Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. Carlos Santana for Casey Blake. Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson. Baseball has a rich history of teams trading away future studs for short-term fixes, and many of these lopsided deals have occurred in the days leading up to July 31.
First-place teams feel pressure from fans and players to make a deal to solidify their lead, and those on the cusp of contention search for ways to improve their playoff chances.
The 2010 trade deadline was different, though, and helped to emphasize how major league teams now value young, cheap talent more than ever. Big-time trade pieces such as Adam Dunn, Corey Hart and Scott Downs were left on the market, as teams refused to part ways with blue-chip prospects for two-month rentals.
However, some minor league talent did exchange hands. The 10 best prospects who switched teams in the 10 days leading up to the deadline are ranked below. You might not find all of these players on a Baseball America Top 100 list, but they all may play integral parts in their team’s futures nonetheless.
10. David Holmberg, starting pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks
Holmberg isn’t a terribly exciting prospect, but the 19-year-old has the type of secondary pitches that should allow him to experience some major league success. Holmberg has posted low strikeout and walk rates in rookie ball this season, which exemplifies his good command yet pedestrian stuff. Though he’s still several seasons away, Holmberg is a good bet to eventually make the majors, most likely as a No. 4 starter. Soft-throwing lefties like Holmberg have a better chance of finding success in the NL than AL, so the move to Arizona from the Chicago White Sox (in the Edwin Jackson deal) can only increase his value.
9. Wynn Pelzer, pitcher, Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles would have been happy to receive any warm body in return for Miguel Tejada, and must be ecstatic to receive a potential impact arm in Pelzer. The 24-year-old right-hander isn’t having a great year, but Pelzer has spent most of this season pitching with the Padres’ Double-A team in the hitter-friendly Texas League. Pelzer’s 5.2 BB/9 ratio is concerning, but he’s still posting solid strikeout rates and allowing few home runs. Although Pelzer has been starting all year, many scouts believe his future lies in the bullpen, and he has the stuff and mentality to be a future setup man or closer.
8. Pat Corbin, starting pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks
Corbin has a had a terrific 2010 in what is his first full professional season, and was an underrated component to the Dan Haren trade. Corbin has posted a 3.71 ERA, 8.3 K/9, and 47.3 ground ball percentage between three Single-A teams this season, and has reached high Single-A at the age of 20. The Angels’ second overall pick in the 2009 draft, Corbin has responded well to an aggressive development program, and may need less time in the minors than most pitchers. Diamondback fans initially might be unhappy with the return their team got for Haren, but Corbin could help change their minds as soon as 2012.
7. Sean O’Sullivan, starting pitcher, Kansas City Royals
The main piece returning to the Royals in the Albero Callaspo deal, O’Sullivan is inferior to Corbin in terms of stuff and ceiling, but gets the nod here because he’s major league ready. O’Sullivan started 10 games with the Angels last season, going 4-2 with a 5.92 ERA, and made five appearances with Anaheim this season as well. The 22 year-old right-hander can ably serve as a bottom-of-the-rotation innings-eater for Kansas City, and will take some pressure off their bullpen. But he’s somewhat of a short-term fix for the Royals, who have a bevy of talented starting pitchers in the low minors.
6. Andrew Lambo, outfielder, Pittsburgh Pirates
Between Lastings Milledge, Jose Tabata and now Lambo, the Pirates’ new front office certainly hasn’t been afraid to acquire outfielders with big-time talent but questionable makeup. Baseball America ranked Lambo as the Dodgers’ top prospect before the 2009 season, but his stock has fallen considerably since then. Lambo hit just .256-11-61 last season, and was then suspended for 50 games this season after violating the league’s drug policy. Lambo has the talent to turn into a Brad Hawpe-like offensive-minded corner outfielder, but the 22-year-old (Lambo turns 23 on Aug. 11) comes with significant baggage.
5. Anthony Gose, outfielder, Toronto Blue Jays
Gose, 20, was the best prospect the Astros received in the Roy Oswalt trade, and was then immediately dealt to Toronto for first-base prospect Brett Wallace. The two couldn’t be more different as prospects go, since Wallace’s value stems from his polish and probability, while Gose’s value comes from his athleticism and upside. As of 2010, the lefty-hitting Gose is far too aggressive in all facets of his game, as evidenced by his .325 OBP and the astonishing 27 times he’s been thrown out on the base paths this season. But he’s a potential premier defender and base stealer, and Gose’s speed, arm and defense all rate as plus-tools.
4. Tyler Skaggs, starting pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks
Skaggs is the best player the D-Backs received in the Haren deal, and has the potential to be a No. 2 or 3 major league starter. The left-hander has pitched terrifically as an 18-year-old in high-A this season, going 8-4 with a .361 ERA and 9.0 K/9 rate, and is the type of player who could progress through the minors quickly. Since he was drafted just last season, Skaggs cannot officially be dealt until Aug. 7, as it will mark one full year since he was signed. Once he does go to Arizona, he’ll likely profile as one of the Diamondbacks’ five best prospects.
3. Dan Hudson, starting pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona headed into the trade deadline needing to slash payroll while building toward the future, and Hudson will help them accomplish both of those goals. The main piece in the Edwin Jackson trade, Hudson should provide 75-80 percent of Jackson’s value at a fraction of the cost. Hudson has always posted high strikeout numbers in the minors, and his stuff should play up in the National League. This is especially true since he won’t be making half of his starts in hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. The 23-year-old right-hander isn’t an ace-in-the-making, but he represents good value for Jackson and should be Arizona’s No. 3 or 4 starter for years to come.
2. Wilson Ramos, catcher, Washington Nationals
Very few teams are ever willing to give up good, cost-efficient catching talent, but Minnesota already has some guy named Joe Mauer behind the plate, which made Ramos expendable. Although Washington had to give up All-Star Matt Capps to acquire him, the move was a huge win for the Nationals, as they sold high on Capps while solidifying their catching position for the future. Ramos’ 2010 minor league numbers don’t look too impressive, but the 23-year-old has a track record of hitting for a solid average, and scouts believe he will grow to have plus power as well. He’s a solid defender as well, and the Nats are quietly building a very strong nucleus of young players in D.C.
1. Brett Wallace, first base, Houston Astros
Wallace is the best prospect who changed teams near the deadline, and although the Astros are already his fourth organization, Houston is where he can finally begin his major league career. Most people were shocked when Toronto was willing to part with Wallace for Gose, and the Astros were smart to capitalize on his surprising availability. With Lance Berkman in New York, Wallace will start at first base for Houston for the remainder of the year, and has a bright future ahead of him. He’s exactly what a team short on impact prospects like the Astros needed, and the 24-year-old already is one of the three or four best hitters in Houston’s lineup.