MLB Trade Deadline: Surprise Teams Who Will Be Buyers
Now that July has officially started, teams can sense the MLB trade deadline looming. By July 31st, GMs will have spent the past month living on their cell phones, trying to piece together that one deal that will make the difference between playing in October and getting a jump start on Christmas shopping.
The biggest difference between this season and last is the new wild-card format. Now that five teams from each league make it to the playoffs, there are more teams who have the chance to make it to the postseason and, as a result, will be looking to improve their roster immediately rather than play the odds for the long run.
Here are a few teams who will be buying at the deadline in an effort to make the postseason.
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It's been a long time since the O's were in much of a position to do anything when it came to winning the AL East. However, look for that to change this season.
The Orioles took a lot of people by surprise this season when they flew out of the gates and were in charge of the AL East for the first two months of the season with the mighty Yankees, Rays and Red Sox looking up at them.
They've cooled considerably since them but still have the more than respectable record of 42-36, and are six games back of the Yankees for first in the AL East.
The problem is that Boston is slowly climbing out of the whole they spent two months digging themselves in the cellar of the division and while Tampa Bay is struggling as of late, to count them out would be foolish. Even the Blue Jays are sporting a winning record making the AL East the only division in baseball with every team over .500.
In order to stay competitive they need to pick up an additional piece to the puzzle. I would guess that they'll look to acquire some help on the mound, preferably a starting pitcher, as three members of the rotation currently sport losing records and they aren't even close.
The combined records of Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Tommy Hunter is 11-23 with a combined ERA of 5.78 through 48 starts. I'd look for the O's to get a little deeper in either the rotation or the bullpen in an effort to make a push for the playoffs in the second half of the season.
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The Indians currently sit at 40-38, just a game and a half back of the White Sox for first place in the AL Central. The Indians got off to a similar start as the Orioles, getting off to a surprisingly fast start and have cooled since.
Regardless they still sit only a game and a half back for the AL Central crown and two games back for the wild card.
The problem they face is that they are trying to make up ground on the surging White Sox as well as run away from the dangerous Tigers. I know that thus far the Tigers haven't shown much this season but I fully expect a team that has that much talent to rebound in the second half of the season.
If they want to do that they'll need to find a little help in both the lineup and the bullpen. Two of the five pitchers that have appeared in more than 20 games have ERAs over six.
In the lineup, another contact hitting outfielder would be a huge pickup and go a long way to improving the Indians -37 run differential.
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Arguably the best story of the season thus far is the resurgence of the Pittsburgh Pirates. They've accumulated enough talent (and not shipped too much away) to be a very competitive team in the NL Central.
As of today they are 42-36, just one game back of the Reds for the division lead and as of right now they are tied with the Mets for the last wild-card spot.
For anyone reading this who doesn't understand why this is a big deal, wrap your head around this. The last time the Pirates had a winning season, just a season in which they won more games than they lost, the first Bush was president, Aladdin was the top grossing film of the year, and "Roseanne", "Home Improvement" and "Full House" were all top 10 TV shows.
Now fast-forward to today, the biggest issue facing the Pirates today is how to improve an offense that ranks 27th in the league in runs (297), 26th in batting average (.238), last in on-base percentage (.294) and 21st in slugging percentage (.387).
While Andrew McCutchen is having an MVP-caliber season, he is the only Pirate truly producing at the plate and it isn't even close. He leads the team in batting average, hits, home runs, RBI, and on-base percentage.
The Pirates will need another bat in the lineup if they want to end their historic streak of futility.
New York Mets
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Another pleasant story of this year is the performance of the New York Mets. While they are having a similar season to the Pirates this year, the difference is that the Pirates were at least above .500 at the All-Star break last season. The Mets were not considered possible contenders when the season started but with emerging production in the lineup and great starting pitching, they've been able to keep it together.
The Mets are 43-37 and sit three and a half games back of the Nationals for the NL East lead, but are tied with the Pirates for the last wild-card spot.
The issue the Mets have faced all season is their bullpen. Their relievers have cost them a handful of games and when you look at how close each of the races are, a handful of games can end up being a huge difference-maker.
Look for the Mets to add a little depth to their bullpen for the second half.