Which teams are buying? Which are selling? Which are doing both?
A team-by-team preview of the 2015 non-waiver deadline:
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As noted by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, GM Brian Cashman rarely sacrifices top prospects for a major fix at the deadline. Yet, Cashman’s buildup of the farm system has left the Yankees not only with internal solutions at positions they want to address, but also prospects to trade.
The rotation, for example, remains fragile, but the bullpen includes two potential starters — Adam Warren, who is proven, and Bryan Mitchell, who is not. A third, top prospect Luis Severino, has a 1.79 ERA in nine starts at Triple-A.
Still, it might make sense for the Yankees to trade for a starter. Their organization is deep in outfielders, left-handed relievers and right-handed starters, and not all of their young players will make it to Yankee Stadium.
Cashman can be as creative as he wants to be.
Under Andrew Friedman, the Rays sought the greatest possible impact regardless of position, routinely inquiring on even the biggest names. Their philosophy under Matt Silverman figures to be no different, though restricted by the usual financial restraints.
The Rays’ most glaring need is at catcher, a position that is difficult to upgrade. But club officials are open to additions of all sorts and would draw upon an improved farm system to make the right deal.
Needed: A starter to thicken the rotation and a corner outfielder. But injuries to top-pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey have depleted an already thin farm system.
Meanwhile, the O’s face the losses of a number of potential free agents — first baseman Chris Davis, catcher Matt Wieters, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen and All-Star reliever Darren O’Day, among others.
Last year’s division title and run to the ALCS might have been the peak for this group.
After all this talk, they’ve got to do something, right?
The Blue Jays’ needs in the rotation and bullpen are obvious, and a high-powered offense in a pitching-dominated era would be a terrible thing to waste. Adding to the urgency: First baseman Edwin Encarnacion and right fielder Jose Bautista are under club control only through next season.
As reported previously, renewed payroll concerns might require GM Alex Anthopoulos to part with some of his team’s better youngsters in exchange for cash in trades.
A month ago, some rival executives believed the Red Sox might try to get creative and dump Hanley Ramirez and/or Pablo Sandoval. I wrote a column saying the Sox should do that, but club officials seem disinclined to do anything that drastic — and, of course, such moves would be difficult to pull off.
Not that the Red Sox are comfortable — they want to improve their pitching depth, both starting and relief, and their play over the next seven to 10 days could influence the types of targets they pursue.
Ideally, the Sox want pitchers under long-term control, but they would be open to rentals if the team got back in the race.
The window isn’t exactly closing, but who knows if the Royals’ opportunity will ever be this good again?
Left fielder Alex Gordon is likely to opt out after this season, while first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas are both Scott Boras clients and under club control only through 2017.
The area to upgrade is obvious — the rotation, according to Fangraphs, ranks last in the AL in Win Above Replacement (fWAR). But the team first must assess a host of internal questions — the durability of Chris Young, the health of Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy and Jason Vargas, the potential of Kris Medlen once he returns from his second Tommy John surgery.
As always, the Royals also must balance the present and future. Do they sacrifice some of their better pitching prospects for a short-term fix that might have less overall value?
Your AL wild-card leader (by one game over the Astros) after recovering nicely from an 11-17 record in June.
Rookie Miguel Sano has stabilized the DH spot, and rookie Byron Buxton, once he recovers from a thumb injury, will be an option if Aaron Hicks again falters in center.
Upgrading the bullpen is the team’s primary concern.
If it looks like a seller, acts like a seller … well, hold on, when was the last time the Tigers actually sold?
Owner Mike Ilitch, who turns 86 on Monday, remains hell-bent on bringing Detroit its first World Series title since 1984, and the Tigers are a mere 3½ games back in the wild-card race.
Still, the Tigers’ rotation ranks 11th in the AL in fWAR, the bullpen dead last. The smart thing to do would be to turn GM Dave Dombrowski loose and see what he could get for David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, etc. …
If the Indians sell, they could move veterans such as outfielders David Murphy and Ryan Raburn, and (wishful thinking) Nick Swisher. The team, though, is only 5½ games back in the wild-card race, and remains a threat due to the strength of its rotation.
The addition of a late-inning reliever would upgrade the current roster, and the Indians also could seek a bat under control beyond this season, depending upon how their young players perform and whether their veterans stay healthy.
One rival executive says he expects the White Sox to make a big offer to right-hander Jeff Samardzija in an attempt to keep the team’s starting pitching intact long term.
Maybe, but Samardzija repeatedly turned down extensions from the Cubs, and now he is a little more than two months away from free agency. Better the White Sox should be realistic about their chances and move him — and maybe even think about dangling Chris Sale, just to see what he might command in a deal.
The White Sox’s position players collectively are the worst in the majors according to fWAR; they are 3.6 wins below replacement level. Every other team’s position players are above.
The Astros actually would prefer a potential free agent such as Johnny Cueto, Samardzija or Scott Kazmir; the acquisition cost would not be as high for a two-month rental.
This will be an interesting test for Jeff Luhnow, who has yet to act as a buyer since becoming GM in December 2011. The Astros’ best prospects — Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, Vince Velasquez — already are in the majors. To upgrade, Luhnow must cut into the next group.
In a perfect world, they would add a left-handed-hitting leadoff man — the Phillies’ Ben Revere would still fit. But C.J. Cron’s surge since returning from Triple-A on June 29 has helped spur the offense, enabling the Angels to slow down the intensity of their pursuit.
Left field, though, remains something of a black hole, and someone like the Reds’ Jay Bruce would thicken the middle of the order. In the end, the Angels figure to do something, even if they need to settle for what the market bears.
The direction is becoming clearer — the Athletics are last in the wild-card race, eight games back, and things aren’t likely to get better before the deadline; the next four series are against the Twins and Blue Jays at home, the Giants and Dodgers on the road.
We know who the principal pieces are — left-hander Kazmir, super-utility man Ben Zobrist, right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard. It’s not out of the question that the A’s would keep Kazmir and make him a qualifying offer, particularly if potential suitors are unwilling to part with solid prospects due to concern about the pitcher’s health.
They already made their big move, acquiring Mark Trumbo from the Diamondbacks, and where did it get them?
Trumbo has batted only .219 with a .559 OPS since joining the club, and the Mariners’ position players rank next-to-last in the AL in fWAR.
GM Jack Zduriencik seems unlikely to do anything of further significance. If anything, the M’s should shift course and market right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, a potential free agent who was brilliant in his second start off the DL. But even with the second-worst record in the AL, it’s doubtful Zduriencik wants to concede.
Like many clubs, the Rangers could buy and sell simultaneously — for example, trading Yovani Gallardo, a potential free agent, while acquiring a controllable starting pitcher whom they could pair with Yu Darvish through at least 2017.
More likely, the Rangers will pursue more modest upgrades — a veteran reliever, a platoon right-handed bat. Their bigger moves could come in the offseason, when they attempt to off-load right fielder Shin-Soo Choo and find a right-handed slugger.
Their biggest need is an eighth-inning setup man — or better, a dominant closer such as Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel who would reduce Drew Storen to an eighth-inning setup man.
A lesser priority would be a left-handed hitter who could play first base and/or outfield depending upon the statuses of Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth — lesser, because when those two are healthy, they will play.
The Nats, deep in prospects and facing the losses of a number of potential free agents, are unlikely to be idle. But as reported previously, GM Mike Rizzo might need to be creative; Nats ownership is reluctant to add payroll in the middle of a season.
Recently I heard the Mets were talking to the Padres, so I asked a rival executive for his opinion. The exec guessed on some possible Mets targets — Justin Upton, Joaquin Benoit, Kimbrel — then said: "I wonder if they would try to get Tyson Ross and flip one of their starters for offense."
A two-step move? The Mets? Bite your tongue!
If you want to take a sympathetic view, you could say that the Mets didn’t truly expect to contend this season and that their early surge raised expectations to unreasonable levels.
This will not be the Mets’ only chance to contend — their rotation, barring a series of major injuries, should be pretty darned good in the future, too. That said, the Mets will have no excuse for failing to upgrade their offense — only the Phillies are averaging fewer runs per game in the NL.
Not much left to trade, unless the Braves want to flip right-hander Julio Teheran and the remaining four-plus years on his contract as part of their continuing effort to stockpile pitching prospects. Another idea would be to sell high on center fielder Cameron Maybin, who is under club control for two more years.
Closer Jason Grilli was the team’s most obvious piece before he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. The Braves also could move veterans such as left fielder Jonny Gomes and catcher A.J. Pierzynski, and they’re begging to move third baseman Chris Johnson. None of those players, though, would bring meaningful returns.
The obvious chips are potential free-agent right-handers Mat Latos and Dan Haren, and it’s also possible that a reliever or two could go.
The market for Latos should be interesting — he is not the first choice for most clubs. The Dodgers, meanwhile, are paying Haren’s entire $10 million salary, which in theory should add to his appeal.
The Marlins are forever aggressive and full of surprises, but it would be surprising to see them move any players signed beyond this season, including infielder Martin Prado.
Club officials promised Giancarlo Stanton that they would keep the team competitive, remember?
Actually, the Phillies deserve credit for staying patient and holding onto Cole Hamels, increasing their leverage at the deadline. But now, the moment of truth is upon whoever is making decisions at Citizens Bank Park these days.
Hamels, closer Jonathan Papelbon, first baseman Ryan Howard, outfielder Revere all must go. Fans, though, need to be realistic. Hamels is the only one likely to bring a significant return, and "significant" still translates to "prospects."
Fading teams such as the Red Sox and Rangers might be less compelled to acquire Hamels than in the past. Teams such as the Astros and Blue Jays do not believe Hamels would join them, no matter what he says about being open-minded to every club on his 20-team, no-trade list.
Still, plenty of other clubs are thought to be in the mix, including the Dodgers and Cubs. If Hamels is still a Phillie on Aug. 1, a fan revolt will be entirely justified.
The addition of Brewers first baseman Adam Lind would make absolute sense, given the Cardinals’ need for a left-handed-hitting first baseman and desire to return Mark Reynolds to a part-time role.
Of course, trades that make absolute sense do not always happen. The Cardinals, at least, are operating from a position of strength, with left fielder Matt Holliday, left-hander Jaime Garcia and reliever Jordan Walden all expected back soon. And who knows? Maybe top prospect Stephen Piscotty will prove a worthy alternative as he converts from the outfield to first base.
The bigger question perhaps, is how general manager John Mozeliak views his starting rotation. It’s fairly deep, if Garcia is healthy, if lefty Marco Gonzales returns, if Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha stay strong. But does Mozeliak want to count on all that, plus a 36-year-old John Lackey, in October? Fair question.
The Pirates are last in fWAR at first base, next-to-last in right field. A right-handed complement to Pedro Alvarez would make sense. So would a right-handed complement to Gregory Polanco, which explains the team’s interest in the Phillies’ Jeff Francoeur, as reported by FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi.
The emergence of Jung Ho Kang has helped the Pirates absorb the loss of third baseman Josh Harrison, who is out until the end of August after undergoing surgery. Harrison could play some right field once he returns, but the Pirates could use the added depth — Kang, a rookie from South Korea, has never played a 162-game season.
The Cubs are like the Mets, ahead of schedule. But while the Mets are just two games out in the NL East, the Cubs are eight back in the Central — and trailing two teams.
So, why should the Cubs go all-in at the deadline when their only reward might be a one-game playoff?
They shouldn’t — especially when the coming free-agent class includes a multitude of pitchers who will cost only money and possibly draft picks, as opposed to prospects.
Philadelphia’s Hamels, guaranteed about $81 million through 2018 with a vesting option for ’19, would fit at the right acquisition cost. A trade of a young hitter for a young pitcher also could work, but offense currently is more valuable.
We’re about to find if the Cubs remain wedded to Starlin Castro — they could trade him and move Addison Russell, a superior defender, from second to short.
Concern about right-hander Cueto’s elbow could diminish his value, making it all the more imperative that the Reds trade closer Chapman if they are serious about retooling.
Right-hander Mike Leake and right fielder Bruce also hold value, and left fielder Marlon Byrd and reliever J.J. Hoover could bring lesser pieces.
It’s a lot to juggle, a lot to process, particularly for an owner, Bob Castellini, and GM, Walt Jocketty, who are not accustomed to selling — and in a market where duplications of the Reds’ assets are available.
Virtually all of the players the Brewers would like to trade — right-handers Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, even shortstop Jean Segura — are performing too poorly to attract much interest.
Gerardo Parra, a left-handed hitter who plays all three outfield positions, should bring a decent prospect, and the Brewers also could move Neal Cotts, a left-handed reliever.
Center fielder Carlos Gomez? Like most position players, he would be easier to trade in the offseason, when rosters are more flexible.
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy? The Brewers are reluctant to even listen; Lucroy would be difficult to replace and is signed to club-friendly salaries through 2017. But he is their one player who could bring a monster return.
The question is not if but when. The Dodgers are going to add a starting pitcher. Probably multiple starting pitchers. And given Friedman’s history, he will engage on everyone from Hamels on down.
The Dodgers’ farm system is growing stronger — strong enough so that Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Co. can make impact trades without giving up shortstop Corey Seager and left-hander Julio Urias, who remain as unlikely to be moved as outfielder Joc Pederson once was.
Double-A right-hander Jose DeLeon could be the centerpiece of any package, and the Dodgers can part with major-league outfielders and infielders, too.
Doubtful, unless the Dodgers could get an equivalent return — a young, high-end talent who is both affordable and controllable long term.
The Giants’ statistical profile is rather unusual, at least for them. Their rotation and bullpen both rank below the NL average, according to fWAR, while their position players rank second only to the Dodgers’.
The Giants’ bullpen, in particular, is not what it was during the team’s championship seasons; another late-inning reliever would help. The rotation, too, is down, but the Giants have significant money tied up in righties Matt Cain, Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson; would they need to off-load a salary to add, say, the Reds’ Leake?
The expected return of left fielder Nori Aoki from a fractured right fibula by August will push lesser players to the bench, but the Giants also would benefit from adding more power among their reserves.
The D-backs under Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart have proven quite unpredictable, but one thing we know: They would move heaven, earth and whatever prospects necessary to land a controllable, top-of-the-rotation starter.
Such pitchers, of course, are nearly impossible to acquire, and the D-backs still could end up with a nice young rotation of their own once their top prospects are ready.
The team’s work at the deadline, then, could be limited to clearing veterans such as right-hander Jeremy Hellickson and second baseman Aaron Hill to make room for youngsters such as Aaron Blair and second baseman Brandon Drury.
Time to undo, but here are the problems:
● The Padres will not get back as much as they gave up for players such as potential free-agent left fielder Justin Upton, won’t find another club to pay the price they did for closer Kimbrel and take the contract of outfielder Melvin Upton Jr.
● Ownership and GM A.J. Preller might earn a pass if they attempt to correct their mistakes, but it won’t be a lifetime pass. The team’s frenetic approach will be a major turnoff to an already scarred fan base if things don’t improve soon.
More power to Preller if he can somehow move the bulk of right-hander James Shields’ contract while finding a shortstop and center fielder. But the Padres are playing a dangerous game — and considering how freely they parted with both prospects and dollars last offseason, they’re already far behind.
Is this so difficult?
Troy Tulowitzki is arguably the most attractive hitter on the market — yes, even more attractive than Justin Upton, considering that Tulo is under club control through 2021. The Rockies can make him even more attractive by paying down some of the $98 million he is guaranteed after this season. While finding a fit might be easier over the winter, Tulowitzki is healthy now.
Here is one thought: Trade Tulo to the Nationals for young pitching, take Ian Desmond as part of the package, then flip Desmond, a potential free agent, to the Mets or some other club. There are other teams, other combinations, to consider. But the Rockies need to recognize that they have nothing more to lose.
Trade Tulo, trade Carlos Gonzalez, trade John Axford, LaTroy Hawkins and every other player who might have some value.