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Some teams are set, others need to deal
The question will be posed, and posed again, by every contender and could-be contender over the next several days.
Do we have enough?
If the answer is yes, hold tight ... and hope.
If the answer is no, make moves ... and hope.
Amid the facts, rumors and speculation — baseball’s midsummer trinity — it’s important to remember that not every club needs to make a deal. Some teams are pretty close to perfect, just the way they are.
With that in mind, here are four teams that might as well play cribbage in their conference rooms until 4 p.m. ET on Saturday ... and four others that must do their best Monty Hall. Why eight teams in all? That’s the number of postseason teams there will be, roughly two months from now.
TAKE A PITCH
San Francisco Giants — 2½ games back in National League West
The Giants already made their critical move, dealing Bengie Molina to the Rangers in order to accommodate Buster Posey in the everyday lineup. The trade was finalized on July 1. Since then, the Giants have an 18-7 record – the best in the National League.
The regular at-bats have been a boon for Posey’s swing; the 23-year-old is riding a 21-game hit streak and might be the NL Rookie of the Year. General manager Brian Sabean could add a left-handed reliever, with both Jeremy Affeldt and Dan Runzler on the disabled list. But this team looks awfully good as is.
Texas Rangers — 7½ games up in American League West
The Rangers have the biggest division lead in the majors. They also have the greatest probability of reaching the postseason, according to the Baseball Prospectus calculations (92.6 percent, entering Wednesday). And they have earned both distinctions.
The Molina trade was crucial for Texas, too. He is helping an inexperienced pitching staff, particularly now that fellow veteran catcher Matt Treanor is on the disabled list. And the Rangers obviously landed the biggest trade commodity of them all: ace left-hander Cliff Lee. It’s almost time to print playoff tickets.
The White Sox enjoyed an on-the-fly renaissance — one that didn’t require much tinkering from general manager Kenny Williams. He promoted Cuban third baseman Dayan Viciedo in June. Other than that, Williams realized that the best move was to make no move at all.
The strategy worked. When the White Sox lost to the Tigers on June 8, they dropped to 9½ games out. But they are 32-11 since, the best record in the majors. The starting rotation has been superb, even though star pitcher Jake Peavy is gone for the season due to shoulder surgery.
New York Yankees — 2 games up in American League East
The Yankees struggle with inactivity. It’s not in their nature. Tactical-yet-aggressive spending — the new way of Brian Cashman — brought CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira and the 2009 World Series to The Bronx.
But this team, as presently constituted, can repeat. With the exception of an eighth-inning reliever to replace the erratic Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees are set. Burnett and Curtis Granderson are among the big-name players who should be better after the break than they were before.
San Diego Padres – 2½ games up in National League West
The Padres weren’t expected to be in this position. Now it’s incumbent on them to make the most of a superb pitching staff. General manager Jed Hoyer can start by adding a veteran arm to the rotation — and perhaps even the bullpen — to lessen the workload on his young pitchers.
But offense is the bigger issue. The Padres rank among the bottom half in OPS from each outfield spot — 30th in left, 21st in center, 19th in right. And they are dealing with the injury absence of second baseman/team leader David Eckstein. The Padres need one veteran hitter — at minimum.
Philadelphia Phillies — 3½ games back in National League East
The Phillies had to upgrade their rotation. And by completing the deal for Houston’s Roy Oswalt, well, then perhaps we can move them back into the higher category.
But this Philly team is phlawed apart from the rotation, too. The late-inning relief crew, starring Brad Lidge, remains a white-knuckle experience. And the lineup could use one more veteran bat, given the injury to Chase Utley and drop in production from Raul Ibanez and Jimmy Rollins.
Minnesota Twins — 1 game back in American League Central
It’s time for the Twins to stop acting like the conservative, midmarket, first-round losers they have been in each of their last four postseason appearances. They have a new ballpark, new revenues, and new mandate to ensure that at least ALCS games are played beneath the great Minnesota sky.
Carl Pavano is currently the staff ace, and he arrived in a prospect-for-veteran trade last August. So why not try the same thing now with Brett Myers or Ted Lilly? In order to go pitch-for-pitch with the White Sox, the Twins must upgrade.
Cincinnati Reds — tied for first in National League Central
The Reds are the challenger. The Cardinals are the champs. In order to win, Cincinnati needs to get every tangible advantage possible, because St. Louis is going to have the edge in experience.
Pitching would be a good place for Reds GM Walt Jocketty to start. A young rotation has meant a heavy workload for the bullpen, which ranks in the bottom half of the NL in ERA. Nick Masset needs help in the eighth inning.
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