3 Takeaways: Trade Deadline approaches

This week’s installment takes a look at three teams and what they should be looking for as the trade deadline approaches.

Pittsburgh Pirates: 53-35

The Pirates continue to fly under the radar, but they have the third-best record in baseball, and sit a mere 2.5 games back of the Cardinals for the NL Central crown. The Pirates have built their record on the backs of three great starters, Andrew McCutchen, and a bunch of solid performances from everyone else. Their worst offensive regular is Jordy Mercer – and when he sits, offseason-import Jung Ho Kang has been a league average player or better on offense. Their biggest offensive weak spot has been in right field, where Gregory Polanco hasn’t developed as hoped. One potential solution? Justin Upton of the San Diego Padres. While he’s sure to cost a pretty penny, the Padres have one of the deeper farm systems in baseball and could see one of the biggest swings in value from a guy like Upton. Not only would he make their lineup deeper, but making a push to beat the Cardinals would mean avoiding the dreaded one-game playoff they’ve been stuck with the last two seasons.

New York Mets: 47-42

The Mets enter the break one game behind the Cubs for the last wild card. The Giants sit one game behind them, and then there’s a fall off to the Diamondbacks and Braves of the world. While the Mets face an uphill climb given the weakness of their lineup, they’re in a position where they’re one of the few legitimate contenders for that wild card spot. While an Upton acquisition makes some sense for New York, they might prefer someone who offers some club control beyond just this year. The Reds are shopping Jay Bruce, and his $12.5M salary for 2016 (with a $13M option for 2017 should the Mets find money) is fairly palatable given his production of late. Any outfield acquisition would likely displace Michael Cuddyer, and while that would mean treating him like a sunk cost, that might not be the worst thing in the world for the Mets on-field performance.

Houston Astros: 49-42

The Astros hit the All-Star Break on a six-game skid, and while they have a 27-run advantage on the Twins, they sit a full game back of them for the top wild card spot (and just a half-game back of the Angels for the division). While there are some weak points in their lineup (catcher, third base), Houston could really use a rotation stabilizer. Enter Scott Kazmir. The A’s should be active sellers as we approach the deadline, and Kazmir likely wouldn’t mind being sent home – as he was drafted out of Cypress Falls HS in Houston. With Dallas Keuchel continuing to dominate, Kazmir wouldn’t have to carry the staff so much as provide a healthy one-two punch (three if you include Lance McCullers, Jr). Kazmir would be a nice fit as a short-term pickup who could be amenable to sticking around, who not only helps the Astros in-season, but would be a huge factor in terms of playoff depth should it come to that.

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