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What does each contender need?

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Dayn Perry

Dayn Perry is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com. His second book, "Reggie Jackson: The Life and Thunderous Career of Baseball's Mr. October," is available from HarperCollins Publishers. Read more of his work at the NotGraphs blog.

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The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline looms. Accordingly, contenders — and there are many of them — will be reading tea leaves, jockeying for position, mining for gold, and otherwise living out any other metaphor you wish to apply to the process. If past deadlines are any guide, then this one figures to be a good time, if a bit unsatisfying in the end. Anyhow, in celebration and anticipation, let's run down each contender and what they should be angling for come trading time. What's a contender? For our purposes, it's any team that, according to CoolStandings.com, has at least a 15 percent chance of making the postseason ...

Angels

Chance of making playoffs: 67.3%
Pressing need: Right-handed middle relief First and foremost, the surging Angels need Torii Hunter to get healthy. After that, they need help in the bullpen. Among AL relief units, only Cleveland's has been worse this season. The Halos won't be getting Scot Shields back, and nothing is to be assumed regarding Kelvim Escobar's return. With Brian Fuentes and Darren Oliver in the fold, the Angels are fine from the left side, but they badly need a reliable right-handed bridge to Fuentes in the ninth. It's usually not too difficult to scare up one of those at the deadline.

Braves

Chance of making playoffs: 21.1%
Pressing need: Outfielder GM Frank Wren has done much to improve the Atlanta outfield, and yet they still need help. With the market for Matt Holliday on the wane, the Braves might be able to snag him at a bargain (provided ownership will allow the added payroll). Holliday's been somewhat humbled by life outside of Coors Field, but he still provides on-base skills, gap power and an excellent glove in left. An outfield of Holliday, Nate McLouth and Matt Diaz (with Ryan Church's providing spot duty) is no longer a liability.

Brewers

Chance of making playoffs: 18.3%
Pressing need: Starting pitcher Dealing for Felipe Lopez was a sage move by GM Doug Melvin, and now he can concentrate on shoring up the rotation. There's been little consistency behind ace Yovani Gallardo, and the back end is especially problematic. To distinguish themselves in the tough NL Central, the Brewers need something more than a half-measure. That's why they should be serious players for Roy Halladay or even Cliff Lee. Otherwise, they need to hope that J.J. Hardy remembers how to hit.

Cardinals

Chance of making playoffs: 45.9%
Pressing need: Starting pitcher The temptation is to say the Cards need offense, but the forthcoming returns of Mark DeRosa and Troy Glaus will mean a surfeit of bats. What they need is to get Todd Wellemeyer/Brad Thompson out of the rotation. Doing so will require an external solution. Imagine, if you will, a St. Louis front three of Halladay, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. If being a serious bidder for Halladay means parting with Brett Wallace plus side orders, then the Cardinals should be prepared to do just that.

Cubs

Chance of making playoffs: 32.7%
Pressing need: Second baseman Second base has been a sinkhole all year for the Cubs, and no one presently on the roster — not Mike Fontenot, not Andres Blanco (especially not Andres Blanco), not Jeff Baker, and not the injured Aaron Miles — is going to improve the situation. Options are dwindling by the moment, it seems, so Chicago should move quickly. The ideal solution remains what it has been for the past two years or so — talking the Orioles out of Brian Roberts. That may not be possible, though.

Dodgers

Chance of making playoffs: 92.9%
Pressing need: Nothing The Dodgers are on pace for 102 wins, so they're hardly riddled with flaws. You'd like more productivity from James Loney and Rafael Furcal, but otherwise the lineup has been effective. The bullpen has been in the top third of the NL and the rotation boasts three qualifiers with sub-4.00 ERAs. Who knows, they might even get something out of Jason Schmidt. Sometimes the status quo is just fine.

Giants

Chance of making playoffs: 38.3%
Pressing need: Middle infielder The pitching staff has been carrying the sherpa's load for the Giants this season. If, however, they're going to fend off a competitive field of wild-card aspirants, then they're going to need help on offense. San Fran has gotten miserable production out of shortstop and second base and one of those two problems must be addressed. Nabbing Cristian Guzman from the Nats would be a reasonable start. He's hitting a fairly empty .301, but even that would constitute a substantial improvement.

Phillies

Chance of making playoffs: 74.8%
Pressing need: Starting pitcher If the Phils are going to become the first NL team since the Big Red Machine to repeat as champs, then they may need to add another arm to the rotation. A third straight NL East crown is likely secure, but the goal, of course, is to go deep into October. The Phils are often mentioned as the frontrunners for Halladay, and he'd be a perfect fit. Pitching in the weaker NL, Halladay would probably thrive beyond even his usual lofty standards. There's only one Halladay to go around, though, and a number of teams are hot for him.

Rangers

Chance of making playoffs: 30.7%
Pressing need: Starting pitcher Despite all the column inches devoted to Nolan Ryan's feisty reconstruction of the Texas staff, the rotation has once again been the problem in Arlington. Granted, it's not as pronounced a shortcoming as it has been in years past, but it still needs work. Derek Holland, while promising long-term, isn't doing the job in 2009. Adding a veteran arm allows Holland to develop further and improves Texas' chances in the here and now. As for Tommy Hunter, he'll almost certainly regress in the coming weeks, and Matt Harrison was struggling even before his injury.

Rays

Chance of making playoffs: 41.7%
Pressing need: Nothing Tampa, because of the remorseless nature of the AL East, might miss out on the postseason, but it's hard to find any glaring weaknesses. B.J. Upton is finally hitting, Scott Kazmir is trending in the right direction, and the bullpen has been excellent. If the right-field platoon of Gabe Kapler and Gabe Gross begins to struggle, then they can turn to young Matt Joyce. Unless they have an opportunity to add a true superstar, Tampa should sit this one out.

Red Sox

Chance of making playoffs: 74.8%
Pressing need: Nothing Yes, the Sox are set. Boston enjoys uncommon depth in the rotation and the best bullpen in the American League. And now that Julio Lugo has been escorted off the premises and replaced by Jed Lowrie, the Sox are at least solid-average at every position on the diamond. So unless it's some kind of flanking maneuver to prevent the Yankees from adding someone especially frightening, Boston doesn't need to do much of anything at the deadline.

Rockies

Chance of making playoffs: 44.3%
Pressing need: Middle relief The Rox rank a somewhat respectable seventh in the NL in bullpen ERA, but they need help. Huston Street is a quality closer, and Franklin Morales figures to address their issues from the left side. However, much like the Angels, the Rockies could use some right-handed setup help. Preferably, they'd dig up a sinkerballer who has something other than an overhand curve as his second pitch. Generally, that's what Coors Field demands. They'd also do well to option Carlos Gonzalez back to the minors, but that's another story.

Tigers

Chance of making playoffs: 48.6%
Pressing need: Relief This has been Detroit's problem for years. This season they rank 10th in the 14-team AL in bullpen ERA. Fernando Rodney has been inconsistent in the closer's role, and Joel Zumaya is injured and ineffective. The Padres have already said they're not trading Heath Bell, but Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski should try to change their minds.

Twins

Chance of making playoffs: 37.4%
Pressing need: Second baseman Minnesota second basemen this season have combined to "hit" an appalling .190 AVG/.271 OBP/.241 SLG. Suffice to say, that's an unacceptable level of production. If the Twins hope to win the three-horse race in the Central, then they have to stop running Alexi Casillas out there every day. The bad news: The Twins aren't the only team that needs help at the keystone, and Felipe Lopez is already off the market. If the recently signed Mark Grudzielanek provides the needed upgrade (not to be assumed given his age and inactivity, plus he's weeks away from being ready), then the Twins can concentrate on finding a left fielder who can hit and catch the ball.

White Sox

Chance of making playoffs: 19.0%
Pressing need: Nothing The White Sox are by no means a great team, but it's hard to find a standout flaw. The bullpen needs improvement, and they badly need a healthy Carlos Quentin in the lineup. Otherwise, though, the Sox have in place a team that's capable of season-long contention in the Central. If the opportunity to add a shutdown reliever comes their way, they should make the move. But they aren't desperate.

Yankees

Chance of making playoffs: 62.9%
Pressing need: Starting pitcher In the Yankee rotation, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett have met expectations, but elsewhere problems abound. Andy Pettitte's ERA is bound for the 5.00 mark, Joba Chamberlain is headed in the wrong direction, Chien-Ming Wang has alternated between terrible and injured, and Sergio Mitre is, well, Sergio Mitre. Obviously, an addition like Halladay would be the ideal solution for the Yankees, but even someone who can give them league-average innings at the back end would be a serious boon to their hopes.
Tagged: Orioles, Red Sox, Angels, White Sox, Indians, Tigers, Brewers, Twins, Yankees, Athletics, Rangers, Blue Jays, Braves, Cubs, Dodgers, Nationals, Cardinals, Padres, Giants, Rockies, Rays, Brian Roberts, CC Sabathia, Torii Hunter, Andy Pettitte, Brian Fuentes, Darren Oliver, Chris Carpenter, Roy Halladay, Mark DeRosa, Rafael Furcal, Julio Lugo, A.J. Burnett, Felipe Lopez, Cliff Lee, Matt Diaz, Sergio Mitre, Aaron Miles, J.J. Hardy, Scott Kazmir, Matt Holliday, Andres Blanco, B.J. Upton, Heath Bell, Mike Fontenot, Huston Street, Carlos Quentin, Chien-Ming Wang, Adam Wainwright, Jeff Baker, Fernando Rodney, Nate McLouth, Joel Zumaya, James Loney, Alexi Casilla, Yovani Gallardo, Franklin Morales, Carlos Gonzalez, Joba Chamberlain, Matt Harrison, Jed Lowrie, Matt Joyce, Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland

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