Generally, as the MLB Trade Deadline (July 31) approaches, we have a clear list of buyers and sellers with a handful of teams teetering in the middle. This season has its Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros, who will surely be looking to add to their rosters ahead of the playoffs, along with its Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants, who will be selling in hopes of building a brighter future. But there are currently an Aaron Judge-sized list of teams who could go either way.
The playoff picture in the National League is clear. The NL West is preparing to send three teams; the closest team to the Rockies, who hold the final Wild Card spot, is a whopping 6.5 games back. The American League is foggier than a Bay Area morning: the Detroit Tigers, who sit 14th, are only 6.5 games back of a Wild Card spot. Even the last-placed Chicago White Sox are only 7.5 games in arrears.
With seven teams within 3.5 games of the Wild Card in the AL, the playoff picture is murky to say the least. Which teams will emerge as the buyers in late July? And which ones will be presented an offer for one of their stars they simply can’t refuse?
ODDS TO BE BUYERS
Houston Astros: 1/49
Finding holes on a team that’s 52-25 can be awfully tough. The Astros rank second in the majors in runs and third in ERA. Their “weakness” (I use that term relatively) are all pitching-related. Houston’s 3.91 bullpen ERA ranks tenth in the majors, and they could use one more powerful relief arm. Their starting rotation has also been hit hard by injuries this year, including top-end guys Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers. They will be one of the teams in the market for a quality starter like Sonny Gray (Oakland).
Boston Red Sox: 1/19
The Red Sox aren’t having much trouble getting on base, evidenced by their .265 batting average (seventh in the majors), but they sure are missing David Ortiz’s bat in the lineup. Boston has only scored 328 runs (tied for 18th) and is showing a major shortage of power. The Red Sox will find some power and may bring in another arm for the rotation, as well, considering only Chris Sale has been reliable this year.
Cleveland Indians: 1/9
The 2017 Indians are far from the team that took the Cubs to seven games in the World Series last year. But with an addition to the rotation, and another threat in the middle of the batting order, Cleveland can start rounding into that 2016 form. And with the Royals heating up, the Indians may need the shot in the arm to hold onto the AL Central.
New York Yankees: 1/3
The Baby Bombers are still too young to go all-in this season, but I do expect them to at least make a couple minor moves before the deadline. Contenders will always seek another arm for the pen, and there’s no doubt the Yankees could use the help. If there is a big move to be made, it would likely be for a front-end starting pitcher.
- Toronto Blue Jays: 3/4
- Los Angeles Angels: 7/8
- Kansas City Royals: 10/11
The Blue Jays have been ravaged by injury this season, and their bullpen has a knack for squandering late-game leads (12 blown saves). They still believe they are contenders, but are no strangers to deadline deals with more than just the current season in mind.
If the Angels can remain afloat without Mike Trout for at least the next two weeks, management could beef up the roster a little for a second-half push.
Before a 15-7 run in the month of June, the Royals’ Justin Vargas was a prime candidate to be moved. If KC does fall off again, expect them to dangle Vargas on the trading block. But if they continue their run, they may instead look for a bat to help manufacture runs.
ODDS TO BE SELLERS
- Chicago White Sox: 1/40
- Oakland Athletics: 1/33
- Detroit Tigers: 2/3
- Minnesota Twins: 3/4
Once the White Sox traded Chris Sale in the offseason, we all knew how their 2017 was going to play out. As (somewhat) expected, they sit last in the AL. Unexpectedly, their best asset, Jose Quintana, has seen his value plummet and now may not be the time to sell low on the once-promising starter, who still has another year (plus club-options in 2019 and ’20) left on his current deal. But the Chi-Sox will be sellers nonetheless, and even if the return isn’t great, you’ll still see Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera shopped, as both become UFAs after this season.
Minnesota fans might be sad to see their team on the likely sellers list. Yes, the Twins are right there in the Central, but this isn’t their year. Unless they have a couple games on the rest of the division, it would be irresponsible to not take advantage of Ervin Santana’s sky-high value to build for the future.
ODDS TO BE BUYERS
Washington Nationals: 1/66
Without a doubt, the Nationals will do everything in their power to bolster their shaky bullpen. The group has a 4.98 ERA, which ranks second-last in the majors. Washington’s roster is far too talented in every other area to overlook this glaring hole.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 1/33
As with Houston, finding a hole on the Dodgers’ roster is pretty difficult. With the Dodgers feeling this is their year, though, expect money to be spent. They were counting on rookie Julio Urias developing into a quality starter later in the year, but his season-ending injury quashes that notion. They’ll now be in the market for a starter to bolster their playoff rotation, especially with Alex Wood and Brandon McCarthy battling injuries this year, as well, and Rich Hill sporting a 4.60 ERA.
Colorado Rockies: 1/29
The Rockies will spend the weeks leading up to the deadline searching for pitching help. Their bullpen ranks 20th in ERA (4.50) and the starting staff doesn’t really feature an ace.
Chicago Cubs: 1/7
As expected, the Cubs rotation regressed from its unbelievable 2016. It was a little tougher to foresee the offense taking a giant leap towards mediocrity, though. Chicago’s .241 batting average only tops the Padres, and the team has been living and dying by the long-ball. In spite of the numbers, the defending World Series champs are only a player or two away from another deep playoff run.
- Arizona Diamondbacks: 2/3
- Milwaukee Brewers: 9/10
The Diamondbacks are still very young and may just be happy playing out the season with what they have. I wouldn’t expect them to part ways with any valuable assets just for a rental player.
The Brewers may currently lead the NL Central, but they don’t have the feel of a team that can legitimately contend; they’ve been gifted the lead in a mediocre division, thus far. That said, if the Cubs continue to struggle, Milwaukee could make some minor moves to try to hold onto that playoff berth.
ODDS TO BE SELLERS
- Philadelphia Phillies: 1/19
- San Diego Padres: 1/19
- Cincinnati Reds: 1/14
- Pittsburgh Pirates: 1/2
- San Francisco Giants: 1/2
- New York Mets: 2/3
- Miami Marlins: 4/5
The Phillies may not have much to offer, but reliever Pat Neshek and LF/2B Howie Kendrick will be valued by contending teams, and there’s no reason for the worst-in-the-majors Phils to hold onto trade assets.
The most interesting teams on the list are the bottom-four. The Pirates have long been seeking a trading partner for Andrew McCutchen, and the outfielder is only signed through 2018. He got off to a dismal start this year, initially crushing his trade value, but he’s been on a tear more recently. A contender may put together an attractive package that finally lures Cutch away from the Bucs.
All of the Giants valuable pieces are signed long-term, save for Eduardo Nunez. The Mets have a ton of expiring contracts, but the team always struggles to actually throw in the towel. Meanwhile, the Marlins have one of the most valuable trade chips on the market in Marcell Ozuna; but do they want to give up a young, budding star?