All 30 Teams' Blueprint to an 'A' Grade at the 2014 MLB Trade Deadline
As the MLB All-Star Game fades into the rearview mirror, the baseball world will now turn its undivided attention to the upcoming non-waiver trade deadline.
With only seven teams total sitting more than eight games out of a playoff spot right now, the field of sellers this time around could be awfully thin.
The next couple of weeks will go a long way in determining what teams currently on the edge of contention wind up doing, and standing pat may be the preferred approach of a number of clubs this July.
That being said, every team has an idea of what would constitute a best-case scenario over the next couple of weeks. For sellers, that means trading movable assets for a solid return. For buyers, it means plugging what holes they have on the roster to gear up for a second-half push.
With that in mind, here is a look at all 30 MLB teams' blueprint to an "A" grade at this year's trade deadline.
- Acquire a left-handed relief pitcher
Now that Alex Wood has moved back to the starting rotation, the Atlanta Braves have just one left-hander in their bullpen heading into the season half, and that will need to change.
Luis Avilan is the lone southpaw, and after posting a 1.52 ERA in 75 appearances last season, he's taken a big step back.
The 24-year-old has a 4.85 ERA through 47 games this season, as his walk rate has climbed from 3.0 BB/9 to 4.6 BB/9, and adding another lefty to take the pressure off of him would go a long way in shoring up the pen.
Tony Sipp, Andrew Miller, James Russell, Wesley Wright and Oliver Perez are among the lefties expected to be shopped between now and the deadline.
- Acquire a bench bat
With a bench currently comprised of Dan Uggla (.162 BA, .472 OPS), Ryan Doumit (.202 BA, .551 OPS), Ramiro Pena (.204 BA, .598 OPS), Jordan Schafer (.174 BA, .482 OPS) and Gerald Laird (.235 BA, .614 OPS), there is a very real need for the Braves to add a reserve piece that can provide some offensive production.
- Add starting pitching depth
David Hale is capable of stepping into the rotation if something happens, as he has a 2.22 ERA in five starts this season, but beyond him, the Braves don't have much in the way of starting pitching depth. Making an addition similar to the Freddy Garcia pickup last year would help provide some insurance.
- Trade 3B Casey McGehee
The Miami Marlins have been one of the bigger surprises of the first half, as they enter the break at 44-50 after losing 100 games just a season ago.
While they have taken a big step forward this season, legitimate contention is still at least a year away. It would take a major hot streak and a serious collapse from the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves for them to make a legitimate run at the NL East title.
With a roster full of young, controllable talent, they aren't likely to do much selling, but they really aren't in a position to buy, either.
One guy the team would be wise to sell high on and trade is third baseman Casey McGehee, who has been an absolute steal on a one-year, $1.1 million contract. He's hitting .319/.386/.391 with 21 doubles, 53 RBI and a team-high 115 hits at the All-Star break, good for a 1.4 WAR out of the 31-year-old journeyman.
In a thin market for bats, and with McGehee set to hit free agency again this coming offseason, there is really no reason for the Marlins not to move him. He should be able to net at least a couple of mid-level prospects from a contender looking to upgrade at either corner infield spot.
New York Mets
- Trade SP Bartolo Colon
According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, the New York Mets have made veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon available for trades, and it's a move that certainly makes sense.
The 41-year-old signed a two-year, $20 million deal in the offseason, and he's been solid once again this season, going 8-8 with a 3.99 ERA (3.66 FIP) in 18 starts.
With Matt Harvey returning next season and prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero likely to be vying for rotation spots as well, the Mets could have as many as eight guys competing for five jobs next year. That makes Colon fairly expendable, and he could certainly be attractive to contenders as a mid-level option.
- Trade OF Bobby Abreu
After sitting out the 2013 season, Bobby Abreu turned in a solid winter league performance this past offseason and decided to make his way back to the big leagues.
The 40-year-old eventually signed a one-year, $800,000 deal with the Mets, and he has been a nice surprise off the bench, hitting .267/.352/.381 with 10 extra-base hits in 105 at-bats.
He's a solid left-handed bat capable of drawing a walk and providing a professional at-bat, so there could be a market for him from contenders looking to fill out their bench. The return likely won't be huge, but why not flip him?
- Trade RP Jonathan Papelbon
The time has come for the Philadelphia Phillies to start unloading some of their veteran pieces and adding young talent, and while there are a number of guys that could be moved among their aging core, closer Jonathan Papelbon looks like the most tradable piece.
There is always a decent market for late-inning relievers, and Papelbon is having a terrific season, converting 22 of 24 save chances with a 1.21 ERA and 0.857 WHIP.
He's due $13 million next year and has a $13 million vesting option for 2016 that vests with 55 games finished in 2015 or 100 total in 2014 and 2015, so there's a good chance that winds up vesting. As a result, the Phillies will likely have to toss in some money if they want to get a good prospect return.
- Trade OF Marlon Byrd
Moving Papelbon would be the best deal for the Phillies to make, but as far as the most movable piece on the roster, outfielder Marlon Byrd would appear to be their best trade chip.
After a surprise bounce-back season last year, he's putting up terrific power numbers once again, hitting .263/.315/.479 with 20 doubles and 18 home runs.
Byrd makes $8 million next season, a fairly reasonable salary given how productive he's been over the past year and a half. In a market that is very thin on impact bats, the Phillies should be able to flip Byrd for a nice return.
- Acquire a left-handed reliever
The Nationals spent most of last season without a reliable left-hander in the bullpen, and the offseason acquisition of Jerry Blevins (40 G, 4.73 ERA, 1.299 WHIP) has not exactly solved that problem.
Ross Detwiler is the other southpaw in the bullpen right now, and he hasn't exactly made a seamless transition from swingman/starter to middle relief, either. His 3.79 ERA in 26 games isn't terrible, but a 4.72 FIP and 1.413 WHIP make him anything but reliable.
The Nationals will be kicking the tires on the same guys division rival Atlanta is, including Tony Sipp, Andrew Miller, James Russell, Wesley Wright and Oliver Perez.
- Trade CF Denard Span
Trading your starting center fielder may seem like an odd move for a team very much in contention, but moving Span would allow the Nationals to move Ryan Zimmerman back to left field, with Bryce Harper sliding over to center field.
Zimmerman has become a liability defensively at the hot corner, and the team has a Gold Glove-caliber option in Anthony Rendon currently slotted at second base.
That creates a hole of sorts at second base, with Danny Espinosa and Kevin Frandsen both limited offensively. If the team could flip Span for a viable second base option and a low-level prospect or two, that would be ideal.
As far as in-house options, 24-year-old Zach Walters is having a solid season in Triple-A and could be an option at second base in the second half despite playing primarily shortstop in the minors.
Span is hitting .269/.319/.385 with 28 doubles and 15 steals on the season, and he represents a plus defensive option in center field.
- Trade one of their left-handed relievers
The Chicago Cubs have already moved their two biggest trade chips in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, but there are still some secondary pieces that could be dealt between now and the deadline.
Chief among them is one of their solid left-handed bullpen duo of James Russell (37 G, 2.54 ERA, 1.059 WHIP) and Wesley Wright (34 G, 2.36 ERA, 1.008 WHIP). Teams have already shown interest in both, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
Both guys are controllable beyond this season, so the team would probably be best suited holding onto one of the two veterans.
Trading one of them would open up a bigger role for Zac Rosscup, who has put up terrific minor league numbers the past two years.
- Trade Nate Schierholtz and one other outfielder
While they wait on the likes of Jorge Soler, Albert Almora and perhaps Kris Bryant if he winds up shifting off of third base, the Cubs have used a myriad of different outfielders in one big rotation this year.
Junior Lake, Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano, Chris Coghlan, Ryan Sweeney and now prospect Arismendy Alcantara are all outfield options on the roster at this point.
Free-agent-to-be Schierholtz will likely be moved for whatever the team can get at this point, and dealing someone else from the above group would open up everyday at-bats for Alcantara in the second half.
Lake looks like a prime change-of-scenery candidate and could net a bigger return than the rest given his upside, while both Ruggiano and Coghlan have been hitting well over the past month or so.
- Acquire relief pitching help, ideally left-handed
The Cincinnati Reds ranked seventh in the MLB in bullpen ERA last year with a 3.29 mark, but they have slipped to 21st in the league this season, with that number climbing to 3.84.
Jonathan Broxton (34 G, 1.09 ERA) has been terrific setting up All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman, but the rest of the bullpen has been hit and miss throughout the season.
Manny Parra (38 G, 3.96 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) is the only left-hander in the pen outside of Chapman, so bringing another southpaw aboard would make the most sense. One way or another, though, the Reds need to add another piece to the bullpen.
- Acquire a bench bat
With Brandon Phillips set to miss significant time following thumb surgery, the Reds have been forced to move utility infielder Ramon Santiago into the starting lineup. Skip Schumaker could also see some time there after the break, but what was already a thin bench is certainly being tested here.
Bryan Pena has also been forced into the starting lineup with Joey Votto shelved, leaving the team without perhaps its best pinch-hitting option.
Neftali Soto (.103 BA, .238 OPS) and Donald Lutz (.188 BA, .528 OPS) have done very little at the plate, so adding another bat to the bench capable of pinch-hitting seems like a clear need.
- Acquire a right-handed setup reliever
The Milwaukee Brewers entered the All-Star break reeling, going just 2-11 over their final 13 games of the first half, but they still sit atop the NL Central standings.
Despite their recent struggles, there is no glaring area of need on their roster. The biggest area they need to address appears to be the back end of the bullpen.
Left-handers Zach Duke (43 G, 1.18 ERA) and Will Smith (49 G, 3.09 ERA) have been terrific, but right-handers Brandon Kintzler, Rob Wooten and the injured Tyler Thornburg have not been nearly as good.
With so many teams in the market for left-handed bullpen help, the Brewers find themselves targeting the other side of things. Adding someone like Joaquin Benoit, Brad Ziegler or Jason Frasor to the mix could bring them back to the level they were at early on.
- Acquire another bench bat
The Brewers have spent most of the season shuffling between Jeff Bianchi (.171 BA, .388 OPS) and Elian Herrera (.276 BA, .614 OPS) as their reserve infielder, with Logan Schafer (.202 BA, .612 OPS) filling fourth outfielder duties.
Adding someone like the versatile Emilio Bonifacio—or a similar player—in a trade with the Cubs could help solidify their bench for the second half.
- Acquire a starting pitcher
The Pittsburgh Pirates currently rank 10th in the National League with a starter's ERA of 3.93, and while the recent success of Jeff Locke and Vance Worley has helped, adding another starter to the mix looks like their biggest need.
Locke (2.96 FIP, 0.982 WHIP) and Worley (3.89 FIP, 1.125 WHIP) both have strong peripheral numbers to suggest they can keep pitching at a high level, but there is also a reason both of them were pitching in the minors earlier this year.
Francisco Liriano recently returned from the disabled list, but Gerrit Cole is still sidelined with a strained lat. Charlie Morton has really been the only starter the team has been able to rely on from the start of the season to now.
They don't need to go out and get a David Price type, but getting a solid secondary arm capable of providing some quality starts down the stretch seems like a necessary insurance measure, if nothing else.
- Acquire another bullpen arm
With Mark Melancon (2.38 ERA, 16-of-19 SV) doing a serviceable job in the closer's role and a terrific setup duo of All-Star Tony Watson (45 G, 1.42 ERA) and Jared Hughes (35 G, 1.88 ERA), the Pirates bullpen is in decent shape.
However, the team could stand to add one more reliable arm to the mix. Ernesto Frieri has not benefited from the change of scenery as some thought he would after coming over from the Los Angeles Angels, and Justin Wilson has not been the same pitcher he was a year ago.
St. Louis Cardinals
- Acquire a veteran starting pitchers
You could say that improving their offense is the St. Louis Cardinals' biggest concern for the second half, and you wouldn't be wrong. However, with no clear production gap on a position-by-position basis and youngsters Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras perhaps poised for big second-half performances, it remains unlikely that the team will trade for a significant offensive piece.
Instead, adding some starting pitching depth to a rotation that has been bit by the injury bug would seem to be No. 1 on the Cardinals' priority list.
Adam Wainwright has been a stud at the top of the rotation once again and Lance Lynn is having a solid season, but the rest of the rotation is a question mark.
Shelby Miller (4.29 ERA) has been inconsistent, Michael Wacha has missed significant time with a shoulder injury, Carlos Martinez has taxed the bullpen when he's been used as a starter and Joe Kelly only recently came off the disabled list himself.
Whether it's making a serious run at a front-line arm or looking more for a second-tier veteran to round out the staff, the Cardinals certainly appear to be in the market for another starter.
- Acquire a stop-gap catching option
Tony Cruz is a rock-solid backup catcher who does a nice job handling the pitching staff, but using him as the everyday catcher while Yadier Molina is sidelined following thumb surgery is going to make what has been an underperforming offense that much worse.
George Kottaras was acquired from the Cleveland Indians, and while he has some pop, he too is best served in a seldom-used backup role.
Minnesota Twins All-Star Kurt Suzuki is an attractive option, but the team likely values him higher than the market, as he is a potential candidate to be re-signed this coming offseason.
Jose Molina (Tampa Bay Rays), Robinson Chirinos (Texas Rangers) and David Ross (Boston Red Sox) are other veterans who could be options in St. Louis.
- Trade 3B Martin Prado for a sizable return
Nothing increases a player's value like defensive versatility, and Martin Prado brings plenty of that to the table. He's played primarily third base for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he has seen significant time at second base and in left field in the past.
The 30-year-old had a relatively quiet season to this point, hitting .275/.321/.370 with four home runs and 36 RBI. It's worth noting that he hit just .253/.303/.365 in the first half last season but turned things around in a big way with a .324/.374/.490 line and 48 RBI after the All-Star break.
Prado is due $11 million each of the next two seasons, so he's more than just a rental player, and he won't come cheap. There's a chance the Diamondbacks could pry a sizable prospect package away from someone for Prado, shedding his salary in the process, and that would certainly be a win-win for the franchise.
- Trade 2B Aaron Hill without having to eat the majority of his salary.
After a strong 2012 season in which he hit .302 with 26 home runs and 85 RBI, the Diamondbacks tacked a three-year, $35 million extension onto the end of the final year of Aaron Hill's contract. A year and a half later, that looks like a mistake.
The 32-year-old was productive when he was in the lineup last season, posting an .818 OPS with 11 home runs and 41 RBI, but injuries limited him to just 87 games.
He's already played 90 games this season, as health has not been an issue, but he is hitting just .241/.275/.363 with seven home runs and 45 RBI here at the break for a minus-0.9 WAR.
Despite that slow start, he is still a second baseman with power, and there are a handful of teams in the market to upgrade at the position, including the San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Oakland A's and Washington Nationals (if Denard Span is moved).
If the Diamondbacks can find a taker for Hill and manage to avoid eating more than $8-$10 million or so of the $24 million left on his contract, it would be a solid move.
- Trade RP LaTroy Hawkins
Team signs veteran reliever to a cheap contract, veteran outperforms expectations, team falls out of contention, veteran reliever is flipped for a mid-level prospect.
That's pretty standard operating at the trade deadline and the reason LaTroy Hawkins appears to be as likely as anyone to be pitching elsewhere before the month of July is over.
The 41-year-old has a 2.45 ERA and 1.091 WHIP in 35 appearances on the year, and while he is 17-of-18 on save chances, he would likely find himself in a setup role on a contender.
He makes just $2.25 million this season, with a $2.25 million option for next year, so his contract situation makes him that much more appealing.
- Trade SP Jorge De La Rosa, try to re-sign him in the offseason
The Colorado Rockies rotation has been a mess once again this season, ranking last in the MLB with a 5.33 ERA. There has been no real "bright spot," but left-hander Jorge De La Rosa has been solid in going 10-6 with a 4.56 ERA over 19 starts.
De La Rosa is one of the few pitchers who has enjoyed any sort of consistent success over the year at Coors Field. In 76 career games there, he's gone 41-14 with a 4.11 ERA that is actually substantially better than his 4.69 career mark.
A free agent at the end of the season, the 33-year-old has generated interest from a number of teams, according to a tweet from Troy Renck of The Denver Post. Moving him for the right package would be fine, but the team should make every effort to re-sign him in the offseason regardless.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- Acquire a middle-of-the-rotation starter
There will be no shortage of David Price or Cole Hamels to the Los Angeles Dodgers rumors between now and the deadline, and there is certainly still a chance of that happening. However, for the deadline to be a successful one, the Dodgers need only to acquire a capable middle-of-the-rotation arm.
The team already has a pair of aces in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, with those two backed by a solid No. 3 starter in Hyun-Jin Ryu. Things get a bit dicier from there, though.
Dan Haren has a 5.73 ERA in eight starts since June 1 after posting a 3.28 ERA over his first 11 starts, and health will always be a question with him.
Speaking of health, Josh Beckett landed on the DL just before the All-Star break with a hip injury. He's been fantastic this season with a 2.26 ERA in 17 starts, but counting on him to stay on the field could be a risky proposition.
Guys like Bartolo Colon, A.J. Burnett and John Danks would come at a much lower price than one of the marquee names and would fill the Dodgers need just the same.
- Acquire a reliever or two
As much as the Dodgers need to add a starter to shore up their rotation, adding an arm or two to the bullpen mix may be an even bigger need.
Veterans Brian Wilson (37 G, 5.64 ERA) and Chris Perez (36 G, 4.54 ERA) have not provided the dominant setup duo many hoped they would.
J.P Howell (44 G, 1.32 ERA), Jamey Wright (36 G, 3.50 ERA) and forgotten man Brandon League (38 G, 2.09 ERA) have all been solid, but for a team looking to win it all, a 19th-ranked bullpen ERA of 3.74 is not going to cut it.
San Diego Padres
- Trade 3B Chase Headley
Are the San Diego Padres going to get the return they could have gotten for Chase Headley following the 2012 season? Not a chance, but he has quietly boosted his trade value over the past month or so.
He was hitting just .201/.289/.322 with six home runs and 23 RBI at the end of June, but he has strung together some hits here in July with a .327 average over 52 at-bats.
All signs point to him playing elsewhere in 2015, regardless of whether or not he's traded, so there's no reason for the Padres not to deal Headley to the highest bidder before the deadline.
- Trade RP Huston Street for a sizable return
There are a handful of guys outside of Headley that are expected to be shopped by the Padres, and it's a trio of arms that will garner the bulk of the attention in starter Ian Kennedy and relievers Huston Street and Joaquin Benoit.
With Kennedy under team control for another season, the Padres would be wise to hold onto him unless they are blown away by a trade offer, as he has helped shore up a rotation that was a mess just a year ago.
As for Benoit and Street, the team probably won't deal both of them, and at this point, it looks like Street will bring the bigger return of the two.
The 30-year-old was among the biggest All-Star snubs (though he was eventually named as a replacement) after converting 24 of 25 save chances with a 1.09 ERA and 0.758 WHIP in the first half.
Contenders like the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels are in serious need of some back-of-the-bullpen help, and the fact that Street carries a very team-friendly $7 million option for next season makes him that much more attractive.
San Francisco Giants
- Acquire a second baseman
Second base has been a revolving door for the Giants this season, and the return of Marco Scutaro is not going to be the answer. The 38-year-old will be best suited in a reserve/utility role the rest of the way to keep from re-injuring his back.
"I know my back is not 100 percent," Scutaro told Henry Schulman of San Francisco Chronicle after his first game back on Saturday. "I'll just try to fight through it, day by day, and go from there."
Brandon Hicks was designated for assignment to make room for Scutaro, leaving Joe Panik (.216 BA, .536 OPS) and Ehire Adrianza (.225 BA, .555 OPS) as other second base options currently on the roster.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times recently named the Giants as the team most interested in the versatile Ben Zobrist, and there are a handful of other names, like Aaron Hill, Daniel Murphy and Martin Prado, that the team could also consider making a run at.
- Acquire starting pitching depth
The Giants rotation has bounced back nicely this season, with the addition of Tim Hudson and the return of Tim Lincecum to top form a big reason why, but there is little in the way of viable depth behind their starting five.
Yusmeiro Petit (5 GS, 1-2, 5.81 ERA) is the only other pitcher to start a game this season, and he has not exactly lit the world on fire when the team has turned to him.
The Giants don't necessarily need to make a splash move, but the team could look to make an under-the-radar addition similar to the Braves' acquisition of Freddy Garcia last season.
- Acquire a starting pitcher without giving up Bundy/Harvey
Once again, the starting rotation looks like the clear weakness on a Baltimore Orioles team that is loaded offensively, even without Matt Wieters, and plays some of the best defense in all of baseball.
The team picked up Scott Feldman and Bud Norris at the deadline last year, the latter of which is still on the roster and has been perhaps their best starter this year. The Orioles followed that up with the signing of Ubaldo Jimenez in free agency.
It wasn't enough to get them over the hump last year, and it hasn't been enough to this point, as they rank 22nd in the MLB in starter's ERA with a 4.09 mark that is tied with the Houston Astros.
They will almost certainly be in the market to add an arm again this year, and the trick for them will once again be trying to get better without mortgaging the future. Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey are two of the game's elite pitching prospects, and if they can land a useful arm without moving one of those guys, it would be a success.
- Upgrade at either catcher or second base
As good as the Orioles offense has been, and they rank eighth in the MLB with 4.31 runs per game, there are two clear holes in their lineup right now.
Second basemen, led by rookie Jonathan Schoop, have hit a combined .234/.274/.321 on the year.
Meanwhile, catcher Matt Wieters is sidelined for the rest of the year following Tommy John surgery, and in his place, the trio of Caleb Joseph (.187 BA, .571 OPS), Nick Hundley (.250 BA, .666 OPS) and Steve Clevenger (.240 BA, .670 OPS) have provided very little offensively.
Pitching is obviously the No. 1 concern for this team, so the Orioles are not expected to focus much on the position player side of things, but if they can find a moderate upgrade at one of those spots, it would help keep the bottom of the order from becoming a black hole.
Boston Red Sox
- Trade starting pitchers Jake Peavy and John Lackey
At 9.5 games back in the AL East, the Boston Red Sox are still technically in contention heading into the second half, but at no point has this looked like a team that is capable of making a run at defending its title here in 2014.
Turning into sellers the year after hoisting the trophy is never easy, but it's the best course of action for a team that does have some movable parts on the roster.
Holding onto Jon Lester in hopes of re-signing him or at the very least handing him a qualifying offer makes sense to a point, but fellow rotation mates Jake Peavy and John Lackey should be pitching elsewhere between now and August.
Peavy is a free agent at the end of the season, and despite going 1-8 with a 4.59 ERA in the first half, teams still appear to have some interest in the veteran. Trade him for what you can at this point, and let someone else hope for the best in the second half.
Lackey has a vesting option for next year at the league-minimum of $500,000, due to a clause in his contract that caused the option to drop to that total if he missed significant time with an elbow injury. He's been the team's best starter behind Lester, going 10-6 with a 3.79 ERA, and the 35-year-old has some legitimate trade value.
Moving both of those guys would open things up for guys like Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo to show what they're capable of. That's just guys on the 40-man roster, as top prospects Henry Owens and Matt Barnes could also be in line to get a look. Either way, the future should be now for some of the Red Sox's talented young arms.
- Trade RP Andrew Miller
As with Jon Lester, the team is in a similar position with another high-profile free-agent-to-be in All-Star closer Koji Uehara. He too is a prime candidate to be re-signed, and while he would likely fetch a solid return, holding onto him may be the team's best chance of bringing him back next year.
Burke Badenhop (42 G, 2.93 ERA) is also a candidate to be moved among bullpen arms, but his value as a right-handed middle reliever is negligible. The real trade chip among that group looks to be left-hander Andrew Miller.
The big 6'7" southpaw has thrived since moving to the bullpen full time in 2012, appearing in 133 games over that span and posting a 2.77 ERA and 13.2 K/9. Just ahead of Tony Sipp (Houston Astros) and James Russell (Chicago Cubs), he looks like the best lefty on the market and should net a solid return.
New York Yankees
- Acquire at least one starting pitcher
After spending roughly half a billion dollars retooling the roster in the offseason, missing the playoffs again really is not an option for the New York Yankees.
Injuries and poor performance from some key veterans have left them on the outside looking in through the first half, but at just five games back in the AL East, the Yankees will likely be buyers at the deadline, despite a roster that looks ill-prepared to legitimately contend.
The loss of Masahiro Tanaka, who will try rehabbing his partially torn UCL for six weeks but is still likely headed for Tommy John surgery, was a huge blow to an already decimated starting rotation.
Brandon McCarthy was a nice under-the-radar pickup from the Diamondbacks, and veteran Hiroki Kuroda will continue to grind out starts, but a rotation of David Phelps, Chase Whitley and Shane Greene behind them simply doesn't cut it.
The Yanks don't have much in the way of tradable assets, making acquiring an impact starter somewhat tricky, but they have to find a way to improve their rotation if they have any hope of playing in October.
Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels will likely be atop their wish list, but secondary arms like Ian Kennedy, John Danks, Jorge De La Rosa, Bartolo Colon or Kevin Correia may be more realistic targets.
Considering their aforementioned lack of tradable assets, addressing the rotation will likely be the singular focus of their deadline pursuits.
Tampa Bay Rays
- Trade SP David Price
The will they/won't they saga between David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays has to come to an end at some point, and for a Rays team that is playing better baseball of late but is still 9.5 games back in the AL East standings, it's time to pull the trigger on a deal.
An All-Star for the fourth time this season, Price entered the break at 9-7 with a 3.23 ERA and a 1.070 WHIP while leading the AL in innings (147.2) and strikeouts (164).
Those are strong numbers, but he's been particularly great recently, going 5-3 with a 1.92 ERA while turning in a quality start in each of his last nine outings.
Price is the prize of the trade deadline and has the added value of an extra year of team control for whoever acquires him.
Considering what the Cubs got in return for rental arm Matt Garza at the deadline last year, and what the Rays themselves were able to acquire when they moved veteran James Shields, the haul for Price could put the Rays right back in position to contend next year even without their ace.
Sure, they could hold onto him and trade him in the offseason, and they would still no doubt net a huge return, but at this point, it's best for everyone involved to put an end to the rumors.
- Keep 2B Ben Zobrist
There are a few other pieces the Rays could try to move, including outfielder Matt Joyce thanks to the emergence of Kevin Kiermaier, but one guy they should hold onto is the versatile Ben Zobrist.
With a $7.5 million option for next season, Zobrist still comes fairly cheap to the cash-strapped Rays, and unless they are absolutely blown away by a trade offer, there is really no reason to move him.
It's been a subpar year for the two-time All-Star, but he remains one of the most valuable players in the game thanks to his flexibility defensively.
This is still a Rays team with a very real shot at contending in 2015, and while moving Price has been an inevitability for some time now, there is no reason to go full-on fire sale and move someone like Zobrist. Go ahead and shop him, and ask for the moon, but don't trade him just to trade him.
Toronto Blue Jays
- Acquire a starting pitcher without trading Stroman/Sanchez/Norris
While teams like the Yankees and Orioles almost have to add an arm at the deadline, it may not be as pressing an issue for the Toronto Blue Jays as once believed.
Don't read that the wrong way, this team could certainly still use a starter, as it ranks 16th in the MLB with a 3.90 starter's ERA. That's still a far cry from the 29th-ranked 4.81 mark it posted last year.
Veterans Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey have been solid once again, and while Buehrle has dropped five straight decisions, he still has an ERA of 3.60 over that span and 2.64 on the season.
Drew Hutchison (6-8, 4.16 ERA, 3.74 FIP) has quietly emerged as a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm, and the the best is yet to come for rookie Marcus Stroman, who is 3-2 with a 2.87 ERA in eight starts since moving to the rotation.
There is still room to upgrade the fifth rotation spot by adding a solid veteran arm, but at this point, the impressive prospect trio of Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris should be off the table entirely in trade talks.
The Blue Jays can land a middle-of-the-rotation veteran arm without mortgaging their future, and given the current outlook of their rotation, that's really all they need.
- Upgrade at second base on the cheap
Offense is not a huge concern for a Blue Jays team ranked fifth in the MLB at 4.49 runs per game, so the Jays can get away with having a light-hitting second baseman in the everyday lineup.
That being said, it shouldn't be all that hard to upgrade over the Munenori Kawasaki, Steve Tolleson and Ryan Goins trio.
They don't need to go pull off a big trade for someone like Chase Utley or Daniel Murphy, but the Blue Jays could still look for low-cost options to add some sort of offensive punch at the position. Think Elliot Johnson in Atlanta last year.
Chicago White Sox
- Trade DH Adam Dunn
Alexei Ramirez is the trade chip everyone will be talking about for the Chicago White Sox. However, for a team that will never fully commit to rebuilding, his $10 million salary for the next two years coupled with his value as a veteran leader means he's not going anywhere.
The White Sox could shop him, but expect the asking price to be astronomical, and in the end, Ramirez will still be suiting up on the South Side come August.
Instead, slugger Adam Dunn may be the most intriguing trade chip on the team, as he is almost certain to be moved at some point. Whether it is here in July or through waivers in August remains to be seen.
Now in the final year of his four-year, $56 million deal, Dunn managed to launch 75 home runs the past two seasons, posting a .781 OPS in the process despite hitting just .211.
He's a three-true-outcomes (home run, walk, strikeout) guy at this point in his career, but he has managed to put up a .798 OPS with 14 home runs and a strong .361 OBP here in the first half.
The market is incredibly thin on power bats, and Dunn has the added value of hitting from the left side of the plate. Whether he moves to an AL team as a DH/first base guy or moves to the NL as a platoon/pinch hitter, he has undeniable value as a power bat.
Dunn won't land the White Sox a top prospect, but he should be able to fetch a solid return and save them a nice chunk of what is left of his $15 million salary this year in the process.
- Trade SP John Danks
While he is not nearly as sure a thing to be traded as Dunn, left-hander John Danks may be the player the White Sox could benefit most from unloading here at the deadline.
The 29-year-old is having a nice bounce-back season at 8-6 with a 3.99 ERA, but a 4.60 FIP suggests he could be in for some regression in the second half.
It's hard to say he's not worth the $28.5 million he is owed over the next two years given the ever-climbing price of starting pitching, but that money could probably be better used elsewhere by a White Sox team with plenty of holes to plug.
He's among the more attractive mid-level options on the market, and if nothing else, the White Sox should be able to unload that salary and land a couple of mid-level prospects in the process.
- Trade SS Asdrubal Cabrera
The Indians will be a team to watch closely coming out of the All-Star break. They are currently 47-47 on the year, sitting 7.5 games back in the AL Central, and their performance over the next couple of weeks may very well determine their fate this season.
They open the second half with an 11-game road trip against a trio of division foes in the Tigers, Twins and Kansas City Royals. Where the Indians stand at the end of that trip, on July 28, will likely determine what they do at the deadline.
Regardless of how things play out, Asdrubal Cabrera should be aggressively shopped in the weeks to come.
The veteran is hitting .251/.312/.393 on the year with 22 doubles, eight home runs and 37 RBI. Not exactly eye-popping numbers in a walk year, but still an attractive option for teams looking to upgrade at shortstop. Especially if Alexei Ramirez is not made available, as he could conceivably be the top shortstop on the market.
Top prospect Francisco Lindor likely is not ready to step into an everyday role in the majors, but the versatile Mike Aviles is more than capable of sliding into the shortstop spot and putting up similar numbers to what Cabrera has.
- Keep SP Justin Masterson
If the Indians do wind up falling out of things and selling, one piece they should hold onto is Opening Day starter Justin Masterson.
The Indians tried to lock up the impending free agent in the offseason, with Masterson seeking $17 million annually over two or three years and the Indians countering with a two-year, $30 million offer, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Talks eventually broke down, and Masterson has been anything but dominant this year, going 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA a year after he was 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA while making his first All-Star appearance.
The numbers have not been good for the 29-year-old, but a 4.09 FIP and solid 8.5 K/9 rate suggest he could be in for a better second half. Sticking with him could put the Indians in a position to re-sign him at the end of the season, and a down year relative to last season could be enough to push his price down to their original offer.
- Add a late-inning reliever or two
For all the struggles Joe Nathan has endured in his first season as the Tigers' closer, he seems to have figured things out of late.
His 5.61 ERA and five blown saves are not pretty, but he is 6-of-7 on save chances with a 2.70 ERA in his last 10 appearances, and the Tigers have stuck by him to this point.
Regardless of their confidence in Nathan, the Tigers have to address the bullpen at the deadline, as they currently rank 26th in the MLB with a 4.26 ERA as a group.
Joba Chamberlain (41 G, 2.63 ERA, 9.6 K/9) and Al Alburquerque (45 G, 2.91 ERA, 10.1 K/9) have been solid, and left-hander Blaine Hardy (12 G, 2.13 ERA, 9.2 K/9) has looked good in limited action, but the team needs at least one more late-inning guy it can lean on.
Former Tiger Joaquin Benoit is an attractive option, while the team could also kick the tires on guys like Huston Street, Jonathan Papelbon, Joakim Soria and Brad Ziegler, among others.
This is the one glaring need on a team with legitimate title aspirations, so expect Tigers to land whoever their top target or targets wind up being. Jose Veras was a nice deadline pickup for them last year, but they could be looking to make an even bigger splash this time around.
Kansas City Royals
- Find someone capable of hitting the ball over the fence
Considering their complete lack of power up and down the lineup, the Royals' average of 4.07 runs per game could be an awful lot worse. That being said, they have to find a way to improve on their MLB-worst home run total of 55.
To put that into perspective, the Blue Jays duo of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista have 43 home runs by themselves. Catcher Salvador Perez leads the team in long balls with 11, while Mike Moustakas, who spent a couple of weeks demoted to the minors, is second with 10.
With Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler locked in at first base and DH, respectively, the team's options for adding power are somewhat limited.
Right field would seem like the obvious spot to add a piece, with Nori Aoki currently injured and underperforming when he was on the field. Someone like Marlon Byrd could be a nice, low-cost solution to adding some power and upgrading right field in the process.
One way or another, the Royals have to find some power between now and the deadline.
- Add starting pitching depth
Considering they lost arguably their best starter from a year ago Ervin Santana in free agency, the Royals rotation has been fantastic this season. The unit currently ranks 12th in the MLB in starter's ERA with a 3.82 mark, but that is a somewhat deceiving number.
The current rotation of James Shields, Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy have gone a combined 32-32 with a 3.59 ERA in 88 starts on the year.
Meanwhile, Bruce Chen and Aaron Brooks have gone 1-3 with an 8.88 ERA in their six starts as the only other pitchers to start a game.
And therein lies the need for some starting pitching depth. Jason Vargas is currently sidelined following an appendectomy, and it's Chen (1-2, 6.57 ERA) who again finds himself in the starting rotation.
The Royals don't need a flashy pickup, just someone capable of stepping in as a viable spot starter if something happens.
- Trade OF Josh Willingham
Josh Willingham does not have nearly the same trade value he did back in 2012, when he had just signed a team-friendly three-year, $21 million deal and was on his way to a Silver Slugger-winning season that included 35 home runs and 110 RBI.
Instead, the 35-year-old enters the second half hitting just .212 and with just 49 games under his belt after missing time with a fractured wrist.
However, hidden behind that poor average is a solid .362 on-base percentage and a .286 average with runners in scoring position.
Power bats are few and far between this year, and Willingham has managed eight home runs in his 156 at-bats, so there will be a market for him. At this point, there's no reason not to move the veteran, as his days in Minnesota are likely over regardless.
- Keep C Kurt Suzuki
Few under-the-radar signings this past offseason have been better than the Twins' decision to sign Kurt Suzuki to a one-year, $2.75 million deal as insurance to highly regarded rookie Josmil Pinto.
With Pinto hitting just .222/.323/.407 and eventually being demoted to the minors, Suzuki quickly emerged as the everyday guy behind the plate, and a .309/.365/.396 first half earned him a trip to the All-Star Game.
Considering the team will likely be looking for a bridge to Pinto once again this offseason, holding on to Suzuki with the intention of re-signing him makes a lot of sense. Even with his solid numbers, he still likely won't cost all that much, and he seems to be enjoying his time in Minnesota.
"Coming to a new team, there's always adjustments," he told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. "The one thing that makes it easy here is everybody, all the players and the coaching staff, is so easy to get along with. Great group of guys. It's a good environment. I'm having a good time and just kind of taking it day by day."
- Trade RP Tony Sipp
The Astros added a handful of veteran pieces to the bullpen mix this past offseason, including Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and Matt Albers.
However, it's Tony Sipp who has wound up being one of their best relievers, after he was scooped up in May following his release by the Padres.
The 31-year-old has appeared in 28 games, posting a 2.77 ERA and 0.845 WHIP while striking out 36 hitters in 26 innings of work.
He's left-handed and is controllable through next season at a low price, two major chips in his favor, and the Astros should have no problem flipping him for a mid-level prospect.
- Trade DH Chris Carter
Center fielder Dexter Fowler has been a popular name brought up as someone the Astros could trade, but as a young, controllable player who was just acquired last offseason, dealing him seems like a sideways move at best.
If the Astros are going to move a bat, all-or-nothing slugger Chris Carter could be the one on his way out, as he still has some trade value at this point thanks to his power.
The 27-year-old struck out a whopping 212 times in 506 at-bats last year, but he managed to post a respectable .770 OPS with 29 home runs and 82 RBI.
He has been whiffing at a dizzying rate once again this season, fanning 99 times in 273 at-bats, but his OPS has dropped to .746 and his .281 on-baser percentage doesn't cut it.
That being said, there is always a market for power, and Carter does have 19 home runs on the year. He's been pushed out at first base by Jonathan Singleton and can't handle the outfield, so dealing him now while the team can still get something in return seems wise.
Los Angeles Angels
- Add a closer
With all due respect to Joe Smith, who is 10-of-10 on save chances with a 1.35 ERA and 10.8 K/9 since the beginning of June, the Angels need to add a proven closer to the mix or at least some insurance.
With the second-best record in baseball, the Angels look like legitimate title contenders here in July, but their bullpen has been a clear weakness, with a 3.89 ERA that ranks 24th in the MLB.
Even with Smith shoring up the ninth-inning role recently, the team is still sorely lacking in reliable arms outside of Kevin Jepsen (45 G, 2.08 ERA) and rookie Mike Morin (33 G, 2.08 ERA).
The Ernesto Frieri-for-Jason Grilli trade has looked good so far, as Grilli has a 1.29 ERA through his first eight appearance, but counting on him to be one of the primary setup men is risky given the way he started the season.
The Angels will be competing with the Tigers for the same list of front-line relievers mentioned on their slide, including Joaquin Benoit, Huston Street, Jonathan Papelbon, Joakim Soria and Brad Ziegler. Look for this team to land one of those guys.
- Add a starting pitcher
At this point, there is really no reason for the Angels not to go all-in on this season. They are finally in the position most expected them to be in following the Albert Pujols signing and then again following the Josh Hamilton signing.
Garrett Richards (11-2, 2.55 ERA) has been an absolute stud atop the rotation, and it was an absolute crime that he was not included on the AL All-Star roster. Behind him, veteran Jered Weaver (10-6, 3.45 ERA) is having a strong season, but the rest of the rotation has been hit-and-miss, and C.J. Wilson is currently sidelined with a sprained ankle.
Tyler Skaggs has shown flashes of being a plus option, and Matt Shoemaker has held his own since moving into the rotation, but counting on a pair of unproven commodities to round out the staff is risky.
The team has been tied to Padres right-hander Ian Kennedy, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, and he would be a perfect fit as the No. 3 starter.
- Upgrade at second base
With the best record in baseball at the break, it's hard to poke holes in the Oakland Athletics roster at this point, but they do have one clear weakness, and that is second base.
Despite boasting the second-highest scoring offense in baseball at 4.91 runs per game, the team has managed just a .225/.286/.282 line with one home run out of the second base position so far this year.
Eric Sogard (.186 BA, .474 OPS) may be a fan favorite, but he has been a liability at the plate, and his glove is not enough to justify him seeing regular at-bats. Nick Punto (.213 BA, .598 OPS) and Albert Callaspo (.234 BA, .617 OPS) have also seen time at second, but they have not exactly lit the world on fire at the plate, either.
The second base market is deep, with Daniel Murphy, Ben Zobrist, Martin Prado, Aaron Hill, Gordon Beckham and Nick Franklin all potentially available.
The most intriguing name, however, may be Phillies veteran Chase Utley. He has a full no-trade clause and has indicated he would like to stay in Philly, but a move to the contending A's is one deal Utley could potentially consider.
- Acquire a right-handed run producer
The Seattle Mariners offense has been improved this season thanks to the addition of Robinson Cano, but not as vastly improved as you might think given their turnaround from a win-loss perspective.
The team ranked 12th in the AL in runs scored a year ago and averaged 3.82 runs per game. This year, the Mariners rank 11th in the AL in runs scored and are scoring a slightly better 3.98 runs per game.
Mike Zunino (13 HR) has provided some pop behind the plate, but the team continues to wait on the likes of Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller to provide something offensively.
There is a clear need for a right-handed-hitting run producer to slot between Cano and fellow All-Star Kyle Seager, and while the hope was that Corey Hart could be that guy, the time has come to explore other options.
Marlon Byrd would appear to be the Marniers' best option, and they have reportedly scouted the Phillies outfielder, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman also lists Josh Willingham, Alex Rios, Dayan Viciedo and Junior Lake as potential targets.
- Trade relievers Joakim Soria, Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts
With the worst record in baseball at the break, the Texas Rangers have no reason not to sell at the deadline, but they likely won't sell as aggressively as some might think. Provided they can avoid similar injury issues next season, this is a team that will be looking to contend again in 2015.
As such, don't expect major pieces like Adrian Beltre to hit the market. However, the Rangers do have a handful of secondary pieces and expiring contracts that could be dealt.
Closer Joakim Soria (16-of-17 SV, 2.67 ERA) would net the biggest return among their relievers, as he appears to be all the way back to his pre-injury form. He has a very reasonable $7 million option for next season, but with Neftali Feliz still around as a candidate to close, he is somewhat expendable.
Beyond Soria, both Neal Cotts (44 G, 3.60 ERA) and Jason Frasor (38 G, 3.34 ERA) are free agents at the end of the season and could certainly be of use to a contender. There's no reason not to move them at this point.
- Keep OF Alex Rios
The team's top trade chip appears to be outfielder Alex Rio