About a third of Major League Baseball teams are looking for home stretch reinforcements in the exchange market, while another third intend to add pieces by 2022 and beyond.
And the rest? At the start of the second half of the campaign, those teams seem to be in a kind of purgatory, not knowing if the next two weeks will take them to buy or sell.
In the American League, seven teams are competing for the Wild Cards, with 5.5 games separating the closest and furthest of those seven. In the National League, the fight doesn’t look as close, as the Reds are the only club with a chance to catch up with the Dodgers and Padres.
That said, a lot can happen in the next two weeks – ask the Cubs – and it can change a management’s strategy.
Which teams could be undecided with two weeks to go before the trade deadline? Let’s take a look at nine teams that could emerge as sellers, buyers, or perhaps both (in order of their records in the first half.)
Cincinnati remains in the midst of fights for the NL Central and Wild Cards, as they are 4.0 games behind the Brewers leading edge and 3.5 games behind the Padres for the second Old Circuit Wild Card. General manager Nick Krall said he expects the Reds to be buyers this month, but as we’ve seen many times, a bad week at this time of the season can change those plans.
The bullpen and short stops appear to be the two areas Cincinnati needs to reinforce the most. Will the team, which ended a seven-year drought with no playoffs last year, try to add Trevor Story or Javier Báez? You have to be aware.
It’s 20 years since the Mariners last made the postseason, so a return to October would be a welcome change for Seattle. The Mariners were four games below .500 after starting the month of June at 3-8, but they were 17-8 in their last 25 games before the All-Star break and are now 3.5 games behind. of the Athletics for the second Wild Card of the American League.
GG Jerry Dipoto has never been afraid to make changes, although his club’s -50 run differential may be an indication that a sudden death game is not worth the effort to do as much as possible. Adding a player or two under contract control would help them this season and next, although a bad week could turn Dipoto into a salesman. One way or another, the Mariners are on the right track.
The Yankees, who haven’t played up to expectations due to injuries and a lack of consistency, are perhaps the most enigmatic team in the majors. Both owner Hal Steinbrenner and GG Brian Cashman have publicly said that the Yankees would be buyers, and their recent interest in Joey Gallo of Texas indicates that is still the case.
A starter is what New York needs most, although the lineup – which is 12th in the American League in runs scored – would also benefit from reinforcement, probably in the outfield. The Yankees reach the second half 8.0 games behind the leading Red Sox and 4.5 off Oakland for the second AL Wild Card. But even if they go further, New York is unlikely to sell, mainly because it doesn’t have many pieces to part with.
Cleveland is only 4.5 games behind the Athletics for the second AL Wild Card, although they are 8.0 behind the White Sox leaders in Young Circuit Central. If the Indians find themselves closer to a Wild Card by the end of the month, management could add a starter or two and possibly an outfield bat, but it looks just as likely the team will choose to sell.
If they decide to buy, landscaping and rotation would be the most obvious areas in need of reinforcing. If they decide to sell, Venezuelan César Hernández, Puerto Rican Eddie Rosario and Bryan Shaw are candidates to be traded.
The Angels will add a heavyweight bat in the coming weeks, but they won’t have to make a trade. Mike Trout is expected to return from a calf injury to bolster a lineup that has looked very weak in his absence. As usual, the mound is where the Angels need to improve and while there have been some promising signs of late – Los Angeles-Anaheim ended the first half on a 9-4 streak, leaving the club over .500 – the body monticular remains in 12th place in the American League with a 4.90 ERA.
With a 9.0 game deficit in the AL West and a 5.5 deficit to the Athletics in the fight for the second Wild Card – not to mention the four teams between the two clubs in that fight – it seems the Angels would have to Power up between now and the end of the month for GG Perry Minasian to shed prospects in exchange for reinforcements by 2021. The Angels may also trade players like Raisel Iglesias, Alex Cobb and Andrew Heaney.
No team is more in need of relief help than the Phillies, but there will be no more sought-after player in the league than relievers. That could complicate things for GG Dave Dombrowski, whose team reached 3.5 games from the Mets in the NL East on Friday and 6.5 games from the second NL Wild Card.
Philadelphia, which ranks ninth on the Old Circuit with a 4.15 ERA from its starters and 4.85 from the bullpen, would also benefit from an arm or two for the rotation. If Dombrowski decides to sell, which seems unlikely, Andrew McCutchen and Archie Bradley could switch teams before the end of the month.
The Braves were in a similar position to the Phillies before last weekend, when Ronald Acuña Jr. suffered a season-ending right knee injury. Losing your best player during a season that was not already going well for you is not the best recipe for a GG to be a buyer, which means that Alex Anthopoulos has some decisions to make.
Even after acquiring Joc Pederson on Thursday, will Atlanta try to add another bat like Gallo’s to replace Acuna? Or will the Braves wait two weeks to see how the leaderboard is before deciding whether to buy or sell? Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly, who may become free agents this winter, are sure to generate interest, but don’t expect Freddie Freeman to be traded, as the Braves surely want to sign him to a multi-year deal.
Although the Cubs and Cardinals entered the second half with identical 44-46 records, St. Louis has not declared that it will be a seller in the next few weeks. Unlike Chicago, which has several key players who will be free agents this winter, the Cardinals’ core is mostly under contract control through the end of the 2022 season and beyond, so selling doesn’t seem so urgent.
That said, the Cardinals are 8.0 games behind the leading Brewers and 7.5 games behind the second NL Wild Card, so it looks unlikely they’ll make a weight gain. St. Louis could try to beef up the rotation with a pitcher under contract control who can help the team in 2022, even if he has little chance of making the playoffs this year.
When the Nationals started the season 13-19, there was talk of when the team would start selling. On June 12, Washington was 26-35, nine games under .500. Subsequently, the Nationals won 14 of 17 games to start July 38-40, 2.0 behind the Mets in the NL East.
However, the Nationals lost nine of their next 11 games before the All-Star Game. They are now 6.0 games behind in their division and are 9.0 of a Wild Card. So GG Mike Rizzo will have to see what the next two weeks bring. If you decide to sell, Brad Hand and Daniel Hudson would generate interest, as would Max Scherzer if Rizzo tries to trade it.