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MLB trade deadline primer: What does each National League contender need?
Major League Baseball

MLB trade deadline primer: What does each National League contender need?

Updated Jul. 27, 2023 12:34 p.m. ET

The hot stove is officially lit. 

After the Dodgers made a couple low-cost infield additions, one of the biggest pitchers on the market also went to a team with Los Angeles in the name — just not the club many would have expected. 

Though the Dodgers do need pitching, it was the Angels adding L.A. native Lucas Giolito in the late hours Wednesday night, marking the first major move leading up to the deadline. It’s the kind of acquisition that could catalyze plenty more action in the coming days.  

When it all shakes out, these are the moves that could help give the top NL contenders the boosts they need.


[RELATED: AL contender needs

(Teams listed in order of current postseason odds via FanGraphs)

Atlanta Braves


  • Starting pitching depth (?)

There’s a question mark above because this might be the least needy, most complete team out there. Rotation help is more a "would be nice" than a need. Spencer Strider and Charlie Morton can headline a playoff rotation. Bryce Elder was an All-Star this year, but his troubling underlying numbers have started to show themselves in a steep decline in July — he has a 7.71 ERA and eight strikeouts over his first four starts of the month. 

MLB Power Rankings: Braves remain the best team in baseball

Max Fried (forearm strain) could be back to join the group soon, but he hasn’t pitched in a major-league game since May 5. Kyle Wright (shoulder inflammation) could follow at some point in the second half, but he also hasn’t pitched since early May and struggled when he did pitch. Michael Soroka has looked much better this month, but he has a 5.52 ERA on the year. Rotation injuries throughout the year have required 18 starts from rookie pitchers thus far. 

Atlanta doesn’t need an ace, but after making some smaller moves to bolster the bullpen, another pitcher to round out the staff certainly wouldn’t hurt. 

Possible fits: Michael Lorenzen, Eduardo Rodríguez (Detroit Tigers); Lance Lynn (Chicago White Sox); Paul Blackburn (Oakland Athletics)

Los Angeles Dodgers


  • Pitching

The Dodgers brought back Kiké Hernández this week, and general manager Brandon Gomes said the move wouldn’t preclude them from trying to add another right-handed bat. He was not lying. A day later, news broke Wednesday afternoon that the Dodgers had acquired shortstop Amed Rosario from the Guardians, as well, giving them the added depth against left-handed pitching that they sought. But a more glaring need still looms. 

They’re in the market for both starting and relief pitching. For a while, the latter appeared to be the more pressing issue, but their bullpen has taken considerable strides coming out of the break. Still, another high-leverage option to team with Evan Phillips could go a long way, especially with Daniel Hudson on the shelf again. The rotation, meanwhile — which had the lowest ERA in the National League each of the past six years — sports a 4.71 ERA that ranks eighth-worst in the majors. 

The Dodgers are in first place at 58-43 despite their deficiencies, but with Dustin May out for the year, Clayton Kershaw still working his way back from a shoulder issue and both Julio Urías and Tony Gonsolin experiencing some serious volatility, this team probably needs another ace to feel comfortable going into October. A Chicago White Sox match would have made a lot of sense, though the Angels grabbed the SouthSide prize in Giolito. Still, perhaps there’s a deal to be made there. 

Possible fits: Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly (Chicago White Sox); Jack Flaherty (St. Louis Cardinals); Scott Barlow (Kansas City Royals)

Milwaukee Brewers


  • Corner infield
  • Offensive pop

Brian Anderson could be back soon and Rowdy Tellez might not be far behind, but the Brewers don’t have the luxury of waiting long for the corner infielders as they try to hold off the Reds in the Central. Not to mention, both of those guys are hitting below league average this year anyway. 

After last year’s deadline resulted in the unpopular dealing of Josh Hader, the Brewers will want to be careful not to disrupt team chemistry as they seek out trade partners. But this offense, which ranks last in the National League in slugging and OPS, needs help immediately. 

Possible fits: CJ Cron (Colorado Rockies), Jeimer Candelario (Washington Nationals), Cody Bellinger (Chicago Cubs), Carlos Santana (Pittsburgh Pirates)

Philadelphia Phillies


  • Outfielder
  • Pitching depth

Who had the Phillies ranking 21st in home runs this year? They have to cross their fingers that Trea Turner figures things out before October, but as they wait for that to happen, adding another right-handed bat in the outfield seems prudent. Philadelphia’s outfielders have produced 3.5 fWAR this year, which ranks 24th in the majors. 

The lefties in the lineup have mashed this month — Bryce Harper, Bryson Stott and Brandon Marsh each have an OPS over .780 in July — but this lineup could use more right-handed pop with Nick Castellanos cooling off and Rhys Hoskins out for the year.  With Harper working in at first base, that leaves more time for Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter and another righty to get time at a corner outfield spot. Colorado’s Randal Grichuk, a rental who’s slashing over 1.000 against left-handed pitching, would be a sensible fit. 

As good as Cristopher Sánchez has been, it also wouldn’t be a shock to see the Phillies add another left-handed arm in the rotation to pair alongside righties Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Taijuan Walker, particularly if Ranger Suárez’s July struggles (0-3, 6.11 ERA) don’t right themselves. 

Possible fits: Randal Grichuk (Colorado Rockies), Dylan Carlson (St. Louis Cardinals), Lane Thomas (Washington Nationals); Mark Canha (New York Mets) 

San Francisco Giants


  • Middle infield
  • Power right-handed hitter
  • Left-handed starter

Getting swept by the Nationals — and scoring five combined runs in the process — is not conducive to contention. After winning five straight to start the second half, San Francisco dropped six straight games before ending the skid Tuesday against Oakland. The Giants now find themselves in the same boat as the Diamondbacks, looking to stay within striking distance of the Dodgers while keeping hold of a wild-card spot. 

To do that, they’ll need some offensive help, particularly up the middle. They have only two middle infielders with an OPS over .600, and both of them — Thairo Estrada and Brandon Crawford — are on the injured list. While Crawford could return before month’s end, he is slashing just .207/.285/.333 this year. Estrada was a legit All-Star candidate at second base before fracturing his hand. As they wait for his return, they’ve called up electrifying prospect Marco Luciano, but a proven player up the middle could go a long way. 

Considering the Giants have the second-lowest OPS against left-handed pitching, rank in the bottom third overall in slugging percentage and have accumulated just 2.8 wins above replacement in the outfield (27th in the majors), a power bat in the outfield would make sense. Is this just me rooting for Tommy Pham and Joc Pederson on the same team? Maybe. 

After Logan Webb and Alex Cobb, there has been little stability in the Giants’ rotation, particularly from the left side. Sean Manaea has been in the bullpen since May, while Alex Wood is still searching for his footing after switching between starting and relief roles. They might want to add more depth to the rotation. 

Possible fits: Tim Anderson (Chicago White Sox); Paul DeJong, Brendan Donovan, Jordan Montgomery (St. Louis Cardinals); Eduardo Rodríguez (Detroit Tigers); Tommy Pham (New York Mets) 

Miami Marlins


  • Corner infield
  • Catcher
  • Any masher

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Marlins could use a hitter.

I mentioned Canderlario as a potential Brewers fit, but he seems very right here. That is my flag plant. Corner infield help should be the focus — Jean Segura has a 53 OPS+, while Garrett Cooper and Yuli Gurriel are both hitting slightly below league average — but honestly, get any hitter who can mash into this lineup before it’s too late.

The Marlins have hit a major-league low 13 homers in July. Jorge Soler has cooled off. Even Luis Arráez is down to — GASP! — .376 on the year. It’s not often Miami finds itself in a position to buy, and after dropping eight straight games to begin the second half, that window is closing. Bring on the offense. 

Possible fits: Jeimer Candelario (Washington Nationals), Elias Diaz (Colorado Rockies), Yasmani Grandal (Chicago White Sox), Carlos Santana (Pittsburgh Pirates) 

Marlins' Luis Arráez on hitting approach & being compared to Tony Gwynn

Arizona Diamondbacks


  • Pitching

BREAKING: Most contenders could use pitching. 

But the Dodgers and Diamondbacks could use it all over, particularly if the latter team wants to get back to challenging for the division crown after a dismal start to the second half. At the All-Star break, the D-backs and Dodgers were tied atop the NL West. Two weeks later, Arizona is four games back in the division and on the outside looking in at a playoff spot. The D-backs have dropped nine of their first 12 games in the second half, amassing the worst ERA in the majors (7.22) over that short stretch. On the year, their starters’ and relievers’ ERA both rank in the bottom third of baseball. 

The D-backs have blown nearly as many saves (18) as they’ve converted (26). Kevin Ginkel is the latest to secure the ninth-inning role, and he has provided some stability to a group that needed it, but it’s been a bit of a revolving door this season that could use some anchoring. 

In the rotation, Merrill Kelly’s return will take some of the burden off ace Zac Gallen, and perhaps Brandon Pfaadt or another talented young Arizona rookie will take a step forward, but that’s a group that could use help as well. While their recent slide may deter them from making as big a move as they might have otherwise, the D-backs can still stand to add around the margins as they push for their first playoff appearance since 2017.

Possible fits: David Robertson (Mets); Jordan Hicks (St. Louis Cardinals); Brent Suter, Brad Hand (Colorado Rockies); Keynan Middleton (Chicago White Sox) 

Cincinnati Reds


  • Starting pitching

It’s pretty remarkable that the Reds are 56-48 with a rotation that has amassed a 24-29 record and 5.30 ERA. The other three teams with a starters ERA over 5.00 — the Royals, Rockies and Athletics — all sit comfortably in last place and entered Wednesday with a combined 97-210 record. 

The Reds rookies have made baseball must-see TV in Cincinnati, but young starters Andrew Abbott and Brandon Williamson can only do so much for a rotation treading water without Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo. Even once those two return, the Reds probably need to add a more reliable veteran arm or two in the rotation to challenge the Brewers in the Central. For everyone’s enjoyment, let’s find a way to get Elly De La Cruz in the playoffs.

Possible fits: Marcus Stroman (Chicago Cubs); Jordan Montgomery (St. Louis Cardinals); Aaron Civale (Cleveland Guardians)

Will the Reds be more aggressive than the Brewers at the trade deadline?

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and MLB as a whole for FOX Sports. He previously was the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner. 


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