The MLB trade deadline is a little over a month away, and a lot can change between now and then. But as it stands, there are about 24 teams who are at the very least in the conversation for a playoff spot. For today, we’ll look at just five teams across the league who may be seeking some help leading up to the deadline.
Last year’s NL Central champs are once again in the playoff race, trailing the Cubs by 1.5 games for the division lead. While Christian Yelich is once again putting up MVP-caliber numbers, their pitching has been inconsistent. Past Brandon Woodruff and Zach Davies, the other pitchers in the rotation have ERAs of 4.70 or higher and just six combined quality starts between them.
After being aggressive last year with their deadline acquisition of Mike Moustakas, Milwaukee has shown their willingness to make a move if they believe they’re a contender. This year, it will likely be a focus on starting pitching, with Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner, and Marcus Stroman all coming to mind as logical solutions. They could also look for a bullpen upgrade to complement Josh Hader on the back end.
New York Yankees
The Yankees have had one of the more remarkable seasons in baseball, overcoming injury after injury and sitting in first place with a 48-27 record. They have already taken measures to improve their lineup in the first half, recently acquiring Edwin Encarnacion just as Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge return from the IL. But just like Milwaukee, their starting pitching has some question marks.
Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ have been solid, albeit unspectacular. Domingo German, who was in the middle of a breakout year, recently landed on the IL, and Luis Severino has been out all season with no set timetable for his return. Expect the Yankees to be aggressive in finding some more pitching, showing interest in all the pitchers listed above for the Brewers, as well as some other options including Mike Minor and Zach Wheeler.
The Twins have been the season’s biggest surprise, thanks to their league-leading offense that has put up 434 runs thus far. They currently have a nine-game lead over the Indians, well on their way to winning a division title. But if they are looking to compete for a World Series and not just a division title, they will need bullpen help down the stretch.
After the Twins started the season with Blake Parker as their closer, Taylor Rogers has taken over the job and done excellent with a 1.91 ERA and nine saves. Minnesota could benefit from adding a reliable arm in the bullpen to back up Rogers, whether it’s a set-up man or someone with closing experience. Sam Dyson, Mychal Givens, and Craig Stammen are a few examples of guys who may be available for a modest price at the deadline.
The first-place Cubs signed Craig Kimbrel shortly after the draft, shoring up their glaring weakness at closer. With their rotation and bullpen pretty much set, Chicago now looks like the new favorite to win the NL Central. However, if they still want to upgrade, they could possibly look for another bat.
With Ben Zobrist away from the team for the last couple of months and no date set for his return, Chicago could use a utility man to be able to play multiple positions, namely second base. While the combination of Addison Russell, David Bote, and Daniel Descalso has been serviceable, adding someone like Dee Gordon or Jonathan Villar would give them some more versatility as well as speed on the basepaths. A bigger splash would be Whit Merrifield, but he may require prospects the Cubs might not want to part with.
Los Angeles Dodgers
At 52-25, the Dodgers have the best record in the majors. They have an MVP candidate in Cody Bellinger, a deep pitching staff, and even deeper pockets. They have also gone to two consecutive World Series and are the favorites to go to a third. But one big question looms for Los Angeles, and it’s in the back of their bullpen.
Longtime closer Kenley Jansen has had some rough patches this season, resulting in a higher-than-normal 3.52 ERA. Joe Kelly, who was signed as the lockdown eighth-inning arm, has been disastrous, and no other bullpen arm has looked dominant. LA has been aggressive during each of the last two deadlines, acquiring Yu Darvish and Manny Machado. The Dodgers may look into elite relievers like Shane Greene, Will Smith, Ken Giles, and Alex Colome to help give their bullpen a boost.
The next month or so should be very interesting in terms of scoping out the trade market. One good or bad stretch of baseball can turn a team from a seller to a buyer, or vice versa. The MLB trade deadline is July 31.