The model: Cubs
This is a blend of Theo Epstein’s reputation and the rise of the Cubs in the farm system rankings. Epstein’s history of deadline deal-making goes back to 2004, when he landed Orlando Cabrera, Dave Roberts and Doug Mientkiewicz in a move that helped end the World Series jinx in Boston. Once the boy wonder of Boston, Epstein knows how to craft a deal and will bring in a third or fourth team to make it happen. He also has the deepest farm system in baseball at his disposal. Expectations are on the rise in Chicago as Jon Lester joined the Cubs as a free agent and the top prospects are about ready. Epstein can use his farm system to call up young talent such as third baseman Kris Bryant or to package prospects to fill holes elsewhere. The only question is how much financial flexibility the Ricketts family will give him, because their purchase of the lovable North Side squad was heavily leveraged.
AL Central rankings
1. White Sox: GM Rick Hahn is not afraid to make a big move (i.e., Jeff Samardzija), and his farm system is deeper than in recent years.
2. Tigers: Have been in win-now-for-Mike-Ilitch mode for years. Willing to trade any prospect for immediate help.
3. Twins: If — that’s a big “if” — the Twins contend, they have good prospects to trade to make a run for the postseason.
4. Royals: They have pitching prospects who are nearly ready but might not be equipped to make a big move if needed.
5. Indians: Their farm system can help plug holes, but is it deep enough to use multiple prospects as trade bait?