Well, folks, it is currently July 18th and in the world of Major League Baseball, that means all everyone is thinking/talking about is the July 31st non-waiver deadline. This promises to be one of the most interesting trade deadlines in recent memory, as the two leagues are currently aligned in almost polar opposite positions. In the National League, the probable playoff field has in large part been set due to dominant starts by the likes of Los Angeles, Arizona, and Colorado in the West, Washington in the East, and a plethora of underperforming teams in the rest of the field. In the AL things are much different, as while Houston has been far and above the best team, the rest of the division races are tight, and there are currently 11 teams separated by 7.5 games in the Wild Card race. Let’s take a look at where each team is currently, and the position they may take in the next couple weeks.
The Yankees were a good story for a while, as a hot start had them leading the AL East for much of the early portion of the season, but Boston is simply too talented on paper and most believed it was only a matter of time before the cream rose to the top. That has happened, as, despite a 3-7 record in their last 10 games, the BoSox sit two games up on Tampa Bay and three and a half over New York, but there are some holes on this team, starting with third base. After finally designating Pablo Sandoval for assignment recently, Boston is in the market for a short-term fix, as they believe top prospect Rafael Devers will be ready as early as next season. Veteran Todd Frazier of the White Sox would appear to be a match made in heaven, and it would be surprising if such a deal did not eventually materialize. Another relief pitcher wouldn’t hurt as well, with A.J. Ramos and David Phelps of the Marlins, Brad Hand of San Diego, as well as Addison Reed of the Mets fitting the bill.
With every Aaron Judge tape measure home run early in the season, it was easy to fall into the trap of believing the 2017 Yankees were a team of destiny, and while the club’s hot start energized the fan base, it also shielded some of the glaring holes on this roster. The Yankees’ starting rotation was a weakness before losing Michael Pineda to Tommy John Surgery, and between Greg Bird’s injuries and Chris Carter’s inconsistency, first base has been an unmitigated disaster. At 47-44 the Yankees currently sit in the 2nd Wild Card position, but they’re hanging on by a thread with countless teams immediately on their rear. New York may be able to fill the void at position number three on your scorecard by just looking towards Queens, where the Mets’ Lucas Duda would bring a powerful left handed bat, and his expiring contract should mean the Yankees wouldn’t have to give up a ton. Pitching is a different story, however, as while the Bombers have been linked to Sonny Gray of the A’s, a starter of that ilk would cost them major prospects, and it doesn’t seem to make sense for the club to trade Clint Frazier or Gleyber Torres in a season where they are probably playing a year ahead of schedule anyway.
The Rays are one of the baseball’s most surprising teams, as in a season where many predicted them to finish last in their division, they are currently only two games behind the Red Sox for the East lead and sit in the first Wild Card Spot. The biggest hole Tampa Bay has is relief pitching, where they have been linked to Detroit’s Justin Wilson and San Diego’s Brad Hand from the left side, and Pat Neshek of the Phillies, and Hunter Strickland of the Giants from the right side, all of whom would fit in well.
Despite a record of 43-49, the Orioles are just 4.5 games out of a Wild Card berth, but most that have watched this team would warn against considering them a serious contender, as their pitching staff has literally been the worst in the American League. Owner Peter Angelos has typically been opposed to selling and giving up on seasons, and while the organization will assuredly not begin a fire sale, it makes sense to at least listen what contending teams might be willing to offer for closer Zach Britton.
The Jays are in a similar boat to that of the Orioles, as while they are also only 4.5 games out of a playoff spot, the club has underperformed tremendously and should not be considered a legitimate threat in the AL. The Blue Jays don’t have enticing veterans on expiring contracts so for them selling would mean parting with the likes of pitchers Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, and Marco Estrada, something that would paralyze their chances in 2018. With that being said, don’t expect anything significant from the league’s only team north of the Canadian border.
Similar to the Red Sox in the East, the defending American League Champions got off to a slow start in ’17, allowing the upstart Twins to lead this division for much of the first three months, and while Minnesota is still right on their heels, conventional wisdom would lead you to believe the Indians will eventually pull away. To do that, however, they will have to get healthy, as the injury bug has gotten everyday regulars Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall, as well as right hander Danny Salazar. A versatile player such as Miami’s Martin Prado would bring a veteran bat and presence, but don’t expect anything uber significant, as team management believes they already have enough talent, and after basically selling the farm to land Andrew Miller last July, they are reluctant to include their last blue chip prospect, catcher Francisco Mejia, in any type of transaction.
Raise your hand if three months ago you had the Twins as buyers at this year’s trade deadline. Anyone? Despite a woeful forecast in spring training, Minnesota has managed to a 47-45 record thus far and have positioned themselves in the thick of a playoff race. The Twins are just 1.5 games out in the Central and a mere half game out a Wild Card spot, and while they plan to shop, they’ve made it clear they will only be cautious buyers, meaning their upper echelon prospects are off limit. Minnesota has a woeful run differential and could certainly use pitching reinforcements, and after already bringing in veteran Bartolo Colon, someone like Miami’s Dan Straily would seem to make a good amount of sense.
After a slow start had some believing the Royals’ veteran core of Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer, and Lorenzo Cain’s days of playing together were numbered, Kansas City has rallied to pull within three games in the Central and two in the Wild Card, meaning they may actually look to add rather than subtract in the next two weeks. The biggest weakness on this team has ironically been left field, where the long time Royal Gordon has suffered through a miserable campaign that has watched hit just .193. A hitter such as Detroit’s J.D. Martinez would make all the sense in the world but teams often get charged extra for in division trades, and Kansas City is unlikely to win a bidding war. A pitcher such as Jaime Garcia of the Braves may be a more likely and realistic target.
Last winter Detroit’s ownership decided to give their veteran core one more chance to play together and contend, a goal that has proven to be a false prophecy. Yes, the Tigers are only five games out of a playoff spot but their 42-49 record paints a clearer picture of where they are, and the time has emphatically come for them to sell. Power hitting outfielder J.D. Martinez is their most marketable piece and will certainly be in high demand over the next two weeks, and it will be imperative for the Tigers to maximize their return. Left handed reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila should both be able to bring help to a weak farm system, and while teams have called about young righty Michael Fulmer, he should be the only untouchable member of this organization. Detroit would love to move lifelong Tiger Justin Verlander’s contract, but his 4.66 ERA and 1.50 WHIP mean they would have to eat a significant portion of the $56 million he’s owed the next two years, something the team may or may not be willing to do.
You can’t talk trade deadline without bringing up the White Sox, who after completing a pair of slam dunk sell trades last winter, and after hitting another home run in their trade with the Cubs that sent lefty Jose Quintana to the Windy City’s north side last week, the White Sox are clearly open for business. Third baseman Todd Frazier and outfielder Melky Cabrera can certainly be had, and closer David Robertson may be the most desired relief pitcher on the market. Other candidates are exiting Chicago pitchers Anthony Swarzak, Mike Pelfrey, and Derek Holland.
At 62-31 the Astros are already easily the best team in the American League and can dance to the AL West Crown, but at this point, Houston has much higher aspirations. The one thing the Astros desperately need is an ace starting pitcher that they can group with Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers to form a dangerous and dynamic postseason rotation. Houston possesses an incredibly deep farm system and has made clear their love affair with both the Mets’ Jacob DeGrom and Detroit’s Michael Fulmer, but both of those pitchers are exceedingly unlikely to be moved. After missing on Jose Quintana, Sonny Gray of the Athletics seems a perfect fit for this team, and it will be interesting to see if the two clubs can successfully negotiate an in division swap.
It feels like every spring training the Mariners are picked as the IT team of the new season, and after a slew of offseason additions, Seattle was a popular playoff pick this past March. A slow start tempered those expectations but the M’s, who are currently on a five game winning streak, are at the moment right in the thick of an AL Wild Card race which promises to be extremely wild from here on out. At 47-47 Seattle is only 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the league’s final playoff spot, and adding a pitcher such as Atlanta’s Jaime Garcia or San Diego’s Trevor Cahill would significantly improve their chances.
Entering spring training the Rangers believed they were positioned to compete for a division title yet again, but Houston quickly puts that notion to bed by proving early just how far apart the two teams really are. At 45-47 Texas is still just 2.5 games out in an everyone has a shot AL Wild Card race, and despite rumors last week that the team would listen on starters Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels, it’s much more likely the club tries to make a modest addition and hopes for the best down the stretch.
Los Angeles of Anaheim
The Angels impersonated a contender for a while, but with superstar Mike Trout missing significant time due to injury they have finally begun to slip. Losers of seven of their past ten, the Angels are still only three games out of a playoff spot but appear to be taking a realistic approach to their situation, with veteran players like Cameron Maybin, Yunel Escobar, Bud Norris, and Yusmiero Petit all potentially available.
The biggest question surrounding the Athletics, and one asked seemingly daily, is where will right handed ace Sonny Gray be in two weeks? Houston clearly makes the most sense for the veteran but Oakland will certainly try to start a bidding war, with teams like the Yankees, Braves, Brewers, Cubs, and Indians all potentially having varying degrees of interest. Billy Beane already set the relief pitching market with a shrewd trade of both Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Nationals, and while Gray will almost certainly be traded as well, he may be just the beginning. First baseman Yonder Alonso is in the midst of a career season and would make a great deal of sense for a team like the Yankees, who are in dire need of help at that position. Outfielder Rajai Davis’ speed could entice a contender and versatile infielder Jed Lowrie could improve a lot of benches on team’s with serious postseason aspirations.
The Nationals appear on a crash course for a showdown with the Dodgers in the NLCS, and GM Mike Rizzo knew for his team to have any chance in that series he would have to improve upon baseball’s worst bullpen. The addition of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the A’s last week should do just that, and Rizzo might not even be done. The Nationals appear hell-bent on stockpiling power relievers and have contacted the Marlins regarding David Phelps and A.J. Ramos, the Phillies about Pat Neshek, the Tigers on Justin Wilson, and the Pirates regarding Tony Watson. With shortstop Trea Turner on the DL, you may even hear the Nats’ emerge as a darkhorse to land Zack Cozart of the Reds.
At 45-46 the Braves have been a feel good story this season, but buried behind the Nationals in the NL East and seven games out of a wild card spot, it appears prudent for the club to be realistic about their chances this season, and try to cash in on a few veterans having strong seasons with expiring contracts. That list includes starters Jaime Garcia and R.A. Dickey, as well as second baseman Brandon Phillips, all of whom should generate interest. The veteran Phillips has been arguably the team’s most consistent everyday player, hitting .294 with a .339 on base percentage, and he may make sense for a former employer of his, the Indians, as their second baseman, Jason Kipnis is currently on the disabled list. Dickey and Garcia have both been serviceable and would represent an improvement at the back end of several team’s rotations, and closer Jim Johnson could potentially garner interest as well. The Braves have been rumored to be in on controllable pitchers, and have long been linked to Sonny Gray of the A’s, but a trade of that magnitude, despite being for the long-term, does not seem to add up at this stage in their rebuild.
With the Marlins ownership situation seriously up in the air, this club could be headed for a complete teardown, similar to what the club did after winning championships in both 1997 and 2003. Relief pitchers A.J. Ramos and David Phelps are virtual slam dunks to be dealt, starter Dan Straily may well be available, and there have even been notions that outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich could be had. Stay tuned.
Has there been a more disappointing team in Major League Baseball this year than the New York Mets? In a season that once possessed so much promise, the Amazins limp towards the trade deadline as obvious sellers, and with so many veterans on expiring contracts, they may have more pieces available than any team in the game. Outfielder Jay Bruce is having a tremendous season and is currently on pace to break the Mets’ single season home run record, but he and fellow outfielder Curtis Granderson very likely will be wearing different colors in early August. On the infield, first baseman Lucas Duda would make a great deal of sense for the crosstown Yankees, and versatile infielders Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes could assuredly be had. Second baseman Neil Walker has been on the DL for about a month with a hamstring injury, a development that hurts the Mets as he would have been a marketable piece. The player who may net New York the most in return is closer Addison Reed who is having a strong season and would significantly improve every contenders’ relief corps. Lefty reliever Jerry Blevins will generate calls but a team friendly option for next year may make the Mets’ reluctant to make a trade, and while the Astros would love to add Jacob DeGrom to their rotation, the chances of that happening are close to zero percent.
At 30-61 the Phillies have been the worst team in the National League, but unfortunately for them, they just don’t have very many marketable assets. Reliever Pat Neshek is their only player who may get a decent return, and while Jeremy Hellickson and Joaquin Benoit may bring back something, it won’t be anything exciting.
Even with their hot start this year, was there anyone who actually believed the Brew Crew would still be in first place as we approach the end of July? Yet here we are with Milwaukee at 52-43, and continuing to hold off the defending champion Cubs in the NL Central. Chicago, however, made a big move to acquire lefty Jose Quintana last week, and now the ball is in the Brewers’ court to see how they will respond. It’s been rumored the team has been swimming in the deep end of the starting pitching pool, aggressively pursuing Sonny Gray of the Athletics, a move that would seriously up the ante in the division race with Chicago, however it remains to be seen if the Brewers will actually make a move like that that will inevitably cost them at least one of their heralded outfield prospects, Lewis Brinson and Corey Ray.
After completing the Jose Quintana trade last week the Cubs have jumped out of the gates following the all-star break, winning four in a row and pulling within 3.5 of the Brewers in the NL Central. After significantly gutting their farm system to pry Quintana away from the White Sox, don’t expect any additional serious moves from Chicago though, as a relief pitcher such as Miami’s David Phelps or Philadelphia’s Pat Neshek may be all you see.
The Cardinals are that one team that seemingly never goes away, and at 45-47 and 5.5 games back in the Central, the Redbirds really believe they are a prolonged hot streak away from getting right back into the thick of a race. With that being said, however, don’t expect any significant trade to occur involving the Cardinals, as the team is always looking long-term, and won’t sacrifice legitimate young talent to chase fools gold down the stretch. Instead look for the team to continue relying on hot hitting rookie Paul DeYoung and veteran Jedd Gyorko to see if they can quietly make noise into September.
The Pirates are in a similar situation to that of their division rivals in St. Louis, although they appear to have bought into a sell more than the Cardinals. Look for Pittsburgh to move relievers Tony Watson and Juan Nicasio, as well as veteran corner infielder David Freese, is relatively unexciting trades. The real intrigue around the Pirates though is whether they can find a suitor for Andrew McCutchen. The lifelong Buc has hit just under .400 since June 1st, and if a team brings a strong offer to the table it would be difficult for Pittsburgh to say no. Gerrit Cole may also be available, and despite an ERA well over four, the Pirates should still be able to garner a significant return for a right hander with ace pedigree and two more additional years of team control.
At 39-53 and in the last place in the NL Central, the Reds are obvious sellers, with all-star shortstop Zack Cozart at the top of the list of Cincinnati players who are available. The Reds’ 2nd round pick from the 2007 draft is enjoying a career season, hitting .306, and he should generate significant interest, particularly from Colorado, and potentially even Washington as they currently have starter Trea Turner on the disabled list. The Reds have also been said to be willing to listen on closer Raisel Iglesias, but with multiple years of control still ahead of him, a team would have to willing to overpay.
The Dodgers currently own the best record in all of baseball, and their holes appear few and far between. The most logical trade scenario for Los Angeles is attempting to land a top flight reliever such as the Mets’ Addison Reed or the Orioles’ Zach Britton to pair with closer Kenley Jansen in an attempt to shorten games.
Most teams in the Diamondbacks position, a 53-39 record and six game cushion in the Wild Card race, would be unanimous buyers, however, Arizona simply doesn’t have much top tier minor league talent to surrender in a trade, and thus may find it difficult to engineer significant additions in a competitive market. With Yasmany Tomas on the DL with a groin injury the Snakes have checked in on the Tigers’ J.D. Martinez but they will have serious competition to land his services.
The Rockies currently sit a half game behind the Diamondbacks for the NL’s top Wild card spot and 5.5 games up on the Cubs for the final playoff berth. Colorado’s success to this point has been largely because of an overperforming rookie pitching staff which raises concerns they could fade down the stretch, and potentially put the club in the market for a veteran starter like Jaime Garcia or R.A. Dickey of the Braves, or potentially Jeremy Hellickson of the Phillies. Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart would represent a serious improvement at shortstop over Trevor Story who has really struggled in his sophomore season. A legitimate set-up man for closer Greg Holland wouldn’t hurt either, and the Rockies should be able to find one in a market saturated with relief pitching.
The Padres are a seller in every sense of the word and would like to orchestrate a transaction involving left handed reliever Brad Hand sooner rather than later. Reportedly roughly half the league has expressed interest in the veteran which is no surprise, as over the past two years he’s become one of the premier southpaws in the game. Other potential Padres on the move include pitchers Clayton Richard, Trevor Cahill, and Jhoulys Chacin.
The Giants’ season has literally been a disaster from the start, and thus they find themselves as clear sellers at the end of July. Their issue, however, is they have very few legitimate trade chips as they’re obviously not going to shop catcher Buster Posey or starter Madison Bumgarner, and veteran righty Matt Cain’s trade value is non-existent. Johnny Cueto would have been a strong trade candidate in a relatively weak starting pitching market but his untimely injury does not help San Francisco. With all that being said, third baseman Eduardo Nunez may be the most likely Giant to be moved, with Boston a potential landing spot.