The Best-Case Scenarios for Every MLB Team at the Trade Deadline
The 2014 MLB trade deadline is now just a week away, and while it has already been a busy trade season, there will likely still be more than few deals that go down between now and July 31.
The biggest question on the market is whether the Tampa Bay Rays will decide to sell David Price, or if their recent run of success is enough for them to hold on to their ace and try to make a run at the playoffs.
Beyond the status of Price, the Philadelphia Phillies' position as potentially aggressive sellers is a story to follow, as is the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals' pursuit of a power bat in a market that is incredibly thin on them.
That said, every team has something to do here at the deadline, whether it is a seller trying to unload some impending free agents or a contender looking to add one final piece to the bench or bullpen.
Things rarely go according to plan in July, but here is a look at each team's best-case scenario between now and the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
- Someone is willing to overpay for Martin Prado
Two of the more versatile players in the game, Ben Zobrist and Martin Prado, find themselves on the trade market this July, and the market for Prado may very well be tied to what happens with Zobrist.
If Zobrist is moved prior to the deadline, the teams targeting him that miss out could turn their attention to Prado, and there just might be someone willing to overpay to add a player with his skill set.
The team has indicated that it would prefer to hold on to the 30-year-old, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports, but for the right price the Diamondbacks would likely pull the trigger.
- Aaron Hill is traded, team only eats half of his remaining money
The Diamondbacks are on the hook for $12 million each of the next two seasons with second baseman Aaron Hill, and there is no question they would love to move him.
He's not having the best season but enters play on Thursday riding a modest eight-game hitting streak, over which he has hit .387/.412/.710 with four doubles and two home runs.
Chances are the team is going to have to kick in a decent amount of money in any deal that is made, but if it can unload him and eat less than half of his remaining salary in the process, it would be a win.
- Oliver Perez brings a good return
Oliver Perez has resurrected his career over the past few years in the bullpen, and he' s turned into one of the better left-handed relievers in the game.
In 42 appearances this season, he has a 1.91 ERA and 1.115 WHIP, so it's no surprise there are a number of teams interested in him. Flipping him for a plus prospect is possible, depending on how the lefty reliever market shakes out.
- A veteran left-hander is added to the bullpen
It's been clear for some time that the Braves' biggest target at the deadline will be to add a left-handed reliever, and that remains atop their to-do list.
Luis Avilan (47 G, 4.85 ERA) has been the team's lone southpaw for much of the season, but he was recently optioned to the minors in favor of rookie Chasen Shreve.
The 24-year-old Shreve had a 2.48 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 54.1 innings in Double-A, and he has made two scoreless appearances in Atlanta since being called up. He could certainly provide a boost, but adding a proven veteran lefty to the mix remains a priority.
Andrew Miller, James Russell, Wesley Wright, Antonio Bastardo, Tony Sipp, Neal Cotts and Oliver Perez look to be the top options on the market, so expect the team to make a run at one of those guys.
- A capable pinch hitter is added to the bench
The Braves are hitting just .174 (19-for-109) in pinch-hitting situations this season, posting a dismal .486 OPS with just one home run and seven RBI.
Ryan Doumit and Jordan Schafer have been the biggest culprits in those struggles, and while the team has no clear position that needs to be upgraded, adding a bat capable of doing some damage off the bench would be nice.
- Ian Kennedy or A.J. Burnett are acquired without giving up Kevin Gausman/Dylan Bundy/Hunter Harvey
According to Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com, the Orioles are exploring a number of starting pitching options leading up to the deadline, with A.J. Burnett, Ian Kennedy and Jorge De La Rosa specifically named.
She goes on to say that the Rockies asked for Kevin Gausman in return for De La Rosa, so it's fair to assume that's not going to happen. That leaves Kennedy and Burnett, arguably the top two second-tier arms on the market this July.
The Orioles have been unwilling to part with their top pitching prospects over the past couple years, and it's a stance they should stick to.
Instead, Miguel Gonzalez has been named as one potential trade chip, and the fact that he's under team control through 2017 could make him an appealing option for both the Phillies and Padres.
Boston Red Sox
- Trade Jake Peavy to the St. Louis Cardinals for a package including OF Rowan Wick
The most likely Red Sox player to be dealt would appear to be veteran starter Jake Peavy, who is set to hit free agency at the end of the season and is not a candidate to be re-signed by Boston.
One potential landing spot for Peavy is the St. Louis Cardinals, who have been linked to the 33-year-old pitcher in the past.
According to a tweet from Peter Gammons, the Red Sox have been scouting outfield prospect Rowan Wick, and if they could land him in a package for Peavy it would be a terrific move.
Wick is hitting .367/.460/.797 with 15 home runs and 42 RBI in 128 at-bats this season, spending most of the year playing at the Low-A level. The 21-year-old has been one of the breakout prospects of the 2014 season.
- Andrew Miller brings a good return
The No. 6 pick in the 2006 draft, Andrew Miller was viewed as a potential front-line starter coming out of the University of North Carolina when he was selected by the Detroit Tigers.
He was eventually shipped to the Florida Marlins in the Miguel Cabrera trade, but he never panned out as a starter. The Red Sox moved him to the bullpen in 2012, and he has quickly become one of the best left-handed relievers in the game.
In 46 appearances this season, he has a 2.31 ERA, 0.949 WHIP and a 14.5 strikeout-per-nine-innings rate out of the Boston bullpen. The 29-year-old is a free agent at the end of the year, and he has been one of the most sought-after relief arms on the market.
He won't net a Huston Street/Joakim Soria-type return, but he could bring back more than the average middle reliever.
- James Russell or Wesley Wright bring a good return
Left-handed relief pitching is always one of the more coveted commodities on the market, and while there are a handful of good options out there this year, the Cubs should still be able to get a nice return on one of their southpaws.
Odds are they won't trade both Russell and Wright this July, with both guys under team control through the 2015 season, but look for one of them to be on the move before the deadline hits.
Wright (36 G, 2.51 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 7.9 K/9) has the better numbers this year, but Russell (41 G, 2.67 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 6.5 K/9) has the more impressive track record and has pitched in higher-leverage situations.
- Nate Schierholtz brings something in return
The Cubs are more or less in the "trade him for a bucket of balls" position with outfielder Nate Schierholtz, but as a left-handed bat who has hit for some power in the past, there could interest.
After posting a .770 OPS with 21 home runs last season, the free-agent-to-be is hitting just .199/.247/.3076 on the year with five home runs in 291 at-bats.
With Junior Lake, Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Sweeney, Chris Coghlan and Emilio Bonifacio all currently on the active roster and vying for time in the outfield, dumping Schierholtz to open up more playing time looks to be what's best for the team.
Chicago White Sox
- Trade John Danks to someone willing to take on most of his entire remaining contract
Once one of the better left-handed starters in the AL, John Danks has battled shoulder injuries to make just 31 total starts the past two seasons, going 7-18 with a 5.02 ERA in the process.
The 29-year-old is healthy once again this season, and while his numbers aren't great (8-6, 4.35 ERA, 4.70 FIP), he is an intriguing option for teams looking to upgrade their rotation nonetheless.
According to Heyman, the New York Yankees are one team that has shown some interest in Danks, as they look to upgrade their injury-plagued rotation.
If the White Sox can unload him and rid themselves of the majority of the $28.5 million he is owed over the next two seasons in the process, it would help free up some money for this upcoming offseason.
- Adam Dunn brings a good return
Adam Dunn managed to launch 75 home runs the past two seasons, posting a .781 OPS in the process despite hitting just .211. Now he is in the final year of his four-year, $56 million deal.
He's a three-true-outcomes (home run, walk, strikeout) guy at this point in his career, but he has managed to put up an .806 OPS with 15 home runs and a strong .366 on-base percentage so far this season.
If the White Sox absorb the majority of what's left on his $15 million salary this year, they may be able to get a decent prospect or two for Dunn in a market that is very thin on power bats.
- Ben Zobrist is acquired
With Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips on the disabled list and Jay Bruce not producing at his usual All-Star level this year, the Reds offense could benefit greatly from picking up another bat.
GM Walt Jocketty reiterated that point when talking to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com and noted that the team would prefer someone capable of playing multiple positions so they can continue to contribute once the team gets healthy.
Enter Zobrist, arguably the most versatile player in baseball and one capable of making an impact with the bat regardless of where he plays defensively.
Ideally he could fill in at second base until Phillips returns then perhaps move to left field, where the team has hit just .267/.317/.386 on the year with a platoon of Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey.
"That's a good name, that's all I'll say," was the response Jocketty gave when asked about Zobrist as a target, per a tweet from Jim Bowden of ESPN, so it's fair to assume there is at least some level of interest there.
- Another arm is added to the bullpen
The Cincinnati Reds ranked seventh in the MLB in bullpen ERA last year with a 3.29 mark, but they have slipped to 25th in the league this season, with that number climbing to 3.86.
Jonathan Broxton (36 G, 1.03 ERA) has been terrific setting up All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman, and the aptly named Jumbo Diaz has looked good here in July, but the bullpen could really use another reliable arm.
Manny Parra (39 G, 3.86 ERA, 1.44 WHIP) is the only left-hander in the pen outside of Chapman, so bringing aboard another southpaw would make the most sense. One way or another, though, the Reds need to add another piece to the bullpen.
- The starting rotation is upgraded for cheap
It's hard to say the Indians should be sellers when they're sitting just two games back of the second AL wild-card spot, but does this really look like a team that can legitimately contend for a title?
The Indians' best bet would probably be to stand pat and hope they can sneak into the playoffs again with an impressive stretch run.
However, if an opportunity to improve the starting rotation presents itself without costing the team a top prospect, it should jump at the chance.
Corey Kluber has been a stud, and Trevor Bauer has pitched well of late, but the staff as a whole simply doesn't stack up to teams like the Detroit Tigers or Oakland A's.
As long as it doesn't mean giving up Francisco Lindor, Clint Frazier, Tyler Naquin or Cody Anderson, they should do what they can to improve the rotation on the cheap.
- Jorge De La Rosa brings a good return, re-signs in the offseason
If there has been a "bright spot" in the Rockies' MLB-worst starting rotation this year, it's been veteran left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, who is 11-6 with a 4.19 ERA on the year.
De La Rosa is one of the few pitchers who has enjoyed any sort of consistent success over the years at Coors Field. He's gone 42-14 with a 4.06 ERA there in his career, including a 7-2 mark with a 3.23 ERA in 11 starts this season.
The 33-year-old will be a free agent at the end of the season, so it makes sense that the Rockies would try to flip him for prospects at the deadline. If they do wind up moving him, they should make every effort to re-sign him in the offseason.
Heyman reported on Thursday that Colorado asked for Gausman in return for De La Rosa in its talks with the Baltimore Orioles, which is nothing short of ridiculous. Unless the Rockies come down significantly in their asking price, he won't be going anywhere.
- LaTroy Hawkins brings a good return
Flipping veteran relievers that outperform their contracts is standard procedure at the trade deadline, and LaTroy Hawkins certainly fits the bill this season.
He makes just $2.25 million this season, with a $2.25 million option for next year, so his contract situation makes him one of the easier pieces to move here in July.
The 41-year-old is 17-of-18 on save chances with a 3.09 ERA, and while he wouldn't be closing for a contender, he is a proven late-inning arm. A midlevel prospect and perhaps another low-level guy is not out of the question as a return for Hawkins.
- Another bullpen arm is added to the mix
The Tigers got their guy on Wednesday night, trading pitchers Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel to the Texas Rangers for closer Joakim Soria.
Soria will likely begin his time in Detroit in a setup role, but there is no question the leash just got an awful lot shorter for incumbent closer Joe Nathan.
While the addition of Soria is a big one and plugs the biggest hole on the roster, the team could still look to add another bullpen arm before the deadline.
Al Alburquerque (48 G, 3.31 ERA) and Joba Chamberlain (46 G, 2.55 ERA) have both been solid, but the rest of the pen has been shaky at best.
- Tony Sipp brings a good return
Sipp was scooped up in May following his release by the San Diego Padres, and he has quietly been one of the best left-handed middle relievers in baseball this season.
The 31-year-old has a 2.45 ERA and 0.82 WHIP over 31 appearances, and considering the team signed him for all of $500,000, he's been an absolute steal.
He's under team control through the end of next season, only adding to his value. The Astros should have no problem flipping the Padres castoff for a midlevel prospect.
- Chris Carter brings a good return
Given the current market for power bats, there may never be a better time for the Astros to move slugger Chris Carter.
The 27-year-old posted a respectable .770 OPS with 29 home runs and 82 RBI last season, but he struck out a whopping 212 times in 506 at-bats in the process.
He's whiffing at a dizzying rate once again this season, fanning 106 times in 296 at-bats and getting on base at a rough .288 clip.
All that said, it's his 17 doubles and 20 home runs that could have contenders interested. With Jon Singleton taking over at first base in Houston, there is no clear role for Carter long term, and moving him now may be the best way to maximize his value.
Kansas City Royals
- Alex Rios or Marlon Byrd are acquired to play right field
The Royals are in desperate need of someone capable of providing some pop in the middle of the lineup, and right field looks like the obvious area to upgrade with the team getting a .674 OPS out of the position to this point.
With an MLB-low 57 home runs as a team this season, someone capable of hitting the ball over the fence would be ideal, but anyone who can bring some more offense to the lineup would be a welcome addition.
According to Jayson Stark of ESPN, the team has inquired on virtually every right-handed bat on the market to this point. With its focus being on right field, that means Marlon Byrd, Alex Rios, Chris Denorfia and Dayan Viciedo look to be its options.
Byrd (.798 OPS, 19 HR, 59 RBI) is the best power option of that group, while Rios (.299 BA, .758 OPS, 4 HR) may be the best all-around hitter. Landing one of those two guys would be a significant upgrade and could help give the team's plus pitching staff some much-needed support.
Los Angeles Angels
- A veteran starter is added to the rotation
The Angels already addressed their biggest need with the acquisition of closer Huston Street from the San Diego Padres. They are very thin on tradable assets, but they could still look to add another starter before the deadline.
Garrett Richards (137.1 IP) and Tyler Skaggs (102.2 IP) are both well on their way to career-high inning totals, so there is some legitimate concern that they could both tire down the stretch.
That, coupled with the fact that C.J. Wilson is currently sidelined with an ankle injury, could be enough for them to pursue at least one more arm for insurance's sake.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted that the team is unlikely to deal for a starter, as it doesn't want to give up any more prospect talent. But a best-case scenario would have the Angels picking up another rotation arm.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- David Price is acquired without having to give up two of Julio Urias/Corey Seager/Joc Pederson
Any best-case scenario for the Dodgers this year has to have them walking away with Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price. Adding a front-line starter may not be their most pressing need, but a rotation fronted by Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Price would be lethal come October.
The Dodgers have three of the most highly regarded prospects in baseball in 17-year-old left-hander Julio Urias, outfielder Joc Pederson and shortstop Corey Seager.
If they could find a way to land Price and give up only one of those guys in the process, that would be a huge win. They could still put together a strong package with secondary pieces like Zach Lee and Scott Van Slyke, so it's not out of the realm of possibility.
Either way, the team needs to add a starter, with the long-term health of Josh Beckett always a question and Dan Haren struggling of late. Price would simply be the best-case scenario.
- Matt Kemp is unloaded
Despite being relatively healthy this season, Matt Kemp has still been a shell of the player he was during a 39-home run, 40-stolen base season back in 2011. The Dodgers would love nothing more than to move him, but that's easier said than done with the money he's owed.
He has roughly $7 million left on his contract this season and is then owed another $107 million through the 2019 season. Add to that the fact that he has not taken a move to left field very well, butting heads with manager Don Mattingly as a result, and it's no surprise that one rival executive told Rosenthal that the team would "kill" to move him.
Shipping him out would open up a spot for Pederson, assuming he's not already moved in a trade for Price, and if nothing else it would free the team of a potential distraction.
The Dodgers would no doubt have to take on a good deal of his remaining salary, but there should still be a market for Kemp as a potential buy-low candidate with decent power potential. It's a long shot, but crazier things have happened (see: the Blue Jays unloading Vernon Wells).
- Casey McGehee brings a big return
Much like the New York Mets with Byrd last season, the Marlins don't seen too terribly motivated to move third baseman Casey McGehee, and one can't help but wonder why.
Like the Mets did last year with Byrd, the Marlins struck gold on a lottery ticket with signing McGehee. After McGehee spent the 2013 season playing in Japan, the team signed him to a one-year, $1.1 million deal for a lack of better third base options on the market.
All he's done so far is hit .312/.380/.387 while ranking second in the NL in hits (121) and 11th in RBI (57), as one of the best stories of the season.
For the Marlins, this is a guy headed for free agency in the offseason and unlikely to receive a qualifying offer. The team would be best-suited to flip him now when his value is highest and let someone else overpay for him this coming offseason.
Instead, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports that the Marlins view McGehee as "part of their longer-range plans" and that there are "no plans to move him" as a result.
That feels like a decision the team is going to regret, as the 31-year-old could have a hard time duplicating his 2014 success moving forward.
- A late-inning reliever is added to the bullpen
The Brewers enter play on Friday with a three-game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. They were scuffling badly heading into the All-Star break, but the team has now won four straight and looks to be back on track.
That division figures to be a dogfight down to the very end, and could turn into a four-team race if the Cincinnati Reds can right the ship after losing six straight.
From a roster standpoint, the Brewers have no glaring holes, as it will likely be a matter of staying healthy for them. That being said, like most teams they could always stand to add another proven bullpen arm to the mix.
Zach Duke (47 G, 1.10 ERA) has been a stud setting up All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez, and those two form a solid one-two punch at the back end.
However, Will Smith (52 G, 3.09 ERA) has fallen off after a terrific start and has perhaps been overworked to this point, while Brandon Kintzler (39 G, 3.60 ERA, 1.46 WHIP) has been somewhat shaky in the right-handed setup role.
Someone like Joaquin Benoit would be a great fit alongside Duke in the eighth inning. The Brewers have been mentioned as one of the teams actively seeking bullpen help, according to Rosenthal, so expect them to add an arm one way or another.
- Josh Willingham brings a good return
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 play on Friday hitting just .207 on the year and with just 54 games under his belt after missing time with a fractured wrist.
However, hidden behind that poor average is a solid .352 on-base percentage and a .289 average with runners in scoring position.
The market for power bats is the thinnest it's been in recent memory, so someone like Willingham could wind up bringing a bigger return than his production merits. Regardless, the Twins will likely deal him to the highest bidder, but they could be pleasantly surprised with the return if a handful of teams get involved.
- Kevin Correia brings something in return
If we look past his AL-worst 12 losses and 4.76 ERA, Kevin Correia has actually been throwing the ball fairly well of late.
Over his last eight games, the right-hander has gone 3-5 with a 2.87 ERA and six quality starts, and he'll be looking to keep it up when he takes the mound against the Chicago White Sox on Friday.
He'll be squaring off against Danks in that start, another pitcher who could be on the move before the deadline, so there will no doubt be at least a handful of scouts in attendance.
A strong start could be enough to convince someone to take a chance on the 33-year-old free-agent-to-be. He's not going to carry a rotation down the stretch, but he's a decent back-of-the-rotation arm who can eat innings and should come dirt-cheap.
New York Mets
- Bartolo Colon brings a big return
According to a tweet from Danny Knobler, the Mets are "trying hard" to move veteran starter Bartolo Colon, and after a terrific performance in his last start, that may have gotten a bit easier.
The 41-year-old took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday, improving to 9-8 on the season and lowering his ERA to 4.03 and his WHIP to 1.15 in the process.
The sticking point in moving Colon is the $11 million he is owed next season, as teams are understandably leery of making that kind of commitment to someone his age.
However, if the Mets were willing to take on $5 million to $6 million of that, there is a chance they could land a high-end prospect or a decent package of midlevel guys in return for Colon. He's one of the better secondary options on the market, and even if he's not moved in July, he could be a candidate for the August waiver period.
- Bobby Abreu brings something in return
After sitting out the 2013 season, Bobby Abreu has been a pleasant surprise in limited action for the Mets this year, and he's more than earned his $800,000 salary.
The 40-year-old is hitting .254/.351/.360 with 10 extra-base hits in 114 at-bats, and while he's nothing more than a bench bat for a contender, he is a left-handed hitter capable of drawing a walk and turning in a professional at-bat, so there could be some interest.
New York Yankees
- Another veteran arm is added to the rotation
The Yankees' decision to buy low on Brandon McCarthy (3 GS, 2-0, 1.45 ERA) has been a fantastic one so far, but the team still needs at least one more starting pitcher to fill out its rotation.
The team took a flier on veteran Chris Capuano on Thursday, acquiring him from the Colorado Rockies for cash, but he's nothing more than organizational depth at this point.
A rumor was floating around that the team was working on a deal to acquire San Diego Padres right-hander Ian Kennedy in exchange for Ian Clarkin and Eric Jagielo, but that was too much for the team to give up, according to Heyman.
The Yankees have also been linked to Danks and De La Rosa over the past week or so, and have likely kicked the tires on at least a few other starting options. It remains to be seen who will emerge as their top target, but one way or another they have to get another starter.
- Second base is upgraded
Eric Sogard may be a fan favorite, but he's not an everyday player at the major league level, and neither is Nick Punto.
Those two have seen the lion's share of at-bats at second base for the A's this season, and the position has produced a combined .225/.288/.270 line with one home run and 23 RBI.
One name that has been floated out as a "top target" for the team, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, is Seattle Mariners infielder Nick Franklin. Slusser makes a good point in wondering if the Mariners would be willing to help upgrade a division rival, but Franklin has become expendable ever since Robinson Cano was signed.
Aaron Hill could be an option, provided the Diamondbacks pay a good deal of his remaining salary. The team also showed interest in Luis Valbuena back when it pulled off the Jeff Samardzija trade, per Rosenthal, and that is something that could be revisited.
Given the fact that the A's are not exactly struggling to score runs, the team could very well stand pat, but as far as best-case scenarios go, an upgrade at second base tops the list.
- Someone claims Jim Johnson, the team saves some money
With a 6.92 ERA and a 5.1 walks-per-nine-innings mark, it was no surprise to see Jim Johnson designated for assignment by the A's on Thursday, a move that was announced via the team's Twitter account.
Acquired from the Baltimore Orioles and signed to a $10 million contract in the offseason, Johnson was removed from the closer's role in April after struggling early, and he was never able to right the ship.
The team now has 10 days to try to find a taker for the 31-year-old, or it'll likely be forced to outright release him and eat his remaining salary.
A contender will no doubt scoop up Johnson if he does hit the open market, but it would be a huge win for the A's if someone were to claim him and they could save even a small chunk of what he's still owed.
- Marlon Byrd brings a big return
Obviously, unloading Ryan Howard would be the best-case scenario for the Phillies right now, but we're trying to remain realistic.
Instead, their most valuable trade chip looks to be Byrd, and the outfielder has the potential to bring them a sizable return as perhaps the best power bat on the market.
Picked by many (myself included) to regress after a surprise 2013 performance, Byrd has just kept hitting, posting a .798 OPS with 19 home runs and 59 RBI on the year.
The Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals both have a clear need for someone like Byrd, and if the Phillies can flip him for a couple plus prospects, it would be a nice first step in the rebuilding process.
- Jonathan Papelbon is moved
The odds of moving Cliff Lee look to be slim to none after he looked less than sharp in his first start back off the disabled list, but there is still a chance the team could find a taker for closer Jonathan Papelbon.
With Street and Soria both already traded, Papelbon is the only proven closer still on the market.
The 33-year-old has converted 24 of 27 save chances with a 1.91 ERA and 0.87 WHIP on the year, but a $13 million salary for next season and a $13 million option based on games finished that is likely to vest for 2016 makes him a tough piece to move.
Their only hope is a contender desperate enough to take on that kind of money in an effort to shore up its bullpen, and with the Angels and Tigers already upgrading, that seems unlikely.
- A veteran arm is added to the bullpen and rotation
Pitching was a clear strength for the Pirates last season, both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen, as the team ranked third in MLB with a 3.26 club ERA.
Injuries to the rotation and struggles by the bullpen have seen that number climb to 3.68 this season, as they currently rank 12th in MLB. That's not a bad number by any means, but for a team with a below-average offensive attack, it's not good enough, either.
All-Star Tony Watson (48 G, 1.52 ERA), Jared Hughes (39 G, 1.91 ERA) and Mark Melancon (47 G, 18-of-21 SV, 2.22 ERA) are a rock-solid trio at the back of the pen, but the rest of their relief corps has been inconsistent.
The rotation has gotten a big boost from Jeff Locke (9 GS, 3.05 ERA) and Vance Worley (6 GS, 3.10 ERA), but with Gerrit Cole sidelined with a lat injury, and Worley and Locke strong candidates to regress, the rotation could certainly use another arm as well.
- First base is upgraded
The Pirates made an early move to acquire Ike Davis from the Mets this season, and while he has not been as bad as he was in New York, production at first base is still far from a strength for the Pirates.
On the year, the position has contributed a .235/.318/.377 line with 10 home runs and 37 RBI. By comparison, former Pirates castoff Steve Pearce has hit .306/.374/.544 with 11 home runs and 31 RBI in just 206 at-bats for the Baltimore Orioles this year.
The numbers are even worse when you consider that Davis (.240 BA, .702 OPS) has platooned with Gaby Sanchez (.235 BA, .714 OPS) for the most part, so both guys have been put in a position to maximize their production.
The market is thin on first base options, to the point that Dunn may be the best name available, but finding a way to get more production at the position would certainly fall into the category of best-case scenario.
San Diego Padres
- Someone is willing to overpay for Ian Kennedy
The Padres have already shipped out the two players on their roster who were most likely to be dealt in closer Street and third baseman Chase Headley.
That leaves Kennedy as their most intriguing trade chip, and while their asking price is understandably high for the 29-year-old starter, he is technically available.
The Padres bought low on Kennedy at the deadline last year, acquiring him for reliever Joe Thatcher, and he has enjoyed a nice bounce-back season in going 8-9 with a 3.66 ERA (3.11 FIP) and 143 strikeouts in 135.1 innings.
A recent rumor had the Padres discussing a trade with the Yankees for top prospects Jagielo and Clarkin, per ESPN's Jim Bowden. The Yankees were unwilling to give up that much, but someone out there might be if they think Kennedy can push them over the top.
San Francisco Giants
- A starting pitcher is added to replace Matt Cain
It originally looked as though the Giants would be relatively quiet at the deadline, perhaps kicking the tires on an upgrade at second base but with little else in the way of glaring needs.
Then was until starter Matt Cain landed on the disabled list with elbow inflammation, as the team is now very much in the market to add a starting pitcher as a result.
According to Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area, the team has "intensified their search" for a starter in recent days.
Peavy is one name specifically mentioned by Baggarly as a potential target, as he has a relationship with Giants manager Bruce Bochy from their days together in San Diego.
The market for Peavy has been tough to peg, as his numbers are not great but he has the veteran track record to garner interest nonetheless. The Red Sox are motivated to move Peavy, so perhaps the Giants can swoop in and get him for relatively cheap right at the deadline.
- Another run producer is added to the lineup
The Mariners have the pitching to be serious contenders this year, as their rotation has been a pleasant surprise and their bullpen has been the best in all of baseball with a 2.38 ERA.
However, the offense is still below average as it ranks 14th in the AL in runs per game (3.88), ahead of only the Houston Astros.
Cano and Kyle Seager are both having terrific seasons, but there is an obvious need for a right-handed bat with some pop to slot between them in the middle of the lineup. The hope was that Corey Hart could be that guy, but that's not been the case.
Kendrys Morales was acquired from the Minnesota Twins on Thursday for reliever Stephen Pryor, but he has struggled to get things going after signing immediately following the June draft.
The Phillies' Byrd would seem like the best option, considering the Mariners' need for power and the fact that he has 19 home runs on the season.
St. Louis Cardinals
- A stop-gap starter is acquired, Michael Wacha returns healthy in September
Some may consider landing Price to be the best-case scenario for the Cardinals, but considering the amount of young talent they would give up, it's less than ideal.
That's simply not the way the Cardinals do business, as controllable, in-house talent has been the life blood of their organization for years now and the reason they have enjoyed such an impressive level of sustained success.
Instead, a more realistic approach would be to go after a midlevel veteran to bridge the gap to Michael Wacha, who is expected to return from shoulder problems in September according to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"Looking at the next two months, if we could find a way to sort of bridge that gap between now and the time we may get Wacha back, I think we want to try to do that," said GM John Mozeliak in an interview with ESPN.
Whether it's finally pulling the trigger on acquiring Peavy or going after a similar veteran arm, the Cardinals will need to do something to address a rotation that has seen both Carlos Martinez and Shelby Miller struggle with inconsistency.
Tampa Bay Rays
- The team holds on to David Price and Ben Zobrist and makes the playoffs
Back on June 11, the Rays were 14 games back in the AL East standings and had the worst record in all of baseball at 25-42.
At that point, Price looked like a sure thing to be dealt, along with a number of other pieces, including the versatile Zobrist.
However, they have gone an MLB-best 24-11 since and have trimmed their deficit to 7.5 games in the AL East and just 4.5 games for the second wild-card spot.
They are riding a seven-game winning streak heading into play on Friday, and with the AL East still wide open it's not out of the realm of possibility to think they could climb all the way back and win the division.
It's not as though they won't still be able to get a huge return for both Price and Zobrist this coming offseason or even at the deadline next year, so holding on to them in hopes of riding their recent success into the postseason seems like their best move.
- Alex Rios brings a big return
In a hitting-thin market, the Rangers have one of the better bats available in Rios, their right fielder, though he is not a sure thing to be moved.
Rios was acquired last August from the Chicago White Sox, and while the Rangers are out of things and have already sold off their closer, Soria, they could still view Rios as part of their plans for 2015.
By all accounts, the Rangers will be looking to contend once again next season, as they have a talented roster but have just been decimated by injuries.
Rios, who is hitting .299/.327/.430 with 33 extra-base hits and 16 steals, carries a $13.5 million team option for next season.
Replacing his production in a free-agent market that is also expected to be very thin on bats could be tough, so their best move may be to simply exercise that option.
All that said, the best-case scenario would be for someone to come along and blow them away with an offer that includes a couple top prospects.
- Neal Cotts brings a good return
The Rangers have already moved Soria and setup man Jason Frasor, but they still have at least one more reliever who is expected to be dealt in Neal Cotts.
The left-hander was one of the bigger surprises of 2013, as he posted a 1.11 ERA and 10.3 K/9 rate over 58 appearances after not pitching in the majors since 2009.
His numbers aren't quite as good this season, but he still has a solid 3.35 ERA and 10.5 K/9 rate in 47 games. He's a free agent at the end of the season and would make a nice rental arm for a team in need of a veteran southpaw.
Toronto Blue Jays
- An impact reliever is added to the bullpen
Last season, the Blue Jays had one of the best bullpens in all of baseball, ranking ninth in MLB with a 3.37 ERA. The group was fronted by a pair of All-Stars in Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar, setting up a rock-solid closer in Casey Janssen.
This year has been a different story entirely, as they sit 28th in MLB with a 4.47 ERA.
Aaron Loup (48 G, 3.04 ERA) is having a strong season, and Dustin McGowan (25 G, 2.84 ERA) has thrived in the bullpen after opening the season in the rotation, but as a whole they are in serious need of another late-inning arm.
They are among the teams that have been linked to the Phillies' Bastardo, according to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, so he is one name worth keeping an eye on.
- A midlevel starter is added for cheap
There was a time when it looked like the Blue Jays would be serious players for the top starting pitchers on the market. However, with the emergence of Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman in the Nos. 3 and 4 starter spots, things are not nearly as dire as they once appeared to be.
To his credit, J.A. Happ (8-5, 4.38 ERA) has not been terrible, but for a team looking to win a division title and make a serious postseason run, it's worth exploring potential upgrades.
There's no reason to give up anything even remotely resembling a top prospect, and both Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris are completely off the table, but if they can nab a veteran innings-eater like Correia for cheap it could help solidify things.
- Denard Span is traded for an upgrade at second base
This would be a rather drastic move for a contender to make, especially considering how well the Nationals have been playing of late, but it would be killing several birds with one stone.
First, it would allow the team to move Ryan Zimmerman back to left field, which is likely to be his long-term home given the issues with his shoulder and throwing the ball across the diamond.
That would mean Anthony Rendon, who was playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at third when Zimmerman was sidelined, could move back to the hot corner.
Bryce Harper would slide over to center field to replace Span, and the only questions would be who plays second base and who hits leadoff.
Span is raking in July with a .357/.423/.414 line, and if the team could find a way to flip him for a viable everyday option at second base, it would be a huge win-win.
This is all hypothetical, though, and is probably one of the bigger long shots among these projected best-case scenarios.
- A veteran left-hander is added to the bullpen
The Nationals went without a reliable lefty reliever for most of last season, and it's an issue that has cropped up once again this year.
Jerry Blevins (43 G, 4.71 ERA) was acquired in the offseason to try to alleviate the issue, but he has actually put up worse numbers than Ian Krol did serving in a similar role last year.
Ross Detwiler is the only other lefty in the bullpen, and while he has a 3.56 ERA in 29 relief appearances, he has not pitched in many high-leverage situations.
There are several solid options on the market, with the rival Atlanta Braves targeting the same crop of arms that includes Miller, Russell, Wright, Bastardo, Sipp, Cotts and Perez. Look for them to land one of those guys in the days to come.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and cover games through Thursday, July 24. All injury information comes via MLBDepthCharts team pages, per Baseball Prospectus.
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