MLB Trade Rumors: Each MLB Team's Biggest Need Heading into Deadline Month
With just under a month to go until the non-waiver trade period ends, each MLB team continues to scour the baseball landscape in the hopes of finding the pieces it needs to set itself up for the future.
Whether that future is short-term for contending teams or long-term for rebuilding clubs remains to be seen, as they all continue to jockey for position over the next four weeks.
For the teams deemed out of contention, they will no doubt look to add prospects in areas of need, while teams vying for postseason berths will look to upgrade in areas seen as weaker than others.
Whatever the case, the next month promises much anticipation and excitement.
Here is a look at the biggest need for each MLB team.
In some cases with teams deemed as presumptive sellers, we'll take a look at options other than trades on which they can focus.
Arizona Diamondbacks: 3rd Base
Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers certainly sounds like a man who isn't ready to concede the 2012 season, despite the fact that his team just recently climbed above the .500 mark for the first time.
"I actually like our club this year better than last year, when we won the division," Towers told ESPN's Jayson Stark. "I think the [NL] West is a very winnable division, and I like our chances."
Indeed, with the recent swoon by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the D-Backs found themselves only four games out of the division lead heading into weekend play, so Towers certainly has reason for optimism.
One area that would clearly be considered a need is at third base.
Ryan Roberts has seen the bulk of time there, but with Roberts' .226/.270/.355 slash line, Towers would no doubt like more production at the hot corner.
Stark mused about the possibility of adding Padres third baseman Chase Headley but added that trading within the division would be difficult.
Atlanta Braves: Starting Pitching
With a season-ending elbow injury to NL ERA leader Brandon Beachy and inconsistent performances from Mike Minor and Randall Delgado, the Atlanta Braves are said to be looking for an "impact starting pitcher."
According to Bowman, the Braves could use money targeted for the 2013 season to address that need now.
Bowman opined that Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Zack Greinke greatly interests the Braves but only if they can successfully sign him to a long-term contract.
The Braves have also scouted Seattle Mariners pitcher Jason Vargas, and according to Bowman the Braves have interest in Edinson Volquez, Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster as well.
Baltimore Orioles: Rotation Upgrade
As the MLB season approaches the halfway mark, the Baltimore Orioles continue to prove that their hot start is no fluke.
With a record of 42-34, the O's are four games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East entering weekend play, and if the season were to end right now, the O's would have the second wild-card slot locked up.
However, there are another three months of baseball yet to be played, and the O's will need an infusion of quality starting pitching if they hope to make the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports counts the O's as one team in contention looking to bolster its rotation. ESPN's Jayson Stark said that the Orioles are one of the teams involved in discussions with the Chicago Cubs concerning Matt Garza but that any talks will not involve top prospects Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy.
Arizona Diamondbacks starter Joe Saunders had been mentioned as a possible fit in Baltimore as well.
However, Saunders' current stint on the disabled list with an elbow strain could very well cool interest in the left-hander.
Boston Red Sox: Starting Pitching
OK, does anyone see a pattern here?
Only four teams into this presentation, and it's fairly obvious that many teams in contention are looking for that elusive front-line starter or rotation upgrade to get them over the hump.
The Boston Red Sox are no different.
Last week, GM Ben Cherington spoke about the need for starting pitching in a radio interview with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio.
The Sox got Josh Beckett back from the disabled list on Saturday for his start against the Seattle Mariners. However, Clay Buchholz remains on the DL with esophagitis and likely won't be back until after the All-Star break.
The Red Sox have been one of the teams linked to Matt Garza, and on Saturday, The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo mused about the possibility of seeing Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez in Boston.
To be clear, this was a case of Cafardo wondering aloud, and therefore not a rumor.
Chicago Cubs: Organizational Depth
According to one baseball executive, very few teams have been identified as sellers thus far, but the Chicago Cubs are clearly one of those teams.
Buster Olney of ESPN reports that an executive told him that the Cubs, Twins, Astros, Rockies, Mariners and Twins are the only teams currently ready to deal players.
The Cubs have already stated that they'll listen to offers for just about every one of their players. While Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano are almost locks to be dealt by the deadline, no one is off limits.
The Cubs value return more than money at this point and will be willing to pay part of the salaries for both Dempster and Soriano to sweeten the return package of prospects.
The overall goal is to strengthen the farm system, which for too long was not a priority in Chicago.
Chicago White Sox: Starting Pitching
Surprise, surprise—another team in contention looking for starting pitching.
At this point that's clearly a need for the Chicago White Sox.
John Danks is lost to the team until late July/early August with a grade one strain of the subscapularis muscle. Meanwhile, Gavin Floyd remains a mystery, and Philip Humber is set to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte, although his return date is uncertain.
GM Kenny Williams clearly identified himself as all-in this season with the acquisition of third baseman Kevin Youkilis, so expect the Sox to explore more options within the next month.
Cincinnati Reds: Power-Hitting Left Fielder
Entering play this past weekend, the Cincinnati Reds held a slim, one-game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central, with the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals just 2.5 games back.
Added protection for hot-hitting Joey Votto would appear to be the biggest need for the Reds at this point. Brandon Phillips has done a credible job hitting behind Votto, but Phillips has always been better suited for the top of the lineup, not the middle.
Carlos Quentin has been mentioned as a possible candidate.
However, with only the 18th-ranked farm system in baseball, the Reds may be hesitant to give up top prospects for the short term.
Cleveland Indians: Quality Right-Handed Bat
The Cleveland Indians continue to hang tight in the AL Central division, just 2.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox entering play on Sunday.
That's despite a record of just 39-38.
It's also despite a decidedly weak hitting corps of right-handed hitters.
The Tribe have a slash line of just .223/.300/.320 from the right side of the plate, as opposed to .261/.335/.408 from the left.
That disparity is one the Indians will hope to change in the second half.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports speculated a few weeks ago that Chicago Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano could be a fit for the Indians if the Cubs pony up most of the remainder of his contract.
Minnesota Twins left fielder Josh Willingham's name has been bandied about as well, but Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported on Friday that the Twins will be much more apt to deal Denard Span before dealing away Willingham.
Colorado Rockies: Pitching, Pitching and More Pitching
The Colorado Rockies, at 30-46 entering play on Saturday, are battling with the San Diego Padres in the NL West—for last place.
That certainly wasn't the scenario envisioned by GM Dan O'Dowd this offseason.
O'Dowd pulled off a slew of transactions to bring in pitching this winter, and thus far none of those deals have panned out successfully, leaving the Rockies looking like sellers before the trade deadline.
It's obvious at this point that the biggest need is on the mound. The Rockies switched to a four-man rotation two weeks ago, limiting each starter to 75 pitches per outing.
Obviously, the Rockies waved the flag of surrender and are now willing to try just about anything.
O'Dowd has not yet stated his intentions for the deadline, but he has said that star Carlos Gonzalez and recent acquisition Michael Cuddyer are essentially untouchable.
Other parts could be available, including Marco Scutaro, Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Giambi, to name a few.
O'Dowd will likely require pitching prospects in return.
Maybe a better humidor for the baseballs would help as well.
Detroit Tigers: 2nd Base
The Detroit Tigers entered play on Saturday night with a record of 37-40, yet no one was writing off their chances of winning the AL Central division title for the second consecutive year.
Considering they were only 4.5 games from the top, that's understandable.
Nonetheless, the Tigers have some work to do if they are to succeed in defending their title. While some will point to starting pitching as a need, a solid, everyday second baseman may be of more pressing importance.
Manager Jim Leyland has seen his combination of second basemen hit just .202/.273/.271 with two homers and 21 RBI all season—about as close to an automatic out as you can get.
Players like Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie could very well be made available.
If one or both of these two are indeed put out there for trade, GM Dave Dombrowski should absolutely do what he can to acquire either of their services.
As Lynn Henning of The Detroit News points out:
You might be able to steal a division title, but you're going nowhere in the playoffs minus a solid everyday second baseman. That's facts-of-life baseball. The Tigers have no everyday answer there and won't until Dombrowski pulls some kind of deal from the heavens. Doesn't Marco Scutaro of the Rockies look more and more appealing and affordable?
Cleaning up second base with a daily, dependable bat and with appreciable defense will boost dramatically a lineup screaming for consistency at a key position.
While much talk has the Tigers interested in San Diego Padres left fielder Carlos Quentin, shoring up second base would help stabilize the middle infield and stop the merry-go-round of mediocrity.
Houston Astros: Pitching Depth
When the Houston Astros traded both Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn last season, they received a package of prospects that helped lift them out of the basement in terms of farm-system rankings.
According to Keith Law of ESPN, the Astros had the 27th-ranked farm system in the majors after receiving eight prospects in return for Bourn and Pence.
That goes to show how much work the Astros still have left.
The biggest area of concern for Houston is undoubtedly pitching. The Astros will be attempting to deal Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers and others within the next few weeks, presumably.
In doing so, GM Jeff Luhnow will be asking for pitching in return.
The Astros have several promising young position players in Jose Altuve, Chris Johnson, J.D. Martinez, Jason Castro and others in the farm system as well.
Not so much with pitching, however.
Kansas City Royals: Starting Pitching
Wow, shocking. Another team in need of starting pitching.
We're now beyond a trend. It's clear that the need for starting has reached epidemic proportions
The Kansas City Royals have yet to declare their intentions as either buyers or sellers, and considering the fact they are only six games out of the AL Central division lead, they'll likely wait a while longer before declaring their intent.
One need is obvious: a stronger rotation.
The Royals have already lost two of their starters to season-ending Tommy John surgeries, and 35-year-old Bruce Chen is essentially their workhorse and ace.
No offense to Chen, but that just doesn't bode well.
The Royals are one of the teams interested in acquiring Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza, so it should be apparent that they are indeed serious about finding top-shelf talent.
The bullpen has been excellent, with a 3.18 ERA, good for seventh in the American League.
If GM Dayton Moore can somehow manage to find an arm or two that can bolster the rotation, the Royals could make life in the AL Central more than interesting in the second half.
Los Angeles Angels: Veteran Bullpen Arm
The Los Angeles Angels have indeed come roaring back from a horrible start, sporting a 37-21 record since losing 14 of their first 20 games.
An improved offense and steady starting rotation have been big keys in the Angels' resurgence, and the bullpen has been outstanding as well after a very shaky start.
However, all the talk surrounding the Angels lately has been about adding one more quality arm in that bullpen.
Recently, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com tweeted that Toronto Blue Jays reliever Darren Oliver would be a good fit if the Jays are sellers at the deadline.
In addition, ESPN's Jayson Stark reported that the Angels might be willing to part with outfielder Peter Bourjos if the right reliever were made available.
The back-end trio of Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs and LaTroy Hawkins has been terrific for the Angels, and veteran Jason Isringhausen has been a pleasant surprise.
But one more quality arm certainly wouldn't hurt.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 1st-Base Upgrade
On Saturday, the Los Angeles Dodgers made clear one of their biggest priorities with their attempt to acquire Houston Astros first baseman Carlos Lee.
Lee told reporters following Houston's loss to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday that he would make a decision whether or not to approve the trade as quickly as possible.
“I’ll talk to my wife tonight,” Lee said. “Probably tomorrow I’ll let you know, because I don’t want to go through this. Either I’m going or not.”
The Dodgers are one of the 14 teams on Lee's no-trade list, so his approval is required. It clearly shows the Dodgers are unhappy with the production of current first baseman James Loney.
If Lee doesn't approve the deal, expect the Dodgers to continue looking for answers at first base.
Update: Buster Olney of ESPN reported late Sunday night that Lee vetoed the trade with the Dodgers. Olney also said that a source indicated the Dodgers had already nixed the deal themselves.
Back to square one for GM Ned Colletti.
Miami Marlins: Quality Run-Producing Hitters
The Miami Marlins ended the month of June with three straight wins, certainly an improvement over the first 27 days of the month.
Still, the Marlins ended the month with an 8-18 record and are in desperate need of offense. While they finished off the month strong, they still scored only 3.4 runs per game.
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria acknowledged that his team needs more, telling Peter Gammons of MLB.com that Miami is prepared to go out and get the necessary "parts."
Without question those parts should include quality bats that can produce.
The Marlins haven't been linked to anyone specifically, although Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe believes that Scott Podsednik might draw interest from the Marlins once he's healthy.
It's going to take a lot more than Podsednik to boost a sagging offense in Miami.
Milwaukee Brewers: Major League-Ready Arms
The Milwaukee Brewers are another team yet to declare its intentions leading up to the trade deadline.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports believes that the Brewers are much more likely to be sellers and could be asking for major league-ready pitching in return for players they may offer up to buying teams.
With the likelihood that Zack Greinke could be dealt by the deadline, along with possibly Shaun Marcum, Milwaukee will absolutely be in need of depth for its rotation.
Minnesota Twins: Pitching, Pitching and More Pitching
Yes, I used this line for another team earlier in this presentation, but there is no question what the need is in Minnesota.
The Twins rank dead last in the AL with a 4.92 team ERA, and it's even worse for the starters: a 5.80 ERA, almost a full run worse than the second-worst team, the Kansas City Royals.
Interim GM Terry Ryan has already discussed his desire to acquire pitching, telling ESPN's Buster Olney, "We need pitching, and we need it bad."
Um, ya think?
Ryan will have some trade chips to work with, and he will no doubt be asking for pitching in return for those pieces.
New York Mets: Bullpen Help
It's definitely no longer a secret: The New York Mets are shopping for bullpen help.
Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweeted that the Mets were in contact with the San Diego Padres about the availability of closer Huston Street.
On Thursday, Buster Olney of ESPN suggested that the Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers should hook up, with the Dodgers offering a bullpen arm for Mets infielder Daniel Murphy.
Ken Davidoff of the New York Post also reported that the Mets are absolutely in the market for relievers, citing Brett Myers, Street, Grant Balfour and Matt Capps as potential targets.
New York Yankees: Surprise, Surprise—Starting Pitching
With CC Sabathia on the disabled list until after the All-Star break and fellow starter Andy Pettitte likely out longer, the New York Yankees are on the prowl for starting pitching.
It doesn't necessarily mean that they'll look outside the organization for help, however.
Last week, Jack Curry of the YES Network tweeted that GM Brian Cashman was much more inclined to replace Sabathia and Pettitte with internal options.
ESPN's Buster Olney echoed that sentiment, saying that sources told him the Yankees will use a combination of David Phelps, Freddy Garcia and Adam Warren to fill the void.
Cashman also told Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News that he'd rather not do anything at the trade deadline.
“I’d rather not do anything, if possible,” Cashman said. “I’d rather keep our prospects, keep our payroll down. That’s what I’d always like to do. But at the same time, I want to get better.”
Oakland Athletics: How About a Decent-Hitting Infielder?
When looking at the overall batting averages for the entire Oakland A's infield, it's remarkable that the team is anywhere even close to .500 (38-42 as of Monday).
Eight players have combined to hit just .213 at first base, and second baseman Jemile Weeks is going through his own struggles, hitting just .223.
The left side of the infield hasn't been much better—shortstop Cliff Pennington is hitting just .207, and four players have combined to hit a paltry .185 from the hot corner.
The A's have done an outstanding job in acquiring and developing pitching prospects over the past few years.
GM Billy Beane now needs to put his attention on his infield.
Philadelphia Phillies: Outfield Bats
With the trade of Jim Thome to the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, the Philadelphia Phillies appear to be indicating that they'll indeed be sellers at the trade deadline.
ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted on Sunday that the Phillies may not be in full fire-sale mode, but that parts could be made available.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports indicated that the Phillies are much more liable to give up center fielder Shane Victorino before pitcher Cole Hamels, so GM Ruben Amaro Jr. could very well be looking to add young outfield help.
If the Phillies are indeed selling, another outfielder, Juan Pierre, could be on his way out as well, so holes in the outfield will definitely need to be plugged.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Upgrade at Shortstop
The Pittsburgh Pirates certainly seem bound and determined to end their 19-year reign of futility.
At 42-36 entering play on Monday, the Pirates are just one game back of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central. The offense shows signs of coming back to life as well, hitting .268 as a team in June after a .218 average through the first two months.
However, one more quality bat would be welcomed, and if that bat came in the form of a shortstop, even better.
Clint Barmes is currently hitting .195, nowhere near what GM Neal Huntington expected when he signed Barmes to a two-year deal.
Marco Scutaro of the Colorado Rockies could be made available, and Houston Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie would be a great fit, given the fact that he would under team control until 2015.
San Diego Padres: Where Don't They Need Help?
For the San Diego Padres, it isn't about talking about one area of need—there are just too many to list at this point.
At 30-50, the Padres are clearly headed in the wrong direction and will likely be losing more players within the next few weeks.
Several players could be changing hands, including their two best hitters, Carlos Quentin and Chase Headley.
Prospect catcher Yasmani Grandal has already arrived, making an historic entrance on Saturday. Third-base prospect Jedd Gyorko could be making his way to San Diego shortly as well.
No doubt the Padres will get more prospects, adding even more to the best farm system in baseball, according to ESPN.
That farm system had better start producing major league talent soon, though, because there might not be much big league talent left after July 31.
San Francisco Giants: Offensive-Minded 2nd Baseman
With the latest news that rehabbing second baseman Freddy Sanchez isn't anywhere close to a return, the obvious need for the Giants would be at second base.
Ryan Theriot has been swinging the bat a bit better lately, now hitting .266 with 16 RBI.
However, the Giants clearly want to keep a flow going offensively in support of a terrific pitching staff.
Seattle Mariners: Shortstop
I don't think there's any question that the two options that Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge has at shortstop make it an exercise in futility each time he fills out the lineup card.
Those two options—Brendan Ryan and Munenori Kawasaki—have combined to hit .180 for the season.
Either of two prospects at Triple-A Tacoma, Carlos Triunfel and Nick Franklin, could very well find himself in Seattle within weeks, if not sooner.
Triunfel could get a look for now, but Franklin is considered the better of the two options for the long term, especially offensively.
Either one of them is likely a much better option than what Wedge has to work with right now.
St. Louis Cardinals: Bullpen Help
The St. Louis Cardinals are hanging tough in the NL Central division, just 2.5 games behind the Cincinnati Reds despite a depleted starting rotation and a shaky bullpen.
Starter Chris Carpenter recently suffered a setback in his rehab from right shoulder nerve irritation, and teammate Jaime Garcia is on the shelf with shoulder issues as well.
However, the bullpen is also a major concern, sporting the third-worst ERA in the National League.
So, which is more important?
For my money, the bullpen needs a revamping.
Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook have remained steady, and Lance Lynn has cooled a bit from a torrid start, which could be a case of stamina. Joe Kelly has stepped in admirably, and if Garcia can work himself back late July/early August, the rotation will be solid.
The bullpen, on the other hand, has been shaky at best.
GM John Mozeliak didn't hesitate last year in bringing in key pieces like Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, and he shouldn't hesitate this season either.
Options will definitely be available for Mozeliak.
Francisco Rodriguez of the Milwaukee Brewers could be made available, although trading within the division isn't likely. Grant Balfour, Brandon Lyon and Brian Fuentes could be options as well.
Tampa Bay Rays: Right-Handed DH Bat
The Tampa Bay Rays have been sliding of late, now fourth in the competitive AL East with a 41-38 record, 7.5 games behind the New York Yankees.
A weakness that's likely to continue to be exposed is designated hitter. While the production has been solid (nine HR, 40 RBI), the .201 average from the position hasn't.
Left-handed pitchers are the biggest concern for the Rays right now, with a .170/.269/.281 slash line against southpaws.
Adding a right-handed bat would certainly help neutralize that disparity. Of course, a healthy Evan Longoria won't hurt either.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com suggests that Chicago Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano would be a fit if the Cubs pony up the vast majority of the remaining money on his contract.
Soriano has hit .357 with seven HR and 19 RBI in 22 games as a DH during his career.
Texas Rangers: Starting Rotation Depth
The injury bug has certainly taken its toll on the Texas Rangers starting rotation.
Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland are all currently on the disabled list with various injuries.
Holland could be back as early as this week, while Ogando could start bullpen sessions this week.
Lewis and Feliz are likely both out longer.
Martin Perez and Justin Grimm have been called up to help out, with Perez picking up his first major league win on Saturday.
However, GM Jon Daniels will likely continue to look for depth.
Texas scouts were recently seen scouting both Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels, so it certainly appears that Daniels is exploring all options.
Toronto Blue Jays: Starting Pitching
While the Toronto Blue Jays are in last place in the AL East, at 40-39, they certainly appear to be a team that is all-in on upgrading its roster.
Via MLBTradeRumors.com, multiple sources are reporting that the Jays are serious about acquiring an impact starter.
With recent injuries to Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison and Brandon Morrow, the Jays were desperate enough to sign Jamie Moyer to a minor league contract last week.
Wandy Rodriguez and Matt Garza have been the two names most associated with the Blue Jays, and the organization spoke to the Colorado Rockies about Jeremy Guthrie two weeks ago as well.
Washington Nationals: Corner Infield Depth
The Washington Nationals sport two corner infielders who have thus far managed to stay healthy, but they don't have anyone capable of stepping in and providing a spark should luck run out for either Ryan Zimmerman or Adam LaRoche.
Zimmerman's ailing shoulder was the topic of discussion two weeks ago, with some wondering whether or not he could land on the disabled list for the second time this season.
However, a cortisone shot seems to have stabilized it—for now.
LaRoche has managed to stay healthy thus far after surgery to repair a torn labrum and partially torn rotator cuff last season.
But what is the backup plan if LaRoche or Zimmerman goes down?
Mark DeRosa was thought to be the answer, but he can't manage to stay healthy either. Michael Morse could move to first base if LaRoche were to go down, but that leaves a hole in left field.
GM Mike Rizzo would do well to go after a Ty Wigginton-type player, one who can play both positions and provide some power and spark off the bench.
Too bad Philadelphia is in the same division.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.