SAN DIEGO -- With the non-waiver trade deadline just three weeks away, many of baseball’s top prospects will be dealt as contenders mortgage their futures for a chance to win a World Series title in October.
For this reason, the Futures Game is one of the premier pro scouting events of the year, as scouts and high-ranking officials from all over the league get a chance to see the game’s top minor-leaguers in person. A few of the players who participated Sunday at Petco Park will likely be dealt before August 1, a year after four players from 2015 edition (Zach Davies, Nick Williams, Jairo Labourt and Keury Mella) were traded before the deadline.
Although rumors are flying at a furious pace this time of year, one top prospect refuses to pay attention to the possibility of being dealt. Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who is currently ranked by MLB.com as the 21st-best prospect in baseball, isn’t fazed by his name being constantly mentioned in potential trade scenarios as the Red Sox look to add starting pitching.
“I don’t pay attention at all to that,” Benintendi said. “I’m going to control what I can control and that’s to play hard everyday, get better and help the team I’m playing on win.”
Many of Benintendi’s teammates on Team USA have already been traded in their young careers, and all expressed an element of shock in initially hearing the news. Rockies right-hander Jeff Hoffman, who headlined the Blue Jays’ package for Troy Tulowitzki a year ago, had stopped paying attention to rumors after hearing that he would likely stay put with Toronto.
“It was shocking,” Hoffman said. “Right around that time, I was advised that nothing would probably happen with me. Just from people around me, just because of how quick it was after I had been drafted [in 2014]. But you learn pretty quick that there’s a business side to it. That’s what happened and I couldn’t be happier with the organization I ended up with.”
Hoffman expressed pride in being dealt for a 5-time All-Star like Tulowitzki, but also uses his inclusion in the deal as a motivator.
“It’s an honor,” Hoffman said about being dealt for Tulowitzki. “But at the same time, you want to set out to make your legacy something bigger than that. You don’t want to be known as the guy in the Tulowitzki trade. You want it to be known that Troy Tulowitzki was traded for Jeff Hoffman. That’s my goal, is to shed that memory from people’s minds so it can become ‘the Hoffman trade’.”
Brewers left-hander Josh Hader had the unique distinction of being the only member of Team USA to be traded twice in his career, as he was dealt from the Orioles to the Astros for Bud Norris in 2013 before being included in the Brewers’ return for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers last summer.
“The first one was a little shock, because it was my first full season,” Hader said. “The second one, when I got traded to Milwaukee, I kind of had an idea I was getting traded. It was nice, I had two guys that I played with, [Adrian] Houser and Brett Phillips, so it made it a little bit easier and transitioning to a new team. We had a great team as well, so it was much easier the second time.”
Despite his two experiences with the process of being dealt, Hader believes there is no way for prospects to ready themselves for the news.
“You can’t really prepare for it,” Hader said. “If it happens, it happens. If it does happen, you still play the game. It’s just in a different setting with a different team.”
The highest-profile prospect to be dealt within the last year is Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, the top overall pick in the 2015 draft who was sent from Arizona to Atlanta in a Winter Meetings deal involving Shelby Miller. Swanson’s initial reaction to the news compared well to the shock that filled the halls of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville when word first leaked out.
“I mean, who wasn’t?” Swanson said when asked if he was surprised by the trade to Atlanta. “I feel like the whole baseball community was, to be honest.”
Swanson recalled learning about the deal while out to dinner in Nashville.
“I live in Nashville, and the Winter Meetings were in Nashville,” Swanson said. “I was downtown, out to dinner with some Nike guys and my girlfriend. My phone was buzzing, and I didn’t want to be rude and look, but it was going kind of crazy. I thought, ‘this could be important,’ but I didn’t know what it could be about. I see a text that says ‘is it true?’ and that’s not what you want to see, right? I got a screenshot of something on Twitter that said something about it, and I called my agent and it went from there.”
Swanson’s own experience has taught him that no player is truly untouchable in trade talks, and that anything is possible once a player gets to pro ball.
“I’m not gonna sit here and say “oh, I’m so-and-so, so I’m not going to be traded”, but it puts everything in perspective that it is truly all out of your control,” Swanson said. “What I can control is that I’m ready to play games everyday, that I’m giving all the effort that I can. What’s out of my control are business decisions, trades. All that comes into perspective, trying to learn it.”
“I feel like us as athletes, that’s hard to understand because we’ve always been in control of life, getting to where we want to be,” Swanson said. “I control making sure I’m on my strict eating regimen or whatever it may be, and [with trades] it’s out of my control completely. It’s a little odd.”
With trade rumors sometimes come rumors of possible promotions, as Benintendi is facing at the moment. Though Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski hinted at a possible call-up by talking about his willingness to move players directly from Double-A to the majors, Benintendi appears to be adjusting to life as a New England sports figure by already expressing Belichickian cliches.
“I haven’t heard anything,” Benintendi said about a possible promotion. “I’m just going to trust the process and the people who make those decisions. Whatever happens, happens.”