MLB Trade Speculation: All 30 Teams' Biggest Need Post-Trade Deadline
The non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone, and while many teams were able to make moves that put them in better position for 2012, some made moves with an eye towards the future. Others did nothing, either because they were satisfied with the composition of their team or because the price to improve was deemed too high.
But that doesn't mean that needs remain among the 30 teams in baseball. While most could be filled by acquiring a piece from another team—and we have seen some smaller deals be completed since the beginning of August—not every team in baseball needs to make a move today.
Let's take a look at who needs what, and whether they have a chance to make these improvements between now and the end of August.
Arizona Diamondbacks: A Veteran Left-Handed Bat on the Bench
The Diamondbacks spent the time leading up to the deadline trying to add a difference-making starting pitcher to the roster. Both the Rays' James Shields and the Cubs' Matt Garza were discussed in some way, shape or form, according to The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro.
Arizona wound up staying put, and since the deadline they've gotten solid performances out of Patrick Corbin, Ian Kennedy, Joe Saunders and Trevor Cahill, lessening the need to add another piece to the rotation.
When it comes to the bench, 24-year-old rookie Ryan Wheeler is the only left-handed bat that manager Kirk Gibson has at his disposal late in games. While Wheeler has the ability to get on base and the power to drive the ball out of the park, he's inexperienced at the major league level.
Adding a veteran left-handed bat before the end of the month would give Gibson more flexibility as the team makes a run for a playoff berth. While he's struggled to hit for average, Jason Giambi can still get on base—and he could be a perfect fit in Arizona.
Atlanta Braves: Nothing
You could make the argument that the Braves need to add another durable starting pitcher with Tommy Hanson on the shelf and Ben Sheets not exactly having a track record of being able to stay healthy, but there's no arguing with results.
While it cost them a big-time prospect in Arodys Vizcaino and more, adding Paul Maholm to the rotation and Reed Johnson to the bench was a shrewd move for the Braves. Neither is a sexy name, but both do their jobs well and fit the Braves' needs.
Baltimore Orioles: Starting Pitcher
The Orioles tried to acquire a starting pitcher before the deadline, though reports that they were involved in serious conversation to acquire Joe Blanton from the Phillies (who was later traded to the Dodgers) seem to be a bit of an exaggeration:
Source says Blanton to Orioles remained in general discussions and never took next step. Media overstated it. Um, that would include me then
— Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) July 31, 2012
That being the case, the Orioles are still looking to add a veteran innings eater to the rotation, and 39-year-old Derek Lowe may fit the bill, according to Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun. Said an unnamed Orioles' executive to Connolly: “[Acquiring Lowe] makes a whole lot of sense.”
Over his last 13 starts, spanning 66.1 innings pitched, Lowe allowed 65 runs (61 earned) and 97 hits, allowing opposing batters to post a ridiculous .344/.402/.489 batting line against him.
If he can find the stuff that led him to start the season 6-1 with a 2.05 ERA over his first eight starts of the season, Lowe would be a welcome addition to the Orioles rotation. If not, he's no better an option than the pitchers that they'd like to avoid having to throw every fifth day.
Boston Red Sox: A Fresh Start
Boston hoped that Bobby Valentine could change the atmosphere in the clubhouse in 2012. Valentine has failed to do so, as talk of a "rat in the clubhouse" emerged yet again this week.
GM Ben Cherington needs to address the situation head on this winter, and if that means moving some of the old guard for less than market value, so be it.
You can assemble the most talented roster in the world, but if the players don't trust each other or the manager, there's no chance a team can succeed.
Chicago Cubs: More Pieces to the Puzzle
The Cubs are years from contending, and GM Jed Hoyer and team president Theo Epstein are rebuilding the franchise piece-by-piece.
They already have some building blocks in place with first baseman Anthony Rizzo, shortstop Starlin Castro, catcher Steve Clevenger and starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. While currently sidelined as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, acquiring Arodys Vizcaino certainly doesn't hurt the rebuilding process.
But they need more. Moving Alfonso Soriano this winter should bring back at least one more piece of the puzzle, and finding someone willing to meet their asking price for Matt Garza would help to expedite the process.
Chicago White Sox: Nothing
After going out and adding third baseman Kevin Youkilis, relief pitcher Brett Myers and starter Francisco Liriano, White Sox GM Kenny Williams believes that he's set the club up to continue making a run for a division title in 2012.
That being the case, Williams realizes that while the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, his work is far from done, as he told MLB.com's Scott Merkin:
It's a mistake to sit in this chair and feel like there's not one more move to make. So, I will constantly challenge our staff to find that one more move, that difference maker. Sometimes the difference maker isn't an impact player. Sometimes it's a fit here or there. That's the best way I can put it. We are always looking for that one more move.
This is a different situation because we are where we are and we don't have a lot of positions where if you claim somebody they're going to come in and play. And then once you start talking about those possibilities you take away, I think, from your club and the people that have brought you to this point.
So I'd rather not get into it and talk about it. We have what we have right here and we'll fight together with these guys. You certainly don't want to allow teams with better records than you to capitalize on players. The fortunate thing when you're on top of your division is you're darn near last in the claiming order. So it helps me from doing something stupid.
While I believe Liriano is a risky proposition to count on down the stretch, it's hard to find a real weakness on the White Sox as they are presently constituted.
A tweak here or there might be in order as we get deeper into August, but for the most part, what you see is what you get—and that might be enough to bring a division title and a deep playoff run back to Chicago.
Cincinnati Reds: A Leadoff Hitter
No team in baseball has seen its leadoff hitters struggle to get on base as much as the Reds have in 2012, with the group of players they've tried at the spot posting a combined .248 on-base percentage.
Neither center fielder Drew Stubbs (.309 on-base percentage) or their current leadoff hitter, shortstop Zack Cozart (.292 on-base percentage), have been able to get the job done. That's why the Reds tried to acquire Twins center fielder Denard Span to fill the role prior to the deadline, according to CBS Sports' Scott Miller.
There's no arguing with results and the Reds, who have gone 8-2 over their last 10 games and remain one of the better teams in baseball—and they have done it without perennial MVP candidate Joey Votto—so their lack of a consistent leadoff hitter hasn't hurt them much.
But it's something that they will need to address sooner or later, and should a leadoff become available through waivers, the Reds likely would put in a claim to see if a deal could be worked out.
Cleveland Indians: Starting Pitching
You could make a case for the addition of a right-handed bat to the lineup (Alfonso Soriano, anyone?) but the Indians' starting pitching has been the biggest problem all season long. GM Chris Antonelli was unable to address that at the deadline.
They are in the process of removing Derek Lowe from the equation, and according to ESPN's Jayson Stark, Justin Masterson was most definitely available to teams leading up to the deadline, though nothing materialized from those rumors.
As a group, the Indians' starters have posted a 36-49 record and 5.13 ERA. A team simply cannot contend with that kind of performance from its starting rotation, no matter how good their offense may play.
Nearly 10 games behind the White Sox in the AL Central and eight games out of a wild-card spot, even if the Indians were to add a pitcher between now and the end of August, it's highly unlikely that they could make the playoffs in 2012.
But if they have any chance of being serious contenders in 2013, the lack of production from the starting rotation must be addressed.
Colorado Rockies: Pitching
If Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge de la Rosa and Juan Nicasio can return healthy and effective in 2013, the Rockies' pitching staff will be in far better shape—but those are big "ifs."
Drew Pomeranz and Alex White have struggled, but they are the future of the Rockies rotation and need to show improvement heading down the stretch. Adding a bona fide front-of-the-rotation starter is easier said than done, but it's what the Rockies need most of all.
Rafael Betancourt has been outstanding in the closer's role, but aside from that, the Rockies' bullpen has been somewhat underwhelming in 2012. All they can do is continue to mix and match pieces, either currently in the organization or with reasonably priced free agents until they find a mix that works.
Detroit Tigers: Starting Pitching
While the Tigers acquired Anibal Sanchez from the Marlins before deadline—and Sanchez was much better in his second start with Detroit on Friday—they could still use another established starter heading into the postseason.
Justin Verlander is a no-brainer at the front of the rotation, and while Doug Fister is a solid No. 2 behind him, the rest of Detroit's rotation has questions all over it. Namely, which pitcher are we going to see?
Sanchez was great against the Indians on Friday, scattering eight hits over six innings while only allowing two runs. However, he was equally as bad against the Blue Jays in his first start with the Tigers, giving up eight hits and five earned runs.
The same can be said about Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer—they are too inconsistent in their performances to be relied upon in a short series. Adding one more piece to the puzzle would set the Tigers up nicely.
Houston Astros: Keep Laying Bricks
While the Astros were able to jettison tens of millions of dollars in future salary by unloading Carlos Lee, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez at the trade deadline, they did not bring back any top-flight prospects that can be viewed as legitimate building blocks for the rebuilding franchise.
That's not to say that GM Jeff Luhnow did a bad job with the returns that he bought back, because he didn't. For the 'Stros, it's about quantity and quality: adding multiple pieces who, even if they project to be nothing more than role players, serve a purpose moving forward.
With nothing they can do to become contenders in 2013, Luhnow needs to continue adding pieces as he can with an eye towards the future.
Kansas City Royals: Starting Pitching
It's no surprise that the Royals' issues lie in the starting rotation.
Only five teams—the Astros, Blue Jays, Indians, Rockies and Twins—have gotten less from their starting pitchers than the Royals in 2012, and that ineffectiveness is the biggest reason why a team that was expected to take the next step towards respectability this season has remained largely irrelevant.
Whether they add a reliable starting pitcher between now and the end of the season isn't going to change the Royals' fortunes in 2012—they aren't making the playoffs.
But there is no question that adding multiple pieces to the rotation, including a big-time arm at the front of the rotation, is necessary so that the strong core of position players that they have can finally experience what it is to be involved in a major league playoff race.
Los Angeles Angels: A Power Bat off the Bench Who Can Play the Outfield
After landing Zack Greinke, the biggest prize available at the deadline, the Angels seemed to be in excellent shape heading forward.
What they lack, thanks to Vernon Wells' inability to contribute, is a power bat off of the bench who can fill in for corner outfielders Torii Hunter and Mark Trumbo when needed.
Angels' skipper Mike Scioscia sounds like he is growing increasingly frustrated with Wells, in comments he made to MLB.com's Brian Hedger:
Hopefully as he gets into games and gets his opportunities, you'll start to see him contributing. You might not find a groove, but you have to have better at-bats. You might not get locked in, but it doesn't mean you're not going to contribute. Vernon should be able to go up there and be able to be on pitches and hit the ball hard with even some of the limited playing time. He has to get comfortable with that and hopefully we'll start to see it.
The best thing for the Angels could be to see Wells return to the disabled list, allowing them to try and add a low-cost, short-term veteran who can provide what it is they need.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Nothing
The Dodgers needed a third baseman, so they got Hanley Ramirez. Leadoff hitter? Shane Victorino. Starting pitcher? Joe Blanton.
While Victorino has struggled in his first four games, Ramirez has driven in a run a game while playing excellent defense at both shortstop and third base. Blanton was outstanding in his Dodgers debut, holding the Cubs to two runs and five hits over six innings of work.
GM Ned Colletti and skipper Don Mattingly found the holes in their team, and Colletti did a fine job of filling them, putting the Dodgers in excellent shape to make a deep playoff run.
Miami Marlins: Third Base
Moving Hanley Ramirez out of town was the right move for the Marlins, both in 2012 and for the future.
But doing so left the team with a void at third base that they are ill equipped to fill long-term. 34-year-old Greg Dobbs is a fine temporary replacement, but Dobbs is more valuable to the Marlins when he comes off of the bench.
Matt Dominguez, the best third base prospect in their minor league system, was included in the package that Miami sent to Houston in exchange for first baseman Carlos Lee. Finding a long-term replacement for Ramirez at the hot corner will soon become a priority for Marlins management.
Milwaukee Brewers: Pitching Help
While moving Zack Greinke out of town was the right move to make, it left the Brewers' rotation thin.
Yovani Gallardo remains as the ace of the staff, and Michael Fiers has been outstanding in his 11 starts on the season. After that, they don't have much in the way of quality starters to turn to for the rest of the season, unless Shaun Marcum is able to return from injury and be effective.
The bullpen is in worse shape. Setup man Kameron Loe is the only Brewers reliever with an ERA under 4.00, and closer John Axford has blown seven saves thus far in 2012—five more than he blew in all of 2011.
As with other teams, what the Brewers do between now and the end of the season isn't going to change their playoff positioning. They'll be missing the postseason in 2012.
Minnesota Twins: Starting Pitching
The Twins stood pat at the deadline, holding on to center fielder Denard Span, left fielder Josh Willingham and first baseman Justin Morneau. While that keeps their offense intact, it does nothing to address the most glaring issue in Minnesota: pitching.
Of the group of starters that Minnesota has used in 2012, only Scott Diamond has proven that he can handle major league batting on a regular basis. Liam Hendriks struggled earlier this season, but he figures to be a part of the rotation in 2013 and beyond as well.
After that, it's anyone's guess. Minnesota doesn't have any prospects (other than Hendriks) who figure to make an impact in the majors in the next year or two, leaving a big void in the rest of the rotation.
They aren't contending in 2012, regardless of what they are able to do between now and the end of the season, but they'll have to seriously consider moving one of their bats to pick up pitching help this winter if they hope to return to relevancy in 2013.
New York Mets: A Bullpen
Only the Houston Astros bullpen, with a combined ERA of 4.97, has put together a worse season than the group of relievers that the Mets have relied upon in 2012.
Led by closer Frank Francisco and the hard-throwing Bobby Parnell, Mets relievers have posted a combined 4.92 ERA, blowing 17 saves in 43 chances—a number that only the Rockies and Brewers have beaten.
Going forward, only Josh Edgin (2.25 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 14.25 K/9) and the aforementioned Parnell (3.25 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 9.14 K/9) are assured of playing a role in the Mets bullpen in 2013, though that comes with a caveat—Parnell can NOT be used as a closer. He simply cannot get the job done.
Bolstering the bullpen has to be a priority of GM Sandy Alderson's between now and the beginning of spring training.
New York Yankees: Nothing
The Yankees' biggest need heading into the deadline was to strengthen their bench, and they did just that by adding Ichiro Suzuki to play left field, pushing Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones to part-time roles.
Adding Casey McGehee was an underrated move: He can play the corner infield spots well while not becoming a liability at the plate.
Some will say that the Yankees need another starting pitcher, but the return of Andy Pettitte from a fractured ankle will prove to be a more impactful move than anyone that they could reasonably acquire at this point in the season.
Oakland A's: Left Side of the Infield
Leading up to the deadline, the A's were trying to upgrade the left side of their infield—specifically shortstop:
For today, A's backed off on Drew and Escobar and won't trade Straily in Headley deal
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) July 30, 2012
Obviously nothing came of it, but that doesn't mean that the A's still aren't looking to add a piece before the end of the month. Assistant GM David Forst said as much to MLB.com's Jane Lee:
This group is doing a great job, and it's hard to argue with the success they've had on the field. We didn't go into this week thinking, "We absolutely need to do something." But just because we've passed, it doesn't mean any opportunity we have to improve is gone.
We've had success doing it before, both trading guys away and trading for guys. I think we'll, starting tomorrow, monitor that market and see what the options are going forward.
The A's could still make a playoff run without upgrading the left side of the infield, but it will still remain an area of concern heading into 2013 if they sit pat this winter as well.
Philadelphia Phillies: Third Base
While the Phillies received some solid pieces in exchange for outfielders Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, one area that remains a major question going forward is third base.
Placido Polanco and Ty Wigginton become free agents after the season, and neither veteran figures to be part of the re-tooling process in Philadelphia.
Should the Phillies look to move Cliff Lee this winter, you can expect that acquiring their third baseman of the future will be a priority in any potential deal. Otherwise, they'll look to add another placeholder through free agency.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Shortstop
Clint Barmes has been a solid contributor on defense for the Pirates, but when it comes to the plate, he's been an automatic out.
Posting a batting line of .210/.238/.295, Barmes offers nothing with the bat in his hand. While the offense is able to make up for his lack of production, they'll need to find a more permanent solution at the position to take the next step in their development as a team, dropping the word "surprise" in front of contender.
San Diego Padres: Pitching
The Padres' problem on offense isn't that they have terrible players—though an upgrade over Cameron Maybin in center field is in order. It's that they play in a massive ballpark known as Petco, and that in and of itself is where much of their offensive woes lie.
Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard are solid pieces in the rotation, but there's little else after that. Adding an experienced starter has to be on GM Josh Byrnes' list of things to do this winter.
Closer Huston Street is an All-Star closer, and Luke Gregerson remains one of the best setup men in baseball. As with the rotation, adding an experienced reliever can only help things.
San Francisco Giants: First Baseman or Catcher
It's all about Buster.
If Buster Posey remains behind the dish as the everyday catcher for the Giants, then they need to look at upgrading first base. If Posey is going to move to first base, that leaves a void behind the plate.
The trio of Brandon Belt, Brett Pill and Aubrey Huff has been pretty mediocre in 2012, with Belt being the most disappointing.
After tearing up the minor leagues and flashing some big-time power late last season, Belt has regressed with regular playing time, posting a .239/.340/.381 batting line with only four home runs and 33 RBI.
Seattle Mariners: Offense
Second baseman Dustin Ackley, catcher/designated hitter Jesus Montero and third baseman Kyle Seager are all solid building blocks on offense for the Mariners, but the trio has struggled in 2012. Major improvements will be needed from all of them if the Mariners have any thoughts about contending in 2013.
Every other position on the diamond could use a major upgrade, especially first base, where Justin Smoak continues to prove that he is not an everyday player, and shortstop, where Brendan Ryan continues to show that he cannot handle major league pitching.
Seattle is one of the only teams where pitching isn't a major issue going forward. It's all about adding impact bats to help the youngsters. Short of trading King Felix or Vargas, the Mariners' best bet to accomplish that is through free agency.
Even if they do make the needed improvements, there's no guarantee that they can contend for a playoff spot in 2013. When you share a division with the Angels and Rangers, it's tough to keep up.
St. Louis Cardinals: A Healthy Lance Berkman
Allen Craig will never admit it, but Lance Berkman landing on the disabled list three times in the 2012 season (so far) has been the best thing for his career.
I think I'd have to be that. For the good of the team, you can't put AC (1B Allen Craig) on the bench and let him rot. It's been a frustrating year, certainly not how I envisioned it, but by the same token, I want to do everything I can to help the team. If that means exclusively pinch hitting or being in a utility role, I'd be more than happy to do that.
If Berkman can return healthy and productive, adding his potent bat to the mix, even only on a part-time basis, would be a bigger move than any the Cards could hope to make through waivers between now and the end of the season.
Tampa Bay Rays: First Base
The Rays hoped that a return to Tampa would result in Carlos Pena putting forth an All-Star-caliber season, as he had done for the Rays in 2009 when he was named to the AL All-Star team.
Instead, Pena has struggled more than usual at the plate, putting together an embarrassing .196/.322/.359 batting line. While his 15 home runs are fine, 46 RBI are far too low a total for someone expected to be a major run producer in the lineup.
A free agent following the season, look for the Rays to seek a more permanent replacement at the position this winter, perhaps using one of their excess arms as trade bait.
Texas Rangers: Nothing
You could make the argument that the Rangers need more starting pitching, given Ryan Dempster's inauspicious Rangers' debut where he was shelled for nine hits and eight earned runs without getting out of the fifth inning, but Dempster is too good of a pitcher for his struggles to last.
With one of the most potent offenses in all of baseball, the Rangers have the ability to atone for mistakes that their pitchers may make during a start. With Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison able to shut opposing offenses down, the Rangers are still a formidable opponent for any team in a short series.
Toronto Blue Jays: Starting Pitching
Ricky Romero has wilted under the pressure of having to carry the load for the Jays in 2012, putting together the worst season of his four-year career and going from preseason Cy Young candidate to .500 pitcher with an ERA north of 5.00.
The rotation has been decimated by injury, as five starters have either spent time on the DL or suffered season-ending injuries—a prime reason why as a group, the starting rotation has posted a 4.72 ERA, a number that puts them in the bottom third of all teams in the league.
Adding an established starting pitcher to pair with Romero atop the rotation has to be a priority for the Jays, whether it be through free agency or by packaging one of their major league trade chips with some of their minor league prospects to acquire one.
Washington Nationals: Nothing
Even if the Nationals go through with their plan of shutting ace Stephen Strasburg down at some point between now and the end of the season, the Nationals remain a major threat to any team in a short series.
With Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson behind him, the Nationals' rotation remains one of the best in baseball and spells trouble for any team they could face in the postseason.
The Nationals may not be quite ready to contend for a World Series championship, but the pieces are in place for them to become a powerhouse for the next decade.