MLB’s most-wanted prospects
Last summer, with his Oakland Athletics looking to build on a lead in the American League West, General Manager Billy Beane made a bold move, as is his wont. He dealt for not one but two starting pitchers, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel of the Chicago Cubs. The Athletics became an easy favorite to win the division. The cost: a package that included a 20-year-old shortstop who had never played a game above Class AA, Addison Russell.
As we head into the final week before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, Russell is the starting second baseman for the Cubs, who are pushing to make the playoffs. And the teams that are selling off veterans, as the Cubs were last summer, are looking for that Russell-like piece in return— young and talented, sure, but perhaps just as important: not eligible for free agency for six years, which means his salary can only get so high.
Those players, cheap or not, are being entrusted with important roles — not just for franchises that are rebuilding but for franchises that expect to win.
“When I came up, it was one or two young kids and a room full of veterans,” said Pittsburgh right-hander A. J. Burnett, whose rookie season was 1999. “Now it’s one or two veterans in a room full of young kids. They’re special, man. It’s like Little League in the big leagues.”
But that means trading for one of these Little Leaguers could be difficult. The names that could be traded in the next week include some of the biggest in the sport, Cole Hamels and David Price and Johnny Cueto among them. But the fear, for the buying teams, is that the price could be the biggest names in the sport in the coming years. A look at some of those targets:
Nationals prospect Lucas Giolito, shown earlier this month in the Futures Game, was promoted to Class AAHarrisburg on Saturday.