Predicting 'Buyer or Seller' for All 30 Teams at the MLB Trade Deadline
Before you know it, the rumor mill will start to heat up as the Major League Baseball July 31 trade deadline nears.
As the deadline approaches, it’s time to start thinking about which teams are going to be making moves to improve for this season and those that will be looking to dump some salary in order to improve for the future. We call these teams buyers and sellers.
In most scenarios, a team deemed a buyer will be a contender that might need to add a player or two to solidify their playoff hopes. On the contrary, sellers will be teams that are out of the race or don’t think they have what it takes, and may look to get some prospects in return for some current stars.
Last season, the Los Angeles Angels made one of the biggest deadline moves, trading top prospect Jean Segura to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Zack Greinke. The move didn’t exactly pan out the way Los Angeles planned, but you should get a sense of what I mean now.
So let’s take a look at where each team is, where they might be come July 31 and whether they’ll be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.
*All statistics in this article were obtained via FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. All contract information was obtained via Cot’s Contracts. All injury information was obtained via Baseball Prospectus.
Baltimore Orioles: Buyer
The Baltimore Orioles could potentially make the postseason with the roster they currently have, but they could boost their chances by adding an additional arm at the deadline. Baltimore’s starting rotation is ranked 22nd in terms of WAR at the moment.
Wei-Yin Chen and Jason Hammel are a solid 1-2 punch, but can Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and possibly Freddy Garcia pick up the rest of the slack? An NL general manager told Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe that Baltimore could go after guys like Jake Peavy or Cliff Lee toward mid-to-late July.
Acquiring either Peavy or Lee, despite the high price tags for each, would give the Orioles a formidable No. 1 starter down the stretch and into the postseason.
Boston Red Sox: Both
If the Boston Red Sox are serious about contending this season, they’re going to have to make some moves at the trade deadline. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.253/.330/.483, 4 home runs, 9 RBI) just isn’t cutting it from behind the plate and Boston needs an upgrade.
The Red Sox could look to ship Saltalamacchia out and call up Ryan Lavarnway, who would split time with David Ross. Buster Olney of ESPN said on WEEI that this scenario is a possibility for the Red Sox, noting that opposing executives think Boston has to be getting better production from him.
Boston could also look to add depth to its starting rotation and bullpen toward the deadline as well. Injuries have already taken a massive toll on both and giving up a couple of prospects in exchange for a middle-of-the-rotation starter wouldn’t be a bad idea.
New York Yankees: Seller
The New York Yankees have accomplished their early season goal so far: survive until their injured stars start to return. New York has played extremely well for a team as banged up as they are and with former stars and scrubs in the regular lineup.
But even though it would make sense that once the likes of Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter come back that New York would be in better shape, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Bronx Bombers couldn’t make a deal or two. One name to keep an eye on, in my opinion, is Granderson’s.
Granderson is in the final year of his deal and is coming back from a broken forearm. If he comes back and hits around 15 home runs before the end of July and the Yankees are a ways away from a postseason berth, New York could look to maximize return for him.
New York might need the money to re-sign Robinson Cano.
Tampa Bay Rays: Seller
The Tampa Bay Rays are currently two games below .500 and 4.5 games behind the three-way tie atop the AL East. If things stay that way, which I believe they will, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Rays are going end up making a big move toward the end of July.
As Jayson Stark of ESPN writes, everyone is going to be watching the Rays throughout the next couple of months. Why, you ask? Because if the Rays are out of contention by the time the deadline rolls around, David Price could be on his way out of Tampa.
Stark writes that Tampa Bay could also deal Price if it feels that it doesn’t have enough talent or a good enough shot to win the World Series. Trading the left-handed Cy Young award winner would likely bring back a large return—potentially a No. 1 prospect. The Rays are pretty much set on young pitching too as of now.
Toronto Blue Jays: Seller
No team has been more of a disappointment early in the season than the Toronto Blue Jays, who are 8.5 games behind in the AL East. After all of the moves they made in the offseason, they looked like World Series contenders on paper. As we always seem to forget, a good team on paper doesn’t always equate to a good team on the field.
If Toronto’s poor play continues through May and into June, July could be another time where the team just starts trading players. But instead of trying to acquire current stars like the Blue Jays did in the offseason, they’ll likely be trading them away for young talent that will benefit them in the future.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports recently released a list of pitchers that could get dealt at the deadline and Josh Johnson was No. 6. Johnson is currently on the disabled list, but he was 0-1 with a 6.86 ERA in four starts beforehand. Don’t be shocked if he’s traded again.
Chicago White Sox: Seller
The Chicago White Sox haven’t gotten off to a good start to the 2013 season and currently sit in the cellar of the AL Central four games under .500. Chicago just doesn’t look like a team that’s going to be making a run anytime soon.
The White Sox currently have the second worst offense in baseball, just ahead of the Miami Marlins. The pitching, on the other hand, has been the fourth best. But it’s also the pitching that the White Sox may be willing to give up in July in order to add a bat or two for the future.
As I mentioned earlier, Jake Peavy could be on the move. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the two-year, $29 million deal that he signed over the offseason could “easily be justified by a pursuer.”
The White Sox need offense and with Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn not getting much younger, the team needs to plan for 2014 and beyond.
Cleveland Indians: Neither
The Cleveland Indians did a lot of work over the winter to be in the position they’re currently in, four games above .500 and within a game of the AL Central lead. As the trade deadline approaches, I think Cleveland will be in a similar situation as it is now and probably a little worse off—maybe three or four games back.
But instead of making a trade to boost their playoff hopes, I think the Indians are much more likely to stand pat. Cleveland hasn’t been getting good production thus far from a few of players that should be playing much better. If the Indians could get them to start hitting and pitching better, they’d be in much better shape.
Asdrubal Cabrera, who might be Cleveland’s most talented position player, is hitting .221/.290/.416 with four home runs and 15 RBI in 30 games. He needs to be better. Ubaldo Jimenez is 2-2 in six starts with a 6.37 ERA across 29.2 innings of work. It wouldn’t hurt if he pitched a good game here and there, either.
Detroit Tigers: Buyer
If you want to look at a team that has a World Series-worthy roster, it’s the Detroit Tigers. Detroit has a fantastic lineup that is strong from top to bottom and a starting rotation that is arguably better than any other in baseball. The only weakness, if you’d even call it that, is the bullpen.
The Tigers have the second-best bullpen in the league right now in terms of WAR, which is somewhat surprising since they have already had two closers this year. If things start to go in a poor direction late in games, Detroit could make a move toward the deadline for its third closer.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that Jonathan Papelbon could be on the trade block this summer and Detroit might be interested. Salisbury does not say, however, that the Tigers are one of the teams on Papelbon’s no-trade clause. Even still, it appears to be a good fit, especially if Papelbon wants a chance at another ring.
Kansas City Royals: Buyer
The Kansas City Royals put a large emphasis on pitching over the winter, acquiring James Shields and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays for the team’s No. 1 prospect, Wil Myers. That decision is already paying dividends as the Royals are very much in the early postseason hunt.
But I wonder that if the Royals continue to play well, if a midseason trade could still be in the works. If you’ve read my work in the past, you know that I’m very anti-Mike Moustakas. Through 29 games this season, Moustakas is hitting .222/.301/.364 with three home runs and nine RBI.
If the Royals are serious about playing for a berth in the postseason, they have to address the situation at third base. I’m not sure if Kansas City would be willing to trade for a guy like Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres—who could be on the block—but something has to be done to take Moustakas out of the picture.
Minnesota Twins: Neither
The Minnesota Twins are currently in the middle of a rebuilding plan and they have to know that they won’t be playing for much until the next couple of years. Minnesota traded Ben Revere and Denard Span over the winter to start the process and actually hasn’t been all that bad this year.
While Minnesota is 16-15 and just 2.5 games behind in the division, I don’t foresee the Twins getting much closer than that all year long. As July approaches, Minnesota will likely be a little further out of the hunt and more prone to make a move. The big names on the rumor mill will certainly be Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
But while the Twins could dump a lot of salary by trading either Mauer of Morneau, I think that both will still be on the payroll come August. Unless the Twins are absolutely blown away by an offer that will give them a lot of great, young pitching in return, there’s really no sense in making a deal.
Houston Astros: Seller
At 10-25, I still don’t think many people are surprised that the Houston Astros are tied for the worst record in baseball with the Miami Marlins. Houston doesn’t have much major league talent on its roster and it’s certainly showing. For example, Houston batters are striking out 26.9 percent of the time, the most in baseball.
It’s going to be a couple of years before the Astros make any sort of progress toward the top of the AL West and they shouldn’t be reluctant to make a few more deals before the season ends. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports thinks that two of Houston’s pitchers, Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell, could be on the move in July.
Norris and Harrell are both cheap options that would give a contender someone who could pitch at the back of the rotation and potentially succeed with more run support. Norris is 4-3 with a 3.40 ERA this season, while Harrell is 3-3 with a 4.67 ERA.
Los Angeles Angels: Neither
The Los Angeles Angels have played very poorly this season, just a few months after spending a bunch of money on Josh Hamilton, the No. 1 player on the free agent market. A year prior, the Angels emptied their pockets for Albert Pujols, who was the best position player available that winter.
Thus far, though, Los Angeles hasn’t had much success with either on the roster. Pujols is hitting .238/.322/.400 with five home runs and 19 RBI through 33 games this season. Hamilton, on the other hand, has been even worse, hitting .213/.267/.346 with four home runs (all against the Astros) and 11 RBI.
I don’t think that the Angels are going to be very active toward the deadline, though. Once everyone is healthy, Los Angeles should start to play a little better. But the Angels will only turn their season around if Pujols and Hamilton start to hit like they used to. A big trade doesn’t seem likely.
Oakland Athletics: Neither
The Oakland Athletics haven’t played as well as they did in the second half of the 2012 season, but they still sit second in the AL West behind the Texas Rangers. At this point in the season, which is still very early, it appears that Oakland is going to need to grab a wild-card spot if it has any intention of making the postseason.
Oakland could look to make a big splash in July to try and top Texas in the division like last season, but that’s not really Billy Beane’s style. Instead, Oakland will likely hope that more heroes appear out of nowhere to boost the team’s chances. That mentality seemed to work last season, right?
What the Athletics need to focus on is staying healthy. At the moment, there are five players on the disabled list that would arguably be starters right now. Coco Crisp was the team’s best hitter before hurting his hamstring. If he hits as well as he did before he went down, Oakland will be in good shape.
Seattle Mariners: Seller
Although the Seattle Mariners made a couple of nice moves over the offseason, bringing in a lot of power to the lineup, they’re still far away from making the playoffs. Seattle hasn’t been against trading some of its better talent recently and could be a team that makes a deal or two in July.
I think that one player that won’t be on the team come August is Brendan Ryan. He is one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, but he struggles mightily at the plate. Robert Andino can handle the duties for the rest of the year and eventually, Nick Franklin could be the solution.
Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet recently suggested that Ryan could be a target for the Toronto Blue Jays, who are currently playing poorly and are a bit banged up. Nicholson-Smith writes that Ryan would be an upgrade over Toronto’s current shortstop, Munenori Kawasaki, who has taken over for Jose Reyes.
Texas Rangers: Buyer
The Texas Rangers are currently playing like they’re the best team in baseball. The pitching has been outstanding and the hitting hasn’t been far behind, either. But even though they’re playing well now, that doesn’t take them out of the conversation to make a big move in July.
Texas still has a log jam in the middle of its infield and I believe that as the deadline approaches, the Rangers will look to solve that problem. But it won’t be Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler that gets shipped to another team, in my opinion. I think the Texas finally pulls the trigger on a deal that involves Jurickson Profar, the top prospect in baseball.
Now there are two players that I think the Rangers would be willing to trade Profar for: Oscar Tavares, the top prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals, or Giancarlo Stanton, one of the best sluggers in baseball. Adding either would set up the Rangers nicely, whether it be this year (with Stanton) or the next five-plus (with either).
Atlanta Braves: Seller
The Atlanta Braves are in as good of a position as a team could hope for. They have an abundance of talent that is playing very well at the moment. The Braves lead the NL East by two games and are tied for the most wins in baseball. But that shouldn’t prevent them for looking at the open market.
I’m interested to see what the Braves do once Jason Heyward returns from the disabled list. Before Brian McCann returned, Evan Gattis was playing very well behind the plate. When McCann came back, Gattis took over in the outfield, a spot that won’t be there any more once Heyward gets healthy again.
McCann is a free agent after this season and with Gattis playing so well, I wonder if the Braves would consider moving him. There are certainly a lot of teams that could use a catcher or potentially a designated hitter down the stretch. Atlanta could probably get something above average in return, too.
Miami Marlins: Seller
Changes have to be made with the Miami Marlins and it starts from the top. Jeffrey Loria needs to relieve himself as owner and let the team just do its thing. That being said, the Marlins have already started the “start all over” process, but it needs to go even further.
As the trade deadline approaches, I think that Giancarlo Stanton finally gets dealt. There isn’t a team in baseball that wouldn’t love to have him, but the Marlins have refused to give him up yet. Stanton is a part of their long-term plan considering he’s already an MVP candidate and they still have a lot of control left.
But the Marlins need to wake up and smell the coffee. I’m not sure Miami understands the type of talent that it could get in return for Stanton. We’re talking about several top prospects. Not one or two. More like three, four or five. Miami has to commit to rebuilding and send Stanton on his merry little way.
New York Mets: Neither
The New York Mets are kind of in no man's land right now. They have some talent that has kept them somewhat afloat through the early parts of the season (14-17, third in NL East), but they aren’t ready to contend yet. It’s like they’ve committed to rebuilding, but only want to rebuild so much.
David Wright is obviously the centerpiece of the offense and it appears that Matt Harvey is going to lead the pitching staff for years to come. The Mets still have a couple of great, young prospects waiting in the minors, too, in Zach Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud. Once they arrive, the Mets should be contenders.
But will the Mets make any other moves before those two make it to the big leagues? Frankly, I don’t think so. New York doesn’t really have any other big pieces that they can move around for more prospects. The Mets just have to sit on their hands and wait until Wheeler and d’Arnaud are ready to come up.
Philadelphia Phillies: Seller
If there’s one team that’s going to be active in July, I’m most certain in saying it’ll be the Philadelphia Phillies. Nothing is going right for the Phillies this season, whether it is playing bad baseball (16-20, fourth in NL East) or just unfortunate injuries. It’s time to start rebuilding in Philadelphia.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly recently wrote about the potential moves that the Phillies could end up making if they’re still well out of the playoff race come the trade deadline. Salisbury names Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins, among several others, as players that could be on the move this summer.
If I had to guess, I’d say that Lee has the best shot at getting dealt. He could be a very valuable addition to a contending team that’s willing to pay the remainder of his salary. Papelbon and Rollins seem less likely, but for all we know, they could be part of a massive fire sale in July.
Washington Nationals: Neither
The Washington Nationals are in great shape considering that several of the players in their everyday lineup have yet to start hitting. I’m surprised that Bryce Harper hasn’t gone on the disabled list with a sore back from carrying the team to where it is right now.
Harper is hitting .302/.383/.629 with 10 home runs and 21 RBI through 33 games this season. No other player on the team is hitting above .287. Luckily, the pitching has been very good, even though some of the starters’ win-loss records might not show that.
In terms of making moves, though, I don’t really see any holes for the Nationals. They have a very complete roster; they just need everyone to start playing better. Washington looks like a postseason contender right now, but will need a collective effort to win the division again.
Chicago Cubs: Both
I’m not really sure what the Chicago Cubs are doing. They’re somewhat like the New York Mets where they don’t have the talent to contend, but still have yet to fully commit toward rebuilding. I, for one, think that it’s time to really start over, but the Cubs haven’t shown any signs that they’ll do that yet.
The Cubs have a lot of starting pitching that could interest several teams this summer. On Jon Heyman of CBS Sports’ list of starting pitchers that could get dealt toward the deadline, he had four Cubs in the top 10 (Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva).
It’s unlikely that the Cubs would deal all four, but why not deal one or two? Also, don’t be shocked to hear more Alfonso Soriano rumors as July 31 draws near because he’s sure to be on the block. Whether the Cubs actually pull the trigger on an offer this season remains to be seen.
Cincinnati Reds: Buyer
Although the Cincinnati Reds are playing good baseball right now (19-16, second in NL Central), it’s not guaranteed that they make the postseason. The NL East and West could easily take four spots, leaving the final one for the NL Central winner, which at the moment looks to be the St. Louis Cardinals.
So what should the Reds do? Well, for one, Cincinnati needs to get healthy and stay healthy. The Reds need Johnny Cueto in the starting rotation and could use Ryan Hanigan and Chris Heisey back in the lineup as well. Unfortunately, Ryan Ludwick probably won’t be back for a while, and the Reds will miss him too.
But overall, the Reds don’t have many holes to fill. As long as everyone is clicking and healthy, things should work out in their favor. The one suggestion I would make is to acquire another player to come off the bench. While their current bench isn’t bad, it could certainly be a little better.
Milwaukee Brewers: Buyer
The Milwaukee Brewers are one of the teams that will definitely need to make a move at the trade deadline if they have any hopes of making the postseason. Milwaukee hasn’t played well this season (15-17, fourth in NL Central), but is still close enough that a player or two could boost their chances quite a bit.
Despite signing Kyle Lohse to aid the starting rotation, the pitching staff in general has been poor this season. Milwaukee currently ranks 27th in baseball in terms of WAR for pitchers. They have some good talent in Triple-A, but have yet to call anyone up that might be able to lend a hand.
The Brewers also need to find someone that can play first base. Milwaukee knew it was in trouble when Mat Gamel tore his ACL and Corey Hart needed knee surgery, but the team has done little to replace them. Yuniesky Betancourt isn’t getting the job done and a trade could solve this problem relatively easily.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Neither
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the middle of the pack in the NL Central at 18-16, 3.5 back of the St. Louis Cardinals. Pittsburgh has gotten good contributions from Starling Marte and Russell Martin, but the pitching staff hasn’t been good at all. Pittsburgh pitchers currently rank 26th in baseball in terms of WAR.
I will admit, though, that some Pittsburgh pitchers have been good. A.J. Burnett has been the team’s best starter at 3-3 and a 2.57 ERA and Jason Grilli has been one of the top closers in baseball. But Jonathan Sanchez was so bad that he got released and the rest of the staff hasn’t earned their pay, either.
The one good thing for the Pirates is that Andrew McCutchen, while still playing well, hasn’t gotten hot yet. He’s hitting .282/.338/.452 with four home runs and 19 RBI through 33 games thus far. It’s only a matter of time before he heats up. That alone, could boost Pittsburgh’s shot at playing in October.
St. Louis Cardinals: Buyer
The St. Louis Cardinals are sitting pretty atop the division and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. But there are still some issues that need to be sorted out in the next couple of months to solidify their spot in the postseason. The biggest area of concern is the bullpen.
Jason Motte is out for the foreseeable future with a torn elbow ligament and Mitchell Boggs was so shaky that he got sent down to Triple-A. Cardinals’ general manager John Mozeliak told Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports that he would consider a trade, “but that would not be in the near future.”
I’m not sure when the near future is for Mozeliak, but the trade deadline seems like an appropriate time to make a move. If Boggs can’t rebound and the internal solutions aren’t getting the job done, look for St. Louis to acquire a right-hander that can pitch late in games when they have the lead.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Neither
The Arizona Diamondbacks may have looked foolish when they dealt Justin Upton over the offseason, but have been just fine, if not better, without him thus far. Arizona is tied with the San Francisco Giants atop the NL West at 20-15. The pitching staff has been great and the offense has been just as good.
Can’t ask for more than that, right? Well Arizona could, but I don’t think that it will. Gerardo Parra, Paul Goldschmidt and Didi Gregorious have been outstanding, and if Martin Prado could start hitting (instead of having the lowest WAR on the team), Arizona would have one of the best lineups in the game.
Pitching-wise, Arizona has gotten great contributions from Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley and Trevor Cahill. J.J. Putz wasn’t very good to start the year, but that could’ve been due to an elbow issue, considering he’s now on the disabled list. Even still, I don’t see any reason why the Diamondbacks would need to do much this July.
Colorado Rockies: Seller
The Colorado Rockies might be one of the biggest surprises in baseball this season. They’re currently 19-15, half a game back of the division lead and in the top six in offense and pitching in terms of WAR so far. That’s incredible considering how bad they look on paper.
But I think that Colorado’s luck is going to end eventually and the Rockies will start to slide to fourth or fifth in the NL West. While the offense can probably hold its own, I don’t see the pitching staff being able to be half as good as they have been. Could Colorado make a trade? Sure, but I don’t think that’s going to happen, either.
If Colorado does make a deal, it will be to trade someone away, not because it isn’t a contending team, but because it is one. Michael Cuddyer is a player that I think would interest a few teams looking for an outfielder and Colorado may be willing to give him up depending on what type of return it might get.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Seller
You know you’re having a bad season when the president of the team apologizes to the fanbase after just over a month. That’s right, Los Angeles Dodgers’ president Stan Kasten said he was sorry that the team had played so poorly thus far, but that he’s expecting things to turn around soon, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
I’m not so optimistic, though, Stan. Los Angeles is the third-worst team in the National League and sits six games behind in the division. The Dodgers are also seven games under .500. There are plenty of people to blame for the sluggish start, but by July, the Dodgers are going to have to do something about it.
Los Angeles has too high of a payroll to be playing as bad as it has and people will likely lose their jobs because of it. I wouldn’t expect a full fire sale, but don’t be surprised to see some big names on the trade block. Andre Ethier is one player that I think will get dealt. A couple of teams could use a left-handed hitting outfielder.
San Diego Padres: Seller
The San Diego Padres are lucky to only be two games under .500 right now. They have a very average offense and their pitching staff is the worst in baseball in terms of WAR. San Diego will not be in contention for a playoff berth this season and probably won’t be playing in October for the next handful.
I honestly think that the Padres will end up trading Chase Headley this season. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that Headley doesn’t want to sign an extension during the season and San Diego might not want to top $100 million to try to keep him. Ultimately, Rosenthal thinks that he’ll be gone by Aug. 1.
I couldn’t agree more with Rosenthal. There’s really no incentive for Headley to want to stay with the Padres past this season. They don’t have a competitive team and likely won’t give him the contract he wants, deserves or could get from another team. San Diego would be better off dealing him and capitalizing on whatever it can get in return.
San Francisco Giants: Neither
I don’t think that there’s any question that the San Francisco Giants will be in the postseason to defend their title. Although they haven’t played their best baseball yet, they’re still tied for the division lead and are also tied for the most wins in baseball. It’s probably only a matter of time before they pull away from the pack.
The Giants have a very good roster that doesn’t need to be altered. San Francisco has a relatively stable starting rotation, a deep bullpen and a starting lineup that many other organizations would love to have. General manager Brian Sabean should be very comfortable with what he has.
If the Giants were to slip up and enter July in a much worse position—something like a couple games under .500 and third in the division—I could see them trading away some guys. But I just don’t think that’s going to happen. Maybe the Giants acquire a reliever or a bench player, but nothing major should be expected this July.