Low-Risk, High-Reward MLB Trade Targets Teams Should Consider | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

Low-Risk, High-Reward MLB Trade Targets Teams Should Consider

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    Jo Adell is still only 23 years old.

    Jo Adell is still only 23 years old.AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

    The best targets on Major League Baseball’s trade market are guys such as Bryan Reynolds and Pablo López, but everyone already knows that.

    So, why don’t we dig deeper for value that other teams might be able to mine from trades?

    We specifically want to speculate on eight players—four hitters and four pitchers—who look like candidates to be had in low-risk, high-reward trades. Their names should be recognizable given that each was a top prospect in recent history but finds himself with diminished value after having fallen out of favor with his club.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean these guys are outright available, mind you, but there’s no harm in asking.

    Starting with the pitchers, let’s go through in alphabetical order.

RHP Ian Anderson, Atlanta

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    WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15:  Ian Anderson #36 of the Atlanta Braves pitches in the first inning during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 15, 2022 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Age: 24

    2022 Stats: 22 G, 22 GS, 111.2 IP, 115 H (12 HR), 97 K, 54 BB, 5.00 ERA

    Contract Status: Under club control through 2026

    Why the Risk Is Low

    Ian Anderson was a rising star in Atlanta’s rotation in 2020 and 2021, and not just in the regular season. That’s where he put up “only” a 3.25 ERA, compared to a downright historic 1.26 ERA in eight playoff outings.

    It’s hard to believe, then, that Anderson was bad enough in 2022 to get optioned back to the minors in August. And now, Atlanta’s rotation is so stacked that he isn’t even guaranteed a spot at the back end.

    Why the Reward Is High

    At least Anderson’s trademark changeup remained in fine form in 2022. The opposition hit just .209 against it.

    Rob Friedman @PitchingNinja

    Ian Anderson, Nasty Changeups. 👌 <a href=”https://t.co/jnFuWNzHZX”>pic.twitter.com/jnFuWNzHZX</a>

    The real problem for Anderson in 2022 was his four-seam fastball, which went from being very good to very bad. But even if he wasn’t throwing quite as hard as he did in 2021, it’s a positive that he was still in the mid-90s at an average of 94.0 mph.

    Atlanta is hardly obligated to trade Anderson, but it should consider it if a chance to plug the hole at shortstop presents itself on the trade market. He and other pieces could be dangled in talks for, say, Willy Adames or Amed Rosario.

LHP Adrian Morejon, San Diego Padres

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 22: Adrian Morejon #50 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks June 22, 2022 at Petco Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Age: 23

    2022 Stats: 26 G, 6 GF, 34.0 IP, 31 H (4 HR), 28 K, 9 BB, 4.24 ERA

    Contract Status: Under club control through 2025

    Why the Risk Is Low

    Even if he never reached top-10 or even top-20 status, Adrian Morejon was a regular on top prospect lists in the late 2010s and early 2020s. Particularly for Baseball America, which put him in its top 100 five years in a row.

    The lefty nonetheless failed to make an impression on the San Diego Padres in 2019 and 2020 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2021. He worked out of the bullpen in his return last season, and he didn’t do a good enough job to secure a role for 2023.

    Why the Reward Is High

    His results may not have been what he wanted, but Morejon’s stuff did play up in relief in 2022. He got his fastball up to 99.6 mph, and it had a spin rate in the 96th percentile to boot.

    Morejon was likewise able to crank up the heat on his slider, getting it as high as 91 mph while also maintaining above-average downward action on it.

    As he’s only 23 years old, it’s too early to give up on the notion that such weapons could be of use to Morejon in a starting role. Failing that, this year is a proof of concept that he has the goods to make it as a reliever.

RHP Luis Patiño, Tampa Bay Rays

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    ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - AUGUST 18: Luis Patino #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws a pitch during the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Tropicana Field on August 18, 2022 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

    Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

    Age: 23

    2022 Stats: 6 G, 6 GS, 20.0 IP, 26 H (6 HR), 11 K, 13 BB, 8.10 ERA

    Contract Status: Under club control through 2026

    Why the Risk Is Low

    Luis Patiño was the Tampa Bay Rays’ big prize in the trade that sent 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell to the San Diego Padres in Dec. 2020. To wit, MLB.com had him ranked as the No. 23 prospect in the league.

    Patiño has struggled to live up to the hype, especially in 2022. He sustained an oblique injury in April and never got back on track afterward. Heading into 2023, he’s been relegated to a depth option for the Rays rotation.

    Why the Reward Is High

    There isn’t a whole lot on Patiño’s major league record worth getting excited about, as his 5.10 ERA over 114.2 career innings comes paired with too few strikeouts (106) and too many walks (56) and home runs (21).

    Still, it would be folly to write off Patiño while he’s still only 23 years old and has lightning in his arm. He’s gotten his fastball as high as 100.3 mph in the majors, and his slider as high as 89.8 mph.

    As Patiño is listed at a slender 6’1″, 192 pounds, whether he can sustain stuff like that in a starting role remains a good question. But at the least, other teams can dream of him as a potential weapon in a relief role.

RHP Nate Pearson, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Nate Pearson delivers during an exhibition baseball game against the Boston Red Sox, Tuesday, July 21, 2020, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    AP Photo/Charles Krupa

    Age: 26

    2022 Stats (MiLB): 13 G, 1 GS, 15.1 IP, 8 H (2 HR), 19 K, 8 BB, 3.52 ERA

    Contract Status: Under club control through 2026

    Why the Risk Is Low

    Nate Pearson was considered by some outlets (including MLB.com) to be a top-10 prospect heading into 2020. He sure looked the part at times that year, particularly in an impressive performance in his lone playoff appearance.

    Since then, though, the hard-throwing righty has barely been seen as he’s dealt with illness and injuries. As a result, he doesn’t seem to be in the Toronto Blue Jays’ immediate plans for either their rotation or their bullpen.

    Why the Reward Is High

    Even though much time has passed since Pearson was being hyped as the Next Big Thing, memories of his fastball persist. He regularly hit 100 mph in his prospect days, topping out at 101.8 mph in the majors.

    Of course, the catch then was that Pearson didn’t pair his velocity with particularly good fastball command. And after all he’s been through, it’s not clear what kind of radar gun readings can be expected from him.

    But if not as a starter, it seems reasonable to believe that Pearson will still be capable of dialing it up as a reliever. The ideal outcome in that scenario is him serving as a shutdown multi-inning fireman.

OF Jo Adell, Los Angeles Angels

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    ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 05: Jo Adell #7 of the Los Angeles Angels hits a two run home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 05, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

    Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

    Age: 23

    2022 Stats: 88 G, 285 PA, 8 HR, 4 SB, .224 AVG, .264 OBP, .373 SLG

    Contract Status: Under club control through 2027

    Why the Risk Is Low

    It wasn’t that long ago that the whole baseball world was fawning over Jo Adell. He went into 2020 ranked as a consensus top-10 prospect, with Baseball Prospectus even ranking him at No. 2 behind Wander Franco.

    So, suffice it to say it’s been a bummer for the Los Angeles Angels to watch Adell post minus-1.7 rWAR in the 161 games he’s played for them. It’s also hard to blame them for how he’s on the outside looking in at both the team’s outfield and bench heading into 2023.

    Why the Reward Is High

    Say whatever you want about Adell, so long as you don’t say his raw power isn’t impressive:

    Los Angeles Angels @Angels

    Blasted by <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/4%EF%B8%8F%E2%83%A32%EF%B8%8F%E2%83%A3?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#4️⃣2️⃣</a>! <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoHalos?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#GoHalos</a> <a href=”https://t.co/1U9fjOMYfb”>pic.twitter.com/1U9fjOMYfb</a>

    In addition to legit light-tower power, Adell also has 98th percentile sprint speed and a strong (if not always accurate) arm. The only tools he lacks are the ones used for hitting and fielding.

    To the former, Adell simply has to get up to speed with hitting the fastball. A difficult experiment, perhaps, but one well worth a roll of the dice for a team that has more time for it than the Angels do as they seek to maximize what time they have left with Shohei Ohtani.

SS Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals

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    St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong throws out Colorado Rockies' Brian Serven at first during the fifth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

    AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

    Age: 29

    2022 Stats: 77 G, 237 PA, 6 HR, 3 SB, .157 AVG, .245 OBP, .286 SLG

    Contract Status: Signed through 2023 with team options for 2024 and 2025

    Why the Risk Is Low

    The St. Louis Cardinals extended Paul DeJong’s contract when he was fresh off finishing as the runner-up for the National League Rookie of the Year in 2017. It was the right idea then, and it continued to look as such as he trafficked in further two-way stardom in 2018 and 2019.

    This all seems like ancient history. DeJong has hit just .196 with only 28 home runs across the last three seasons, resulting in his falling below Tommy Edman on the club’s shortstop depth chart.

    Why the Reward Is High

    If nothing else, it’s worth it for other teams to have their eye on DeJong for his defense. Even in limited action, he’s racked up 11 defensive runs saved since the start of 2021.

    As for DeJong’s bat, we’d love to say there are signs that he’s merely been unlucky in recent years. Alas, no such signs exist. In 2022, for example, he struck out at a 33.3 percent clip and none of his batted-ball metrics jumped off the page.

    Yet this doesn’t preclude the possibility of a change of scenery being all that DeJong needs to tap back into a power supply that produced 30 home runs in 2019. Especially if said change plants him in a stadium that’s more friendly to right-handed sluggers than Busch Stadium.

INF Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers

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    MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 29: Keston Hiura #18 of the Milwaukee Brewers singles in a run in the second inning against the Miami Marlins at American Family Field on September 29, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

    John Fisher/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    2022 Stats: 80 G, 266 PA, 14 HR, 5 SB, .226 AVG, .316 OBP, .449 SLG

    Contract Status: Under club control through 2025

    Why the Risk Is Low

    Keston Hiura was a rookie revelation for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019, posting a 138 OPS+ and 19 home runs in just 84 games. After back-to-back lost campaigns in 2020 and 2021, he was back to being productive by way of a 115 OPS+ last season.

    However, that figure obscures that Hiura’s already bad strikeout habit got so much worse, as he whiffed in 41.7 percent of his plate appearances. A figure like that makes even his spot on the bench seem tenuous.

    Why the Reward Is High

    Strikeouts aside, Hiura’s pop is the real deal. He’s coming off setting career-best averages for exit velocity (91.7 mph) and the rate at which he hit the ball in the sweet spot (41.1 percent).

    That played even without consistent contact in 2022, so one can only imagine what slugging wonders await Hiura if he can ever put the ball in play more often. And as for how that might happen, maybe it’s as easy as shifting him into a different role?

    The Brewers have increasingly used the right-handed Hiura as a platoon hitter against left-handers. It’s a good idea in theory, no doubt, but in reality he’s a better hitter and has a lower strikeout rate for his career against right-handers.

LF Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins

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    DETROIT, MI -  JULY 24:  Alex Kirilloff #19 of the Minnesota Twins adjusts his Franklin batting gloves during an at-bat against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on July 24, 2022, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

    Duane Burleson/Getty Images

    Age: 25

    2022 Stats: 45 G, 156 PA, 3 HR, 0 SB, .250 AVG, .290 OBP, .361 SLG

    Contract Status: Under club control through 2027

    Why the Risk Is Low

    It’s been a rough couple of years for Alex Kirilloff, and not just because he’s put up a subpar 94 OPS+ through his first 104 games with the Minnesota Twins. He’s also had not one, but two surgeries on his right wrist.

    Kirilloff lacks a clear avenue to everyday playing time in an outfield that has Joey Gallo, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler lined up from left to right. There may be a spot for him on the bench, but perhaps only if he outperforms fellow 25-year-old Trevor Larnach this spring.

    Why the Reward Is High

    Despite all that’s gone wrong for Kirilloff over the last two years, he was a top-100 prospect as recently as 2021 and, according to MLB.com, a top-10 prospect as recently as 2019.

    A guy has to have real talent to be regarded that highly, and it’s noteworthy that Kirilloff’s was visible in the minors this year despite the ongoing pain and discomfort in his wrist. He was a .359/.465/.641 hitter with 10 home runs in 35 games with Triple-A St. Paul.

    Beyond numbers like those and the potential for better health following Kirilloff’s second wrist surgery, rival teams can target him as a possible beneficiary of the new shift rules. The left-handed swinger was shifted on a whopping 77 percent of the time in 2021 and 2022.

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.

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