The trade deadline will pass at 4:00 PM EST on Sunday July 31, giving teams a week to make deals before having to resort to the waiver wire.
Clubs approach the deadline differently based on goals relative to their current position in the playoff picture and their financial outlook. Playoff locks will look to improve a minor roster deficiency, while teams on the fringe will try to plug a major hole to shed their quasi-contender status. Some teams might try to unload a bad contract, even if they have to pay a large portion of the remaining salary. Teams clearly out of the race may look to trade away their valuable major league assets for prospects in the hope of contending in the future.
Despite the varying approaches, each team has a certain level of need to get things done. To that end, I decided to rank the teams in order of their levels of necessity as a makeshift primer of what can be expected as the deadline draws nearer.
The rankings are based on the goals mentioned above but don’t follow a specific formula. Not every team at the top is a fringe contender in a tight race, and the bottom third isn’t dominated by teams out of the playoff picture. The cellar-dwelling Astros, for instance, have as pressing a need to make moves this week as the Cardinals, who are tied in their division. Their respective spots in the rankings reflect the similar needs.
For the serious contenders, success in the playoffs did come into play to an extent, though it was definitely balanced with the likelihood they make the playoffs to begin with. The list is presented in order from least pressing to most pressing need to make moves this week, and our first group features as many contenders as non-contenders.
#30 – Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are way too strong to miss the playoffs. In fact, they might be the one contender capable of dealing away pieces based on their depth. If Jed Lowrie were healthy, the Sox could deal Marco Scutaro to a team like the Diamondbacks, who desperately need a shortstop. Scutaro is unlikely to be moved, but if any team could unload an everyday position player and not miss a beat, it’s the Red Sox. Word is they might be looking to acquire a backup outfielder and a 5th starter, but their odds of making the playoffs and winning the world series don’t hinge on either move.
#29 – Philadelphia Phillies
Much like the Red Sox, the Phillies are going to make the playoffs this year, whether they win the division or settle for the Wild Card. Sure, a reliever would be nice to reinforce the bullpen, and a right-handed outfield bat to spell Raul Ibanez in the middle of a cold spell would be swell, but these aren’t real necessities. In the playoffs, Charlie Manuel is going to play Ibanez, cold or not, and the Halladay-Lee-Hamels-Oswalt (if healthy) quartet will all go deep into games, negating the added value of that reliever.
#28 – Colorado Rockies
Ty Wigginton could help someone, but he’s under a reasonable contract for next season and it isn’t as if the Rockies have a readily available replacement for him. The injury to Jorge de la Rosa hurt, and the injury to Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t have come at a worse time. This will be a lost season for a team loaded with talent, but there isn’t much they can do this week. Ubaldo Jimenez has been rumored to be available but it makes no sense for the Rockies to move him, considering, well, Jimenez is the type of player a team in the Rockies’ position looks to acquire, not deal away.
#27 – Toronto Blue Jays
By signing Jose Bautista and Yunel Escobar to team-friendly contracts and getting rid of Vernon Wells contract, Alex Anthopolous has set the Blue Jays up to make a strong push at marquee free agents like Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes in the offseason. As for the current season, there really isn’t much the Jays can do. Their rotation is filled with youngsters who need some more seasoning, so a trade for a veteran starter for the back-end could be interesting, but it isn’t needed. Other than that, and seeing if there are any takers for Edwin Encarnacion as a bench bat and possible DH, there aren’t many deals to explore here right now.
#26 – Los Angeles Dodgers
Yes, the team is currently mired in a bankruptcy battle that will likely end up with Major League Baseball seizing control, but that doesn’t automatically mean every player is going to be traded. Most of the Dodgers core players are young and under team control, and the players that could be dealt — Jamey Carroll, Rafael Furcal, James Loney and Casey Blake — are either injured or marginal upgrades for interested teams. A blockbuster Matt Kemp deal wouldn’t be shocking, but it’s unlikely.
Hiroki Kuroda would be one of the best pitchers available but he has a full no-trade clause and it’s hard to imagine a guy explicitly interested in remaining on the West Coast approving a deal to, say, Detroit. The Dodgers have several pieces for an interested team, but not that big of a need to make a deal.
#25 – Seattle Mariners
Much like the Nationals, the Mariners’ only real trade chips are the players they want to build around themselves. Erik Bedard has been mentioned as a trade target but his questionable health is likely to sway teams in other directions. Doug Fister and Jason Vargas have drawn attention, but both are under team control for another few seasons and that cost certainty could help the Mariners improve elsewhere. Players the Mariners would love to unload, like Chone Figgins, are long-shots to be moved. If decent deals arise for any of Bedard, Fister or Vargas, or some team is willing to take on even a fraction of Figgins’ salary, the Mariners could be active, but there really isn’t a strong need to act. Then again, bringing in anyone capable of hitting would make for a nice change of pace.
#24 – Florida Marlins
Leo Nunez is the only player they have attracting any attention, and teams are only looking at him as a Plan D if they can’t acquire Mike Adams, Heath Bell or Koji Uehara. Knowing the Marlins, Nunez might be moved because next season is his final year of arbitration eligibility. The Fish might want to hold onto more of their assets with a new stadium on the horizon, but this might be the last time they can extract anything of value for Nunez.
#23 – New York Yankees
Only a couple of games separates them from the Red Sox, and the rest of the league is at least a handful of games back. In other words, it would take a pretty monumental collapse for the Yankees to miss the playoffs. But unlike the Red Sox, the Yankees starting rotation is suspect and could be their downfall in a playoff series. Whether it’s Jeremy Guthrie, Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez or perhaps even Derek Lowe, the Yankees should not sit idly by despite high playoff odds. Their success in the playoffs could hinge on adding another arm. Their ranking here has basically everything to do with success in the playoffs and not their odds of actually getting there.
#22 – Washington Nationals
They are clearly out of the NL East and Wild Card races, and the only player even mentioned on the rumor mill is Tyler Clippard, a top-notch reliever who won’t reach free agency until the 2016 season. The focus is, and should be, on next season when Stephen Strasburg is (hopefully) healthy, Bryce Harper is forcing his way onto the major league roster, and Jayson Werth, Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa form a formidable middle of the order.
Because of their potential, the Nats will likely make a push for B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn or Colby Rasmus this week as a long-term solutions in center field. The moves don’t matter much for this season, but seeing as at least one of those three will likely be dealt, now is the time for the Nationals to strike.
#21 – Atlanta Braves
The Braves are most likely going to make the playoffs this season. Their rotation is strong and the bullpen has been top-notch, but they do have some significant holes in the starting lineup. While there are still 60 games to be played, they shouldn’t rest on their laurels and expect to get in without an issue. Given the dearth of quality shortstops, Alex Gonzalez is realistically fine, as he offers great defense and the ability to hit home runs. But neither Jordan Schafer nor Nate McLouth has any business starting for a team with World Series aspirations. The Braves have been linked to Carlos Beltran and could also make a push for Michael Bourn, but they should be looking to bring in an everyday outfielder.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at teams #20-#11, starting with those in the gray area between acting or remaining passive, and finishing with some teams that really should be taking and making plenty of phone calls this week.