MLB Trade Deadline 2014: Predicting Every MLB Team as Deadline Buyer/Seller
The MLB July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is only six weeks away, and the stove is already warming up.
Over the past few weeks, rumors involving Jeff Samardzija, James Shields, David Price and Chase Utley have captured the nation’s imagination. There are other names, of course, but the point is that this is just the beginning.
The non-waiver trade deadline this season figures to be less predictable than in years past for two reasons. First, parity reigns across MLB. For example, there are seven teams in the American League within six games of the second wild-card spot, giving many general managers a false sense of participation.
The second reason is that several stars are set to return from the disabled list. That means teams will take a wait-and-see approach before deciding whether to liquidate or add talent at the non-waiver trade deadline.
It’s never too early to make predictions, though. So let’s take a gallop around MLB and see which teams will be "buyers" and which will be "sellers" before the month of August is upon us.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference and are accurate as of game time on Sunday, June 15. Standings were taken from MLB.com and are also accurate as of game time on Sunday, June 15.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Sellers
Record: 29-42 (15.0 GB in NL West)
After an offseason of aggressive acquisitions by general manager Kevin Towers, many expected the Arizona Diamondbacks to be an improved team over the one that finished the 2013 season 81-81.
Due to a rash of injuries and abysmal pitching, however, they have floundered and appear destined to battle the San Diego Padres for the NL West’s cellar. It’s time to begin building for the 2015 season.
The good news is that the roster has several veterans on it that will be in demand. Names like Brandon McCarthy, Aaron Hill and Joe Thatcher are some of the players who could be on the move.
Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted:
#DBacks’ many trade candidates include Arroyo, McCarthy, Hill, Thatcher, Parra. And don’t forget the team’s surplus of young middle IFers...— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 12, 2014
If the Diamondbacks are proactive and get some mid-level prospects or better in return for a guy like McCarthy, they could be competitive next season. They have a wealth of position talent on the 25-man roster after all, and the farm system is loaded with infielders.
Another thing to consider is that starting pitcher Patrick Corbin should be back next season, and both Matt Reynolds and Daniel Hudson will be fully recovered from 2013 Tommy John surgery. It is time for Towers to take the reins and start making moves.
Atlanta Braves: Buyers
Record: 35-32 (First place in NL East)
The Atlanta Braves are a tricky team to figure out.
On any given night, they can be one of the best teams in the National League. On others, though, they look as though the roster is missing a few pieces. In particular, the Braves need some more pop in the lineup and a left-handed reliever.
The problem in the bullpen regards bridging the gap between the starting pitcher and all-world closer Craig Kimbrel.
David O’Brien from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote following a series vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks that “the seventh inning has been a serious problem for the Braves for a while now.” Many of the issues can be traced to lefty Luis Avilan who has underwhelmed all season and is pitching to the tune of a 1.688 WHIP.
It’s not like the coaching staff hasn’t tried to rectify the situation with in-house options. O’Brien added that “manager Fredi Gonzalez has tried to piece together that inning,” but he has not found a way to make it work. Expect the bullpen to be an area that is addressed rather quickly.
Offensively, the Braves got a lift when Tommy La Stella took over at second base and are getting huge contributions from Evan Gattis, Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton. Other than that, the order is in dire straits.
Overall, the team has a .305 on-base percentage and is slugging a lackluster .381. While not the worst in those metrics in the NL, the Braves are not going to get the job done against the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants or Los Angeles Dodgers in the playoffs. Heck, they might not have enough to reach the postseason.
That said, they are sitting on top of the NL East. General manager Frank Wren will be buying in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Baltimore Orioles: Buyers
Record: 35-32 (3.5 GB in AL East)
The Baltimore Orioles are smack in the middle of the American League playoff picture even though two of their starting pitchers—Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Tillman—have a WHIP over 1.500 and a FIP (fielding independent pitching) north of 4.70.
And even though Chris Davis isn’t performing as well as he did last season, the offense ranks in the top five in both batting average and on-base plus slugging. Much of the credit for that goes to Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, of course, but the larger point remains that they are collectively producing.
Put it all together and the Orioles are three-and-a-half games behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East and were tied with the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals for the second wild-card spot when play began Sunday. They are also in a position that demands being a buyer at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Now if Kevin Gausman can continue pitching as well as he did his last two times out (2-0, 13.0 IP, 1.38 ERA, 9 K), general manager Dan Duquette will be able to address the team’s other needs—namely the bullpen.
True, Zach Britton has been dominant since moving into the closer’s role and Darren O’Day and Ryan Webb are both pitching well, but after that, the question marks are plentiful. Outfield depth is also something Duquette may want to take a look at.
Either way, Buck Showalter’s club has a chance to make a run here. It may not take a major acquisition, but the roster needs to be tweaked.
Boston Red Sox: Buyers
Record: 31-37 (8.0 GB in AL East)
After winning the 2013 World Series, Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington made a couple of bold moves. Chief among them was declining to overspend on Jacoby Ellsbury and letting Jarrod Saltalamacchia sign with the Miami Marlins.
To be sure, both moves were easily explained at the time, but both losses hurt the team in a myriad of ways, especially the loss of Ellsbury. The simple fact is that without him, the offense is a shell of its former self.
Generally speaking, the Red Sox have the pitching to compete, so it's imperative that Cherington find an outfielder to take some of the pressure off Dustin Pedroia and Co. Jackie Bradley Jr., Jonny Gomes and Grady Sizemore just aren’t getting the job done.
True, Shane Victorino could be back in “less than a week,” per Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. He won’t solve the problem, though. Another outfielder is needed.
Cherington will also be tasked with improving the starting pitching. Whether or not the help comes from the minor leagues or through a trade is a different conversation, but the back end of the rotation has underperformed all season.
Cherington tempered the trade talk a bit last week when he noted that while the team needs to get better, making a trade right now may not be the path, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber. Moments later, however, he added that if the Red Sox play a bit better, “we’ll try to find anyway we can to make improvements to the team as the summer goes on.”
Regardless, there is no way the Red Sox go into seller mode. They have a talented farm system and will likely use it to acquire the pieces they need to make another run at the World Series.
Chicago Cubs: Sell. Sell. Sell.
Record: 27-39 (12.5 GB in NL Central)
Once again, the Chicago Cubs are definite sellers. The only question is how soon the fire sale will begin.
Truth be told, general manager Jed Hoyer could realistically find a good deal for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel today. It's already being discussed, actually.
To that end, Gordon Wittenmyer from the Chicago Sun Times recently wrote:
Sources say the Cubs already have had trade talks with multiple teams regarding Samardzija and right-hander Jason Hammel. The Braves, Mariners and Blue Jays are among the most interested, with one source suggesting offers already have been made by at least two teams.
And one major-league source said he expects Hammel to end up in Seattle.
Outside the two starters, being as active as possible with the rest of the roster makes the most sense for the front office.
That means Emilio Bonifacio and Luis Valbuena are also on the list of players that could be traded. Now, Bonifacio is likely heading to the disabled list, potentially lessening the prospect the Cubs will get in return down the road, but Valbuena’s value may be at its peak.
Regardless, Hoyer is going to be a busy man. What’s new, though?
As Wick Terrell from MLB Daily Dish wrote not too long ago, “the Cubs are in the midst of a dedicated and thorough rebuilding process.” Consider the next six weeks just another part of that process.
Chicago White Sox: Sellers
Record: 33-36 (4.5 GB in AL Central)
Even though the Chicago White Sox are performing much better than many anticipated, general manager Rick Hahn won’t be fooled into thinking that a couple of upgrades will be enough to make a run at the World Series this season.
As a matter of fact, trading away a single player with any significant value from a resurgent farm system to acquire a veteran would be a mistake. The club is finally in a position where it has depth at multiple positions in the minor leagues that will pay direct dividends in the coming seasons.
The White Sox do have pieces to move, though.
In the bullpen, a scuffling Scott Downs has a team-friendly contract with an option for next season that could prove attractive. Sure, he hasn’t pitched well to this point, but he is a left-handed veteran, and those are hard to come by. Right-hander Ronald Belisario is in a similar contract position as Downs and could shore up a contending team’s relief corps.
Offensively, Adam Dunn is in the last year of his contract. Yes, he is an albatross in many ways, but he is also a power-hitting first baseman, and in the right package, plenty of teams would take him on as they drive toward the postseason. Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza are two more who could be moved.
The South Side is aglow with optimism. Jose Abreu, Chris Sale and Adam Eaton are cornerstone players. Avisail Garcia will be back next season, and the minor leagues are stocked with middle infielders waiting for the opportunity to prove they belong in the bigs.
The time is almost at hand when Hahn ends up trading several pieces.
Cincinnati Reds: Buyers
Record: 32-35 (8.0 GB in NL Central)
The Cincinnati Reds are one of many teams across MLB that are in the middle of the playoff hunt while playing their way to a sub-.500 record. That could change quickly, however.
Latos' return was a definite plus, but it was part of an even more encouraging pattern for the Reds. Battered by injuries, they have returned not to full health, but to a level of health at which they should be the kind of team they expected to be.
This was, after all, a team that qualified for the postseason three times in the last four years, and won the National League Central twice in that period. The Reds are not supposed to be south of .500. They are just below that mark now, but they don't' expect to stay there.
Based on the recent success the team has found and the solid core in place, the Reds will look to add talent before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
The greatest area of need is in the lineup. The Reds rank toward the bottom of the National League in almost every metric and have had a whale of a time scoring runs. If they hope to capitalize on what is now an improved rotation and solid bullpen, general manager Walt Jocketty needs to find some offense.
It won’t be easy, of course. Most contenders need to do the same thing, but Jocketty has a few pieces in the minor leagues that will help him in the search. Shortstop and a corner outfielder will likely be the targets.
Cleveland Indians: Buyers (Probably)
Record: 34-35 (3.5 GB in AL Central)
The Cleveland Indians went on a stretch at the end of May and into June in which they won nine out of 10 games to climb from the cellar of the AL Central into second place. They lost their next four, but in the process of winning as often as they did, they proved that they are capable of great things.
That’s why general manager Chris Antonetti will try to improve the club in hopes of making a run at either the division or a wild-card spot.
Given the overall dynamic of the roster and the fact that the offense has been on a roll recently, Antonetti will likely make a move to add a starter and potentially another infielder. He would have to make room on the roster, of course, but that is secondary to finding a player that will help the rotation find some consistency.
To be sure, going all-in this season carries a great deal of risk. If the Indians don’t make it to the postseason and missed the chance to trade Justin Masterson for a couple of prospects, for example, the franchise could be set back for some time.
More will be revealed over the next six weeks, but the way things stand, the Indians will add to the roster rather than subtract from it.
Colorado Rockies: Sellers
Record: 33-35 (9.5 GB in NL West)
This is going to be a tough sell to a fanbase that is starved to make the postseason, but the Colorado Rockies would be wise to sell this July. They might already be exploring their options, actually.
Well, that may be a stretch, but the logic is sound.
After all, the Rockies aren’t going to catch the San Francisco Giants in the NL West, and while they may only be three games out of the wild-card race at the moment, that will likely change moving forward. Their pitching staff is too unbalanced to make a serious run.
So when the Rockies end up falling far enough behind the pack, who will general manager Dan O’Dowd end up moving?
Hawkins has been on point in 26 appearances and has only blown one save this season. With multiple teams looking for a short-term solution at closer, he could end up being a very valuable trade chip.
It must be noted that the Rockies had won four games in a row heading into action Sunday, so anything is possible. They rank at or near the bottom in almost every major pitching metric as a team, though. Overcoming that is near impossible.
The Rockies will be selling short this year.
Detroit Tigers: Buyers
Record: 35-29 (First place in AL Central)
After a fantastic start, the Detroit Tigers are playing uninspired baseball lately. It is quite concerning since what was once a seven-game lead in the AL Central has shrunk to less than two games heading into play Sunday.
In order to address the areas that are causing the Tigers the most concern—bullpen and shortstop—general manager Dave Dombrowski is going to have to be active at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Regarding the shortstop position, any fix there will likely be temporary considering Jose Iglesias will be back next season, and his star is quite bright. The Tigers also have Eugenio Suarez who has been on a tear since June 4. Now, Suarez's play may not preclude Dombrowski from adding a veteran, but he is a nice piece to have.
In the bullpen, the Tigers need to find an answer—and fast. Joe Nathan has been nothing short of a failure since signing a two-year, $20 million contract this past offseason, and the rest of the bullpen is inconsistent at best. Simply put, protecting leads in October is the only way to go, and manager Brad Ausmus doesn’t have the tools for the job.
There are plenty of options out there for each position, but Dombrowski has a problem. Due to his aggressiveness in the past, the Tigers have a depleted farm system that is going to make outbidding one of the many teams who need help in the same areas difficult.
It will be interesting to see how the Tigers approach things this year.
Houston Astros: Sellers
Record: 32-38 (10.0 GB in AL West)
The Houston Astros are a team on the rise.
Led by second baseman Jose Altuve, right fielder George Springer, left-hander Dallas Keuchel and first baseman Jon Singleton, they have a dynamic foundation that will turn the Astros into a very good team in a matter of a year or two.
That said, general manager Jeff Luhnow will go to work moving veteran pieces. Bleacher Report’s Joe Giglio summed up the state of the Astros. He wrote:
When the June and July trading season arrives, reality will set back in for Astros fans. Young talent is emerging and slated to arrive in droves over the next few seasons, but veterans shouldn't feel comfortable in the Houston-area real estate market.
That’s the truth too. Regardless of whether or not the Astros are an improved team is not the point. Luhnow has a plan to make his club a contender on an annual basis in the not-so-distant future.
As a result, the Astros will be selling any piece they can that won’t put the future in jeopardy. This is going to be one special team once Luhnow's vision is fully realized.
Kansas City Royals: Buyers
Record: 35-32 (1.5 GB in AL Central)
Just over two weeks ago, the Kansas City Royals were three games under .500 and 6.5 games in back of the Detroit Tigers. Times have changed. Manager Ned Yost’s squad has won 11 out of its last 15 and is now knocking on the door of the AL Central and in line for a wild-card spot.
As a result, general manager Dayton Moore will not be trading starting pitcher James Shields and will instead focus on shoring up areas of weakness on his roster.
The two positions that need the most attention are third base and right field. Mike Moustakas is not getting the job done at the hot corner, and Nori Aoki doesn’t have the skill set to be an effective corner outfielder in the American League.
It won't be easy to fill those holes. Not only are both positions in great demand, but the Royals depleted the farm system to acquire Shields before the 2013 season. Moore will have to get creative, but he won’t stand pat and he won’t sell.
This may be the best shot they have for some time.
Los Angeles Angels: Buyers
Record: 37-30 (3.5 GB in AL West)
It is no secret that the Los Angeles Angels will try to improve the 25-man roster in an effort to catch the Oakland A’s in the AL West. What position general manager Jerry Dipoto targets is unknown, but his focus has narrowed.
See, it wasn’t too long ago that the Angels needed help in both the rotation and in the bullpen. But embattled closer Ernesto Frieri has been pitching very well lately, and the rest of the relief corps seems to be in order, lessening the need to add an arm there.
That makes adding a starter priority No. 1. The problem for Dipoto is that impact arms are going to demand a hefty return, and the Angels have a rather weak farm system. That isn’t to say that a deal can’t be reached, but it is going to take a bit of creativity on Dipoto’s part.
The Angels could add a bat to the lineup, but given that they rank toward the top of the American League in the metrics that matter, that might be the wrong direction to take.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Both
Record: 37-33 (6.5 GB in NL West)
Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti has some work to do in order to balance his roster and field a complete team. As it stands, the Dodgers have a roster stacked with talent but one low on cohesion.
To remedy the situation, Colletti could trade a guy like Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier and bring in an arm to solidify a bullpen that is getting mixed results from a group that includes Brandon League, Brian Wilson and Chris Perez.
True, Kemp and Ethier have a lot of money remaining on their contracts, but if money isn’t an obstacle for the Dodgers (it's not), then assuming a bulk of those dollars should be enough to unload either one. And they have an able replacement in Joc Pederson waiting for his opportunity in the minor leagues.
Regarding the bullpen, the unit needs an upgrade in the worst way. If Colletti isn’t able to get a quality arm in return for one of the aforementioned outfielders, he has multiple prospects at his disposal to go out and add a reliever from elsewhere.
The Dodgers have enough starting pitching to get the job done. What they lack is balance. Expect Colletti to address that at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Miami Marlins: Buyers
Record: 34-33 (1.0 GB in the NL East)
Arguably the surprise team in the National League, the Miami Marlins will be buyers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline for the first time in a while. What position general manager Mike Hill targets is the question.
He could go after a catcher as insurance in case Jarrod Saltalamacchia doesn’t fully recover from a concussion. He may also look at adding a second baseman if Rafael Furcal doesn’t live up to expectations.
More than likely, though, the team will trade for a starting pitcher. After Jose Fernandez went down with an elbow injury, the rotation has gone through a rough stretch, not winning a start since June 5 through the start of action Sunday, per Fox Sports' Christina De Nicola.
The effects are two-fold. First, the offense has been put in the tough position of trying to come back from early deficits on multiple occasions. Second, it is taxing a capable bullpen to the point that continued effectiveness may not be sustainable.
Thankfully, the Marlins have a deep farm system they can use to add an arm that can be a difference-maker in the division. It’s time for Hill to add the piece that will allow his club to finish what it started.
Milwaukee Brewers: Neither
Record: 41-28 (First place in NL Central)
Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin may not need to do too much to improve his club.
Consider that the bullpen just got a boost with the return of left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, and there don’t appear to be any glaring holes elsewhere on the 25-man roster.
Sure, Peter Gammons recently opined that the Brewers could target Bartolo Colon. At what cost, though?
Talent is at a premium in the minor leagues, and while Marco Estrada has an elevated ERA and FIP, he has a respectable 1.215 WHIP. If he cuts down on the number of home runs he allows—and he will, if for no other reason than a natural regression to the mean—he is as good as, if not better than, Colon.
If anything, Melvin may end up trading second baseman Rickie Weeks. Weeks is a luxury on the roster, though, and having him down the stretch may pay off.
Minnesota Twins: Buyers
Record: 32-34 (4.0 GB in AL Central)
The Minnesota Twins are one of the biggest surprises in the American League. Expectations were rather low following offseason acquisitions that promised to make them a bit better but didn’t foretell the improvement they’ve demonstrated to this point.
It helps that they play in the mercurial AL Central, of course, but the Twins are doing well and sit a mere four games back of the Detroit Tigers.
General manager Terry Ryan already added a big piece when he signed switch-hitting designated hitter and first baseman Kendrys Morales. He still needs to add a starter and another infielder, however.
Infield depth was always an area that Ryan needed to address, but the situation worsened recently after a rash of injuries. First, Brian Dozier had a back issue that forced him to miss some time. Then, on Saturday, third baseman Trevor Plouffe and utility infielder Eduardo Nunez both had to leave the game against the Tigers.
Meanwhile, the rotation is muddled after Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes. Now, the Twins will likely have to deal for a mid-level starter given certain financial limitations, but even that would be a huge upgrade. Don’t forget, the bullpen is quite good, so adding another rotation piece could be what puts the roster over the top.
Expect Ryan to work a little magic here as the Twins try to reach the postseason for the first time since 2009.
New York Mets: Sellers
Record: 30-38 (5.5 GB in NL East)
New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson can start making trades anytime he wants to. In fact, he needs to be as aggressive as possible.
The New York Post's Ken Davidoff had this to say regarding Alderson’s focus in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline:
Alderson has made some bold moves — the trades of Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey and drafting high-school players, for instance — to increase the Mets’ talent pool to its current level. If anything, the Mets need to be bolder, not less bold, as they try to leverage that pitching depth into steady respectability, if not contention.
They need the same sort of boldness that helped elevate them to where they are now — from where they hope to climb far higher.
Strong words indeed, but Alderson certainly has the pitching to make it happen.
Take Bartolo Colon, for example. He has a 3.55 FIP with a 1.264 WHIP, a 5.23 strikeout-to-walk ratio and he's averaging over six innings per start. Those peripherals are very attractive to clubs in need of rotation help.
Daisuke Matsuzaka and Carlos Torres are two other pitchers who could be moved. Simply put, Alderson may have the most to offer from a pure numbers standpoint considering how many contenders need help in their bullpen and starting rotation.
True, the Mets don’t have many offensive pieces to move, unless you count Daniel Murphy. As Anderson noted in a recent question-and-answer session, however, the chances of that happening are slim, per ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin.
Either way, the Mets will be selling. They need to improve their offense and will use their pitching staff to acquire as many hitters as possible.
New York Yankees: Buyers
Record: 35-32 (3.5 GB in AL East)
The New York Yankees need starting pitching. It's as simple as that.
Unfortunately, general manager Brian Cashman has depleted his farm system over the years to the point that there are only two prospects—catcher Gary Sanchez and pitcher Jose Ramirez—with any real value. And even they aren’t so highly ranked that they can independently be used as the centerpiece in any deal.
That means that unless Cashman is willing to part with Dellin Betances or Yangervis Solarte, he will likely have to focus on a mid-rotation starter to help stabilize a group that has been in flux all season.
The bottom line is this: The Yankees have to add to the rotation if they want to make a playoff run this season, but doing so will further jeopardize the future. It is the unenviable position Cashman has put himself in over the years.
Winning now is the only thing that matters in New York, however, so expect the Yankees to leverage 2015 in hopes of reaching the playoffs this season.
Oakland A's: Both
Record: 41-27 (First place in AL West)
The Oakland A’s will do a little of this and a little of that as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal made it clear in a tweet earlier this month that general manager Billy Beane is willing to move ex-closer Jim Johnson.
Moving Johnson would be pragmatic, according to The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser:
This would not be a trade to bring back immediate help or anything. The A’s aren’t looking to improve the club substantially by moving Johnson, who fell out of the closer’s role the second week of the season.
Johnson has not worked out with the A’s. If – and much more like when – the team trades him, ‘it will be addition by subtraction’ one source tells me.
While not meant to net a tangible return, trading Johnson would then allow Beane to focus on his other priority: improving the play at second base. It won’t take much. Eric Sogard and Nick Punto have been dismal as a platoon. As a matter of fact, it would be downright difficult to get worse.
Other than moving Johnson and adding a second baseman, the A's are in fine shape. Beane could probably get away with keeping things status quo, actually, but he’s a deal-maker. Standing pat seems unlikely.
Philadelphia Phillies: Should Be Selling, but What Do We Know?
Record: 29-37 (5.5 GB in NL East)
What is Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. waiting for? His club isn’t performing well at all, and he has several players on the 25-man roster that could net him a very nice return, yet he’s been reluctant to address the situation.
Thankfully, that stance may be changing. Recent comments indicate that he is willing to finally begin the overhaul that should’ve started last season.
He was asked about revamping the roster at Citizens Bank Park this past Friday. Via CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury, Amaro Jr. said:
We think about it every day. We assess every day, and we’re preparing for how to do those things. It’s not like we’re not preparing. If we have to go backwards to go forward, then we’re prepared to do that, too.
That should be music to every Phillies fan's ears.
None of this is meant to be critical, but the situation is what it is. The team is playing poorly, and something must be done to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen in 2015 and beyond.
Now, given the length of service of some of his trade chips—Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, for example—Amaro Jr. will have his challenges, but no stone should be left unturned. There are plenty of moves to be made if he is willing to do his due diligence.
It would be shocking if there wasn’t significant roster movement in the weeks leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Buyers
Record: 34-34 (6.5 GB in NL Central)
With the recent addition of Gregory Polanco and a resurgent Andrew McCutchen, the Pittsburgh Pirates are on the verge of going on an extended run of solid play. As such, general manager Neal Huntington will upgrade the roster in two areas.
First, he needs to add another starter—quickly.
Considering that Gerrit Cole just went on the disabled list and Francisco Liriano's performance is best described as uneven, the rotation may not be able to do its part much longer. Not that it helped much in the first place, but the situation could deteriorate to the point that no amount of offense will matter.
Second, the Pirates need an upgrade in the bullpen. Yes, the relief corps is 17-8 with a 3.18 ERA and a 1.227 WHIP, per splits over at Baseball-Reference, but it is not a complete unit. Jeanmar Gomez, for example, has a 4.71 FIP, and Justin Wilson is walking an unacceptable 5.3 batters every nine innings.
Make no mistake: The Pirates are very much in the playoff picture. Sure, taking the NL Central is unlikely, but grabbing a wild-card spot is attainable if Huntington goes about his business the right way.
San Diego Padres: Sellers
Record: 29-39 (13.5 GB in NL West)
The San Diego Padres will begin moving pieces in earnest well in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and general manager Josh Byrnes should improve his team quite a bit in the process.
Consider that the Padres have Huston Street, Chris Denorfia, Seth Smith and Ian Kennedy as potential trade pieces. Denorfia is a reserve on most contending teams, but the other three would step into prominent roles immediately. They will also net a hefty return.
Street, in particular, will be the subject of intense discussions. He boasts a sensational 1.04 ERA and hasn’t blown a save yet this season. That type of production goes a long way in October.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the Padres have a deep farm system with players that are on the verge of making it to the big leagues over the next several seasons. Byrnes will be selling in no time.
San Francisco Giants: Neither
Record: 43-26 (First place in NL West)
It’s true that the San Francisco Giants have a rather large hole in their lineup at second base. It’s also true that Peter Gammons recently noted that an unnamed general manger thinks Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is in play, per CSN Philly’s Corey Seidman. It would be surprising if anything materialized, however.
First off, the Giants are doing just fine at the moment. And while an upgrade at second base may be needed in order to make it to the World Series, leveraging the farm system is not the play.
There are other options. First off, manager Bruce Bochy could give Brandon Hicks (.177/.290/.349) a rest and put Joaquin Arias in as the starter for a short time. Ideally, the break clears Hicks' head and gets him into a better spot.
The other option would be promoting Joe Panik from Triple-A. That is not going to happen anytime soon, however, as assistant general manager Bobby Evans recently noted, via Henry Schulman from The San Francisco Chronicle. Evans did leave the door open for a promotion down the road, but for the time being, Hicks is the guy.
On Sunday, word broke that the Giants were interested in acquiring right-hander Jeff Samardzija. From USA Today's Bob Nightengale:
That report was put to rest by Schulman:
I've heard the exact opposite than Nightengale about Samardzija, that barring injury #sfgiants have no plans to adjust rotation.— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) June 15, 2014
The only move that may make sense is to add some infield depth, but general manager Brian Sabean has a few options in the minor leagues should he feel the need to tinker.
Expect for the Giants to sit tight for a while.
Seattle Mariners: Time Will Tell
Record: 34-34 (7.0 GB in AL West)
The Seattle Mariners have the starting pitching. They have the relief corps. What they don’t have is an offense capable of complementing the other two groups in any meaningful way.
So a reasonable expectation here is that general manager Jack Zduriencik ends up packaging several minor leaguers and makes a run at a bat-first outfielder or first baseman. It is the only way to increase the offense’s production.
It won’t take much to register a marked improvement.
Consider that the Mariners ranked last in the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging and total bases when play began Sunday. It seems impossible to be that bad at the plate and still be a .500 team, but that is exactly what manager Lloyd McClendon’s team has done.
To be fair, the wheels could fall off during the next six weeks. If that were to happen, Zduriencik will have no choice but to trade a guy like Nick Franklin, who can’t seem to get a fair shot at playing every day. Corey Hart, currently on the disabled list, is another guy who could be moved, albeit for very little.
St. Louis Cardinals: Neither
Record: 36-32 (4.5 GB in NL Central)
Yes, the St. Louis Cardinals are off to a disappointing start given the lofty expectations entering the season. And yes, to this point, they have failed to knock the revitalized Milwaukee Brewers off their perch atop the NL Central.
That's not a reason to add a player for the sake of adding a player, though. From Fox Sports' Stan McNeal:
This doesn’t mean the Cardinals can’t battle their way deep into October or are destined for a disappointing season.
Their roster remains so stocked that they don’t have enough at-bats to go around for the likes of Oscar Taveras and Peter Bourjos. Their pitching staff is so deep that they really haven’t missed Kevin Siegrist or Joe Kelly, who were two of their most valuable pitchers in the second half a year ago.
While the magic might have disappeared, the talent hasn’t. In the end, that will make the difference, even if the journey is a lot more difficult.
That’s about right.
If anything, general manager John Mozeliak’s toughest job may be being patient.
Tampa Bay Rays: Sellers
Record: 26-43 (13.5 GB in AL East)
Like the Chicago Cubs, the Tampa Bay Rays are a woeful team with multiple pieces on the 25-man roster that have significant value. It’s simply a matter of general manager Andrew Friedman finding the right deals for two of his best players.
Leading the pack of guys who should be dealt is David Price. A three-time All-Star and former Cy Young Award winner, he is one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game. In addition to being dominant on the mound, Price has one more season of arbitration eligibility, making him very attractive on the trade market.
Outside of Price, Ben Zobrist—who is set to become a free agent at the end of the season if his option isn’t picked up—is the other player who will be on the move. As a switch-hitting second baseman with a 32.9 career WAR, he will bring back a nice haul of prospects, and that is exactly what this franchise needs.
There are more, of course. Matt Joyce, Grant Balfour and even James Loney are trade candidates since Friedman has to be aggressive.
They need depth across the board in the minor leagues, because without the ability to effectively promote from within, the cost-conscious Rays are in no man's land in the AL East.
Texas Rangers: Sellers
Record: 34-34 (7.0 GB in AL West)
Fans of the Texas Rangers may not want to hear it, but the 2014 season is a wash. It’s time to cut ties and build for next season.
It goes without saying that the struggles the Rangers have faced this season are largely due to injuries and not poor performances. Sure, some players haven’t been productive, but when a rotation loses Martin Perez and is without Derek Holland from the outset, the chips are already stacked in opponents' favor.
Making matters worse, Jurickson Profar suffered a shoulder tear and Geovany Soto tore a ligament during spring training. And then Prince Fielder underwent season-ending surgery.
Truthfully, the list could go on, but the point has been made—2014 isn’t meant to be.
There are plenty of fans who disagree with this assessment. They will point to the fact that the Rangers are within striking distance of the second wild-card spot as proof that adding a piece makes sense. The counter to that argument is that the Rangers have little to offer from an already thin farm system without destroying it.
Over the next few weeks, things will become clearer, and general manager Jon Daniels will likely begin selling whatever players he can who are set to become free agents, including Alex Rios.
Toronto Blue Jays: Buyers
Record: 41-30 (First place in AL East)
After suffering through an injury-riddled season last year, the Toronto Blue Jays have taken the AL East by storm. They aren’t a complete team, though, which means general manager Alex Anthopoulos will add talent in the coming weeks.
Areas of concern for the Blue Jays are center field and the rotation.
Regarding center field, the position had produced a .219/.284/.421 slash line and 81 strikeouts when play began on Sunday, according to splits from Baseball-Reference. True, Colby Rasmus provides a bit of power, but the Blue Jays have plenty of that in the lineup already. What they need are people to get on base in front of Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Jose Bautista.
In the rotation, Mark Buehrle and Drew Hutchison are both pitching very well, but after them, the results are uneven. Most alarming is J.A. Happ’s 5.20 FIP and 1.675 WHIP.
Thankfully, the Blue Jays have quite a bit of talent in the minor leagues to use. There are a couple of players the franchise would prefer to keep, but if a deal is on the table that will put the roster over the top, Anthopoulos will have to make the move.
Washington Nationals: Buyers
Record: 35-32 (First place in NL East)
The Washington Nationals are getting by on guile and exceptional pitching right now. That will all change in a matter of a few weeks.
According to James Wagner from The Washington Post, All-Star outfielder Bryce Harper is progressing in his recovery from a torn thumb ligament:
Bryce Harper (thumb) will pick up a bat & take light swings & play catch for first time next week, per Williams. No BP yet; he's easing in.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) June 14, 2014
In addition to Harper's eventual return, the Nationals will get Gio Gonzalez back in the starting rotation early this week, per Wagner.
As a unit, the starters have put together a 3.30 ERA and have allowed a .254 batting average against going into action Sunday, per splits taken from Baseball-Reference. Adding Gonzalez to that group only makes it more formidable.
In a weak NL East, the addition of those two will be enough for the Nationals to grab hold of the division lead and never look back. General manager Mike Rizzo may add some depth to the infield, but that is about it.