Teams approach the trade deadline in different fashions based on their financial outlook and position in the playoff picture. Based on the varying degrees of needs for both buyers and sellers I ranked all of the major league teams on how important it is for them to act before the July 31 trade deadline. Some teams need to add a significant piece, while others need to extract value from their major league assets. For serious contenders, success in the postseason was considered on top of the likelihood they make the playoffs.
Yesterday, we looked at the ten teams with the least pressing need to make a move. From #30-#21, the order went: Red Sox, Phillies, Rockies, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Mariners, Marlins, Yankees, Nationals, Braves. Today’s group starts with teams that may benefit from a move but who don’t absolutely need to be active this week, to those who should be on the phone rather frequently.
#20 – Minnesota Twins
Though they have rebounded quite a bit from a dreadful start, making up seven games in the AL Central over two months will be difficult. Their biggest trade chips are Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, Jim Thome, Denard Span and Scott Baker, but only Span has been mentioned in recent rumors.
He is also probably considered the bronze trophy to teams that miss out on Michael Bourn and BJ Upton. Kubel will be a free agent at the end of the year and the Twins could probably get a better return on compensatory picks. The Twins would have to pay virtually all of Cuddyer’s remaining money to get anything of value in return, and despite a losing season, Jim Thome’s quest for 600 HR will likely keep him in Minneapolis until the waiver wire period. They have some interesting pieces that may have been valued more in trades earlier in the season, but not so much right now.
Then again, given the thin nature of the starting pitchers on the market, Scott Baker would vault toward the top of that list if made available.
#19 – Chicago White Sox
The Sox are currently starting some of the worst everyday regulars in Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Mark Teahen and Juan Pierre and are still just 3.5 games out of the AL Central lead. Even replacing Pierre with Melky Cabrera would make a big difference. They aren’t as strong as the Tigers but could certainly pose a threat down the stretch. Or, the Sox could consider trading John Danks or Edwin Jackson given the overall quality of the rotation. Moving one of those two would almost certainly result in a big improvement without sacrificing too much in the pitching department.
#18 – Chicago Cubs
Moving Alfonso Soriano would be fantastic, especially since Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano each have 10 and 5 rights and, at least in the case of Ramirez, a desire to remain in Chicago. Assuming they pay most of Sori’s remaining ~$60 million, he could be a decent right-handed bat off the bench or platoon outfielder in the right situation. Reed Johnson could also solve a lot of problems for teams seeking a lefty-crusher with the ability to play center field, who also don’t want to commit to the potential financial ramifications that would accompany Upton or Bourn.
#17 – San Francisco Giants
Despite a four-game lead in the NL West, the Giants could do well to bolster their offense. Carlos Beltran would be a dynamite fit, and it’s clear the Giants are going to be active this week. The injury to Buster Posey created a void at catcher that cannot be filled internally. It can’t be filled externally, either, but they could stand to do better than Eli Whiteside. Pursuing Chris Iannetta would be an interesting move given that the Rockies have never seemed enamored of him and are out of the race. Ryan Hanigan might fit as well, as the Reds have some issues in need of fixing and don’t necessarily need him with Ramon Hernandez on the roster.
In the end, the Giants are most likely going to make the playoffs, but whether it’s a splash like Beltran or replacing Whiteside with Hanigan, they need to make a move somewhere to aid their chances at succeeding in the playoffs.
#16 – Texas Rangers
Their lead isn’t large and, despite an upper echelon offense, the pitching staff on the whole needs to improve if they want to increase their odds of making, and succeeding in, the playoffs. Much like the Giants, it’s likely they will win the division, but there is nothing wrong with a non-dominant team proactively improving those odds by improving a true deficiency. Either of those two White Sox starters would make a ton of sense for the Rangers, as would Matt Thornton to improve the ‘pen.
#15 – Oakland Athletics
They have Coco Crisp, Conor Jackson, Michael Wuertz, Brian Fuentes and Josh Willingham all attracting attention, and it’s likely at least two of them are moved by the deadline. None of those five have futures in Oakland and could certainly help a fringe or legitimate contender.
#14 – Kansas City Royals
Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur are available and attracting interest, even though neither is a real difference-maker. Cabrera derives much of his utility from his glove, and Francouer from his ability to hit lefties. Neither serves any purpose to the Royals and could be had for substantially less than some other bats on the market. Both also illustrate the idea of how context defines value. Melky is definitely hitting this year but his WAR benefits from the positional adjustment in center field. If a team like the Phillies acquired him, he would almost certainly play a corner outfield spot, negating one of his biggest benefits. With Francoeur, the overall offensive numbers are poor and well-documented. But strictly as a lefty-crusher, teams could do a lot worse. They would just have to resist the urge to play him everyday.
#13 – Detroit Tigers
They hold a slim lead over the Indians in the AL Central race, but have outfield problems and a rather thin rotation. Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch are performing fine, but the other spot has been a revolving door of Ryan Raburn, Magglio Ordonez, Casper Wells, Andy Dirks and Don Kelly, none of whom is performing well. In his defense, Ordonez hasn’t been that bad since returning from the disabled list — .300/.377/.390 since June 13 — so the Tigers would likely seek more than just a rental.
After Verlander and Scherzer, the rotation leaves much to be desired. If Kuroda were willing to waive his no-trade clause, he would fit well, but color me skeptical that someone so interested in playing on the West Coast would approve a deal to Detroit.
The Tigers have expressed interest in Derek Lowe, and it’s possible a deal could be made to that end, since the Braves don’t need him to still throw out a top-notch rotation. Though the Indians have more significant deficiencies to worry about, the Tigers can’t afford to be reactive here, scrambling to make an improvement after the deadline passes and others are knocking on the divisional door.
#12 – Baltimore Orioles
Though Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero aren’t going to attract much attention, Jeremy Guthrie might be the best available starter on the market, especially given his team control for the 2012 season.Recent trades have shown that teams don’t really part with all that much talent for 1.5 years of a pitcher, but they part with even less for 0.5-1 year. Now is the time to move Guthrie.
#11 – San Diego Padres
Jed Hoyer has been taking calls on Ryan Ludwick, Heath Bell and Mike Adams, but it’s entirely possible none of those three goes anywhere. Interest in Ludwick is limited, as he is a distant Plan B to a team that misses out on Beltran. Adams is under team control next year as well and it would take an awful lot to pry him from the Padres, especially since they’ll likely use him as a closer when Bell signs elsewhere as a free agent.
Bell will be offered arbitration, and any deal to send him packing would have to be more enticing than what could be had with the two compensation picks. While the Padres probably should move at least two of those three players, they don’t have the same pressing need to move their assets as a couple of the sellers that will appear on tomorrow’s list.
Tomorrow we will conclude the three-part series by looking at the ten teams who most need to make moves this week, whether it’s a fringe contender looking to bolster their playoff odds, or a cellar-dweller that needs to trade away major league assets.