Each team’s best prospect ‘gift’

Detroit Tigers

It is, or has been, for many of us, a gift-giving time of year. For those who celebrate Christmas, we hope you get what you wished for under the tree. And just remember, sometimes the best gifts are ones you aren’t totally sure how much will mean to you until far off into the future.

If you don’t follow, ask the 30 teams below. Over the past 10 years, every team has made countless amounts of trades, often involving prospects. It’s baseball’s version of getting a savings bond as a stocking-stuffer, something you put away and get a return on your investment later.

Just how good an ROI it is varies from deal-to-deal. Below is the best example of a prospect each team was given in the previous decade that turned into a favorite gift down the line.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP (No. 4)
The Mets parted with two promising young arms shortly before the 2019 Trade Deadline when they sent Woods Richardson, the club’s 2018 second-round pick, and 2016 first-rounder Anthony Kay to Toronto in the Marcus Stroman deal. After finishing his first full season in the Florida State League, Woods Richardson was a standout at Toronto’s alternate site as a 19-year-old, demonstrating advanced feel and command for an arsenal that just continues to improve.

Orioles: Dean Kremer, RHP (No. 10)
While Yusniel Diaz was the more ballyhooed prospect at the time of the blockbuster deal that sent Manny Machado to the Dodgers in July 2018, and is currently ranked ahead of Kremer, the right-hander did beat the outfielder to the big leagues and made four starts. Three were outstanding (16 IP, 3 ER, 8 H, 9 BB, 20 K) before one clunker in his final outing, serving notice that he’s ready for a rotation spot full-time in 2021.

Rays: Randy Arozarena, OF (No. 19)
Acquired with José Martinez last January in the deal that sent 2018 first-rounder Matt Liberatore to St. Louis, Arozarena flourished during his first year with Tampa Bay, leading the organization to its second World Series. He didn’t even make his season debut until Aug. 30 but still posted a 1.022 OPS with seven home runs in 23 regular-season games before breaking every offensive record by a rookie in the postseason, slashing .377/.482/.831 with 10 homers in 20 games. And while the Rays have had numerous trade-acquisition success stories in recent years, Arozarena’s 2020 impact and remaining potential set him apart.

Red Sox: Eduardo Rodriguez, RHP
When the defending 2013 World Series champion Red Sox quickly fell out of contention the next year, they had multiple suitors for Andrew Miller, allowing them to extract Rodriguez from the Orioles in a July deadline deal. Rodriguez joined Boston’s rotation in 2015, helped capture another World Series in 2018 and won 19 games and earned Cy Young Award votes in 2019 before missing all of this season with myocarditis related to the coronavirus.

Yankees: Gleyber Torres, SS
The 2016 Cubs believed the one piece they were missing was an premium closer and they were willing to pay dearly to get one, shipping an elite shortstop prospect (Torres) to the Yankees in a package for Aroldis Chapman. Chapman helped Chicago end its 108-year World Series title drought before returning to New York as a free agent, while Torres earned All-Star honors and totaled 62 homers in his first two full big league seasons in 2018-19.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Indians: Trevor Bauer, RHP
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 Draft, Bauer quickly wore out his welcome with the D-backs, who sent him to the Indians in a three-team December 2012 trade that also landed Didi Gregorius in Arizona and Shin-Soo Choo with the Reds. Bauer went 67-53 with a 3.89 ERA and one All-Star berth in seven years with the Indians before getting dealt to Cincinnati, where he won the National League Cy Young Award this season.

Royals: Jake Odorizzi, RHP
Acquired from Milwaukee with Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jeremy Jeffress in the Dec. 2010 Zack Greinke blockbuster, Odorizzi made two starts for the Royals in ‘12 before being dealt with Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard to Tampa Bay for James Shields and Wade Davis after the season offseason. While Shields and Davis, much like Cain and Escobar, became vital members of the Royals’ 2015 World Series squad, Odorizzi, currently a free agent, has won 62 games with a 3.92 ERA in nine seasons (12.4 WAR) with the Royals, Rays and Twins.

Tigers: Matthew Boyd, LHP
Taken by Toronto in the sixth round of the 2013 Draft out of Oregon State, Boyd reached the Majors for the first time ’15, though he made just two starts before the Blue Jays packaged him with Daniel Norris and Jairo Labourt to Detroit for David Price. The left-hander had a breakout campaign in ’19, posting career highs in strikeouts (238) and K/9 (11.6) at age 28, but regressed during a shortened ‘20 season during which he led the Majors in home runs allowed (15 in 60 1/3 IP). That said, Boyd still has been valuable (6.6 WAR) to the Tigers while making 100 turns in the rotation since 2017.

Twins: Jhoan Duran, RHP (No. 5)
At the 2018 Trade Deadline, the Twins sent Eduardo Escobar to the D-backs for a trio of Minor Leaguers. Two, outfielder Gabriel Maciel and Duran, are on the top 30. Duran had made his full season debut that year and took a big step forward by pitching his way to Double-A in 2019. That earned him a spot on the 40-man roster with a fastball that touches triple-digits and a splitter that is absolutely nasty.

White Sox: Yoan Moncada, 3B
Over a seven-month period from December 2016 to July 2017, the White Sox dealt three of their best players and received, among others, Moncada and Michael Kopech (from the Red Sox for Chris Sale), Lucas Giolito and Dane Dunning (from the Nationals for Adam Eaton) and Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease (from the Cubs for Jose Quintana). Moncada has hit .261/.336/.450 with 56 homers and 25 steals in 387 games in Chicago, making him the most productive of the trade acquisitions so far, though Giolito and Jimenez will challenge him before all is said and done.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

A’s: Jesús Luzardo, LHP
Fellow lefty Sean Manaea, acquired from the Royals, gets a shout out, but Luzardo’s upside is too much to look past here. The A’s got him from the Nationals in July 2017 in the deal that sent Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington and at that point, the southpaw had just returned from the Tommy John surgery he had during his senior year of high school in 2016. Luzardo developed into one of the best lefty prospects in the game and is just establishing himself in the big leagues now. He’ll play nearly all of 2021 at just 23.

Angels: Andrew Heaney, LHP
The ninth pick of the 2012 Draft by the Marlins, Heaney had made his big league debut in 2014 when he was part of a massive three-team deal involving the Marlins, Dodgers and Angels, who sent Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers to get him. Heaney was the No. 2 left-handed pitching prospect in the game at the time, No. 18 overall, and moved right into the Angels’ rotation in 2015. An elbow injury and eventual Tommy John surgery in June 2016, cost him nearly all of the 2016 and ’17 seasons. After a full 2018, shoulder issues slowed him in ’19, but he was the Halos’ Opening Day starter this past season.

Astros: Josh Hader, LHP
The Orioles stole Hader in the 19th round of the 2012 Draft before the Astros purloined him in a July 2013 deadline deal for Bud Norris — only to include him in a trade with the Brewers for Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez two years later. Hader has become one of the best relievers in baseball, a two-time All-Star who has recorded a 2.54 ERA, 62 saves (including an NL-best 13 in 2020), a .144 opponent average and 380 strikeouts in 223 2/3 innings over the last four years.

Mariners: Jarred Kelenic, OF (No. 1)
Seattle has had some trade acquisitions contribute at the big league level of late, pitchers like Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn, for example, but Kelenic’s 20-20 potential can’t be ignored. He was the talk of Spring Training and the alternate training site, where he was continuously punishing the baseball. Acquired from the Mets in the now infamous Robinson Canó deal in December 2018, Kelenic’s tools are ready to join 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis in the Mariners’ outfield in 2021.

Rangers: Delino DeShields, OF
The Rangers made one of the best trades of the 2000s when they sent Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay to the Braves for a five-player package that included Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in July 2007. They didn’t come close to matching that success in the last 10 years, when their biggest prospect pickup was Delino DeShields from the Astros in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft. DeShields has hit just .246/.326/.240 in six seasons with Texas and Cleveland but has provided value with his speed on the bases and his defense in center field.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Dansby Swanson, SS
Who can forget this trade? The D-backs made Swanson the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 Draft. He would play a grand total of 22 games in that organization before Arizona sent him to the Braves in the Shelby Miller deal that December. Swanson was in the big leagues by Aug. 2016 and established himself as the everyday shortstop in Atlanta the following season.

Marlins: Sixto Sánchez, RHP
The Marlins jettisoned many of their most talented expensive players after a group led by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter bought the team in October 2017, and their best move was getting Sánchez as the key to a trade that moved J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies in February 2019. Sánchez made his big league debut this summer, allowing a total of five runs in his first six starts and also hurling five shutout innings against the Cubs in the Wild Card round.

Mets: Noah Syndergaard, RHP
When the Mets traded knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to Toronto in December 2012, on the heels of Dickey’s NL Cy Young Award, they received a loaded prospect package headlined by catcher Travis d’Arnaud and Syndergaard. Though Syndergaard’s stock was only beginning to soar at the time of the deal, he was viewed as one of baseball’s premier pitching prospects when he reached the Majors in ’15 to finish fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting while also leading the Mets to an NL title. Overall, the 28-year-old righty has been worth 15.7 WAR in five seasons — he missed all of 2020 due to Tommy John surgery — posting a 3.31 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 over 716 frames.

Nationals: Trea Turner, SS
The No. 13 overall pick in the 2014 Draft had been in San Diego’s system for less than six months when the club sent him to Washington as part of a massive three-team, 11-player deal with Tampa Bay in December. But as a recent Draft pick, Turner wasn’t allowed to join the Nats until June 2015. He made his big league debut two months later, then finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year race in ‘16. A career .296/.353/.480 hitter with 77 homers and 171 steals in six seasons, he was a key part of the Nats’ World Series title run in ’19 and finished seventh in the NL MVP Award voting this past season.

Phillies: Jorge Alfaro, C
Alfaro didn’t have that much of an impact on the Phillies in the big leagues performance-wise, but he did help bring in some serious talent. Philadelphia first got him at the 2015 Trade Deadline as part of the Cole Hamels blockbuster that netted six players. At the end of that season, Alfaro was in the middle of the Top 100 and was ranked as the top catching prospect in the game, even though he was hurt at the time of the deal. He spent parts of the next three seasons in the big leagues, establishing himself as a regular in 2018. The next February he was part of the package sent to the Marlins for J.T. Realmuto, who would go on to win a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger while representing the Phillies at the 2019 All-Star Game.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers: Josh Hader, LHP
A 19th-round pick (2012) by Baltimore who was dealt to the Astros in July 2013, Hader was enjoying a breakout Double-A campaign when he joined Milwaukee via trade at the 2015 Deadline. He emerged as an absolute bullpen force for Brewers two years later and earned the first of his two consecutive All-Star nods in ’18. The 26-year-old southpaw has been one of baseball’s elite relievers during his first four seasons, posting a 2.54 ERA and 0.86 WHIP with 62 saves and a ridiculous 15.3 K/9 across 172 appearances.

Cardinals: Matt Liberatore, LHP
St. Louis had been targeting Liberatore in the 2018 Draft before the Rays selected the prep left-hander 16th overall, three slots before the Cardinals took Kentucky southpaw Zack Thompson. So, it wasn’t all that shocking when the Cardinals acquired Liberatore last January in the deal that sent José Martinez and Randy Arozarena to Tampa Bay. The 21-year-old hurler is advanced for his age, with excellent feel for a four-pitch mix, and was a standout this summer at the Cardinals’ alternate training site, improving as much as any hurler in camp.

Cubs: Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein traded Rizzo to Padres GM and former protégé Jed Hoyer as part of a January 2010 deal for Adrián González, and when the two executives reunited in Chicago, one of their first significant moves was to grab Rizzo from San Diego in a four-player trade that cost them Andrew Cashner. Rizzo quickly became the heart of the Cubs and has earned a World Series ring, three All-Star nods and four Gold Gloves while hitting .274/.374/.492 with 228 homers in 1,216 games over nine seasons.

Pirates: Oneil Cruz, SS (No. 3)
The Pirates have gotten big league production from prospect acquisitions like Steven Brault (a PTBN in the Travis Snider deal), Trevor Williams (in return for pitching development guru Jim Benedict) and Bryan Reynolds (the Andrew McCutchen deal), but no one comes close to Cruz in terms of upside potential. Off-field issues have clouded the return from the Dodgers for Tony Watson in July 2017, but the 6-foot-7 shortstop remains one of the most intriguing prospects in baseball when he’s on the diamond.

Reds: Luis Castillo, RHP
Castillo was officially traded four times, including twice in a matter of days in the bizarre Marlins-Padres Colin Rea-for-Castillo double swap when the Marlins felt Colin Rea was damaged goods. The Reds got him in January 2017 in the Dan Straily deal and that trade started paying dividends that season, when Castillo made 15 starts and got Rookie of the Year votes. He was an All-Star and 15-game winner in 2019 and finished 11th in the NL in ERA in 2020.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs: Didi Gregorius, SS
Didi was already revered as an outstanding defensive shortstop, albeit with questions about his bat, when Arizona acquired him from Cincinnati in a three-team trade with Cleveland in December 2012. He was included in another three-team trade with the Yankees and Tigers in December 2014, this time going to New York, where he blossomed offensively to record three straight seasons with at least 20 home runs as well as back-to-back Top 20 MVP finishes (2017-18). He hit 10 more homers in 60 games with the Phillies in ’20, giving him 120 homers along with a .265/.315/.433 line in nine seasons.

Dodgers: Kiké Hernandez, OF/2B
A lesser-known part of the Dee Gordon trade with the Marlins at the 2014 Winter Meetings, Hernandez became a valuable utility regular with the Dodgers, contributing to six NL West titles, three pennants and a 2020 World Series championship in six years before becoming a free agent this fall. He batted .240/.313/.425 in 648 games while playing every position but catcher in Los Angeles.

Giants: Mike Yastrzemski, OF
The grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski had put up nondescript numbers in six seasons in the Orioles system, where he was buried before the Giants liberated him in a March 2019 trade for Minor League right-hander Tyler Herb. Yastrzemski has been San Francisco’s best hitter ever since they promoted him two months later, batting .281/.357/.535 with 31 homers in 161 games.

Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr., SS
Acquired from the White Sox for James Shields in a June 2016 trade that has quickly become one of the more panned deals in recent memory, Tatis finished his age-18 season in Double-A and tallied 16 homers and steals apiece in 88 games during his return to the level in ‘18. He cracked the Padres’ Opening Day roster as a 20-year-old rookie the next year and made an immediate impact, producing a .317/.379/.590 line with 22 homers and 16 steals in just 84 games — good for 4.1 WAR and a third-place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He emerged as one of the sport’s young stars and most electric players in 2020, finishing fourth in the NL MVP race after slashing .277/.366/.571 with 17 homers in 59 contests.

Rockies: DJ LeMahieu, 2B
The Cubs’ second-round pick out of LSU in 2009, LeMahieu was sent to the Rockies along with Tyler Colvin for Casey Weathers and Ian Stewart in December 2011 after he made his big league debut in Chicago. He went on to win three Gold Gloves and make two All-Star teams as Colorado’s second baseman before signing a two-year deal with the Yankees before the 2019 season and winning two straight Silver Slugger Awards and finishing in the top four in MVP voting twice.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly MLB Pipeline Podcast.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly MLB Pipeline Podcast.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

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