Prospects Worth Trading


Posted Apr 8, 2007


Trading prospects may not always seem to jive with the mandate of getting younger, but there may be good reasons to do it. Perhaps a prospect is blocked and won’t get a chance to make it. Perhaps he had a hot season and is overvalued. But there are always options, if the right deal is out there.

Some of the things I’m about to talk about might seem ghastly to many San Francisco Giant fans: trade away some of the few good young players the team has.  But keep an open mind.  This is a team with a number of holes that need to be filled, either by veterans or other young players.  I’m not going to propose trades, and a lot of these deals depend on these players having continued success (or perhaps bounceback years) to get full value.  But if the Giants want to get better, and not cost themselves top players, these are the three guys that will get them the top value back.

How do you find a prospect worth trading?  Find an overvalued player, a player whose hot streaks has irrationally raised expectations.  Similarly, find a player who simply has little chance to make the majors, because of the players ahead of him.

1. Billy Sadler

It might seem crazy for the Giants to trade away a reliever when they have perhaps their biggest question marks, but Sadler is a great option to trade.  Some teams (including the Giants) love the movement on his fastball, and he does have impressive stuff.  And the 25-year old pitcher had a very good year for a poor team, and didn’t do so poorly in the majors.

What makes him tradeable: The Giants have their best depth in the minors in relief pitchers, both in current relievers and starters who will probably be switched in the near future.  Their best bet for a future closer is Brian Wilson, and Kevin Correia would probably rank ahead of Sadler in terms of potential.  Also, Sadler’s consistent control issues subsided this year, but he could definitely relapse; now is when his value may be highest.

Now, his performance the past couple of years don’t make him a top prospect, and he won’t bring back a huge package or a top prospect.  But the Giants would be trading from depth here, and this is the guy who is most likely to not come back and bite the Giants, like some other current major league closer.

2. Fred Lewis

Lewis gave the fans a charge on his major league debut in 2006, showing off his speed and batting 5 for 11 in 13 games.  The toolsy, athletic player has regularly been among the top-rated Giants prospects since being drafted in 2002.  But his slow ascent has cooled his status, and his biggest weakness remains his defense, as he has played almost exclusively in left field since the middle of 2005.

What makes him tradeable: He has potential, and remains attractive despite his inability to capitalize on it.  His speed is a tempting commodity, despite a hamstring injury early in 2006 that kepts his numbers low.  And unlike some ‘toolsy’ players, he has started to capitalize on his power.  But the Giants have two outfielders in the majors signed through 2009 (both of whom are similar to the type of player Lewis projects into), and the top free agent hitters in the next offseason will also be outfielders.  Plus, the Giants have many other minor league outfielders, who are better suited for the corners, where Lewis has seemed limited to recently.

Teams love potential, and there’ll always be some team very willing to take on a toolsy young player, particularly if they feel they can ‘teach’ him to play center field.  That talent will be cushioned by the fact Lewis will likely return to hitter-friendly Fresno, where his power will be helped and his stats may be a little inflated.  In the Giants system, Lewis is unlikely to get out of a bench role at best, anytime soon.  Now is the time to explore trades, as his value may only go down after 2007.

3. Jonathan Sanchez

What, you think I’m crazy?

Sanchez excited fans after starting the season off incredibly hot despite a hard push to Double-A, then had a stronger start in the majors after a conversion to relief.  He was moved back to the rotation and put into Fresno, where he had a good 6 starts in the hitter-friendly league.

What makes him tradeable: He’s young and hot, but he has significant flaws a number of teams overlook; particularly his control.  In the Majors and Triple-A, Sanchez walked 36 in 53.2 innings.  That’s far too many.  Plus, his best value would probably be as a starter, but he wouldn’t be that with the Giants.  Even if he wins the role in 2006, he’s just a placeholder for Tim Lincecum.  And the Giants have several other starter options down the line, and the trade for southpaw Travis Blackley (and his subsequent impressive debut in Fresno) only deepens that area.

That combination of being blocked from reaching his full potential, and having significant flaws that many overlook, make him a gem of an eventual former Giant.  While there’s definitely a good chance he will be a good major leaguer elsewhere, the Giants will probably be able to get a better value in trading him, perhaps in a young shortstop or third-baseman (desperately needed positions at the top of the Giants farm system).  If anyone is worth trading this season by the Giants from their farm system, it’d be Sanchez.
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