This time of year, teams are busy doing their homework and coming up with a list of potential trade targets for the next five weeks. Several of them already have a pretty good idea that they'll be in playoff contention and will be looking to add major league talent before the July 31 trade deadline. Others are pretty much dead in the water and know it. Their focus will be on scouting the farm systems of potential "buyers" of their major league talent.
For all those on the fence, they must be prepared for either scenario. In any case, teams will be gathering information and gauging what it would take to acquire their ideal trade target. The asking price will normally start high and then could go up or down depending on the player's performance and the status of the major league team.
In an ideal world, their ideal trade target(s) will fall into their laps for a price that doesn't far exceed their initial expectations. Patience combined with a trading partner's desperation could result in a very favorable scenario.
In 2011, the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants had a three-game lead in the NL West on July 28, but the Arizona Diamondbacks were closing in after winning four straight. One of the worst offenses in baseball, the Giants felt they needed to add an impact bat if they were to stay atop the division. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, realizing this could be the case, didn't budge on trading his top trade chip, Carlos Beltran, until he received an elite prospect in return. It worked.
The Giants traded pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, their best prospect—not to mention their only minor leaguer of value to the Mets for Beltran, who was having a huge year for the Mets (.289 BA, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 30 2B, 60 BB). The veteran hit .323 with seven homers, nine doubles and four triples in 44 games, but the Giants still couldn't hold off the red-hot D'backs as several key players, including Beltran, battled injuries down the stretch.
Two years later, Wheeler is a big leaguer with a top-of-the-rotation ceiling for the Mets and the Giants are desperate for starting pitching help. Circumstances of the 2011 season forced their hand and cost them one of the best pitching prospects in the game for a two-month rental in a non-playoff season.
Don't feel too bad for them, though. They did win another World Series championship in 2012. And they did it with the help of midseason acquisitions Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence, who had become undervalued players on their respective teams—the Rockies and Phillies—both seemingly out of playoff contention at the time. The Giants gave up very little considering the production they received out of the two veterans, who played a huge part in the Giants' second championship season in three years.
Here's a look the ideal trade scenarios that could take place for all 30 teams at the deadline. Teams are listed in order of worst record to best.