As the time before the 2019 MLB trade deadline can now be measured in hours, should teams treat prospects as untouchable commodities?
The line between being an MLB trade deadline buyer or seller is consistently blurred since the advent of the second Wild Card, as teams don’t know what to do or don’t want to mortgage the future. This year’s trade cycle, with now around 48 hours to go before Wednesday’s deadline, has been pretty slow as a result.
A notable trade was made on Sunday, though. The New York Mets acquired starting pitcher Marcus Stroman from the Toronto Blue Jays, for pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson.
The Mets have a bottom-tier farm system, but Kay and Woods-Richardson were ranked as their No. 4 and No. 6 prospects by MLB.com. The Mets are also six games back of the second Wild Card entering Monday, so being able to make the move for Stroman as multiple clear deadline buyers lurked with interest comes off as odd.
That said, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale opined that the deal to get Stroman was a stroke of genius by Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.
But it’s the following nugget which stands out the most.
In a study by Baseball America, just 20.1% of the prospects traded at the July 31 deadline since 2003 ever played at least two years in the major leagues and had a positive career Wins Above Replacement.
It should be noted there’s no detail offered accounting for status on MLB-wide prospect rankings, or individual organizational prospects’ rankings each year. The one out of five prospects dealt at the trade deadline from 2003-2018 that panned out to the minimal degree cited might be unveiled to be a bunch of top 10-20 overall prospects in baseball, or bunch of top 10-15 prospects within a specific organization. However, most of those supposed prospects have rather quickly become suspect.
Yet, so as to not invite immediate or certainly future scrutiny, MLB teams are not especially motivated to part with their prospects right now. But those with a legitimate chance to reach the World Series, in this or any year, can ask the Cubs and Theo Epstein if they’d trade Gleyber Torres for Aroldis Chapman and a ring again.