We are now only days away from the July 31st trade deadline and the trade talks are starting to heat up. We’ll now go into what each AL contender needs going into the deadline.
New York Yankees (52 – 41) 1st place in the AL East
Need – Starter, second basemen, bullpen help
The Yankees sit atop the AL East with their current roster, and even if they didn’t make a move, this team could still win the division. That being said, the Yankees could still use another starter because it is hard to count on Mashiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda to stay healthy. Tanaka and Pineda have had elbow troubles recently, and it could only take one pitch to take them out of the Yankee rotation. In recent years the Yankees have been committed to developing home grown talent, so I wouldn’t expect them to give up their top prospects for a guy like Cole Hamels, although they could go out and get a guy like a Jeff Samardzija or Scott Kazmir and not give up that much to get them. Stephen Drew, the Yankees starting second basemen, is hitting .181, so there is not doubt they could upgrade at that position. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have been lights out at the back end of the bullpen this season, but they have been relied on heavily thus far. Miller has already had a DL stint, so another bullpen guy to take a little bit of the heat off Betances and Miller would not hurt.
Potential Pickups – Jeff Samardzija (SP White Sox), Scott Kazmir (SP A’s) , Johnny Cueto (SP Reds), Brandon Phillips (2B Reds), Ben Zobrist (2B A’s), Francisco Rodriguez (RHP Brewers), Brad Ziegler (RHP Diamondbacks), Tyler Clippard (RHP A’s)
Toronto Blue Jays (48 – 47 4.5 of 1st place, 3 out of Wild Card
Need – Bullpen help, Starting Pitcher
The Blue Jays own the best offense in baseball and have a potential MVP winner on their team in Josh Donaldson, yet they only stand at 48-47 and are 4.5 games out of first place and three games out of a wild card spot. So one might ask, “how?” Well, the Jays have a glaring hole in their starting staff and in the back end of their bullpen. If the playoffs started today, the Jays would have Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Marco Estrada starting games 1, 2 and 3. While Buehrle and Estrada have pitched well this year, that threesome doesn’t exactly strike fear into opposing American League lineups. It has been rumored that Cole Hamels would not waive his no trade clause to go to Toronto, so it is unlikely they can land him. It is more likely they would be able to land a Johnny Cueto or a Jeff Samardzija and because both guys are under contract until the end of the year the Jays would not need to give up a lot to get them. A guy like Cueto or Samardzija would instantly bolster Toronto’s pitching staff. It has been no secret since the beginning of the year that the Jays need bullpen help. In fact they are in dead last in Major League Baseball in saves with 14. Johnathan Papelbon or Francisco Rodriguez would look very good at the back end of the bullpen. General manager Alex Anthopoulos is in the last year of his contract, so he needs to go out and make some moves to get this team into the playoffs. If they can pick up a starter and a reliever, they can easily catch the Yankees and win the division with how good their offense is.
Potential Pickups – Johnny Cueto (SP Reds), Jeff Samardzija (SP White Sox), Mike Leake (SP Reds), Scott Kazmir (SP A’s), Johnathan Papelbon (RHP Phillies), Francisco Rodriguez (RHP Brewers), Koji Uehara (RHP Red Sox), Brad Ziegler (RHP Diamondbacks)
Baltimore Orioles (46 – 47) 6 out of first place, 3.5 out of Wild Card
Need – Offense, Starting pitching
The Orioles need an impact bat. They need someone who cat hit behind Adam Jones and Manny Machado. There are two guys out there that I think the O’s should have on their radar and those two guys are Justin Upton and Jay Bruce. Upton would fit perfectly into right field, which would force Chris Davis back to his original position of first base. Upton is the premier bat on the market right now, but he is in the last year of his contract so he would not cost the Orioles as much as he would if he was under contract longer. Jay Bruce is the exact opposite position as Upton. Bruce is under contract until the end of 2016 so he would cost the Orioles a little bit more. Bruce and Upton would give Baltimore power from either corner outfield position. They do have some question marks in their starting rotation, but I would not expect them to go after a Hamels or a Cueto. I think they would go after a the second or third tier starters like Mike Leake or Scott Kazmir, but with that being said I am not all too sure they will acquire a pitcher.
Potential Pickups – Justin Upton (RF Padres), Jay Bruce (RF Reds), Carlos Gomez (CF Brewers), Carlos Gonzalez (RF Rockies), Mike Leake (SP Reds), Scott Kazmir (SP Reds)
Tampa Bay Rays (48 – 49) 6 out of 1st place, 3.5 out of Wild Card
Need – Offense
If you go and look at any box score of any Rays game this year, you would probably think to yourself “how is this team even in the conversation for the playoffs?” Outside of Evan Longoria there are not too many guys the casual baseball fan can name off the Rays lineup. The Rays are in one of the smallest markets in baseball and have pretty poor fan support, so I don’t expect them to go after a big name like Upton or Bruce. I think they would go after a guy like Martin Prado of the Marlins or Will Venable of the Padres. Neither guy is super star, but they are versatile players that would instantly bolster a rather anemic lineup. I don’t expect them to make a major move, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they make one of those under the radar moves.
Potential Pickups – Martin Prado (IF Marlins), Will Venable (OF Padres), Gerrado Parra (OF Brewers), Adam Lind (1B Brewers)
Kansas City Royals (57 – 36) 1st place in the AL Central
Need – Starting Pitching
There is no complete team in the American League, but if there is anything close to it it’s the Royals. The Royals have a balanced attack on offense, a great defense and lockdown, lights out bullpen. With that all said, the Royals desperately need a starter. And it doesn’t have to be a bona fide ace, they just need an innings eater who can get to that bullpen. The Royals starting staff ranks last in innings pitched, so they are putting heavy innings on their bullpen. I think the perfect guy for the Royals is Mike Leake. Leake, much like the Royals, isn’t anything flashy but he will go out and will throw 6-7 solid innings and turn it over to the bullpen. The Royals wouldn’t need to give up much for Leake as he is in the last year of his contract. Kansas City is already the favorite in the American League so adding another starter will only help that argument.
Potential Pickups – Mike Leake (SP Reds), Scott Kazmir (SP A’s), Johnny Cueto (SP Reds), Jeff Samardzija (SP White Sox), Mat Latos (SP Marlins)
Minnesota Twins (50 – 44) 7.5 out of 1st place, 2nd place in the Wild Card
Need – Starting Pitching
The Twins have overachieved for much of the year, and I think they are probably one year away from seriously competing for the division, so I don’t think they will make move at the deadline. I think they are willing to take their chances with what they have for the rest of the season, and then make their moves in the offseason. If they do happen to make a move at the deadline I think they would be in play for a starting pitcher, but not any big name pitcher. They would be more likely go after a lower tier starter like a Kyle Lohse of the Brewers or Dan Haren of the Marlins. They are currently in one of the wild card spots in the AL, but I don’t see them being there at the end of the year. This year has to be considered a success no matter where the Twins end up finishing because everyone (including me) was picking them dead last in the AL Central.
Potential Pickups – Kyle Lohse (SP Brewers), Dan Haren (SP Marlins), Josh Collmenter (SP Diamondbacks)
Detroit Tigers (47 – 47) 10.5 of 1st place, 3 out of Wild Card
Need – Need to be sellers.
Detroit is in an unfamiliar position going into the trade deadline. For the last 4-5 seasons the Tigers have been buyers at the trade deadline, but I believe they won’t be this year. The Tigers need to desperately retool their team and that starts with trading David Price and Yoenis Cespedes. Both are essentially rental players because their contracts are up after this season, so they need to trade them and get something for them while they can. Even with just a year left on his deal Price would be worth a pretty penny and would bring back some nice prospects. Cespedes is a productive players, not nearly as valuable as Price, but he would also bring back some nice prospects. The Tigers should look at what the Phillies were a few years back. From 2007 to 2012 the Phillies were constantly making the playoffs, making runs to the World Series and at the end of that run the Phillies decided to hold on to their aging veterans instead of trading them and getting something for them. Now the Phillies are a complete mess and have really nothing in the minor leagues. If the Tigers don’t make these moves they could end up being the Phillies in a year or two. The Tigers farm system is depleted, but they can start rebuilding it with trades of Price and Cespedes.
Los Angles Angels of Anaheim (54 – 40) 1st place in the AL West
Need – Offense, bullpen
The Angels are currently one of the hottest teams in baseball and scoring close to six runs a game in July so you might be thinking, “how could they need offense?” Well you can always get more offense. The best player in baseball Mike Trout and a resurgent Albert Pujols have teamed up to be one of, if not the most formidable offense duo in baseball this season. They make up a great 3-4 in the lineup, but it quickly falls off after that. For most of the season they have has Erick Ayber hitting five or six in the lineup, when Ayber should be hitting eight or nine. I believe the Angels should make a strong push for Jay Bruce of the Reds. Bruce would give the Angels a left handed power bat to go with the righties of Trout and Pujols. Imagine a 3-4-5 of Trout, Pujols and Bruce, that would be pretty fearsome middle of the order. They also could go after a reliever or two to help build a bridge to the closer Huston Street.
Potential Pickups – Jay Bruce (RF Reds), Yoenis Cespedes (OF Tigers), Francisco Rodriguez (RHP Brewers), Brad Ziegler (RHP Diamondbacks)
Houston Astros (53 – 43) 2 out of 1st place, 1st place in the Wild Card
Need – Starting pitching
The surprise story of the season certainly has to be the Astros. I don’t think many people thought they would be in the hunt for the playoffs this season, but I think they should go for it. They need to make a big splash at the deadline. The Angels are getting ready to take off, and the Astros cannot sit back and do nothing. The Astros are one of the few teams that have the prospects to acquire a Cole Hamels or a David Price. Imagine if the Astros could go into the playoffs with Dallas Kuechel and either Hamels or Price starting games 1 and 2. That would arguably be the best 1-2 punch in the playoffs. I know it would be tough, but I really believe Houston should give up the prospects and go acquire Cole Hamels, David Price or Johnny Cueto.
Potential Pickups – Cole Hamels (SP Phillies), David Price (SP Tigers), Johnny Cueto (SP Reds), Jeff Samardzija (SP White Sox)
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