Predicting All 30 MLB Teams as a Buyer or Seller in the Trade Market
For guys like Jonathan Papelbon, the vultures have already begun circling.
Rumors of players being targeted in trade discussions will intensify as we approach MLB's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Over the next six weeks, injuries to key contributors for contenders and white flags from bottom-feeders will result in more than enough supply and demand to keep the rumor mill ablaze around the clock.
As we close in on the halfway point of the season, there's no time like the present to reassess which teams are projecting as buyers and which should be sellers.
We'll take a hard look at which teams have what needs and nominate some bloated contracts that teams would love to hand off to somebody else.
Teams are arranged on the following slides in alphabetical order by team name, starting with the Angels.
*All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac.com and all on-field statistics are courtesy of Fangraphs.com and ESPN.com. All numbers are accurate through the start of play on Monday, June 17.
Los Angeles Angels: Buyers
2013 Record: 30-39 (11 GB in AL West)
Key Free Agents: Ryan Madson, Jason Vargas, Scott Downs
What They Should Buy: Starting pitching
For most teams, being nine games under .500 and 11 games behind the division leader would amount to enough writing on the wall that it just isn't happening this season.
But not this team. Not in this city. The Angels have committed too much money to this season to just give up now.
Actually, they've committed too much money to the next several seasons to give up on 2013.
For you see, they have what should be a dream lineup right now. A heart of the order of Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo is too good to fail and way too good to last.
In 2013, they're paying those guys a modest $34.45 million. Hamilton and Pujols alone are going to cost $40.4 million in 2014 and $58.4 million by 2017. Who knows how much money Trout and Trumbo will be worth after this season—but I think we can safely assume it'll be more than an average of $525,000.
Even if we ignore the finances and assume they can keep the band together for at least another season, Pujols and Hamilton aren't getting any younger. There's a very real possibility that this is the last year of their primes—if 2012 wasn't already the last year of their primes.
The Angels need to win now, and the only way to do that is by adding some reliable starting pitching.
They need at least one ready-made middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, and they can't very well wait until the end of July to get him.
Don't be surprised if they make a huge push in the next couple weeks for the ace of a team that's already dead and buried. Matt Garza, Ricky Nolasco and Bud Norris would all look good in an Angels uniform.
Houston Astros: Sellers
2013 Record: 26-44 (15.5 GB in AL West)
Key Free Agents: Eric Bedard, Ronny Cedeno, Carlos Pena
Who They Should Sell: Everyone over the age of 26, especially Bud Norris
The Astros are still a few years away from anything resembling serious playoff contention, and will likely continue on their path of calculated tanking.
Even if they can't get anything in return for Bedard, Cedeno and Pena before the trade deadline, it's unlikely they'll resign any of those free agents after this season. That leaves only Norris, Jose Veras, Wesley Wright and Phillip Humber as guys currently signed through 2014 that are making more than $506,000 in 2013.
Humber has a $3 million club option for 2014 that the Astros can and presumably will buyout for $50,000. Norris has been in trade speculations for the entire season and will almost certainly get traded to whoever is willing to offer the most quality prospects. And odds are they'll be able to find a few teams willing to take Veras and Wright off their hands.
Oakland Athletics: Buyers
2013 Record: 42-29 (First place in AL West)
Key Free Agents: Grant Balfour, Bartolo Colon, Brandon Moss
What They Should Buy: First baseman and second baseman
"Billy Beane" and "buyer" don't often go hand in hand, but this might finally be the year.
The A's have been more or less platooning the right half of their infield all season, and none of the options have been overwhelmingly fruitful. Brandon Moss and Nate Freiman have split time at first base while Eric Sogard and Adam Rosales have each played their share of innings at second base.
Let's just say you won't be seeing any of those names at the 2013 All-Star Game.
As a collective unit, those four guys entered play on Sunday with 17 home runs and a .239 batting average. That's the equivalent of two full-time position players combining to roughly equal the production of Mark Reynolds.
With soon-to-be free agents like Justin Morneau and Nick Punto presumably on the trading block, there's no good excuse for the A's to stand pat with what they've got.
Toronto Blue Jays: Sellers
2013 Record: 32-36 (8.5 GB in AL East)
Key Free Agents: Rajai Davis, Josh Johnson
Who They Should Sell: Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera, Josh Johnson
To say the 2013 season hasn't gone according to plan for the Blue Jays would be a slight understatement. Yet, they're only about a half dozen games out of contention in the AL Wild Card race, and should be getting Jose Reyes back in the near future.
It's still a bit too early to discern whether they'll go quietly into the night.
Should they decide to blow it up, however, Buehrle will be the primary guy they'll want to get rid of. It's bad enough that they're paying him $12 million this year for a 4.66 ERA, but he's on the docket for $39 million over the next two seasons.
If anyone is crazy enough to take on that commitment for a soft-tossing lefty, the Blue Jays should take the deal, no matter what is being offered in return.
Another "clearing out the books" option would be to move Cabrera. $8 million in both 2013 and 2014 isn't a huge commitment, but why not clear out some space for Anthony Gose and/or Moises Sierra in the outfield alongside Jose Bautista?
Also, if they aren't planning on re-signing Johnson this offseason, they would be wise to deal him rather than letting a 29-year-old with top-of-the-rotation stuff just walk away for nothing.
Atlanta Braves: A Little of Both
2013 Record: 41-28 (First place in NL East)
Key Free Agents: Brian McCann, Paul Maholm, Tim Hudson, Eric O'Flaherty, Luis Ayala
Who They Should Sell: McCann or Evan Gattis, Maholm
What They Should Buy: Third baseman, relief pitching
With O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters both out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May and Chris Johnson cooling off considerably after a torrid April, the Braves have a few areas that could stand to be patched up.
They have supply and they have demand, but will they be able to find a trading partner?
Finding a trustworthy reliever is the biggest concern. Luis Avilan and Anthony Varvaro have been solid fill-ins, but Fredi Gonzalez seems determined to blow out their arms as well. The two middle relievers have combined to appear in 28 games over the last 30 days.
Adding another middle reliever would help relieve some of the strain on those two guys without also having to further rely on Cory Gearrin's career 3.70 BB/9 and .324 BABIP.
Who they trade in order to make that happen is yet to be determined. If they think Gattis is potentially a long-term solution at catcher, McCann could probably be traded for a lot more than a run-of-the-mill middle reliever.
Conversely, if they're planning to recommit to McCann this offseason, they might as well sell high on Gattis. His only shot at getting regular playing time right now is if someone gets injured.
Maholm is easily going to be the best left-handed starting pitcher available this winter, and they could likely fetch a pretty penny for him from a team that's unwilling to wait until December to add a new southpaw.
Milwaukee Brewers: Sellers
2013 Record: 28-40 (15.5 GB in NL Central)
Key Free Agents: Corey Hart, Mike Gonzalez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Francisco Rodriguez
Who They Should Sell: Aramis Ramirez, Hart, Rickie Weeks
Despite having the league leader in WAR and three of the top-25 batters in the NL, the Brewers are hopelessly out of the playoff picture thanks to a laughable pitching staff. As such, it's time to start planning for 2014 and beyond.
Ramirez is the primary piece they're going to want to move.
He's making $10 million this season and is scheduled to make $16 million next year. That may have seemed reasonable when the Brewers signed him to a three-year deal after a 2011 season in which he batted .306 with 26 home runs, but Father Time seems to have caught up with him.
The Brewers have Juan Francisco, Mat Gamel and Taylor Green as options to take over at third base, so Ramirez really isn't worth that much to them—let alone worth another $20 million over the next year and a half.
Power to them if they can figure out a way to get out of Weeks' contract or get something in return for Hart. Hart hasn't played in a game yet this year, and will be a free agent after the season.
St. Louis Cardinals: Neither
2013 Record: 44-25 (First place in NL Central)
Key Free Agents: Edward Mujica, Carlos Beltran, Rafael Furcal
Who They Should Sell: Nobody
Unless they want to trade some of their seemingly-endless supply of starting pitching for some depth in the outfield, there's no reason for the Cardinals to make or take any phone calls at this year's deadline.
When you have the best record in all of baseball, there's no reason to tinker.
Chicago Cubs: Sellers
2013 Record: 28-39 (15 GB in NL Central)
Key Free Agents: Matt Garza, Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Kevin Gregg, Carlos Marmol
Who They Should Sell: Garza, Baker, Marmol, Alfonso Soriano
Garza is still working out some of the kinks after spending 10 months on the disabled list (as evidenced by a particularly brutal nine-run outing against the Reds last week). However, he still figures to be one of the biggest names changing uniforms this July.
In addition to trying to trade away the quintet of free agents they'll unlikely re-sign, one has to wonder if this is finally the year that the Cubs will be able to get rid of Soriano.
Not only would they need to convince him to waive his no-trade clause, but they would need to find someone desperate enough for a healthy outfielder that they would pony up more than $25 million between now and the end of next season for him.
For the love of all that is holy, the Cubs need to get rid of Marmol. As poorly as Dan Haren has pitched this season for the Nationals, it's unfathomable that the Cubs were the ones who were unwilling to do a Haren for Marmol trade this past offseason.
Even worse, the Cubs went out and traded for Henry Rodriguez last week, doubling down on relievers who can throw 100 MPH in a direction to be determined at a later date.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Neither
2013 Record: 37-32 (First place in NL West)
Key Free Agents: Eric Chavez, Willie Bloomquist, Wil Nieves
What They Should Buy: Second baseman
The Diamondbacks might be in the best long-term position of any of the 30 MLB teams.
Once Adam Eaton makes his way back to the show, they'll have someone under the age of 30 holding down the starting job at every primary position on the roster aside from second base (Aaron Hill is 31) and closer (Heath Bell is 35).
The most critical thing they'll be losing this offseason is a 35-year-old, often-injured backup third baseman. In other words, they'll be almost the exact same team in 2014 as they are in 2013, but with one added year of maturity for guys like Didi Gregorius, Patrick Corbin and the entire starting outfield.
If they feel the need to make some adjustments at the trade deadline, their primary focus should be at second base. No offense to Hill, but if history continues to repeat itself for guys his age, he has a maximum of one more season left in the tank as a quality second baseman.
Should the opportunity arise at the 2013 trade deadline to figure out who their second baseman will be in 2015 and beyond, they should take it.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Who Knows?
2013 Record: 29-39 (7.5 GB in NL West)
Key Free Agents: Juan Uribe, Nick Punto, J.P. Howell
What They Should Buy: Left side of the infield
Same general story as the Angels, but without the same degree of urgency.
With the exception of Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw—the latter of which will likely agree to an insane contract in the next few hours, days or weeks—the Dodgers already have every major piece of the current team signed through next season.
So, if they don't get it done this season, they're in great shape for 2014—assuming you consider committing over $200 million to half of the team to be great shape. The only question is whether ownership will be willing to wait until next season after committing an inordinate amount of money to 2013?
Whether it's to chase a pennant in 2013 or beyond, they will desperately need to address their third base situation. Not only has Uribe been an expensive source of incredibly little production over the past three seasons, but this is his last year under contract with the Dodgers.
If they don't make some sort of changes, they'll spend the entire 2014 season just one Hanley Ramirez hamstring injury away from having Luis Cruz and Dee Gordon as 22 percent of the starting lineup for the league's highest-paid team.
San Francisco Giants: Neither
2013 Record: 35-33 (1.5 GB in NL West)
Key Free Agents: Tim Lincecum, Hunter Pence, Chad Gaudin, Javier Lopez
Who They Should Sell: Any free agent they don't plan on re-signing
This "who they should sell" recommendation is just good common sense, and the entire reason that yard sales and Craig's List exist. Just because you don't want to keep something anymore doesn't mean someone else isn't willing to pay you for it.
However, it's a stronger recommendation for San Francisco than it is for most teams, because their soon-to-be free agents clearly have a lot of value.
Despite his recent struggles, Lincecum is going to command a massive pay day if he hits free agency this winter. Thanks in part to an outstanding 2013 season, Pence figures to also be a highly sought after commodity.
Lopez may be turning 36 this year, but quality left-handed relievers don't exactly grow on trees.
If the Giants want to just play out the season and chase another World Series title—letting those offseason chips fall where they may—no one would fault them, because they have enough talent to win it all again. But they could trade a number of those guys away this July and really solidify the team for the future, without totally destroying their chances in 2013.
Cleveland Indians: To Be Determined
2013 Record: 34-34 (4.5 GB in AL Central)
Key Free Agents: Mark Reynolds, Joe Smith, Ryan Raburn, Matt Capps, Scott Kazmir, Jason Giambi
Who They Should Sell: Nick Swisher
The Indians have the murkiest forecast in the league right now.
That they're currently within a game of .500 is both a pleasant surprise and a disappointment. After starting the season 8-13, they went on to win 18 of their next 22 games before then losing 16 of their next 20.
They're too close to playoff contention to pack it in and start thinking about future seasons, but hopefully realistic enough to realize this more than likely isn't their year. As of mid-June, I don't see Cleveland on either side of a major trade.
However, they might want to look into getting rid of Swisher while the getting is good.
I know they just signed him to a four-year / $56 million contract before this season, but I assume they've realized the error of their ways. The Indians should look to move him before his salary jumps from $11 million to $15 million next year.
I wouldn't say Swisher has been awful, but he hasn't been anywhere near good enough to be worth $3.7 million more than anyone else on the roster. And he's only going to get older and more expensive.
In a perfect world, the Indians would emerge from the trade deadline with Reynolds and Lonnie Chisenhall as their corner infielders of the future, and an extra $45 million to spend on starting pitching over the next three years.
Seattle Mariners: Sellers
2013 Record: 31-39 (10.5 GB in AL West)
Key Free Agents: Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Joe Saunders, Kelly Shoppach, Oliver Perez, Brendan Ryan
Who They Should Sell: Fire sale!!!
If there's any team in the majors that is going to use the 2013 trade deadline as a full-blown face lift, it's going to be the Mariners. Nearly half of the active roster will hit free agency at the end of the season.
With the amount of young guys like Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino becoming mainstays in the lineup, there's no reason to re-sign anyone over the age of 25.
However, there's also no reason to let half of your roster leave for nothing.
If they can pack up Ryan, Morse and Perez and ship them for quality prospects to a more near-sighted team making a playoff push, they might as well do it. If nothing else, it would open up space on the roster for guys like Alex Liddi, Eric Thames and Carlos Triunfel to get everyday, major league at-bats.
Miami Marlins: Sellers
2013 Record: 21-47 (19.5 GB in NL East)
Key Free Agents: Ricky Nolasco, Kevin Slowey, Chad Qualls, Placido Polanco, Greg Dobbs, Juan Pierre, Miguel Olivo
Who They Should Sell: Nolasco
Justin Ruggiano, Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez are arguably the only other names of any intrigue, but those are the pieces they'll presumably be trying to rebuild around.
The time to sell high on Slowey may have already come and gone, but he's probably the only other guy for which they could get something in return.
New York Mets: Sellers
2013 Record: 25-39 (13.5 GB in NL East)
Key Free Agents: John Buck, Frank Francisco, Brandon Lyon, Shaun Marcum
Who They Should Sell: Everyone other than Matt Harvey and David Wright
Since the end of April, Buck is batting .200 with two home runs and 37 strikeouts.
Buck is tied with Frank Francisco as the fourth-most expensive player on the Mets' 2013 payroll, behind Wright, Johan Santana (who hasn't pitched since last August) and $18 million worth of dead money owed to Bay.
They could win every game between now and July 1 and still be below .500.
More than half of their payroll is dedicated to people that haven't stepped on the field in a Mets uniform this season. I'd say it's time to officially call 2013 a lost cause and start planning for the future.
Even if they don't make any moves, expiring contracts will help them start over this offseason.
That $18 million owed to Bay in 2013 drops to $3 million in 2014, and they'll be able to buyout Santana's 2014 club option for $5.5 million. That's $8.5 million wasted, but, compared to this season, it's more than $35 million in savings.
Coupled with the $17 million they'll have to play with when the contracts of Buck, Francisco and Marcum expire, the Mets figure to be pretty big players in this year's free agent market.
Washington Nationals: Neither
2013 Record: 34-34 (6.5 GB in NL East)
Key Free Agents: Fernando Abad, Haren, Chad Tracy
Who They Should Sell: Danny Espinosa
It's been nearly a month since the Nationals either won or lost more than two consecutive games, so it's tough to say what they're planning for the end of July.
Coming to you from the suburbs of the nation's capital, I'm admittedly not the world's most objective voice on the Nationals. In my opinion, though, there's nothing in particular that the Nationals need to do to contend this season other than get healthy.
When Ryan Zimmerman hit the DL on April 20, the Nationals were 10-7 which, way too early, projected for a 95 win season.
Right as Zimmerman was coming back, Jayson Werth headed to the sidelines for more than a month. While Werth was out, Bryce Harper and Espinosa played injured before ultimately going on the disabled list.
Wilson Ramos hasn't played since mid-May, and probably won't be back until mid-July.
And that's only starters in the everyday lineup.
As far as the pitching staff is concerned, Ross Detwiler missed a month, and Stephen Strasburg just returned from a two week hiatus. Ryan Mattheus broke a bone in his pitching hand in mid-May and won't be back any time soon.
It's one thing to use the trade market to try to recover from season-ending surgeries, but it's just been a steady flow of bruised joints and strained muscles for the Nationals. You don't want to go out and trade for a guy in July and then have no need for him in mid-August when someone else heals up.
While the team's record has been neither great nor awful in the past few weeks, Anthony Rendon has been out of this world. He has a triple slash of .444/.474/.694 in the month of June, while Espinosa is still recovering from a fractured wrist.
Coupled with the fact that Espinosa had the worst on-base percentage in all of baseball in the month of May, many are left wondering if and where Espinosa fits into the team's long-term plans?
Washington's best move would likely be to trade him for an injured or developing starting pitcher to potentially replace Haren in the 2014 rotation.
Baltimore Orioles: Buyers
2013 Record: 40-30 (1.5 GB in AL East)
Key Free Agents: Jason Hammel, Jim Johnson, Nate McLouth, Jon Rauch
What They Should Buy: Second baseman, starting pitcher
In 2009, Brian Roberts finished up a stretch of three seasons in which he averaged 712 plate appearances, 12 home runs, 40 stolen bases and a .290 batting average. He had some injury issues in the past, but he looked durable enough to sign a four-year, $40 million contract.
Over those four seasons, he has given the Orioles an average of 131 plate appearances, five stolen bases, two home runs, and precisely 0.0 wins above replacement.
He's clearly only getting at-bats because he's one of the better fielding second basemen in baseball. But there comes a point where runs saved on defense aren't worth the number of runs lost on offense.
If you clicked on the fielding link in that last paragraph, you might have noticed a certain name just behind Flaherty's in third place. If they're willing to throw even more money at a constant injury concern, Chase Utley would be a pretty perfect fit in Birdland.
Can you even imagine the Orioles' lineup with Utley in the middle of it rather than trying to bury Flaherty or Alexi Casilla at the bottom? And they could even give Utley the occasional day off at DH to try to prolong the length of time before his next injury.
If they got him and he stayed healthy, the Orioles could become a legitimate favorite in the AL.
It would also help if they could secure another starting pitcher (or five) that are actually worth starting. Wei-Yin Chen has been one of the only bright spots in their pitching staff, and he's been on the DL for over a month.
San Diego Padres: Buyers?
2013 Record: 35-34 (2 GB in NL West)
Key Free Agents: Chase Headley, Jason Marquis, Edinson Volquez
What They Should Buy: Starting pitching
I'm still completely flummoxed by this. The Padres started the season 5-15, and seemed destined for another year of sub-mediocrity.
The silver lining/stomach punch was that Headley was just rounding into game form after missing the first two weeks of the season. He was bound to come around just in time to fulfill trade rumors that have been circulating for what feels like the past five years.
But that hasn't really happened yet.
Headley is batting a paltry .221/.328/.353, and is on pace for roughly 15 home runs. This coming on the heels of a season in which he batted .286/.376/.498 with 31 home runs.
Despite Headley's struggles, the Padres are very much in the thick of the NL West race.
If they can improve their pitching staff in time for Headley's bat to wake up, they could contend for a playoff spot in 2013.
There will definitely be a number of arms available for the right price. The question becomes one of whether Padres ownership wants to put its eggs in the 2013 basket or play for the future?
They could spend more money on pitching and ride out the end of Headley's contract in hopes that he might re-sign with them. They could alternatively trade Headley for prospects, and just ride out the season with a starting rotation I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
Chasing a pennant and hanging on to some guys for too long while further investing in other aging pieces is what got Houston into its current situation. Seeking profits over pennants is what got Miami into its current situation.
I'm not saying the Padres are screwed either way, but rather that there's no definitive right answer for the approach they should take here.
Philadelphia Phillies: To Be Determined
2013 Record: 33-37 (8.5 GB in NL East)
Key Free Agents: Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Michael Young
Who They Should Sell: Utley, Cliff Lee, Papelbon
As recently as Saturday, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. stated that they have no intention of blowing things up at the trade deadline.
Aside from Amaro, most people (myself included) seem to believe the Phillies should have a fire sale.
They're paying at least $5 million for 10 different players in 2013, with Cole Hamels being the only one under the age of 32. That's all fine and good if you're going to make a serious run at a World Series, but they're seven games out of the playoff picture in mid-June.
And that's after spending the bulk of the first two months of the season in relatively good health (aside from Roy Halladay).
Ruiz and Young will come off the books after this season, and they'll be able to decline Halladay's $20 million club option for 2014 unless he beyond-miraculously comes back to pitch 225 innings this season.
That only solves a few of their problems, though.
And we haven't even mentioned oft-discussed trade targets Utley or Papelbon yet.
They don't need to bottom out like the Marlins or the Astros, but it's time to give some serious consideration to the R-word (rebuilding). They absolutely need to trade Utley, or else he'll walk this offseason with Philadelphia getting nothing for him.
If someone calls to inquire about Lee or Papelbon, Amaro should at least hear them out.
Maybe they won't be actively pursuing trade partners, but they shouldn't be tight-fisted with anyone other than Hamels and Kyle Kendrick.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Buyers
2013 Record: 41-28 (3 GB in NL Central)
Key Free Agents: A.J. Burnett, Jonathan Sanchez, Clint Barmes
What They Should Buy: Shortstop, right fielder
Because they own two of the most valuable relievers in the entire league, it's been a great 10 weeks for the Pirates. Despite being in the bottom third of the league in most major batting categories, they have one of the best records in all of baseball.
Sorry, Yinzers, but that doesn't seem like a sustainable strategy.
Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon aren't going to finish the season combining to average one blown save for every 65 innings pitched. Francisco Liriano isn't suddenly going to finish a season with a 2.36 ERA after finishing three of the past four years north of 5.00.
When the pitching voodoo wears off, the runs are going to need to start coming from somewhere. Barmes and Travis Snider are not that somewhere.
Those two players have combined for just five home runs, 30 runs and 30 RBI in over 370 plate appearances. For sake of comparison, Chris Nelson had nine home runs, 45 runs and 53 RBI in 377 plate appearances last season with the Rockies, and that poor guy can't find consistent work anywhere this year.
To be fair, there aren't exactly a plethora of expendable power-hitting shortstops for the Pirates to go after. But don't be surprised if they strike up trade talks with the Mariners for Ryan and Morse.
Perhaps those discussions would even lead to the Bucs considering bringing Bay back to where he started his career.
Texas Rangers: Buyers
2013 Record: 38-31 (3 GB in AL West)
Key Free Agents: A.J. Pierzynski, Nelson Cruz, Jeff Baker, Colby Lewis, Jason Frasor, David Murphy
What They Should Buy: Starting pitcher
Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando (when healthy) have been very strong at the top of the Rangers rotation.
Nick Tepesch has been serviceable, but hardly inspirational.
Justin Grimm has taken a beating in five of his last eight outings, and has given up at least two earned runs in every start since the end of April.
Since improving to 32-17 on May 25 and looking like the team to beat in the AL, the Rangers have lost 14 of their last 20 games.
If they're going to make the playoffs—let alone beat out the A's for the AL West crown—they're going to need to shore up the back end of their rotation.
The hope is that they'll get some combination of Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Lewis back from the disabled list by the end of the season. However, Texas has been unable to even tread water without them over the past month.
Tampa Bay Rays: Neither
2013 Record: 36-33 (5 GB in AL East)
Key Free Agents: Kelly Johnson, Roberto Hernandez, James Loney, Fernando Rodney, Jamey Wright, Jose Molina, Luke Scott
Who They Should Sell: Hernandez, Johnson
As long as Wil Myers even remotely fulfills his lofty expectations, the Rays will be in incredible shape to compete this season.
In fact, the Rays may find a month from now that they have an excess of bats in the outfield, and can afford to either enhance their bullpen or add some depth at the corner infield positions via the trade market.
Johnson figures to be the odd man out in that equation. Johnson is 31 years old. He's a free agent after this season, and has failed to bat .250 in four of the last five seasons.
With an outfield of Myers, Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce—along with Ben Zobrist at second base—there just isn't space for Johnson in 2013, nor any reason to re-sign him for 2014.
Hernandez figures to be a similarly expendable member of the pitching staff, provided David Price and Alex Cobb are back on the mound by the time the trading deadline rolls around.
With Chris Archer, Alex Colome and Jake Odorizzi chomping at the bit for full-time jobs in the majors, the Rays can easily replace Hernandez if another team wants to take a flyer on him.
Boston Red Sox: Buyers
2013 Record: 42-29 (First place in AL East)
Key Free Agents: Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jose Iglesias, Joel Hanrahan, Stephen Drew
What They Should Buy: Third baseman, starting pitcher
Will Middlebrooks simply isn't cutting it as a starting third baseman this season. He has the lowest on-base percentage of the 184 players with at least 200 plate appearances, and is sixth-worst among third basemen in UZR/150.
Iglesias can fill in for Middlebrooks until his .507 BABIP comes crashing back to earth, but Iglesias is more of a long-term solution at shortstop than at third base.
All things considered, don't be surprised if Boston is one of the teams being thrown around if the Headley sweepstakes start heating up.
The Red Sox could also benefit from acquiring at least one more starting pitcher.
The collection of Felix Doubront, Alfredo Aceves, Allen Webster and Franklin Morales has been unable to hold down the fifth spot in the rotation. Jon Lester has been ineffective over the past month, and there's no telling when John Lackey will land back on the disabled list again.
You can use the "you never know" argument about injuries for any team. However, it just seems to make sense for a playoff contender like the Red Sox to go out and grab another middle-of-the-rotation starter, relegating Doubront to standby status in case someone gets injured.
Cincinnati Reds: Neither
2013 Record: 42-28 (2.5 GB in NL Central)
Key Free Agents: Bronson Arroyo, Shin-Soo Choo
Who They Should Sell: Arroyo
The Reds don't have to do a darn thing at the trading deadline in order to compete for a World Series title. However, they're in the incredibly enviable position of having more starting pitching than they know what to do with.
Should they choose to share some of that wealth, upcoming-free-agent Arroyo figures to be the arm they'll try to move.
There's a stipulation in Arroyo's contract under which $15 million is deferred without interest through 202. However, that money would have to be paid upfront if he is traded before the end of this season.
A team with ample funds and dire needs would probably be willing to pay that difference for the still serviceable 36-year-old, but it's worth noting that could be a significant snag in any trade discussions.
Tony Cingrani has been incredible, but keeps bouncing back and forth between the majors and Triple-A when a different starter (read: Johnny Cueto) lands on the disabled list. If they could dump Arroyo's salary, and perhaps pick up a prospect in the process, it would give Cingrani a full-time job, and might help strengthen the Reds for the future.
It's highly unlikely they would re-sign Arroyo after this season, so why not get something in return if it doesn't figure to make them any worse in 2013?
Colorado Rockies: To Be Determined
2013 Record: 37-33 (0.5 GB in NL West)
Key Free Agents: Jeff Francis, Todd Helton
What They Should Buy: Starting pitching
This would have been a much easier decision a week ago.
With a healthy Troy Tulowitzki, it's full steam ahead for the hottest hitting team on the planet. With both Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez in their late 20s and raking the ball, the Rockies should cut no costs in ensuring that the pitching staff is good enough to pick up wins for all the runs they're creating.
Now that Tulowitzki is on the disabled list (again), however, one has to wonder whether the Rockies should do anything?
At any rate, if they were planning on making any moves, those will likely be postponed for a few weeks, at least until they can reassess how the team is doing without Tulowitzki and whether or not he'll return when expected.
If they're still hovering at or above .500 a month from now, not only do we then need to immediately give the NL MVP award to Gonzalez, but the Rockies will likely be looking for an upgrade over Francis and/or Juan Nicasio in their rotation.
Kansas City Royals: Sellers
2013 Record: 33-34 (5 GB in AL Central)
Key Free Agents: Jeff Francoeur, Ervin Santana, Bruce Chen, Miguel Tejada
Who They Should Sell: Francoeur, Santana
The Royals are still a few key pieces away from legitimately contending for the playoffs. So long as Jeremy Guthrie, Luis Mendoza and Wade Davis are dragging down the back end of their rotation, it's impossible for them to be taken seriously.
The batters have been frustratingly streaky, routinely failing to show up when the best pitchers are on the mound. Both Santana and James Shields are in the bottom 10 in the American League in run support, resulting in a combined record of 7-11 despite a combined ERA of 2.77.
If they aren't going to re-sign Santana this offseason, they need to sell him for something. And if they can possibly trade Francoeur for anything, they need to do that, too.
The Royals may have traded away Wil Myers, but David Lough is more than ready, willing and able to take over for Francoeur on a daily basis.
I would also strongly recommend trying to move Guthrie before his salary increase kicks in.
Detroit Tigers: Buyers
2013 Record: 38-29 (First place in AL Central)
Key Free Agents: Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, Omar Infante, Brayan Pena, Jhonny Peralta
What They Should Buy: Relief pitchers
Aside from Drew Smyly and Benoit, they have been unable to rely on anyone to hang onto a late-inning lead. They brought Valverde back into the fold three weeks into the season, but he has blown three of his 12 save opportunities on the season.
It shouldn't be too difficult to find a team out of playoff contention that would sell high on a relief pitcher.
Minnesota Twins: Sellers
2013 Record: 30-36 (7.5 GB in AL Central)
Key Free Agents: Justin Morneau, Mike Pelfrey, Rich Harden
Who They Should Sell: Nick Blackburn, Morneau
Playing out the final season of a six-year, $80 million contract, Morneau is making $15 million this season. Over the last three seasons, the Twins have paid him $45 million for a grand total of 0.3 wins above replacement.
This is his 11th season with the Twins. It's unlikely they would just treat him as a salary dump, but it's at least worth considering.
If they can pawn off the remainder of his 2013 salary on the ailing Yankees and try to re-sign him at a much cheaper price this offseason, why not take that approach to shave a few million dollars off the books?
If anyone is willing to take on Blackburn's contract, the Twins would be crazy not to take that offer as well. He's the highest-paid pitcher in the organization, and he isn't even in the majors after having offseason surgery to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow.
One has to wonder if he would even be in the majors, anyway. The 31-year-old has never posted an ERA below 4.00.
And did you know the Twins signed Rich Harden to a one-year deal last December? Feels like we haven't heard that name since 2010, and yet he's making a million bucks in 2013.
Must be nice.
Chicago White Sox: Sellers
2013 Record: 28-38 (9.5 GB in AL Central)
Key Free Agents: Jesse Crain, Paul Konerko, Gavin Floyd, DeWayne Wise
Who They Should Sell: Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Crain
I didn't think the White Sox would contend for a World Series in 2013. However, I also didn't expect them to be battling the Astros for fewest runs scored and the worst record in the American League.
Their current record projects to 68.7 wins by the end of the year. Excluding a few strike-shortened seasons, that would be their lowest win total in a season since the year in which 37-year-old Paul Konerko was born.
This level of futility is completely foreign to many of the American League fans living in Chicago.
If we've learned anything from the Tigers and the Rays, it's that the quickest way to go from being a 90-loss team for a decade to being a 90-win team for a decade is to suffer through a 115-loss season or two and, more or less, starting over.
The White Sox need to just slap a "for sale" sign on anyone over the age of 30. Bonus points if they can weasel their way out of the $47.25 million owed to John Danks over the next three years.
They don't need to completely bottom out like the Astros and Marlins, but they need to trim most of the fat.
Seventy-seven percent of their 2013 payroll is dedicated either to dead money or guys over the age of 30. That might as well be dead money if a team is trying to rebuild.
The sad part of that is they could field a respectable—and financially responsible—team with the young guys already on the roster. The White Sox could go into next season with eight batters and a quartet of starting pitchers making less than the $15 million Dunn is going to make in 2014 to hit 25 home runs and strike out 300 times.
Guys like Crain and Konerko are going to come off the books at the end of the season, but they really need to focus on trading away some of the huge financial commitments for 2014 that aren't worth keeping around.
(Maybe they'll have fixed the glitch by the time this posts, but what's up with Jay Bruce being on Chicago's payroll for the 2014 season in that link? What do they know that we don't know?)
New York Yankees: Buyers (Of Course)
2013 Record: 38-31 (3 GB in AL East)
Key Free Agents: Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Joba Chamberlain, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Kevin Youkilis, Phil Hughes, Mariano Rivera, Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay, Boone Logan
What They Should Buy: Healthy youth
If we were awarding a cake to the team that stands to lose the most talent to free agency and retirement this offseason, the Yankees would definitely take it.
We're all assuming that they'll re-sign Cano, but it's tough to say with the other guys.
Pettitte and Rivera will almost certainly be retiring, but you never know. Kuroda (38), Hafner (36), Overbay (36) and Youkilis (34) might not be far behind them.
Hughes and Chamberlain have beyond worn out their welcomes in the Bronx.
With all the guys they'll most likely be losing and all the money they've already committed to Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia over the next several seasons, the Yankees would be wise to make a big push this season.
In order to do so, they need to locate some fielders that can actually stay on the field.
With nearly $100 million on the disabled list, the latter two-thirds of their lineup on Sunday consisted of Hafner, Vernon Wells, Overbay, Jayson Nix, Reid Brignac and Chris Stewart. None of those players has a batting average better than .270.
It amounted to a win on Sunday, but that lineup is going to result in more losses than wins over the long haul.
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