MLB’s most-wanted prospects

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY BARRY SVRLUGA

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.

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