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MLB Trade Deadline 2013: Team-by-Team Predictions and Preview

Ely SussmanCorrespondent IJuly 22, 2013

MLB Trade Deadline 2013: Team-by-Team Predictions and Preview

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    The last week-plus leading up the MLB non-waiver trade deadline promises to be the craziest of the entire 2013 season. To ease you through this confusing period, we've created this thorough guide, previewing each team's competitive status as July 31 approaches and providing specific predictions for all 30 organizations.

    History tells us that new names tend to pop up toward the end of the month. Even negotiations for the obviously available players take unexpected twists with "mystery teams" and miscommunication.

    However, there's always usually a method to this madness. The following slides will tell you what to expect.

     

    *Designation as/distance behind division and Wild Card leaders updated on July 27.

Arizona Diamondbacks

2 of 31

    2013 record: 54-49

    0.5 games back of NL playoff spot

     

    Why the Arizona Diamondbacks are buyers

    Arizona plays exceptional defense. Miguel Montero, Gerardo Parra and Martin Prado are just a few of the veterans who save runs with their glove work.

    Although the most experienced pitchers in the starting rotation aren't meeting expectations, Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley and Tyler Skaggs have been more than adequate.

    Of course, the greatest advantage that the D-Backs have is playing in a mediocre NL West division that will likely require fewer than 90 wins to clinch.

     

    Top targets

    Initially, this team was linked to Yovani Gallardo and Jeff Samardzija, both of whom are controllable beyond 2013 at tolerable prices. Then ESPN's Buster Olney suggested that Jake Peavy could be in play for the D-Backs.

    However, if you choose to believe general manager Kevin Towers, their top priority is bolstering the bullpen, per MLB.com's Steve Gilbert. They have signed right-hander Shawn Camp to a minor league deal and will presumably be in the hunt for more reliable arms.

    The Milwaukee Brewers can offer John Axford, Mike Gonzalez or Francisco Rodriguez, and none of them would cost a top prospect. With Matt Reynolds sidelined indefinitely (UCL tear), Towers could narrow his search to lefties like Oliver Perez and James Russell.

    Ideally, Arizona would inquire about Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins. Twins GM Terry Ryan is open-minded about selling this summer, reports Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, but ESPN's Buster Olney reported in late June that, based on the words of other GMs, Perkins is likely unavailable.

     

    Predictions

    After being turned away in attempts to land Perkins, Jonathan Papelbon and other closers, the D-Backs deal David Holmberg for Oliver Perez, straight up. They drop out of Gallardo and Peavy discussions at the last minute.

Atlanta Braves

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    2013 record: 58-45

    NL East leaders

     

    Why the Atlanta Braves are buyers

    The Braves took division control from the get-go in April and have had enough power and starting pitching depth to stay comfortably ahead.

    Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in the National League, while Andrelton Simmons is its best defensive shortstop. At ages 25 and 23, respectively, neither is likely to wear down.

     

    Top targets

    In the past few months, Atlanta has lost lefty relievers Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters to season-ending surgeries. Luis Avilan and Alex Wood have seamlessly replaced them, but it's difficult to trust pitchers without much major league history.

    As already mentioned, Mike Gonzalez, Oliver Perez and Glen Perkins are the best southpaws who could be traded.

     

    Predictions

    The Braves settle for 30-year-old Ryan Rowland-Smith from the Boston Red Sox minor league system. He owns a 4.57 ERA and 5.5 K/9 in part of four MLB seasons with the Seattle Mariners (2007-2010).

    Despite stellar 2013 stats at Triple-A Pawtucket, he wouldn't cost any of Atlanta's top 20 prospects.

Baltimore Orioles

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    2013 record: 58-46

    Second AL Wild Card

     

    Why the Baltimore Orioles are buyers

    Corner infielders Chris Davis and Manny Machado have taken huge leaps forward. In terms of overall value, they're among the best at their respective positions.

    Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Nate McLouth comprise a strong starting outfield, both offensively and defensively. The O's bullpen is flush with strike-throwers who use great velocity to get away with mistakes.

     

    Trade activity so far

    July 2: Traded Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop and cash to the Chicago Cubs for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.

    July 23: Traded Nick Delmonico to the Milwaukee Brewers for Francisco Rodriguez.

     

    Top targets

    "Don't be surprised," Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe writes, "if the Orioles look to reacquire [Joe Saunders] after he pitched so well for them late last season."

    Including the postseason, Saunders posted a 3.05 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 13 walks in his 56 innings for Baltimore in 2012. He has less upside than Matt Garza, but whatever remains of his $6.5 million salary would be easier to absorb.

    In case Cuban rookie Henry Urrutia doesn't produce in the coming days, the O's will consider adding a veteran bat for the DH slot. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports rules out Justin Morneau because of his high price tag and mediocre production.

     

    Predictions

    This franchise is going to be reluctant to move prospects, so the front office takes a flier on Carlos Pena, who the Houston Astros recently designated for assignment.

Boston Red Sox

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    2013 record: 61-43

    First AL Wild Card

     

    Why the Boston Red Sox are buyers

    Boston has the most wins in the American League thanks to its deep offense.

    Beyond the usual suspects (Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia), the Red Sox get ample production from the left-field platoon of Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava. Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino are the definition of solid, while Jose Iglesias' production puts him in the running for AL Rookie of the Year. John Lackey and Koji Uehara have been as effective as ever to solidify a banged-up pitching staff.

     

    Trade activity so far

    July 12: Traded Brandon Jacobs to the Chicago White Sox for Matt Thornton and cash.

     

    Top targets

    Boston got excellent news Monday when renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews cleared Clay Buchholz to resume pitching, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe, after lingering neck/shoulder issues from an injury in early June.

    With Matt Garza now off the table, the Red Sox could set their sights on Chicago White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Sox are one of several teams who have been monitoring Peavy since his return from the disabled list. 

    They've also been tied to Bud Norris of the Houston Astros in the past. According to Alex Speier of WEEI.com, the Sox at least checked in with the Astros but believed that the return package required to acquire Norris was too high.

     

    Predictions

    Convinced that Francisco Rodriguez can handle high-leverage situations, Boston picks up the Milwaukee Brewers closer for a pair of raw pitchers at the low minor league level.

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Chicago Cubs

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    2013 record: 46-55

    11.5 games back of NL playoff spot

     

    Why the Chicago Cubs are sellers

    A dysfunctional bullpen has continually undone solid performances from Chicago's starting rotation, costing the team a number of close games.

    Scott Hairston and Alfonso Soriano began the summer in frustrating funks, and Starlin Castro still hasn't snapped out of his. Overall, the offense is undisciplined, resulting in one of the league's lowest on-base percentages.

    The selling is already under way.

     

    Trade activity so far

    July 2: Traded Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to the Baltimore Orioles for Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop and cash.

    July 2: Traded Carlos Marmol and cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Matt Guerrier.

    July 8: Traded Scott Hairston with a player to be named later and cash to the Washington Nationals for Ivan Pineyro and a player to be named later.

    July 22: Traded Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers for Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, C.J. Edwards and a player to be named later.

    July 26: Traded Alfonso Soriano and cash to the New York Yankees for Corey Black.

     

    Notable trade chips

    A month-long slump was deflating Nate Schierholtz's stats, but a monster series July 22-25 against the Arizona Diamondbacks—7-for-12, 2 HR, 7 RBI—reassured some of his suitors. He'll draw heavy interest as a weapon against right-handed pitching, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the Cubs are "definitely listening" to offers for him.

    Longtime backup backstop Dioner Navarro is posting gaudy offensive numbers in limited playing time. In a year where the catching market stinks, he could draw serious interest.

    Relievers on the trade block include Kevin Gregg, a cheap rental with well-documented command issues, and James Russell, a lefty specialist who will be controllable through 2015.

     

    Predictions

    The Cubs want to continue ripping apart the roster and move into the next stage of their rebuilding process.

    They don't find a new home for Gregg, but Navarro, Russell and Schierholtz scatter across the league.

Chicago White Sox

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    2013 record: 40-60

    16 games back of AL playoff spot

     

    Why the Chicago White Sox are sellers

    Pretty much every position player that helped them overachieve in 2012 has regressed. That includes relatively young guys like Tyler Flowers and Dayan Viciedo, neither of whom is even performing at replacement level.

    Collectively, the White Sox don't hit for power or average, and their lack of plate discipline makes it easy for opposing pitchers.

    Several key pitchers have spent time on the disabled list, including Gavin Floyd (Tommy John surgery), and the farm system wasn't deep enough to keep the team afloat.

     

    Trade activity so far

    July 12: Traded Matt Thornton with cash to the Boston Red Sox for Brandon Jacobs.

     

    Notable trade chips

    The three names popping up most often on the rumor mill have been Jake Peavy, Alexei Ramirez and Alex Rios. All rank among the best available at their respective positions with contracts that extend beyond 2013. Peavy's situation is tricky, as he recently returned from a fractured rib, but you can keep track of the 32-year-old right here.

    Jesse Crain was flat-out dominant prior to landing on the disabled list (0.74 ERA, 46/11 K/BB in 36.2 IP). He tells Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com that he plans to return before the deadline, but suitors will be hesitant to pull the trigger on a rental with durability questions.

    Other bullpen arms of interest include Matt Lindstrom and Addison Reed. Moving the latter would warrant a hefty package considering his "proven closer" label and high upside.

     

    Predictions

    General manager Rick Hahn will flip Peavy for a couple of highly-touted young players. Rios makes sense for a few teams, one of whom will actually sacrifice significant talent to complete a deal.

    The rest of the pitching staff should remain intact, as Hahn won't get the huge offers he wants for Crain or Reed. After entertaining the idea of a Chris Sale blockbuster, the White Sox will hold on to their ace too.

    Ramirez's stock is down, and they will wait until the offseason to seriously shop him. Instead, they will sell high on second baseman Gordon Beckham, who's batting above .300 and under team control through 2015.

Cincinnati Reds

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    2013 record: 59-45

    Second NL Wild Card

     

    Why the Cincinnati Reds are buyers

    Even with Johnny Cueto injured for most of the season, starting pitching has been the strength of this team. The five healthy rotation members all boast sub-4.00 earned run averages.

    Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto are on-base machines, and Brandon Phillips has an uncanny ability for delivering with runners in scoring position. Very quietly, Jay Bruce is putting up monster power numbers (48 XBH entering July 22).

     

    Top targets

    Southpaw Sean Marshall has contributed only seven innings of relief, and Jonathan Broxton is keeping him company on the disabled list. In the meantime, the Reds might as well see which healthy veterans are out there.

    They have limited payroll flexibility, but the Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers and Seattle Mariners all feature low-cost veterans on hot streaks.

     

    Predictions

    Chad Qualls of the Marlins, who quietly boasts a 2.75 ERA and strong peripherals, plugs a hole in the 'pen. The Reds commit to pay the remainder of his salary and trade a player to be named later.

Cleveland Indians

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    2013 record: 54-48

    3.0 games back of AL playoff spot

     

    Why the Cleveland Indians are buyers

    The second-half schedule presents ample opportunities for the Tribe to beat up on punching bags like the Chicago White Sox, Miami Marlins and Minnesota Twins. Besides, they are already within striking distance of the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers.

    Many of the position players provide defensive versatility, and the lineup has a solid mix of power and speed.

     

    Top targets

    Cleveland was one of a zillion teams in the mix for Matt Garza. A reluctance to move top prospect Francisco Lindor, however, all but eliminates them from acquiring someone of his caliber.

    Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tweets that while the Indians recognize their rotation's deficiencies, they aren't interested in rentals. That explains their interest in Yovani Gallardo and others who can be controlled for multiple years.

     

    Predictions

    Two years ago, this organization got burned in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. That bad experience should compel the front office to focus on starters who have some experience and success in the American League.

    Moments before the July 31 deadline, the Indians will win the Bud Norris sweepstakes by taking on Jose Veras and relinquishing shortstop Dorssys Paulino along with right-handers C.C. Lee and Kieran Lovegrove.

Colorado Rockies

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    2013 record: 50-54

    5.0 games back of NL playoff spot

     

    Why the Colorado Rockies are buyers

    The only route into October is going to be through a division title. The Rockies have clearly mellowed since their first-place reign at the start of the season, but they can benefit from good health down the stretch.

    Even adjusting for the high altitude, Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki have been elite offensive weapons. On the left side of the infield, Tulo and Nolan Arenado make insane defensive saves on a daily basis.

    One year removed from some humiliating pitching troubles, Colorado's rotation and bullpen are dramatically improved.

     

    Top targets

    This team needs another starting pitcher, and it has to be somebody on the cheaper end of the spectrum.

    Keeping balls on the ground is imperative to surviving at Coors Field. Joe Saunders of the Seattle Mariners has done a lot of that in 2013.

     

    Predictions

    The Rockies close a deal for Saunders, but they give up 24-year-old infielder Charlie Culberson to make it happen.

    They don't intend to bring in a reliever until John Axford's stock drops with a couple rough outings. Colorado wins the bidding for his services without moving anybody of significance.

Detroit Tigers

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    2013 record: 57-45

    AL Central leaders

     

    Why the Detroit Tigers are buyers

    They have posted winning records every month of the season, spending the vast majority of 2013 in first place. Even in a year where Justin Verlander isn't himself, Detroit feels confident in its four other above-average starting pitchers.

    The batting order begins with Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta. No other club is built so solidly at spots one through six.

    Detroit's stellar run differential attests to this balanced 25-man roster.

     

    Top targets

    Since spring training, the Tigers have sought veteran relievers. They settled for Jose Valverde in April but soon came to regret that decision.

    Trade talks about Jonathan Papelbon began in June, although the Philadelphia Phillies seem reluctant to sell.

    Buster Olney tweets that the organization would love to add Francisco Rodriguez. More broadly, Danny Knobler reports that the Tigers have scouts watching the Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners, all of whom could offer proven bullpen options.

     

    Predictions

    Adding late-inning depth for the stretch run and years to come, the Tigers overwhelm Miami to acquire Steve Cishek. The 6'6" right-hander has thrived in parts of four major league seasons with an unorthodox sidearm delivery.

    Detroit includes outfield prospect Avisail Garcia as the centerpiece of the package.

Houston Astros

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    2013 record: 34-68

    23 games back of AL playoff spot

     

    Why the Houston Astros are sellers

    In their first year in the American League, the Astros are bringing up the rear in numerous offensive and pitching categories. This team is further from a playoff spot than any team in either league, and the all-around awfulness has culminated in a hideous run differential.

    Second baseman Jose Altuve is the only player with a long-term contract. Aside from him, Jason Castro and Matt Dominguez, everyone seems attainable.

     

    Notable trade chips

    There's virtually zero chance of Bud Norris remaining in H-Town past July 31. It's been an up-and-down season for the 28-year-old, but all in all, he's one of the more desirable starting pitchers on the market. From an Astros perspective, they want to dump whatever remains of his $3 million salary.

    Left-handed starter Erik Bedard has experienced a turbulent journey of his own in 2013. The team briefly bumped him into the bullpen in early May, although he's now consistently giving them five-plus quality innings every outing.

    Bedard's latest no-hit, 10-strikeout performance did as much harm as good in the eyes of his suitors. The 34-year-old removed himself in the seventh inning with concerns about his surgically repaired shoulder.

    Jose Veras is maintaining a career-best earned run average and strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first season as a closer, while Carlos Corporan and Carlos Pena could be intriguing role players.

     

    Predictions

    As mentioned earlier, the Cleveland Indians snatch Norris and Veras in exchange for younger guys. Bedard tempts, but doesn't compel anyone to relinquish a respectable prospect.

    Trusting the intuition of MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, expect Corporan to stay with Houston.

Kansas City Royals

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    2013 record: 49-51

    7.0 games back of AL playoff spot

     

    Why the Kansas City Royals are sellers

    The last Royals team that made the playoffs—way back in 1985—was led by George Brett. Kudos to the club for convincing the Hall of Famer to come back as a hitting coach.

    Unfortunately, the personnel move hasn't actually done much for the offense. Brett tried and failed to sparked a Jeff Francoeur turnaround or shake Mike Moustakas from his season-long slump.

    While Ervin Santana and James Shields effectively lead the starting rotation, their contributions have been offset by disappointing years from Wade Davis and Jeremy Guthrie.

     

    Notable trade chips

    The Royals bought low on Santana following the 2012 season and have been generously rewarded for trusting him. His home run rate is tolerable, while his earned run average and batting average against look better than ever.

    General manager Dayton Moore exudes confidence in an interview with Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star. Moore isn't even thinking about shopping the 30-year-old free-agent-to-be.

    His opinion could certainly change. What if K.C. fades in the standings and another team makes an enticing trade proposal for Santana deemed more valuable than a compensatory first-round draft pick?

    All-Star closer Greg Holland boasts a 1.70 ERA this season while earning close to the league minimum.

     

    Predictions

    After lots of posturing, K.C. refrains from moving either right-hander or any productive player deemed critical to short-term success.

Los Angeles Angels

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    2013 record: 48-53

    8.5 games back of AL playoff spot

     

    Why the Los Angeles Angels are complicated

    Entering 2013, starting rotation depth was a glaring flaw for the Halos. Even so, few people anticipated so much going wrong.

    Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Jered Weaver have all spent big chunks of this season on the disabled list. L.A. would probably prefer that Joe Blanton miss time, as he's been absolutely obliterated trying to live up in the strike zone and over the middle of the plate.

    In a worst-case scenario, Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton were supposed to carry the Angels to respectability. Little did we know that plantar fasciitis would relegate Pujols to designated-hitter duty, and that the newly-signed Hamilton would experience such a dramatic drop-off in production.

    On the other hand, selling doesn't make much sense for this club.

    Hanson, Vargas and reliever Sean Burnett will rejoin the active roster, not soon enough to re-establish trade value, but with plenty of time to contribute down the stretch. Might as well give manager Mike Scioscia the best possible chance of orchestrating a miraculous turnaround.

     

    Top targets

    Southern California product Phil Hughes fascinates the Halos, according to Jon Heyman. They believe the gopheritis that has plagued him with the New York Yankees wouldn't be nearly as problematic in a larger home ballpark.

    The stats tell another story. Hughes' home-run-to-fly-ball ratio isn't particularly unlucky. Rather, the 27-year-old spots too many straight fastballs in the hit-me zone.

    Regardless, the Yanks would not object to trade discussions as David Phelps and Michael Pineda wait to step into the rotation.

     

    Notable trade chips

    Scott Downs continues to embarrass left-handed batters in pivotal situations, and his contract expires after this season. He would draw a large crowd as a more reputable version of Oliver Perez.

    Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports also figures that Erick Aybar could be scooped off the Angels roster if the situation worsens. The switch-hitting shortstop earns $8.5 million per season through 2016 and provides above-average performance in all aspects.

     

    Predictions

    In a considerably worse position than they were at this time last year, the Angels stand pat and hope for the best.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2013 record: 54-48

    NL West leaders

     

    Why the Los Angeles Dodgers are buyers

    The Dodgers haven't been fully healthy all season. However, they've been pretty close to it since late June, and that's enough talent to make them the National League's most dangerous team.

    Starters at the corner infield and outfield positions all reach base often. Their up-the-middle guys—Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp—have near-unlimited offensive potential, as Ramirez is reminding us of late.

    Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke comprise an extraordinary one-two punch, and Kenley Jansen is automatic in the ninth inning (2.23 ERA, 69/8 K/BB in 48.1 IP).

     

    Trade activity so far

    July 2: Traded Matt Guerrier to the Chicago Cubs for Carlos Marmol, Steve Clevenger and cash.

    July 6: Traded Angel Sanchez, Steve Ames and Josh Wall to the Miami Marlins for Ricky Nolasco and cash.

     

    Top targets

    The Los Angeles payroll is virtually unlimited. General manager Ned Colletti admits that true impact position players aren't being discussed, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports, but if that changes, this franchise will be in the mix.

    More realistically, the Dodgers will hunt for a fifth starter to bump Chris Capuano to the bullpen or upgrades for Mark Ellis and Juan Uribe at second and third base, respectively.

     

    Predictions

    L.A. agrees to ship shortstop Dee Gordon and a minor league pitcher to the Philadelphia Phillies for Michael Young (absorbing all the money left on his contract, of course). Designating Skip Schumaker for assignment clears roster space.

    After missing out on Garza, the Dodgers instead take a flier on Phil Hughes, giving Schumaker and right-hander Ross Stripling to the New York Yankees.

Miami Marlins

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    2013 record: 39-62

    18 games back of NL playoff spot

     

    Why the Miami Marlins are sellers

    Does this really need to be explained?

    Miami's embarrassingly dysfunctional lineup has made it impossible to field a competitive team in 2013. This July, the Marlins will trim payroll wherever possible and look forward to next summer.

     

    Trade activity so far

    July 6: Traded Ricky Nolasco with cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Angel Sanchez, Steve Ames and Josh Wall.

     

    Notable trade chips

    The highest-paid players on the roster are Greg Dobbs, Jeff Mathis, Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco. With none of them even starting consistently on a bottom-dweller, it's difficult to envision any contenders absorbing their salaries, much less exchanging prospects.

    Marlins management is dumb, but not quite dumb enough to peddle Giancarlo Stanton when his 2013 production hasn't matched his ability. He's a winter trade candidate.

    Outfielder Justin Ruggiano can mash left-handed pitchers, although his overall batting line has dropped from .313/.374/.535 in 2012 to .204/.282/.373 currently. He's a potential non-tender candidate this winter.

    We've already touched on Steve Cishek and Chad Qualls, but Ryan Webb could also depart from the bullpen. He has two more seasons under team control.

     

    Predictions

    Cishek to the Detroit Tigers and Qualls to the Cincinnati Reds. Nobody bites on Webb, who continues to trend in the wrong direction after a promising start to 2013.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    2013 record: 42-60

    16 games back of NL playoff spot

     

    Why the Milwaukee Brewers are sellers

    The projected heart of their lineup—Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart—has been ravaged by injuries. When Braun and Ramirez actually played in the first half, they failed to replicate their outstanding 2012 production.

    The Brewers needed their starting pitchers to pick up the slack. Instead, rotation leader Yovani Gallardo struggled to generate swings-and-misses, while the less experienced homegrown guys rarely turned in quality starts.

     

    Trade activity so far

    July 23: Traded Francisco Rodriguez to the Baltimore Orioles for Nick Delmonico.

     

    Notable trade chips

    There's widespread interest in Milwaukee's bullpen. Jim Henderson will be tough to pry from the Brewers (under team control through 2018), but several veterans could follow K-Rod out the door.

    The 30-year-old John Axford has gone from undesirable to unbelievable in a few short months. Through May 14, he had posted a 9.20 ERA and .364 BAA. In 27 innings pitched since then, the right-hander has surrendered only one run.

    Mike Gonzalez, a lefty specialist, compensates for occasional wildness with a great strikeout rate. His $2.25 million contract expires after the season.

    Gallardo and Kyle Lohse stand out in a weak crowd of starters based on their 2011-2012 excellence.

    All indications are that third baseman Aramis Ramirez won't return from the disabled list prior to the non-waiver deadline as he recovers from a nagging knee injury.

     

    Predictions

    Say goodbye to Axford, Gonzalez and Gallardo. They net the Brew Crew a handful of prospects whom they can feature later this decade.

Minnesota Twins

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    2013 record: 44-56

    12 games back of AL playoff spot

     

    Why the Minnesota Twins are sellers

    Coming off consecutive last-place finishes, the Twins revamped their starting rotation...with pitch-to-contact types?

    No wonder they're dangerously close to the AL Central cellar again. Relievers Casey Fien, Glen Perkins and Caleb Thielbar have been the only members of the entire pitching staff to consistently induce swings-and-misses.

    It's no surprise to see catcher Joe Mauer threatening for a fourth career batting title. Meanwhile, Aaron Hicks and Josh Willingham seriously stalled the offense with bloated strikeout totals early in 2013.

    The Twins have lost 16 of their past 23 games.

     

    Notable trade chips

    An everyday first baseman isn't supposed to bat .273/.331/.405 with seven home runs in 378 plate appearances. Factor in Justin Morneau's $14 million salary this season, and the league's indifference toward him makes sense.

    Right-hander Kevin Correia is amid one of his strongest seasons, which doesn't say much at all. Put the soon-to-be 33-year-old in a cavernous ballpark and he can actually help. For those wary of rentals, Correia's $10 million contract runs through next year.

    Glen Perkins would instantly become the most sought-after reliever on the market if the Twins were willing to listen. Alas, rumor has it that numerous teams to inquire about the affordable southpaw were turned away, reports ESPN's Jim Bowden (subscription required).

     

    Predictions

    Minnesota has no luck dumping Correia or Morneau and no intention to sell Perkins.

New York Mets

19 of 31

    2013 record: 46-54

    10.5 games back of NL playoff spot

     

    Why the New York Mets are sellers

    So much for graybeards Shaun Marcum and Johan Santana easing the homegrown guys into the major league rotation. Marcum didn't even make it to the All-Star break before succumbing to thoracic outlet syndrome, while Johan Santana hasn't thrown a single pitch in the regular season.

    The Mets bullpen is less of a mess than last year's, but manager Terry Collins has no solid options outside of Bobby Parnell and LaTroy Hawkins.

    Projected regulars Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada have all regressed at the plate, leaving Marlon Byrd and David Wright to carry disproportionately large loads.

    Since Memorial Day, the Mets are above the .500 mark. Unfortunately, with all the money owed to Santana and Jason Bay, they can't afford to take on huge contracts attached to the top available players.

     

    Notable trade chips

    Marlon Byrd and Parnell will be in high demand, but John Buck is the only veteran New York is welcome to trading at the moment.

     

    Predictions

    None of the trade candidates go prior to July 31. The Mets decide to wait for Travis d'Arnaud's MLB debut in August before dumping the remains of Buck's contract.

New York Yankees

20 of 31

    2013 record: 52-47

    4.5 games back of AL playoff spot

     

    Why the New York Yankees are complicated

    The sport's most storied franchise has participated in 17 of the past 18 postseasons. Just like during most of those October berths, the Yankees are outspending the rest of the league. There's extra urgency to win now because so many key contributors have expiring contracts (at least one will retire).

    With that said, general manager Brian Cashman does not want to block the openings for Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez to return from injury. In their absences, however, the offense has been stagnant, hence New York's position in fourth place.

    The Bombers also have "addition by subtraction" opportunities to take advantage of.

     

    Trade activity so far

    July 26: Traded Corey Black to the Chicago Cubs for Alfonso Soriano and cash.

     

    Top targets

    They contacted the San Diego Padres about Chase Headley but didn't get far. Headley would satisfactorily replace A-Rod at the hot corner should he receive a lengthy suspension for his involve in the Biogenesis scandal.

    Soriano brings some much-needed power from the right side, but Cashman will surely keep calling about potentially available catchers and third basemen.

     

    Notable trade chips

    Former first-round picks Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes are closing in on free agency, and Cashman seemingly has no desire to retain them. Their earned run averages sit at 5.40 and 4.57, respectively.

    Despite ugly 2013 stats, both 27-year-old right-handers show the potential to make positive impacts in pitcher-friendly environments. Yankee Stadium certainly doesn't fall under that classification.

    Clearing extra spots on the pitching staff for the stretch run is just as important as getting something of value in return.

     

    Predictions

    The Philadelphia Phillies hand over Carlos Ruiz.

Oakland Athletics

21 of 31

    2013 record: 60-43

    AL West leaders

     

    Why the Oakland Athletics are buyers

    The two biggest transactions from Oakland's offseason—re-signing Bartolo Colon and trading for Jed Lowrie—have panned out beautifully. Then there's Josh Donaldson, who suddenly blossomed from an unknown into an All-Star-caliber third baseman.

    The strengths of these A's are the same ones that fueled the 2012 division winners: strike-throwing starting pitching, overpowering bullpen arms and elite outfield defense.

    Oakland has been extremely fortunate to dodge major injuries.

     

    Top targets

    The left side of the Athletics infield is adequate, but several steps below elite. The same could be said of their situation behind the plate.

    Dave Cameron of FanGraphs believes they ought to wrestle Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz away from the Philadelphia Phillies (ESPN Insider subscription required). Unfortunately, besides that duo, Oakland won't find many decent starting options available for trade at those positions.

     

    Predictions

    No major acquisitions. The A's watch the scrap heap closely but don't feel the urgency to fix what isn't broken.

Philadelphia Phillies

22 of 31

    2013 record: 49-54

    9.0 games back of NL playoff spot

     

    Why the Philadelphia Phillies are complicated

    Gotta love the honesty from general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he's "still on the fence" about whether his Phillies will buy or sell this July.

    Most information suggests they should tear down the roster rather than plug holes.

    Although Salisbury tweets that Roy Halladay has started throwing off a mound again, Ryan Howard (knee) and Ben Revere (foot) might not get back to the majors until September. The bullpen is thin, and the best reliever in it, Jonathan Papelbon, has a contract that pushes the club uncomfortably close to the luxury tax. Impending free agents Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley and Michael Young could be traded to revitalize an ailing farm system.

    On the other hand, starting pitching often dictates the fate of a team's season, and the Phillies ought to feel pretty confident in theirs. Cliff Lee is a genuine ace, while Hamels has quietly strung together nine straight starts of four earned runs or less. Performances from the other three spots haven't been anything to scoff at either.

     

    Top targets

    Amaro seeks relief help that won't cost him major league players or high-ceiling prospects.

    That means he's thinking about rentals like Joba Chamberlain, Kevin Gregg, Matt Lindstrom and Chad Qualls.

     

    Notable trade chips

    With Aramis Ramirez still injured and Chase Headley seemingly unavailable, any starting-caliber third baseman is going to get a lot of attention.

    Ken Rosenthal reports that a dozen teams have at least "checked in" on Young. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees seem to be most interested. The 36-year-old owns a .286/.347/.417 slash line.

    Amaro has raved about Utley at second base and stressed a desire to make him a "Phillie for life." He's due another $5 million between now and season's end before entering free agency.

    There will be a strong temptation to sell the former All-Star considering how many contenders would get involved in the bidding.

    Personal sentiment probably won't affect what Amaro decides to do with Papelbon. The closer has seen his strikeout rate plummet this summer, and he's set to make $13 million each of the next two seasons.

     

    Predictions

    In a mini-sale, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquire Young, while the Yankees buy low on Ruiz.

    X

Pittsburgh Pirates

23 of 31

    2013 record: 60-41

    First NL Wild Card

     

    Why the Pittsburgh Pirates are buyers

    For the third straight year, the Pirates entered the All-Star break with a winning record. After conservative approaches to the 2011 and 2012 deadlines (followed by abrupt collapses), they better have learned their lesson.

    Andrew McCutchen has legitimate complements up and down the lineup like Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte and Russell Martin. The starting rotation is deep, and the back end of their bullpen is near-untouchable.

    These players—and their team-friendly contracts—give general manager Neal Huntington the motivation to pursue big names now.

     

    Top targets

    Pretty much everybody on the Chicago White Sox would look good in black and yellow.

    Gordon Beckham—usually a second baseman—has seen some action at shortstop this season, both during a minor league rehab assignment and even for the White Sox. Either he or Alexei Ramirez would mesh well with Neil Walker.

    Pittsburgh is showing interest in Ramirez and right fielder Alex Rios, according to Jon Heyman. A reputable reliever to take the pressure off Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon also makes sense.

     

    Predictions

    Expect the Bucs to wholly address their offensive holes with one of the bigger trades of the summer as they haul in Beckham and Rios. To pull it off, they move right-handers Luis Heredia and Nick Kingham, along with Jose Tabata and his favorable contract.

San Diego Padres

24 of 31

    2013 record: 46-58

    9.0 games back of NL playoff spot

     

    Why the San Diego Padres are sellers

    The Padres lost a handful of young starting pitchers to major injuries last summer, none of whom have made an impact in 2013. To make matters worse, veteran holdovers like Clayton Richard and Edinson Volquez aren't nearly as effective.

    As is his custom, slugger Carlos Quentin has been sidelined for a portion of the regular season. Yasmani Grandal, who served a 50-game suspension in April and May, is now done for the season.

     

    Notable trade chips

    San Diego will make some attempt to sell low on Volquez and Huston Street. Even for the latter, who has a reasonable long-term deal in place, the demand should be underwhelming.

    The only surefire ways to infuse new life into the farm system would involve peddling Chase Headley and Luke Gregerson. Each is well above average in his respective role and under team control for one more year.

     

    Predictions

    The Padres will conduct their business in the offseason.

San Francisco Giants

25 of 31

    2013 record: 46-56

    8.0 games back of NL playoff spot

     

    Why the San Francisco Giants are complicated

    After making minimal changes to the roster, how can the defending world champions tell their fans that the team isn't even good enough to contend?

    It's obviously an awkward situation. Matt Cain has gotten hammered more times than not, and folk hero Barry Zito owns the worst WHIP among qualified MLB starting pitchers, according to FanGraphs. Pablo Sandoval is laughably out of shape and underachieving, but refuses to do anything about it.

    San Francisco's hope is that when Ryan Vogelsong—and eventually, Jeremy Affeldt—return from injury, the pitching staff won't look so vulnerable.

     

    Top targets

    Bleacher Report's Kyle Brown suggests that the Giants focus on Bud Norris, who admittedly dreams of pitching for them. It's also crucial for them to have starting options under control beyond this season because Tim Lincecum and Zito could become free agents.

    To be honest, this team lacks the farm system depth to vie for the big-name starting pitchers on the market.

     

    Notable trade chips

    General manager Brian Sabean has shot down Lincecum trade rumors, tweets Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. That doesn't mean discussions haven't taken place.

    Even before the no-hitter, the Freak was proving that his 2012 struggles were somewhat of an anomaly. The 29-year-old could excite a lot of contenders, particularly as a reliever, Jon Paul Morosi reports.

    The word on Hunter Pence, according to Jon Heyman, is that the Giants would need to be overwhelmed. Aside from solid outfield production, he has a strong presence in the clubhouse.

     

    Predictions

    Although the Giants can't offer enough for Norris, they succeed in acquiring Yovani Gallardo from the Milwaukee Brewers. The durable right-hander costs them two top-20 prospects: Heath Hembree and Ty Blach.

Seattle Mariners

26 of 31

    2013 record: 49-54

    8.5 games back of AL playoff spot

     

    Why the Seattle Mariners are sellers

    Don't let the recent hot streak fool you: The M's dug themselves too deep of a hole during the opening months, and their current roster is heavily reliant on rookie production.

    This could be a .500 team by summer's end, but holding on to impending free agents to make that possible would impede the rebuilding process.

     

    Notable trade chips

    Kendrys Morales, Mike Morse and Raul Ibanez have made Safeco Field—a venue notorious for oppressing offense—seem small.

    Only Morse is likely to leave the Pacific Northwest, as the Mariners hope to retain the other two beyond this summer. Of course, the 245-pound slugger will need to hurry back from the disabled list to market himself.

    Lefty Oliver Perez has reinvented himself as a late-inning reliever. He manages his walk totals while still generating plenty of whiffs. Only about $500,000 is left on his expiring deal.

    Joe Saunders is catching fire at the ideal time. His pedestrian pure stuff and dramatic platoon splits will offend some teams.

     

    Predictions

    Perez goes to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Saunders to the Colorado Rockies. Seattle expects too much for Morse and winds up keeping him.

St. Louis Cardinals

27 of 31

    2013 record: 62-38

    NL Central leaders

     

    Why the St. Louis Cardinals are buyers

    As if owning the National League's best record wasn't impressive enough, the Cardinals' run differential suggests that they're capable of winning even more often.

    Between Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig and Yadier Molina, St. Louis has three legitimate threats for the NL batting title. Right-hander Adam Wainwright will be in the Cy Young Award discussion.

    The organization continues to churn out productive hitters and pitchers, allowing the Cards to cut ties with Mitchell Boggs, Ty Wigginton and other undesirables.

     

    Top targets

    Minor league opposition has pounded Chris Carpenter to the tune of a .469/.528/.656 batting line through two rehab starts. Even if his health doesn't derail a comeback, St. Louis might decide that the former postseason hero isn't suited for starting duty.

    That means this team will consider adding to the rotation.

    Matt Garza was never a serious candidate, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, because that would require trading within the division. The same circumstances doom any Yovani Gallardo deal.

    Of course, the American League has numerous options for the Cardinals.

     

    Predictions

    Triple-A ace Michael Wacha and a toolsy position player convince the Chicago White Sox to part with Jake Peavy and several million dollars.

Tampa Bay Rays

28 of 31

    2013 record: 61-42

    AL East leaders

     

    Why the Tampa Bay Rays are buyers

    The Rays lineup is more dangerous than anybody could have anticipated. Kelly Johnson, James Loney and Luke Scott have all rebounded from mediocre years, and Desmond Jennings is a dynamic rising star.

    Knowing that Jeremy Hellickson, David Price and Fernando Rodney were struggling to replicate their 2012 campaigns, you would assume that the pitching staff is scuffling. Instead, youngsters like Chris Archer, Alex Cobb and Alex Torres have fueled Tampa Bay to its usual success on the mound.

    Even while managing foot pain, Evan Longoria is dominant at the plate and the hot corner.

     

    Top targets

    Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune reminds us that the Rays often stand pat at the trade deadline. That wouldn't be a surprising result for the most well-rounded club in the American League.

    If anything, perhaps the front office pursues a veteran bat to handle left-handed pitching. Think along the lines of Kendrys Morales or Marlon Byrd.

     

    Predictions

    It's difficult to envision the Rays getting rid of Sam Fuld or Sean Rodriguez to make room on the active roster. Expect no such shake-up.

Texas Rangers

29 of 31

    2013 record: 56-47

    1.5 games back of AL playoff spot

     

    Why the Texas Rangers are buyers

    The recovery of Joakim Soria from Tommy John surgery further fortifies an ultra-deep bullpen. Even at age 38, Joe Nathan is one of the most trustworthy closers in the sport.

    Elvis Andrus and David Murphy have gradually emerged from hideous slumps. Through all their struggles, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz were providing right-handed power to prevent the Rangers offense from deteriorating into mediocrity.

    It's been a great bounce-back campaign for Derek Holland. Along with Yu Darvish, he has given Texas quality and quantity to spare the relief corps and compensate for the shaky back-end starters.

     

    Trade activity so far

    July 22: Traded Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, C.J. Edwards and a player to be named later to the Chicago Cubs for Matt Garza.

     

    Top targets

    Texas has worries about designated hitter Lance Berkman. The disabled switch-hitter is overwhelmed by knee and hip pain, so much so that Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News reports that he's considering retirement.

    Rather than promote 41-year-old Manny Ramirez, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram hears that the team is targeting Kendrys Morales, Hunter Pence and Alex Rios.

     

    Predictions

    Despite heavy involvement in trade talks, the Rangers can't pry Morales or Pence away from reluctant sellers.

Toronto Blue Jays

30 of 31

    2013 record: 47-55

    10 games back of AL playoff spot

     

    Why the Toronto Blue Jays are sellers

    They spared no expense to buff up the starting rotation, yet the results have been horrible. Among all 30 MLB teams, only the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins staffs provide fewer innings per outing and surrender higher batting averages against (per MLB.com). Even when accounting for the league switch, R.A. Dickey's post-Cy Young Award regression is stunning.

    When adjusting for park factors, the offense isn't all that special either. Severe injuries to Brett Lawrie and Jose Reyes had a lot to do with that. New role players like Emilio Bonifacio, Melky Cabrera and Jose Thole haven't performed up to their potential at the plate.

    In the AL Central, perhaps the Blue Jays wouldn't be waving the white flag right now. The brutal reality of the AL East, however, is that this underachieving team has too many games remaining against deeper opponents.

     

    Movable players

    Just about every top performer on the Blue Jays is controllable or under guaranteed contract in 2014 for another try at the playoffs. Without stars in the high minors ready to replace them, general manager Alex Anthopoulos would be best served holding on to them.

    Josh Johnson's inconsistency and fragility have crushed his trade value. The consensus around the industry is that Toronto will make him a qualifying offer after this season, and that he'll probably accept.

     

    Predictions

    No interesting player movement, but maybe the Jays extend center fielder Colby Rasmus, buying out his final arbitration year and the first few of his free agency.

Washington Nationals

31 of 31

    2013 record: 50-54

    8.5 games back of NL playoff spot

     

    Why the Washington Nationals are buyers

    Washington's ineptitude with runners in scoring position is largely to blame for its abysmal offensive output. Although Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and others have posted strong individual statistics, they haven't been producing extra-base hits when it matters most.

    Convinced that this problem will resolve itself over a larger sample size, the Nationals are on the lookout for that "final piece" of the championship puzzle.

    Their rotation and late-inning relief have been engineered for October.

     

    Trade activity so far

    July 8: Traded Ivan Pineyro and a player to be named later to the Chicago Cubs for Scott Hairston, a player to be named later and cash.

     

    Top targets

    One more proven starting pitcher would shift the tides in the NL East race.

    General manager Mike Rizzo will think big: Jeff Samardzija, Ervin Santana and Chris Sale.

     

    Predictions

    Rizzo comes up empty-handed in the frontline-starter search but adds bullpen depth by obtaining Mike Gonzalez for his second tour of duty with the organization.

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