sinker with three average or better offspeed pitches — but is well into arbitration now and the Pirates are years away. Just the kind of project the Mariners like.
St. Louis Cardinals: Dexter Fowler, LF
Fowler hasn’t hit much the last three years, but draws walks and as a left-handed bat is playable. His contract is a bit of an issue (owed $15.5 million for 2021), but such an issue could be mitigated via negotiations, and the deal expires after next season.
San Diego Padres: Justin Lange, RHP
The Padres are in win-now mode which makes just about any prospect potentially available. Lange has yet to make his pro debut, of course, but the arm strength suggests a high floor and ceiling.
San Francisco Giants: Trevor Gott, RHP
Gott struggled in 2020 after a strong 2019, and it appears the struggles were very much about his elbow problems. If healthy, he’s potentially an undervalued middle reliever, and one Jerry Dipoto has acquired before.
Tampa Bay Rays: Greg Jones, SS
With Willy Adames, Wander Franco, and Vidal Brujan ahead of him, Jones isn’t in the Rays’ picture just yet, but he’s the most likely misfit considering Tampa doesn’t typically trade top prospects, and more rarely move pitching prospects.
Texas Rangers: Jose Leclerc, RHP
Leclerc will miss bats. He’ll also miss the strike zone. He’s signed to a multi-year deal with two club options that could take him through the 2024 season.
Toronto Blue Jays: Estiven Machado, SS
Machado is down the org depth chart quite a ways in terms of middle infielders, but might be the most likely of the group to stick at shortstop. There’s more hit than power, but the range is above-average to plus, making arm strength the only real concern for a future on the left side.
Washington Nationals: Sammy Infante, SS
Infante, 19, has all the raw tools to not only stick at shortstop but develop average power and perhaps build a valuable enough package to play regularly. He’s currently third among middle-infield prospects in the Nationals’ system, lined up behind Trea Turner on the org depth chart at shortstop.
Jason A. Churchill
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