A few years ago, the New York Mets were on the verge of challenging for a playoff spot. Needing one more starter, the Mets decided to part with a young high school pitcher.
The Victor Zambrano for Scott Kazmir trade is now historic, a trade that turned one franchise around and did nothing for the other (the 2004 Mets finished 20 games below .500). Last year Kazmir won the AL strikeout crown and pitches tonight as the Tampa Bay Rays try to sweep the Boston Red Sox for the second time this season.
Prospects do get traded, but none with the background or potential of Kazmir and rarely at the deadline anymore. That could change this season as several teams throw their hat into the C.C. Sabathia Sweepstakes. The Yankees, who earlier this decade destroyed their Minor League system, have apparently decided to stay out and the Red Sox seem to be taking the same route. That leaves teams stacked with very good farm teams like the Brewers, Phillies and dark horses like the Dodgers who might not have the chips to trade but have the cash to resign the Cleveland southpaw.
One of those chips is former Gator first baseman Matt LaPorta, who is currently raking for the Brewers Double-A affiliate in Huntsville. In two seasons of MiLB, LaPorta has 31 homers, including 19 this season. The problem is that LaPorta is not a defensive standout. Selected to the Futures Game, LaPorta is serviceable as an outfielder, which is necessary since the Brewers have Prince Fielder at 1B. Does that make LaPorta moveable? Or does Milwaukee keep trying to make him into a right fielder?
Baseball teams can afford to be patient now. Fans are much more sophisticated and are willing to wait for a kid to show himself in the Minors. But they also know when they are crushing the ball and start asking for the kid to move up (Evan Longoria and Jay Bruce this season in Tampa and Cincy). LaPorta is not a "once in a generation" talent like Bruce or Longoria, but you can't argue with a .286 average and .399 on-base percentage. Someone will be very happy with LaPorta, but it might not be the Brewers.