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Where are they now? A brief history of Cleveland trading prospects since its 2016 World Series run

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Over a dozen minor league players left the Cleveland organization from 2016 to 2018 via trade or the Rule 5 Draft. How many of them found success?

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Cleveland has one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball, and with all the elite talent at the lower levels, that usually means a roster crunch is coming.

Since 2016, the front office hasn’t been afraid to trade away some of its top prospects to fill holes on its roster. So let’s take a look at every trade or Rule 5 draft where prospects from Cleveland went elsewhere and see how those players have panned out.

I’ll be stopping the tracker in this article at the end of 2018, because while Cleveland has made trades since 2018, most haven’t had the time to flesh themselves out and most trades have involved acquiring prospects, not trading them away.

Let’s begin with one of the biggest prospects for MLB player trades Cleveland has ever pulled off, the 2016 trade with the New York Yankees that brought Andrew Miller to Cleveland in exchange for four players.

2016 Trades

  • Cleveland receives: RP Andrew Miller
  • New York receives: OF Clint Frazier, SP Justus Sheffield, RP Ben Heller, and RP J.P. Feyereisen

Of the four prospects, Frazier is the only one still in the New York organization. He made his MLB debut in 2017 and has accumulated 1.2 WAR in his career. He didn’t receive regular playing time until 2020, where he had his best season, slashing .267/.394/.511 and even earning a Gold Glove nomination in right field.

Sheffield made his debut in New York in 2018, then was traded to Seattle for James Paxton. Sheffield has accumulated 0.8 WAR in his young MLB career, and also had his best season in 2020, posting a 3.58 ERA over 10 starts spanning 55.1 innings where he struck out 48 batters and walked 20. Crazy as it sounds, Sheffield is still just 23 years old.

Heller was called up to the Yankees bullpen in 2016 and pitched sporadically out of the New York bullpen until 2020, never throwing more than 11 innings in a season. He was released after the 2020 season and was picked up by Arizona, where he is currently on the Diamondbacks taxi squad. He’s accumulated 0.7 WAR and has a career 2.58 ERA at the MLB level.

Feyereisen stayed in the New York farm system until 2019 when he was traded to Milwaukee. He made his MLB debut in 2020, but he’s finally had a chance to shine this season, sporting a spotless 0.00 ERA spanning seven appearances and 7.0 innings thus far. He’s earned 0.2 WAR lifetime.

A less-heralded trade Cleveland made in 2016 was the acquisition of Brandon Guyer from Tampa Bay.

  • Cleveland receives: OF Brandon Guyer
  • Tampa Bay receives: OF Nathan Lukes and SP Jhonleider Salinas

Lukes’ best season was in 2016 for Single-A Lake County right before he was traded. He slashed .301/.375/.453 for the Captains. He’s since advanced to Triple-A and is currently at Tampa’s alternate training site. In 2019 at Triple-A, he slashed .219/.294/.319 over 91 games for Durham.

Salinas stands 6-foot-7 and has never had an ERA worse than 3.49 at any level of MiLB, advancing to Double-A in 2019 for the Rays. He was left unprotected in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft and Minnesota selected him in the minor league portion. Still just 25 years old, I think he has a shot to make it at the MLB level.

The last trade Cleveland made in 2016 was the acquisition of veteran Coco Crisp from Oakland.

  • Cleveland receives: OF Coco Crisp
  • Oakland receives: RP Colt Hynes

Hynes was a veteran minor league pitcher who had only been a part of the Cleveland organization for less than a month at the time he was traded. He had made it to MLB in 2013 and 2015, but never made it back to the show and appears to be out of baseball.

The final major transactions of 2016 weren’t trades, but players Cleveland lost in the Rule 5 Draft.

2016 Rule 5 Draft

Cleveland lost three players, but only one of them was in the MLB portion of the draft, and that player was OF Anthony Santander. Santander was coming off a killer season at High-A in 2016 in the Cleveland system, slashing .290/.368/.494 with 20 home runs and 42 doubles for Lynchburg. Cleveland likely didn’t think anyone would be able to keep him at the MLB level for a year, which is a requirement in the MLB portion of the draft.

Instead, Baltimore used some creative roster manipulation, stashing Santander on its 60-day injured list after he had offseason shoulder surgery on a bone spur to keep him on its roster for the entire 2017 season despite him having never played above High-A. Once he’d accumulated the necessary time that Baltimore could keep him for good, they promptly sent him to Double-A.

Santander has since blossomed into one of the brighter up-and-coming outfielders in the game. In 2019, he slashed .261/.297/.476 with 20 home runs and 20 doubles. Overall in his MLB career, he’s accumulated 2.8 WAR at 26 years old, the most successful MLB career thus far of a prospect Cleveland lost in 2016.

Cleveland also lost reliever Trevor Frank and veteran starting pitcher Nick Maronde in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft in 2016. Frank advanced to Triple-A in 2018 but appears to be out of baseball. Maronde never played again after he was selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Marlins, although he did receive an invite to Spring Training in 2017.

2017 Trades

  • Cleveland receives: RP Nick Goody
  • New York receives: RP Yoiber Marquina

A catcher who converted to pitching, Marquina looked promising, advancing to Single-A Lake County in 2016, where he had seven saves. He was the player to be named later in the Nick Goody trade, then missed the entire 2017 season due to injuries. He attempted to come back in 2018, pitching 18.0 innings at the rookie level, but got injured again and appears to be out of baseball.

The next trade was at the deadline with Toronto and Cleveland needed more bullpen help.

  • Cleveland receives: RP Joe Smith
  • Toronto receives: 2B Samad Taylor and SP Thomas Pannone

Taylor looked like a future star in 2017, slashing .300/.328/.467 for short-season Low-A Mahoning Valley. He’s struggled since he was traded, advancing to High-A for Toronto in 2019, where he slashed .216/.325/.364. Still just 22 years old, he’ll probably begin the 2021 season at Double-A.

Pannone had a sensational 2017 minor league season and made his pro debut for the Blue Jays in 2018, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his first MLB start. He’s had an up and down career at the MLB level, accumulating 0.5 WAR thus far, but did throw an immaculate inning in 2019. He elected free agency in 2020 and is currently a member of the Los Angeles Angels alternate training site.

Cleveland made one more trade in 2017, acquiring Jay Bruce post-deadline from the New York Mets.

  • Cleveland receives: OF Jay Bruce
  • New York receives: RP Ryder Ryan

A 30th round pick by Cleveland in 2016, Ryan continues to defy the odds. He advanced to Double-A in 2019, posting a 3.05 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 23 walks in 44.1 innings. In December of 2020, he was traded to the Rangers as the player to be named later in the Todd Frazier deal. He is currently a member of the Rangers affiliate training site.

2017 Rule 5 Draft

Cleveland lost two players in the minor-league portion of the 2017 Rule 5 Draft. Outfielder Junior Soto was taken by the Yankees. He advanced to Single-A, but only hit .083 in 2019 and was released. The other player, second baseman Ivan Castillo has blossomed elsewhere. Castillo slashed .304/.345/.448 at High-A in 2018, then hit .313/.347/.461 at Double-A in 2019. He is currently a member of the San Diego Padres alternate training site.

2018 Trades

  • Cleveland receives: International bonus money
  • Seattle receives: RP Shawn Armstrong

Armstrong pitched 14.2 innings for Seattle in 2018 but was designated for assignment in 2019. He was claimed by Baltimore, where he picked up four saves as the team’s temporary closer. He is still a member of the Orioles organization. his best season was 2020 when he posted a 1.80 ERA over 15.0 innings with 14 strikeouts and just three walks out of the Orioles bullpen. Armstrong has 1.0 WAR in his MLB career.

The next player dump really hurts, because he has turned into a regular player on one of the biggest market teams in baseball.

  • Cleveland receives: Cash
  • Toronto receives: 3B Gio Urshela

Urshela didn’t pan out in Toronto, but the New York Yankees came calling and picked him up at the end of the 2018 season. Something clicked for the Columbian, because in 2019, he was one of the best third basemen in baseball, slashing .314/.355/.534 with 21 home runs. He continued his success in 2020, slashing .298/.368/.490 and cementing himself as the starting third baseman for the Yankees. Urshela has racked up 4.5 WAR thus far in his MLB career.

Lastly, before we get to the 2018 trade deadline, we’ll briefly discuss one more trade Cleveland made in 2018, this time with the Astros.

  • Cleveland receives: RP James Hoyt
  • Houston receives: RP Tommy DeJuneas

A 2017 26th round draft pick, DeJuneas pitched well in 2018, sporting a 2.96 ERA across Single-A and High-A. He’s struggled since then, posting a 6.59 ERA in 2019 spread across 40 innings. He is still a member of the Astros organization.

  • Cleveland receives: RP Brad Hand and RP Adam Cimber
  • San Diego receives: C Francisco Mejia

Mejia had an up and down run with the Padres, struggling in 2018, having a respectable 2019 season where he slashed .265/.316/.438 over 79 games, but then he cratered in 2020, hitting just .077/.143/.179. The Padres unloaded him to Tampa Bay in the Blake Snell trade in the offseason, and Mejia has hit well thus far for the Rays, slashing .333/.370/.542 over a small eight-game sample size. Defense continues to be the big question mark, however. Despite possessing a cannon arm, he has yet to throw out more than 25% of would-be base stealers in any season.

The next trade was a rare prospect-for-prospect trade.

  • Cleveland receives: OF Oscar Mercado
  • St. Louis receives: OF Jhon Torres and OF Conner Capel

Capel was already in full-season Single-A in 2017, but he has yet to make it to MLB. He briefly played in Triple-A but the majority of his top experience at the upper levels has been at Double-A, where he slashed .232/.283/.352 in 2019. Capel is currently a member of the St. Louis alternate training site, but he’s fallen off the team’s top prospect rankings.

Torres was an absolute beast after being traded, slashing .397/.493/.683 over the final 17 games of the 2018 season in the rookie league to explode into the team’s top prospect rankings. He’s currently the No. 7 prospect in the Cardinals system and could begin the year in Triple-A in his age-21 season.

Cleveland had another trade in 2018 it probably wishes it had a mulligan on. This time, it was to fill a need in the outfield.

  • Cleveland receives: OF Leonys Martin and RP Kyle Dowdy
  • Detroit receive: SS Willi Castro

Castro never put up incredible numbers in the Cleveland minor league system, but he was always extremely young for his level. Detroit called him up in 2019 at age 22 and he’s quickly cemented himself as the team’s starting shortstop, slashing an incredible .349/.381/.550 in 2020 and earning fourth place in the Rookie of the Year voting. We better get used to him, because it’s likely he’ll be in Detroit for a long time.

Here’s another painful trade that occurred post-deadline.

  • Cleveland receives: 3B Josh Donaldson
  • Toronto receives: RP Julian Merryweather

Merryweather was recovering from Tommy John surgery at the time this trade was completed, but he’s fully healed now and it’s lighting up the radar gun out of the Blue Jays bullpen, touching 100 mph and beginning the season as Toronto’s closer. He recently hit the disabled list, but he’s definitely earned the opportunity to pitch when it counts for the Blue Jays.

This next trade has benefited both sides.

  • Cleveland receives: OF Jordan Luplow and SS Max Moroff
  • Pittsburgh receives: SS Erik Gonzalez, SP Dante Mendoza, and SP Tahnaj Thomas

Gonzalez has received regular playing time in Pittsburgh as a utility infielder, accumulating 1.4 WAR over his MLB career thus far (0.8 of it with Cleveland). Mendoza has struggled to get out of rookie ball thus far with a 5.82 ERA in 2019.

The diamond in the rough from this trade was Thomas, who is currently ranked as one of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball. In short-season Low-A in 2019, he struck out 59 batters in 48.1 innings as a 19-year-old with a 3.14 ERA with a fastball that reaches triple digits.

This next trade was another prospect for prospect swap, and it appears the Rays knew when to give up on a player.

  • Cleveland receives: SP Chih-Wei Hu
  • Tampa Bay receives: 2B Gionti Turner

A 27th round pick by Cleveland in 2018, Turner slashed .265/.316/.370 at short-season Low-A for the Rays organization in 2019. Hu was a disaster in the Cleveland organization, earning a 7.95 ERA in Triple-A Columbus, getting demoted to Akron, then getting outright released by July of 2019. He’s currently a minor league free agent.

This next trade was unusual because the player Cleveland acquired was traded again before ever even playing in the organization.

  • Cleveland receives: RP Walker Lockett
  • San Diego receives: SP Ignacio Feliz

Feliz had never pitched above the Arizona Rookie League level at the time he was traded. He had a 4.40 ERA in 2019 spanning 12 starts but walked 27 batters in 57.1 innings. He elected free agency in 2020 and was claimed by the Baltimore Orioles.

Ok, here comes another painful one.

  • Cleveland receives: 1B Jake Bauers
  • Tampa Bay receives: 3B Yandy Díaz

Díaz immediately slotted in and earned playing time for Tampa Bay, hitting 14 home runs for the Rays in 2019. In 2020, his power disappeared, but his on-base percentage hit a career-high as he slashed .307/.428/.386 and was one of the few players who walked (23) more than he struck out (17). Diaz has an on-base percentage over .400 for the Rays once again this season and has accumulated 3.3 WAR thus far in his MLB career (0.6 of it with Cleveland).

Post-Yandy notables

Most of Cleveland’s trades since dealing Yandy for Bauers have involved acquiring prospects for the likes of Corey Kluber, Francisco Lindor, Mike Clevinger, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Yan Gomes, etc. Since 2018, two prospects Cleveland dealt have made it to the MLB level — second basemen Sam Haggerty and Mark Mathias.

Haggerty was dealt with starting pitcher Walker Lockett for catcher Kevin Plawecki. He made his debut with the New York Mets in 2019, then was picked up off waivers by Seattle in 2020, where he remains. Haggerty is primarily a utility player and pinch-runner, earning -0.1 WAR the last three seasons.

Mathias was traded to Milwaukee for 19-year-old catcher Andres Malendes. He was called up in 2020, slashing .278.278.361 in 16 games. He is currently on the 60-day injured list for the Brewers.