In exactly three weeks, the MLB non-waiver trade deadline will have come to pass. From now until 4 p.m. EDT on July 31, teams will be working to upgrade their rosters for playoff pushes or shape their rosters for next season and beyond.
The trade market was active last week. Ricky Nolasco, Carlos Marmol and Scott Feldman now have new homes, and there are quite a few players still believed to be available who can possibly impact pennant races for contending teams, as well.
However, for each team there's a likely scenario that it would like to avoid—or should avoid—as the trade deadline approaches.
Here is a look at each MLB team's nightmare scenario with three weeks to go before the trade-deadline window expires.
The Arizona Diamondbacks were easily one of the most active teams this past offseason. Their efforts paid off, as they now sit in first place in the NL West.
However, that doesn't mean in any way that they should be resting on their laurels for the rest of the season.
The Diamondbacks rotation has been inconsistent, now ranked 11th in the National League with a 4.08 ERA. There are encouraging signs from youngsters Randall Delgado and Tyler Skaggs. Delgado has filled in nicely in recent weeks, and Skaggs stepped up with a quality eight-inning effort on July 5 against the Colorado Rockies.
But adding another impact arm would go a long way in determining Arizona's playoff fate. General manager Kevin Towers should be actively seeking help to shore up his starting core and put distance between his team and the rest of the clubs in the NL West.
Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com (h/t Yardbarker.com) reported last week that the Diamondbacks were engaged in discussions with the Milwaukee Brewers to acquire starter Yovani Gallardo. No deal is imminent, however.
Can Joba Chamberlain be of help to a Braves bullpen that's been hit with major injuries?
The Atlanta Braves have been atop the NL East standings for much of the season, but the fact remains that since they started the 2013 season by winning 13 of their first 15 games, they've been a .500 team.
While the offense remains inconsistent, the firepower is clearly there. It's been injuries to key bullpen members (Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty) that general manager Frank Wren will likely address as the trade deadline nears.
The return of Luis Ayala from an anxiety disorder will help, but another veteran arm would help even more.
According to George King of the New York Post, The Braves have been linked to New York Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com tweeted on Sunday that the Braves also had "limited" interest in Chicago White Sox left-hander Matt Thornton as well.
It's clear that's a major focus for the Braves—doing nothing to bring in a quality bullpen arm would be a bad play.
The Baltimore Orioles took a step in the right direction in addressing an inconsistent starting rotation last week with the acquisition of Scott Feldman.
Feldman delivered a quality start in his first outing with his new team, limiting the Chicago White Sox to two runs on six hits in six innings on July 3.
While Feldman certainly helps, it would behoove general manager Dan Duquette to look for one more impact starter for what in all likelihood will be a tight AL East and wild-card race.
According to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com, the Orioles were on hand Sunday at the Brewers-Mets game. It's not immediately known whom the Orioles were tracking in particular, but it's at least an indication that they're not done dealing.
Andrew Miller's foot injury forces Boston's hand in terms of upgrading its bullpen.
In the past week, the Boston Red Sox have employed both Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder to fill in at third base. With the injury to Stephen Drew, Jose Iglesias has moved to shortstop, leaving a major void at the hot corner.
But the Red Sox bullpen is also in a state of disrepair at the moment. Joel Hanrahan's season-ending elbow injury and the ineffectiveness of Andrew Bailey have moved Koji Uehara into the closer role, and Andrew Miller is now on the disabled list with a left-foot injury that will shelve him for the rest of the season.
Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweeted on Sunday that the Red Sox will be exploring options on the trade market for both a reliever and a third baseman.
At this point, relief help seems more of a priority.
Uehara has been effective, but the lack of a quality setup man could bite the Sox heading into the home stretch.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com tweeted on Sunday that Chicago White Sox reliever Matt Thornton is on Boston's list of targets.
The market for third basemen will develop further over the next few weeks, but for now, Boston's No. 1 priority should be adding quality bullpen arms.
The Chicago Cubs have been actively trying to find a suitor for left fielder Alfonso Soriano for the past two years. Soriano vetoed a deal last August that would have sent him to the San Francisco Giants.
Now, with approximately $27 million left on his contract, Soriano is easier to move, and he is more agreeable to a trade as well.
According to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com, Soriano will listen to trade offers and be more amenable if the right situation comes along. That includes the possibility of becoming a designated hitter for an American League team.
"It is very hard for me to think about being a DH,” he said. "My whole career I have played in the field. I am 37, but I feel younger. I have proved to myself and everybody that my defense has gotten better. I have to start thinking about DH.”
It's a golden opportunity for the Cubs to deal Soriano and rid themselves of an expensive contract. It would be a shame if he were still on the roster on Aug. 1.
The trade market for relievers has been lukewarm to this point, but the Chicago White Sox have at least two valuable arms that could help them reload for the future.
With their last-place standing in the AL Central, the White Sox aren't going anywhere in 2013. It's clear that general manager Rick Hahn needs to start thinking about rebuilding for the future.
According to Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune, the most obvious trade chips the White Sox have are relievers Matt Thornton, Matt Lindstrom and Jesse Crain, along with starter Jake Peavy and right fielder Alex Rios.
Crain owns a spectacular 0.74 ERA in 38 appearances but is currently on the disabled list nursing a right-shoulder strain. He'll need to come back quickly in order to enhance his trade value and prove to possible suitors that he's up for the challenge.
Hahn has three quality relievers to offer up in a rather stale market. He should be doing everything he can to maximize their value and get a quality return for the future.
Ryan Ludwick's absence from the Reds lineup has taken its toll.
The Cincinnati Reds are 14th in the National League in right-handed hitters' OPS—without Ryan Ludwick in the lineup, they simply have no pop from the right side of the plate.
It's a clear disadvantage that opposing teams will try to exploit during the second half of the season.
Recently DFAed outfielder Jeff Francoeur is available, and Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Reds have some interest. But considering Francoeur's inability to provide much of anything offensively for the past season plus, he's not the best option.
John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweeted late last month that the bullpen is also a priority.
But the lack of power and production from right-handed hitters will eventually take its toll. It's an area of concern the Reds cannot ignore.
Terry Francona's experience along with some shrewd moves by GM Chris Antonetti could propel the Indians into the playoffs.
The Cleveland Indians will be facing a very difficult decision in the next few weeks—do they go for broke and try to win now, or do they save their trade chips in an effort to continue with a more long-term plan?
If the Indians decide to be buyers, they'll be depleting a farm system that's fast developing into a strength. And considering their recent history of second-half collapses, there are no guarantees that a postseason berth can be had.
But they may not get a better chance. The Tribe are within striking distance of the Detroit Tigers and only 3.5 games out of a possible wild-card berth.
The time to strike could be now.
At the same time, general manager Chris Antonetti will need to be creative in making upgrades. Dealing away potential blue-chip prospects could be a move that completely backfires.
It should be obvious even to the most casual of baseball fans that the Colorado Rockies' biggest weakness is their starting rotation.
While it's better than last year's group, the Rockies are still near the bottom of the National League with a 4.54 ERA from their rotation. They've received terrific performances from Tyler Chatwood, Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin, but no team can thrive with just three starters.
The problem for the Rockies is that they're under .500, they're struggling of late and they're dealing with injuries offensively that have taken a toll. Upgrading at this point for the rest of the season could be a bad choice.
They continue to wait for Drew Pomeranz to mature. They also have quality prospect arms in Chad Bettis, Tyler Anderson and Eddie Butler who could have impacts in the near future.
The Rockies will make a decision soon on their immediate future—it's a decision that could affect their future as well.
Is Kevin Gregg the most attractive ninth-inning option for the Detroit Tigers?
Detroit Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit was chosen as one of the five American League players to compete in the All-Star game's final vote. Final results will be revealed on Thursday.
However, while Benoit has put up nice numbers this season, he is not a closer. His best work comes as a setup man, and the Tigers need to get him back in a position that best suits him.
That means finding a closer, and there may not be many options for Detroit.
Tigers scouts were seen en masse at Saturday's game between the Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets. With both clubs out of the playoff mix, they'll likely be selling off relievers at some point in the next few weeks. The Tigers could potentially be looking at Francisco Rodriguez, John Axford, Jim Henderson and Bobby Parnell as ninth-inning options.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com recently listed Chicago Cubs closer Kevin Gregg as the most attractive, potentially available option in relief. With a 1.78 ERA and 15 saves, he'd be a savior for the Tigers if they didn't have to give up significant value in return.
There are options available. For the Tigers, it's a matter of making a sound choice and one that doesn't mean tremendous sacrifice in return.
For the Houston Astros, everything is about the future.
With their last-place standing in the American League, the Astros will continue their long-term plan and possibly utilize current veterans as chips to further that goal.
In a trade market that's relatively weak at the top in terms of quality starters and relievers, the Astros have valuable commodities in Bud Norris and Jose Veras.
Norris carries a reasonable $3 million price tag, so that won't be much of a hindrance for any contending team. Veras is worth $2 million with a team option for the 2014 season—that won't present issues for contending teams, either.
General manager Jeff Luhnow doesn't have to hold out for other teams' No. 1 prospects—neither Norris nor Veras is worth that. But value can be had in a weak market.
The Kansas City Royals are in a vulnerable position with just three weeks remaining before the trade deadline. While they hover just under the .500 mark, they'll be looking at leapfrogging several teams in order to qualify for the postseason.
As Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com pointed out last week, the Royals close with seven games on the road with the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians before next week's All-Star break. If they slip farther under. 500 during that time, their decision to buy or sell at the deadline could be made for them.
In that event, Morosi states that starter Ervin Santana could become their most attractive trade chip.
Santana would likely be tendered a qualifying offer by the Royals at the end of the season, so they'll be looking for an offer that gives more value than what the Royals would receive if they kept Santana, tendered a qualifying offer to him and received a compensatory pick in return.
In any event, clinging to the possibility of a playoff berth if under .500 at the All-Star break is foolhardy.
The Los Angeles Angels have been surging of late but still sit below .500. They're 10 games out of the lead in the AL West and seven games out in the wild-card standings.
After a first half which saw a spate of injuries to their pitching staff and poor performances from key position players, the Angels are trying to play catchup—a role that they are all too familiar with (see 2012).
According to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, general manager Jerry Dipoto doesn't feel that major upgrades are needed:
You’re always looking for ways to get better, to maybe find some smaller pieces to contribute, but the high-profile moves? I wouldn’t suspect that we’re looking for those. I don’t know that we can acquire a better starting pitcher than Jason Vargas, and the bullpen has been very good.
Vargas, Tommy Hanson and Sean Burnett, all currently on the disabled list, could be back by late July, which would in essence act in a similar fashion as a trade.
But the Angels didn't fare very well when they had all three pitchers healthy, either.
If Dipoto believes the Angels can make a late-season charge, relying on injured players to be reinforcements in lieu of trades simply won't cut it.
The Los Angeles Dodgers added the services of Ricky Nolasco to their depleted starting rotation last week, shipping off three prospect arms that weren't prominent in their future plans.
Nolasco was a nice add for the Dodgers, who also received cash in the form of an international signing bonus as well.
At this point, the Dodgers have a payroll that is larger than that any team in baseball save the New York Yankees. Adding more payroll via trades in the hopes of a postseason berth just seems silly.
If the Dodgers can't get it done with the current payroll structure, adding even more just adds salt to the wound. Not many teams in history have carried $200 million-plus payrolls and failed to make the playoffs. In fact, the 2008 Yankees are the only team to achieve that dubious feat.
Anything short of a World Series berth with the money the team is carrying will be viewed as a failure anyway.
The Miami Marlins have already entered the trade market, dealing starter Ricky Nolasco to the Los Angeles Dodgers last week.
The Marlins in all likelihood aren't done dealing, either.
But the goal should be to get as much value as possible, not to get fleeced.
Shipping off Nolasco, the Marlins received in return pitchers Josh Wall, Steven Ames and Angel Sanchez.
According to Bleacher Report lead writer Adam Wells, that's a return that's embarrassing.
Wells believes that all three are relievers at best and simply don't offer the Marlins much in the way of a solid future. The Marlins may have relieved themselves of the remainder of Nolasco's contract, but the return package fell far short.
That's a scenario that can't be played out with future deals over the next few weeks.
The Milwaukee Brewers are in a unique position in that they have several pitchers who will be desired by contending teams in a relatively weak trade market.
Yovani Gallardo, Jim Henderson, John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez are all targets at this point, according to Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Rosiak points out that all four were mentioned last week in trade discussions between the Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks.
But any number of teams are looking for pitching help, including all the other members of the NL West aside from the Diamondbacks.
In a market devoid of elite pitching talent, Milwaukee is clearly in a position to wait it out and get a maximum return.
The Minnesota Twins have a trio of youngsters in Kyle Gibson, Alex Meyer and Trevor May who represent the future of the starting rotation.
Jose Berrios is another quality arm, but he's at least another two years away from having an impact at the major league level.
The Twins have sputtered of late, falling over 10 games below .500. In a recent interview with Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com, general manager Terry Ryan discussed the short-term future of his team:
We are better. But we're not good enough. We need to get to the point where we are much more competitive. Certainly we need to find ways to win games instead of losing like the last few days. That's not good. That's when fans get frustrated. We have a good closer here.
As currently constituted, Ryan told Wolfson that he clearly wasn't happy with the overall makeup of the team. It seems an inevitable that the Twins will be selling at the deadline.
The key for Ryan will be building on that young pitching core. If the goal is to become "much more competitive," that starts with a rotation that can consistently work deep into innings and give its team a shot to win.
If Ryan decides to move players like Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau, starting pitching prospects should be the focus.
Last week, the New York Mets designated reliever Brandon Lyon for assignment.
While the Mets can point to Lyon's recent bad outings as the reason for designation, the fact is that Lyon was due to receive an additional $100K for his 40th appearance (he had 37) and another $100K for every five appearances after that.
It simply made financial sense for the Mets to cut him at that point. It would also make sense to get what they can for starting pitcher Shaun Marcum as well. Marcum is owed just under $2 million for the rest of the season. His 1-10 record and 5.29 ERA won't fetch much, but if the Mets can unload the salary, that's a win in itself.
The Mets are looking at the offseason as a crucial point in their future development. With the contracts of Johan Santana and Jason Bay coming off the books, the Mets will have a sizable chunk of cash to spend this winter.
The free-agent market won't be flush with elite talent, but bats like Jacoby Ellsbury, Corey Hart and Hunter Pence will be available for the taking.
Saving money now makes sense.
Update: Marcum will undergo surgery to repair Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and is likely lost for the rest of the season.
With Mark Teixeira out for the season, Kevin Youkilis likely out for much of the rest of the season and Alex Rodriguez still rehabbing, the New York Yankees' focus in the trade market over the next three weeks will likely be corner-infield help.
The market isn't flush with strong hitting, so it may be time for general manager Brian Cashman to revisit the possibility of acquiring San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley.
Every day that Headley and the Padres remain uncommitted to a long-term extension lengthens the odds of him actually signing in San Diego.
Headley is a long-term solution who could potentially man the hot corner in the Bronx for the rest of the decade. The Yankees were rebuffed in their advances when they inquired about Headley in the past. Cashman should do everything he can to open those discussions once again.
The Oakland A's don't necessarily have huge needs that need to be addressed at the trade deadline, but they also shouldn't be lulled into a false sense of security, either.
The A's seem primed to fight the Texas Rangers to the death in the AL West. Even if they're unsuccessful in capturing the title for a second straight season, a wild-card slot is in their sights as well.
Oakland could use extra parts to acquire upgrades. Middle infielder Jemile Weeks has spent the entire season at Triple-A Sacramento and was recently passed up for promotion when the A's called up Grant Green.
According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Weeks could fetch a decent return, but the A's asking price is high.
Other than that, there's been very little chatter regarding the A's, but doing nothing won't get them closer to their goal, either.
The Philadelphia Phillies will now be without the services of first baseman Ryan Howard for the next six-to-eight weeks, courtesy of a meniscus tear in his left knee that requires surgery.
With any hopes of a postseason berth now severely diminished, the Phillies absolutely need to consider trades that help make their roster younger and more athletic.
Chase Utley has already been prominently mentioned as a player coveted by the Los Angeles Dodgers. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the A's, Royals and Orioles could be in the mix as well.
The Phillies also have attractive options in Michael Young, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon. Each one of them could bring back a player or two that reshapes the Phillies roster and drastically reduces its average age as well.
At this point, general manager Ruben Amaro has to realize that his current roster simply isn't competitive any longer.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have the second-best record in the National League, and they're almost certain to be buyers at the trade deadline.
To that end, acquiring a veteran arm for rotation depth should absolutely be considered a priority.
Wandy Rodriguez, on the disabled list with a forearm strain, recently suffered a setback in his recovery and won't be back until at least late July.
A.J. Burnett returned on Sunday, throwing five strong innings against the Chicago Cubs.
That extra depth for the rotation in the second half acts as protection if Rodriguez suffers furthers setbacks or if Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton and Jeanmar Gomez prove to be ineffective at any point.
The San Diego Padres reached the .500 mark in late June and then promptly lost 10 consecutive games. At nine games below .500, their prospects for a postseason berth are slim, even in a weak NL West.
The Padres could of course go on a mini-tear prior to the All-Star break, but they'll still be under .500 with a pitching staff that's nowhere near capable of getting them far into the postseason.
General manager Josh Byrnes should look into getting whatever he can for third baseman Chase Headley if the Padres believe they can't sign him after the season. Any other parts that Byres can sell off to build for the future should be explored as well.
The mistake would be believing he's got the horses to compete over the final two-plus months.
The San Francisco Giants find themselves in danger of not having the chance to defend their World Series title.
With their recent swoon, the Giants are tied for last place in the NL West and armed with a rotation that's now one of the worst in the National League.
Tim Lincecum continues to struggle mightily, now 4-9 with a 4.66 ERA in 17 starts. Moving him to the bullpen and going after a veteran arm to replace him should be priorities for general manager Brian Sabean.
The explosiveness is gone for Lincecum, but he proved to be effective in shorter bursts when working out of the bullpen in the postseason last year.
That may be his most useful role for the Giants now as well.
The Seattle Mariners will likely be sellers as the trade deadline nears, and in recent years they haven't exactly shined in during the deadline period.
Larry Stone of The Seattle Times took a look back at what general manager Jack Zduriencik has done in the past, and the record isn't very good.
Overall 13 trades in the past four seasons under Zduriencik during the trade-deadline period produced four players who are currently on the Mariners roster. That doesn't smack of impact.
Any deals made over the next few weeks could go a long way in determining Zduriencik's long-term future in Seattle.
With a starting rotation that's been terrific for much of the season, it wouldn't seem that finding a starter would be a top priority for the St. Louis Cardinals.
But with the return of Chris Carpenter still up in the air, that's the direction that general manager John Mozeliak could be headed in.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, finding a starter would also strengthen the bullpen by extension.
A search for an addition at starting pitcher this season would create a cascade that would also recast the bullpen. The Cardinals also would look for a veteran reliever to change the late-inning mix.
Joe Kelly could transition back to the bullpen full time if Mozeliak were successful in finding a starter. That in itself would strengthen the entire staff.
The Cardinals would love to find a long-term solution at shortstop, but that won't happen by the deadline.
A starter, however, could help in the short term.
The Tampa Bay Rays are on a roll lately, entering play on Wednesday with a 51-40 record and in prime position for a wild-card spot in the American League.
At this point it would seem that the Rays will be buyers over the next three weeks, but with the cash-strapped organization, it's not necessarily a given that will happen.
Last week, Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com said that the Rays will focus on players who could have impact but also on those who fit within the organization.
There's been little chatter regarding the Rays, so it's tough to predict what they have planned. But standing pat in a tight AL East and wild-card race simply is not an option.
With Lance Berkman now on the disabled list with hip issues, the Texas Rangers have a clear need for an impact.
Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com said as much in a tweet on Sunday as well.
The Rangers have Manny Ramirez at Triple-A Round Rock, but there's no guarantee he'll have impact at this point in his career. And there aren't a lot of productive bats on the market, either.
Berkman could well be back before the deadline, and Ramirez could actually turn out to be a solid addition as well. But the Rangers shouldn't be banking on both of those scenarios coming to fruition.
On Wednesday morning, the Toronto Blue Jays will wake up as the only team in a highly competitive AL East under .500.
Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com is one who believes short-term fixes won't to anything to help in the 2013 season:
The Jays remain intriguing, because of R.A. Dickey’s resurgence, Edwin Encarnacion’s power and Munenori Kawasaki’s magnetism. But after watching the Jays in person for three days this week, I’m increasingly skeptical of their ability to compete with the rest of the division. The roster lacks balance, and it will be virtually impossible for general manager Alex Anthopoulos to fix it before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
I'm inclined to agree.
Morosi believes that the Blue Jays should focus on building up their starting rotation for runs in 2014 and beyond. Considering their current state of affairs, that's a conclusion that makes much more sense.
The Washington Nationals made a move to strengthen their bench, acquiring Scott Hairston from the Chicago Cubs for minor league pitcher Ivan Pineyro.
With the issues in their starting rotation, the Nationals likely aren't done shopping.
According to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post, the Nationals have interest in Matt Garza, so they may not be done dealing with the Cubs just yet.
With Ross Detwiler suffering from lower-back stiffness and Dan Haren still struggling, back-end rotation help is indeed a major need at this point.
If the Nationals are all in for this season, not addressing that deficiency would be a disappointment.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
Feel free to talk baseball with Doug anytime on Twitter.