However, we are seeing teams show a willingness to trade elite young talent, and here are seven top prospects who could be dealt in 2013 for the right starting pitcher or middle-of-the-order impact bat:
Mason Williams | CF
Williams, 20, is the Yankees’ No. 1 position player prospect, but he is not expected to reach Yankee Stadium for another couple of years. Although general manager Brian Cashman would love to wait for him to develop it’s more likely that Cashman follows the Yankees' track record and makes a similar deal to when he traded then-prospect Austin Jackson to the Detroit Tigers for Curtis Granderson, who was in his prime at the time.
The Yankees have to get younger, but probably won’t have the patience to wait for Williams if they can make the right deal. Don’t be surprised if the Yankees eventually offer the Diamondbacks a prospect package that might include two of Williams, Gary Sanchez and Dante Bichette Jr. for Justin Upton. Williams, a fourth-round pick in 2010, hit a combined .298/.346/.474 with 22 doubles, four triples, 11 home runs and 20 stolen bases across two levels of Class A in 2012.
Nick Castellanos | 3B
When I was scouting the Futures Game in Kansas City this past July, I was expecting to see Profar and Myers put on a show. What I didn’t realize was Castellanos was going to be one of the top five position player prospects in the game.
Castellanos, 20, hit a combined .320/.365/.451 with 32 doubles and 10 homers between high Class A and Double-A last season, and could be ready for the major leagues as early as September. His best position is third base, but the Tigers are experimenting with him in left field with Miguel Cabrera already at third. Although the Tigers have taken the position that Castellanos is as close to untouchable as any prospect they have, they won't hesitate to move him for a significant piece this summer if they think it will make them World Series favorites. There is no doubt he’s going to hit and although he hasn’t hit for much power, he shows in batting practice that he has 20-home run potential.
C.J. Cron | 1B
Cron, 22, was the Angels’ first-round selection in the 2011 draft out of the University of Utah. He is one of the best power-hitting prospects in baseball, as he lived up to his potential in high Class A this past season when he hit .293/.327/.516 with 32 doubles and 27 homers.
With Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton signed long-term and Mark Trumbo under control for five more years, the question is will there be room for Cron at first base or DH? The Angels are built to win now, and with a weak farm system they might not have enough prospects to make another Zack Greinke-type deal without including top prospect Cron in it. He’ll definitely be a sought-after prospect for “sellers” at next July’s trade deadline. Cron underwent right shoulder labrum surgery this past year but is expected to be ready by Opening Day.
Hultzen, 23, was the Mariners’ first-round selection in the 2011 draft out of the University of Virginia. He was 9-7 this past year with a 3.05 ERA and 1.306 WHIP between Double- and Triple-A. He should enter the Mariners’ starting rotation sometime in 2013. However, the Mariners’ offense has been the worst in the American League the past three seasons, and they have to find a way to improve their lineup. Hultzen could be used as trade bait, as the Mariners' copious pitching depth could withstand a trade. Hultzen has middle-of-the-rotation stuff with his changeup being his best secondary pitch and his command and control the difference-maker. Hultzen should be enough to garner a 20-home run, 80 RBI-type bat in return.
Jameson Taillon | RHP
Taillon, 21, was the Pirates’ first-round selection in the 2010 draft. At the time, I thought they should have taken Manny Machado instead, the player the Baltimore Orioles plucked at No. 3 overall right after the Pirates took Taillon. Last year, he posted a 3.55 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP across two levels of Class A and should start the year in Double-A. I would guess he’ll arrive in the major leagues sometime in 2014, but the Pirates’ need for more, better position players could force them to move Taillon if they get the opportunity to move him for a difference-maker like Carlos Gonzalez, Justin Upton or Giancarlo Stanton.
Zach Lee | RHP
Lee, 21, was the Dodgers’ first-round selection in the 2010 draft and is considered by many their top pitching prospect. He finished the year at Double-A, where he had a 4.25 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings. However, with a Dodgers team ready to contend for the division and even the World Series, it is highly unlikely they will make him an untouchable come the July trade deadline when they need that one significant piece to put them over the top. Lee has a 90-94 mph fastball that he cuts and sinks and both his curve and slider continue to develop. He commands and controls his fastball to both sides of the plate and profiles to be a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Teheran, 21, remains the Braves’ top pitching prospect, but until his command and control in the zone arrives, his stock remains static among evaluators. He’ll get the chance to compete for the fifth spot in the Braves’ rotation or might even start the year in Triple-A. The Braves continue to look for a long-term answer at third base or left field and will solve it through trade rather than free agency. So it might be only a matter of time before Teheran is offered for a middle-of-the-order impact bat.