After an exciting first half of baseball that was filled with plenty of surprises, it’s time to take a deep examination of each team, and what their priorities will be at the trade deadline. Several teams will be looking to acquire premier talent to make World Series pushes, while other teams will attempt to trade their key pieces to add more young talent. So, which side of the spectrum is each team on? Let’s discuss.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Add Cheap Starting Pitching
Run Differential: +53
Current State: 13.5 GB NL West, 1.5 GB NL Wildcard
Main Trade Target: SP Tanner Roark, Cincinnati Reds
The Diamondbacks are in a rather peculiar position. On one hand, they’re right in the thick of the NL wildcard race and have an expected record (51-40) that is significantly better than their current record. At the same time, they have no shot at winning the division and made a commitment towards building for the future when they traded Paul Goldschmidt and let Patrick Corbin and AJ Pollock leave as free agents. Therefore, their best move would be to make subtle moves that could help them reach that wildcard spot that would not sacrifice their future whatsoever. Their rotation has fared well this season, but with Luke Weaver, Taylor Clarke, and Jon Duplantier all on the injured list, they could certainly use some starting pitching depth. How about Tanner Roark, who has a 3.85 FIP and a fine 3.07 K-BB ratio. He wouldn’t be much more than a back-end starting pitcher, but that’s exactly what the Diamondbacks need, and better yet, he’d cost practically nothing in terms of prospects.
Atlanta Braves: Add a Premier Reliever
Run Differential: +59
Current State: 6 Games Ahead NL East
Main Trade Target: RP Will Smith, San Francisco Giants
After a slow start, the Braves have rebounded in a big way; they are in a position to coast to a second straight division title. At this point, they’re easily the second-best national league team, but if they’re going to slay the powerhouse Dodgers, they definitely need to make reinforcements. Let’s start with the bullpen, where outside of Luke Jackson, they don’t have anyone particularly reliable to turn to. Jackson has been solid in the closer role with a 2.79 FIP, but with a 2.02 FIP and a terrific 13.13 K/9 and 1.98 BB/9, Will Smith can make a legitimate case that he’s the best reliever in the game currently. He could take over as the team’s primary closer, with Jackson serving as the setup man. That would be a fantastic combination and could help make up for the lackluster depth behind those two. If Atlanta really feels that they are a World Series caliber team, they need to fill this pressing need, and since Smith is a rental, they wouldn’t have to dip too deep into their wealth of prospects.
Baltimore Orioles: At Least Trade SP Andrew Cashner
Run Differential: -165
Current State: 30.5 GB AL East, 23.5 GB AL Wildcard
Main Trade Chip: SP Andrew Cashner
The Orioles are actually right where they expected to be: front-runners for the #1 pick for the second year in a row. Theoretically, Baltimore could ship out first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini, but the 27-year-old is a defensive liability, which lowers his current value, and still has 3 1/2 years of club control left, so trade in the offseason makes more sense. The same goes for Mychal Givens, who is a talented reliever but has struggled this season. Therefore, assuming the team doesn’t get a major offer for Mancini, their best trade chip may be starting pitcher Andrew Cashner, who has put together an alright 4.25 FIP. Obviously, that isn’t too inspiring, but a club may see his 2.68 FIP in June and decide to take a chance on him. In that case, Baltimore wouldn’t get much in return, but at least they could take a flyer on a young prospect and hope that he can somehow develop into a big-league player in the future.
Boston Red Sox: Add Talent Without Sacrificing Top Prospects
Run Differential: +58
Current State: 9 GB AL East, 2 GB AL Wildcard
Main Trade Target: RP Tony Watson, San Francisco Giants
There may be no team in a more difficult situation than the Boston Red Sox. The defending world champions were expected to contend for another World Series title this season, but have somewhat disappointed. Though their run differential is solid, they remain two games back of a wildcard spot, and also have the A’s ahead of them as well. They also have little financial flexibility and the league’s worst farm system; they don’t have the assets to make a splash at the trade deadline. A trade for a starting pitcher like Zack Wheeler or for a star reliever like Smith makes sense in theory, but this team is not in position to continue to compromise their farm system to keep going all-in because at some point, they’re going to need cheap, controlled talent to complement the high salaries that their top players are going to demand. The bullpen has been better than expected this season, but is need of a left-handed reliever as well as a reliever who doesn’t allow walks; they rank in the top ten in BB/9 and currently don’t have one lefty in their bullpen. How about Tony Watson, who’s 4.47 FIP isn’t impressive, but has just a 1.04 BB/9 and has induced ground balls at an impressive 46.4% rate. Furthermore, he hasn’t walked a left-handed batter all year and has also induced a terrific 45.3% chase rate. Since he isn’t a flashy addition and is seemingly a rental (it’s unlikely he opts into his $2.5 million player option for 2020), it’s highly unlikely Boston would have to give up anything more than a couple limited organizational prospects; players easily attainable like Watson should who they target.
Chicago Cubs: Add To The Bullpen and Outfield
Run Differential: +55
Current State: 0.5 Games Ahead NL Central
Main Trade Target: OF Nick Castellanos
The Cubs are in a similar state to the Red Sox, but they perhaps have a little bit more assets to acquire players, especially in the way of prospects. Currently, a bullpen that leads the league in BB/9 and an outfield that ranks in the middle of the pack in weighted runs created plus (wrc+), despite Kris Bryant’s game in the outfield counting, have to be addressed. For the former area, a reliever like Watson may be all they need, but don’t count them out in a pursuit of Smith as well. However, a more reasonable target that would fill the latter need is Nick Castellanos. Castellanos’ wrc+ is down from last year, but at 113, still illustrates that he’s much better than the average hitter (100 wrc+). Furthermore, he’s crushed lefties to the tune of a 170 wrc+ and .453 OBP; he’d be a perfect platoon partner for either Kyle Schwarber or Jayson Heyward at a corner outfield spot, both of whom have struggled against lefties this season. His defense is still a concern (-5 defensive runs saved), but he’s improved in that area from last season, and with Albert Almora a terrific defensive center fielder and Heyward possibly serving as an outfield counterpart or a defensive replacement, the Cubs are the best fit for Castellanos, who makes almost too much sense for them.
Chicago White Sox: Find a Suitor For Alex Colome
Run Differential: -71
Current State: 12.5 GB AL Central, 7 GB AL Wildcard
Main Trade Chip: RP Alex Colome
Though the White Sox have taken a step forward with a 42-44 record this season, their -71 run differential signals that this “progress” is still a longs ways away from contending for a playoff spot. Therefore, they should try to sell high on reliever Alex Colome, who has a 2.02 ERA, but just a 3.99 FIP and a 6.81 K/9. Even if teams look at the metrics and aren’t inspired, they may be by him posting a 3.55 FIP or lower in each of the past four seasons, and the fact that he has another year of club control after this year. Obviously, the White Sox already have a decent amount of young talent, but at the very least, they should look to acquire a few prospects for Colome that they could later ship for more established players if needed, or could be part of their young core.
Cincinnati Reds: Decide on July 31st
Run Differential: +27
Current State: 4.5 GB NL Central, 4.5 GB NL Wildcard
Main Trade Chip: OF Yasiel Puig
Few teams have been as polarizing this season as the Reds. After finishing with the league’s seventh-worst record last year, they made several splashy acquisitions in the offseasons, including outfielder Yasiel Puig and starting pitcher Sonny Gray. Technically, their +27 run differential signals that their efforts have resulted in a strong team, but at the same time, they’re currently in last place in the NL Central, though they are just 4.5 games back. With series against the Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers all taking place before the trade deadline, it’s best if the team sees if they can make up enough ground to make the legitimate playoff run that their run differential would suggest. If not, they should look to trade Puig, who has been on a tear offensively recently while playing above-average defense, but is a free agent at the end of the year. Either way, they shouldn’t do anything drastic, but how they perform in the next two weeks should dictate if they are a prototypical “buyer” or “seller”.
Cleveland Indians: Mimic The Rays From Last Year
Run Differential: +27
Current State: 5.5 GB AL Central, 1.5 Games Ahead AL Wildcard, .5 GB 1st AL Wildcard
Main Trade Chip: SP Trevor Bauer
The Indians look to be in position to make the playoffs this season, and even have a shot at overtaking the Twins for the division. Yet, they’re currently shopping starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, despite the fact that the 28-year-old is one of only two pitchers (Shane Bieber) who’ve stayed healthy in their talented rotation. Though this may seem foolish, Cleveland could be on the brink of making a genius swap by mastering the art of “buying by selling”. Take the Rays from last year, for example; the team was in the wildcard hunt, but traded starting pitcher Chris Archer for outfielder Austin Meadows, starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow, and pitching prospect Shane Baz. Now, they hold the first wildcard spot, while Meadows is an All-Star, Glasnow was arguably the best pitcher in the league before going down with a forearm injury, and Baz is seen as one of the better pitching prospects in the game. If they can find a controlled outfielder, such as Clint Frazier of the Yankees or Hunter Renfroe of the Padres, in a package for Bauer, they’ll fill a major weakness while also helping their team out for the future. The demand for Bauer is high, and if they can get an outfielder in addition to a high-end prospect, preferably someone to replace Bauer soon, they may have mimicked the Rays just a year after Tampa Bay changed the course of their franchise with a ground-breaking trade.
Colorado Rockies: Add Controllable Talent
Run Differential: +2
Current State: 14.5 GB NL West, 2.5 GB NL Wildcard
Main Trade Target: RP Sam Dyson, San Francisco Giants
The Rockies haven’t had the season they were hoping for; they are one game under .500. However, all hope isn’t lost for them to be a contender in the future. After all, they’re 41-33 after starting 3-12 this season, so even if they cannot make the playoffs this season, they should look to add players to make a playoff run for next season. Both their starting rotation and bullpen need some reinforcements now, but with a rich starting pitching group in next year’s free agency to go along with the fact that they have a starting pitching core in place, upgrading the bullpen should be the higher priority. Sam Dyson would be an excelled fit; he’s having another tremendous season with a 2.92 FIP and a 6.50 K-BB ratio. Furthermore, his high ground ball rates (57.4%) should allow him to find success even at Coors Field, and he is another year of arbitration after this season. I wouldn’t rule out a pursuit for starting pitchers Matthew Boyd, Caleb Smith, or Noah Syndergaard if I were them, but assuming they play it safe, Dyson or another controllable reliever would be a fantastic addition.
Detroit Tigers: Acquire a Superstar Prospect For SP Matthew Boyd
Run Differential: -157
Current State: 26 GB AL Central, 20.5 GB AL Wildcard
Main Trade Chip: SP Matthew Boyd
The Tigers have two obvious trade chips in Castellanos and reliever Shane Greene. The former is a rental, while the latter just made the All-Star team and is controlled through 2020. However, with Castellanos’ defensive limitations and Greene’s high FIP (3.72), it’s unlikely that either will help boost the farm system much. Therefore, they should look to trade a player who would arguably the most valuable asset in the entire market: Matthew Boyd. The 28-year-old is having a breakout season with a 3.56 FIP and 7.10 K-BB ratio, with improvements with his strikeout ability (11.94 K/9) likely playing a huge part in the success. All metrics point to this success as sustainable; there isn’t anything for contenders to be worried about, despite a lack of a track record. With teams like the Astros heavily scouting him, however, that doesn’t look to be an issue. Detroit badly needs to add a superstar position player prospect to a farm system with mostly pitching prospects, with outfield prospects Kyle Tucker of the Astros and Alex Kirilloff of the Twins standing out as the two main targets. Obviously, they can hold onto Boyd since he’s under control through 2022, but since he’s already 28 and there looks to be a lot of interest in him, they should do everything in their power to ship him for a game-changing package that could set them up excellent for the future.
Houston Astros: Add a Controllable Starting Pitcher
Run Differential: +91
Current State: 7.5 Games Ahead AL West
Main Trade Target: SP Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays
The Astros are an almost flawless team that could easily stand pat and win the World Series. However, they’re currently lacking in options in the rotation outside of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Additionally, with Cole and Wade Miley slated to test free agency and Corbin Martin, who was expected to be in the 2020 rotation, undergoing Tommy John surgery, they’re even more limited for next season. Therefore, Houston without a doubt should look to acquire a controllable starting pitcher. Though Marcus Stroman, Matthew Boyd, and Trevor Bauer all are terrific options, Stroman stands out based on his availability and overall performance this season. His 3.81 FIP means he’s a middle of the rotation starter, but that’s exactly what the Astros need. Furthermore, Houston has done a terrific job taking pitchers and elevating their K rates, and with Stroman’s high spin rates, I wouldn’t be surprised if his strikeout numbers improved if he was traded there. Controlled through 2020, he also gives them another stable starting pitcher for next season, and he certainly could become a front-line starting pitcher if the Astros can improve his performance. A package headlined by Martin and pitching prospect JB Bukauskas makes a lot of sense for both teams, and would position the Astros to continue to be a powerhouse now and in the future.
Kansas City Royals: Find a Suitor For Ian Kennedy
Run Differential: -90
Current State: 27 GB AL Central, 21.5 GB AL Wildcard
Main Trade Chip*: RP Ian Kennedy
* Assuming They Won’t Trade Whit Merrifield
It’s looking more and more likely that the Royals will not be trading second baseman Whit Merrifield, based off of recent statements made from general manager Dayton Moore. However, since Merrifield is controlled through 2022 with a club option for 2023, they can afford to wait until the offseason to trade him, where there may be more suitors for his services. The market for Ian Kennedy, however, will never be greater. The 34-year-old looked to be a failed signing (5 years, $70 million) after multiple years of struggles as a starting pitcher, but he’s suddenly found success as a reliever with an amazing 2.32 FIP. With an improved strikeout rate (10.8 K/9), walk rate (2.08 BB/9), and ground ball rate (42.1%), plus the fact that he’s dealt with poor luck (.365 BABIP), this bounce-back is certainly legitimate, and contenders in need of bullpen help should see that. They’d obviously likely need to take on some of his remaining salary ($16.5 million next year) to get prospects back, but since this team isn’t looking to compete anyway, that shouldn’t be a problem. This is a welcome development for the team, and they need to jump on the opportunity to add serious young talent for Kennedy, even if they have to eat the majority of his salary.
Los Angeles Angels: Add a Controlled Pitcher
Run Differential: -3
Current State: 12.5 GB AL West, 6.5 GB AL Wildcard
Main Trade Target: RP Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles
The Angels are another team in a tricky situation. Since they’re 6.5 games back off of a wildcard spot, they could look to be a “seller”, but they lack the appealing trade chips to do so. At the same time, they have an easy schedule coming up, so there’s a chance their playoff position could improve ahead of the trade deadline. Either way, Los Angeles has finally put together a formidable lineup centered around Mike Trout, and could be a contender as soon as next season if they can add pitching. The price to add a controllable starting pitcher like Boyd, Stroman, and Trevor Bauer will be too steep, but a great buy-low candidate for them would be Mychal Givens. The 29-year-old has struggled with a 4.88 FIP this season, but his strikeout rate (12.97 K/9) has escalated. A small spike in his walk rate (4.24 BB/9) and an unsustainable 25.8% HR-FB rate has sparked the concerns, but with a 3.31 skill interactive ERA (SIERA), Givens still can be an effective high-leverage reliever. After all, he posted a 3.07 FIP as recently as last season, and if he gets out of Baltimore, where he has a 6.94 FIP compared to a 2.94 road FIP, a massive rebound is definitely within reach. Plus, he’s controlled through 2021, and since he’s a buy-low target, shouldn’t come at too heavy of a price from their recently restocked farm system.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Add Bullpen Help
Run Differential: +129
Current State: 13.5 Games Ahead NL West
Main Trade Target: RP Will Smith, San Francisco Giants
If the Dodgers stood pat at the deadline, they’d still be the most talented team in baseball and the World Series favorite. However, with reports that they’re looking to add one-two relievers to improve a bullpen that currently ranks 12th in FIP, it doesn’t appear they’re ready to do so. That’s for the best, as this team should be all-in and has no excuses to not win the World Series. Therefore, their best bet is to add another late-inning reliever to pair with closing pitcher Kenley Jansen. Though a controllable reliever such as Ken Giles also makes sense, Will Smith’s status as a rental, and therefore the lower acquisition cost, should make him more appealing to Los Angeles. As mentioned earlier, Smith may be the best reliever in the game right now, and paired with Jansen, the Dodgers’ bullpen would go from a potential problem to a clear strength. This would be a game-breaking acquisition for them and would make them clear World Series favorites.
Miami Marlins: Sell High On RP Nick Anderson
Run Differential: -87
Current State: 19.5 GB NL East, 13 GB NL Wildcard
Main Trade Chip: RP Nick Anderson
Evidenced by their awful record and run differential, the Marlins are not a talented baseball team whatsoever. Therefore, they have few appealing trade chips, especially after undergoing a firesale in the past two offseasons. However, there is one player they can sell-high on to improve their farm system: reliever Nick Anderson. The 29-year-old has come out of nowhere this season to post a 2.69 FIP and a 13.98 K/9, as well as a 2.82 SIERA. He does have five years of club control after this season, so they don’t have to trade him, but his stock will never be higher. Especially after holding onto breakout relievers Drew Steckenrider (7.95 FIP) and Adam Conley (4.81 FIP) for too long, the Marlins need to learn from their past misstep, and aggressively shop Anderson.
Milwaukee Brewers: Add Starting Pitching
Run Differential: -17
Current State: 0.5 GB NL Central, 0.5 GB NL Wildcard
Main Trade Target: SP Zack Wheeler, New York Mets
The Brewers are yet another team that was expected to contend this season, but has disappointed. They’re only four games above .500, and have been overachieving, based on their negative run differential. However, they’re still just 0.5 game out of the NL Central and a wildcard spot; they’re definitely looking to add talent at the trade deadline. To that end, they’ll need to upgrade a starting rotation that ranks 19th in FIP (4.55). Getting Gio Gonzalez back from injury will help, but that will only fill one rotation spot, and currently, the team has two spots to fill (Chase Anderson and Adrian Houser). To that end, Zack Wheeler would be a fantastic addition. His 3.65 FIP proves that his 4.69 ERA is bound to decrease, and he’s improved his strikeout rate (9.83 K/9). With a better pitch framer in Yasmani Grandal and a better overall defense, the 29-year-old should have more success and lead this rotation alongside Brandon Woodruff. In a wide-open NL Central, whether they acquire him could be the difference between winning the division and missing the playoffs altogether.
Minnesota Twins: Acquire A Controllable Starting Pitcher
Run Differential: +117
Current State: 5.5 Games Ahead AL Central
Main Trade Target: SP Matthew Boyd, Detroit Tigers
The Twins may be the most pleasant surprise this season; a year after having a sub .500 record, they’ve rebounded to have the league’s second-best run differential. Still, since they play in such a weak division and have just a 19-18 record versus winning teams, it’s hard to see them advancing past the Yankees and Astros in the playoffs. Therefore, they should avoid going after rentals, and look to acquire a controllable pitcher; with Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, and Michael Pineda all set to be free agents, only Jose Berrios is filled into their rotation for next season. Additionally, they have a lot of young players locked up already, including outfielder Max Kepler and shortstop Jorge Polanco, which could possibly make either of their top prospects (Royce Lewis and Alex Kiriloff) expendable. Dangling one of those prospects could get them the prized asset of the entire trade deadline: starting pitcher Matthew Boyd. As previously mentioned, he’s in the midst of a breakout season, and what better for him to continue to have success than to bring his tools to Minnesota, who’ve done a tremendous job with pitchers (Odorizzi, Martin Perez) with their new analytically-inclined coaching staff. Boyd gives them a co-ace with Berrios for the next 3+ seasons, and if they include one of their top two prospects, it’s likely the rest of the package wouldn’t be as costly. The Twins are easily the best fit for Boyd, though acquiring Trevor Bauer or Marcus Stroman at the right price is also logical.
New York Mets: Start The Mini Teardown
Run Differential: -46
Current State: 13.5 GB NL East, 7 GB NL Wildcard
Main Trade Chip: SP Noah Syndergaard
Despite general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s failed efforts, the Mets are not a good baseball team; they currently have the second-worst record in the National League. Obviously, they should be a seller at the trade deadline, with pending free agents Wheeler, Jason Vargas, and Todd Frazier all almost certain to be traded. However, if the team wants to really recoup for the young talent Van Wagenen shipped away last offseason, then they should be bolder. They don’t have to go as far as trading ace Jacob deGrom, but trading Noah Syndergaard should definitely be in the cards. The 26-year-old with a 3.98 FIP, but based on his impressive pitching arsenal and past success, plus the fact he has two more years of arbitration left, there still should be interest in him. Hence, why the Astros, Brewers, and Padres have been linked to them, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.Com. He should bring back at least two premier prospects, if not more, and considering the Mets have a bottom ten farm system, that would improve their future position tremendously. Heck, I’d even look into trading reliever Edwin Diaz, if a team buys into him returning to his 2018 form. The Mets need to add young talent in any shape or form; simply shopping their rentals won’t cut it.
New York Yankees: Acquire A Starting Pitcher
Run Differential: +113
Current State: 6.5 Games Ahead AL East
Main Trade Target: SP Zack Wheeler, New York Mets
After a very successful offseason and a successful battle with the injury bug, the Yankees may be the favorite in the American League to reach the World Series. However, with it looking less likely by the day that ace Luis Severino will pitch this season, they need to upgrade a starting rotation that ranks just 20th in FIP. Like with the Brewers, Wheeler would be a massive upgrade in the rotation and in a potential difference-maker. They’ve generally liked fastball-heavy pitchers, and Wheeler’s fastball is one of the fastest in baseball and has reached 100 MPH this season. If New York can convince him to ditch his ineffective two-seam fastball in favor for his terrific four-seam fastball, he may even be able to reach another gear. This is a match made in heaven, and since there isn’t a need for them to target a controlled starting pitcher since Severino will be back next season, it makes more sense to pay a smaller price to acquire a rental in Wheeler.
Oakland Athletics: Add A Controlled Starting Pitcher
Run Differential: +65
Current State: 7.5 GB AL West, 1.5 GB AL Wildcard
Main Trade Target: SP Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays
The A’s, as per usual, have defied the odds of having one of the smallest budgets to being a postseason contender. However, they still need to make a splash at the trade deadline, and since a playoff spot isn’t guaranteed this year, they’d be better off acquiring a player with multiple years of club control. So far, I have found few team-player fits better than them and Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman. He doesn’t strike many batters out, but he continues to induce a lot of ground balls (57.5%) and soft contact (22.4%). The A’s, meanwhile, have one of the best infield defenses and a lethal defensive duo in third baseman Matt Chapman and shortstop Marcus Semien on the left side of their infield. Therefore, Stroman likely would outperform his peripherals even if his strikeout rate doesn’t improve, and may actually be more of a front-line starter than he would be on a different team. This gives Oakland stability in their rotation for the rest of this season and the next, which is crucial; they have a strong lineup, defense, and bullpen, but need to a better rotation to put those strengths to use in the playoffs.
Philadelphia Phillies: Add Stability In The Rotation Without Going All-In
Run Differential: +2
Current State: 6.5 GB NL East, 0.5 Games Ahead NL Wildcard, .5 GB 1st Wildcard
Main Trade Target: SP Tanner Roark, Cincinnati Reds
After a crazy offseason that was headlined by the huge signing of outfielder Bryce Harper on a 13-year deal, the Phillies were expected to be a World Series contender this season. However, due to injuries and a putrid pitching staff, the team has underperformed and now almost certainly will have to earn a wildcard spot in order to make the playoffs. Rather than continue to gut their prospects in an attempt to go “all-in” this season just to possibly have to face Max Scherzer in a wildcard game, I’d rather seem them make subtle moves to add some stable arms to the rotation or bullpen. Tanner Roark is a fit; he isn’t particularly flashy, but he’s been a solid middle of the rotation starter with a 3.85 FIP and would be a good back-end starting pitcher for them. He’d allow Vince Velazquez and his 5.35 FIP to move out of the rotation, and they need to simply get some sort of quality innings from their rotation to prevent their decimated bullpen from being overworked. A move like this allows them to continue to contend for a playoff spot, but prevents them from compromising their future by making a silly push to win it all this season; they’re clearly not World Series caliber no matter who they add.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Don’t Do Anything Crazy
Run Differential: -36
Current State: 2.5 GB NL Central, 2.5 GB NL Wildcard
Main Trade Chip: OF Corey Dickerson
The Pirates, as per usual, are in a tough position as we near the trade deadline. Though they’ve remained competitive and are just 2.5 games out of the division and wildcard, the negative run differential suggests they’ve overachieved to this point, and they’ve struggled against winning teams. Therefore, their best bet may be to mostly stand pat and to keep the team intact, though they should still trade their pending free agents. Among them are outfielder Corey Dickerson, who is the team’s fourth outfielder once Gregory Polanco returns from injury, and reliever Francisco Liriano, who the team should look to trade before his recent struggles become more evident. Either way, the team cannot afford to make a massive splash like they did last year, nor do they need to trade away a key player like closing pitcher Felipe Vazquez. This offseason would be a better time for them to reassess what their overall direction needs to be.
San Diego Padres: Decide on July 31st, But Don’t Sell Out For a Top Starting Pitcher
Run Differential: -35
Current State: 14 GB NL West, 2 GB NL Wildcard
Main Trade Chip: RP Kirby Yates
The Padres have been just what they’d imagined when they signed third baseman Manny Machado to a $300 million contract: entertaining. Led by Machado and shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., they’re a talented young team, but like all young teams, they’ve been extremely inconsistent all year long. Their poor run differential would suggest that they aren’t as good as their record would indicate, though they are 26-19 versus winning teams. Still, with them facing an uphill battle to a postseason berth and with many holes to fill, they aren’t in the right position to make a run for a controllable starting pitcher such as Bauer, Syndergaard, or Boyd. Furthermore, if they fall out of contention following series with the Braves and Cubs, it may behoove them to check on the market for reliever Kirby Yates. He’s been tremendous with a 1.38 FIP, but he’s also already 32-years-old, and although his extra year of club control means he could help the Padres next season as well, it also could mean a better overall return for him. Relievers are volatile, and it’s often the right idea to sell high on them, and though he’s one of the best in the game, his arbitration price will be high, and with that extra money, they could possibly make a run at a reliever such as Will Smith or a starting pitcher such as Zack Wheeler. Then, they still help out their pitching staff for next season AND acquire more young talent they can use in trades or you could be a part of their future.
San Francisco Giants: Complete The Firesale
Run Differential: -70
Current State: 17.5 GB NL West, 5.5 GB NL Wildcard
Main Trade Chips: SP Madison Bumgarner and RP Will Smith
The Giants have experienced some success with a 16-14 record in their last 30 games, but make no mistake, they still have the third-worst record in the National League and the fifth-worst expected record in all of baseball. They’ll be sellers at the trade deadline, but luckily for them, they have plenty of trade chips in relievers Will Smith, Sam Dyson, and Tony Watson, as well as starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner and third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Smith should be in high demand as one of the top relievers in the game, while Dyson’s extra year of club control gives him good value. Watson and Sandoval won’t bring make much of anything, but Bumgarner is a very polarizing asset. He’s a fan favorite who may be more valued for his past performance than current abilities, but according to Ken Rosenthal, the return for him should resemble what the Rangers got for Yu Darvish at the 2017 trade deadline. That package included one high-end prospect at the time in Willie Calhoun, and that’s more than an acceptable package for Bumgarner, who has just a 4.02 FIP this season. For sure, Smith and Bumgarner need to be traded for good returns. However, this is a team that is in need of as many prospects as they can obtain, and if trading other key players get them that, then they have to definitely need to pursue that possibility.
Seattle Mariners: Continue To Get Younger, If Possible
Run Differential: -71
Current State: 20 GB AL West, 14 GB AL Wildcard
Main Trade Chip: RP Cory Gearrin
The Mariners tore it down this offseason, shipping out second baseman Robinson Cano, closing pitcher Edwin Diaz, shortstop Jean Segura, catcher Mike Zunino, reliever Alex Colome, and ace James Paxton. After trading away reliever Anthony Swarzak, outfielder Jay Bruce, and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, plus with outfielder Mitch Haniger on the injured list, there are no true trade-chips on this roster. Still, maybe they can convince a contender that reliever Cory Gearrin or starting pitcher Mike Leake would work better with a better infield defense, since both induce a lot of ground balls. Gearrin would be nice to move as a pending free agent, but if they can get Leake, infielders Dee Gordon and Kyle Seager, or other aging players off their roster, it will open up opportunities for younger players who could blossom into key pieces for them. Either way, there’s no way they’re going to improve their farm system much, and possibly at all.
St.Louis Cardinals: Acquire a Controlled Starting Pitcher In Creative Fashion
Run Differential: +2
Current State: 2 GB NL Central, 2 GB NL Wildcard
Main Trade Target: SP Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians
The Cardinals have had a roller-coaster season. They had a 21-9 record entering May, which was the best in the National League. However, they’ve fallen since then, and don’t even have an above .500 record anymore. Though their lineup, especially Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter, has been a huge disappointment, their starting rotation has been even worse. Expected to be a strength, Cardinals starting pitchers have just a 4.84 FIP this season. Enter Trevor Bauer. The 28-year-old only has a 4.10 FIP, but his high strikeout rates would work well in a rotation that ranks just 25th in K/9 this season. Plus, he’s been much better on the road this season, was dominant last year, and could be attainable without St.Louis digging deep into their prospects. A package of outfielder Tyler O’Neil, catcher Andrew Kninzer, and first baseman Jose Martinez would give Cleveland the ready bats they need, but also would allow the Cardinals to not have to surrender either of their top two prospects in third baseman Nolan Gorman and outfielder Dylan Carlson. This would be a win-win trade, but especially for the Cardinals, who possibly attain their ace for this season’s playoff push, as well as next year.
Tampa Bay Rays: Add A Controlled Reliever
Run Differential: +80
Current State: 6.5 GB AL East, 0.5 Games Ahead 1st Wildcard, 2 Games Ahead AL Wildcard
Main Trade Target: RP Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays
The Rays are on the brink of doing the highly unlikely: making the playoffs despite having the league’s lowest budget. Though their current standing in the division likely rules them out of going after rentals such as Smith or Wheeler, their expected record (54-37) is right on par with that of the Yankees. Therefore, they’re still a talented team that could challenge for the division next year at the very least, but they need to continue to deepen a bullpen that they rely on heavily. That bullpen also only ranks 20th in K/9 this season, so acquiring a late-inning reliever with the ability to miss bats has to be a must. Ken Giles, who has shined with a 1.49 FIP and 15.39 K/9 this season. He easily would be Tampa Bay’s top reliever, especially since Jose Alvarado is expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks due to an oblique injury. Plus, Giles is controlled through 2020, and though the price won’t be cheap, a package headlined by pitcher Brent Honeywell and first baseman Nate Lowe should work, and would benefit both teams, but especially the Rays.
Texas Rangers: Be Opportunistic
Run Differential: +24
Current State: 9 GB AL West, 3 GB AL Wildcard
Main Trade Target: RP Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals
The Rangers were expected to be in a rebuilding phase this season; they weren’t expected to compete for a playoff spot this season. Therefore, their current position may be more of a welcome development than a tough situation, though the team should avoid being heavy buyers. After all, they’re currently 3 games out of a wildcard spot, have faded in recent weeks, and are 18-23 against winning teams this season. Still, there’s an outside chance they could reach the playoffs this season, and definitely should be a playoff contender next season in their new stadium. They should therefore be on the lookout for opportunities to acquire players who can help them beyond this season, but don’t come at a steep price. Relievers such as Mychal Givens and Nick Anderson are possibilities if the price isn’t too crazy, and the same even goes for more well-known relievers such as Giles or a reunion with Dyson. However, the combination of Ian Kennedy’s age (34) and contract ($16.5 million next season) could give Texas an opportunity to steal him away from Kansas City. After all, they’re lacking in relievers, and all the metrics support Kennedy’s breakout in his transition to a relief role. Assuming the Royals eat up some of the money, it’s likely the Rangers can acquire him at a cheap price and have him play a key role in their bullpen through the rest of this year and next year.
Toronto Blue Jays: Get The Best Possible Returns For Marcus Stroman and Ken Giles
Run Differential: -84
Current State: 24.5 GB AL East, 17.5 GB AL Wildcard
Main Trade Chips: SP Marcus Stroman and RP Ken Giles
The Blue Jays may have one of the worst records in baseball, the future is certainly bright in Toronto. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Cavan Biggio are a solid foundation to build around in the lineup, while Nate Pearson and Eric Pardinho (and maybe Adam Kloffenstein) should anchor their future rotation. Yet, they’re just getting starting in stockpiling young assets. In Marcus Stroman and Ken Giles, Toronto has two of the best trade chips at the deadline, and arguably the two best if Matthew Boyd isn’t made available. Between the two, they should at least be looking at 3-4 high-end prospects (maybe less depending on how “high-end” they are) IN ADDITION to some lower-level prospects. These are two players who could heavily influence the next two pennant races, and since there’s so much interest in the two of them, it shouldn’t be hard for them to turn their farm system into a powerhouse and position themselves to be a possible juggernaut in the future.
Washington Nationals: Add *Cheap* Bullpen Help
Run Differential: +29
Current State: 6 GB NL East, .5 Game Ahead 1st NL Wildcard, 1 Game Ahead NL Wildcard
Main Trade Target: RP Sam Dyson
After a rough start that sparked a lot of Anthony Rendon, Sean Doolittle, and Max Scherzer trade rumors, the Nationals are back in business and now hold a wildcard spot. A division title seems out of reach, but it’s still possible, and even if they have to settle for a wildcard spot, they’ll have the advantage of sending Scherzer to the mound. The rotation and lineup are set, but the bullpen, which ranks 20th in FIP (30th in ERA), needs reinforcements. Yet, since they have a thin farm system, the preference would be for them to target controlled relievers rather than going all-in on rentals, and those relievers need to be cheap given that they are just $1 million under the luxury tax. Assuming the Giants are willing to eat of the majority of the money owed this year, a package deal of Sam Dyson and Tony Watson makes sense. Dyson has another year of arbitration, and Watson could accept a rather affordable $2.5 million player option. So, Washington adds two relievers for this season and the next one in this scenario, including an underrated, yet potential set-up reliever in Dyson, and it likely won’t cost them anything crazy prospect wise; maybe a package headlined by pitching prospects Tim Cate and Seth Romero should work, and is a rather reasonable price to pay to upgrade their bullpen. Other relievers such as Ken Giles, Ian Kennedy, and Mychal Givens also could work as long as the price (money and prospect wise) is justifiable.