The 5 MLB Teams That Can't Afford to Fail at the Trade Deadline
With the July 31 trade deadline looming, less than two weeks remain for teams looking to make a non-waiver deal.
The deadline represents an integral period of time for both contending and rebuilding organizations. Contenders, like the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers, must decide if this year is theirs and sacrifice a bit of the future to improve the present.
On the flip side, a team like the New York Mets would have to juggle an already-livid fanbase if they entertained trading homegrown closer Bobby Parnell, for instance. While a big return for Parnell would help fill gaping voids for 2014 and beyond, it’s never a popular decision to throw in the towel—especially in New York.
Regardless of a team’s direction, the strategy must be a resolute one: Failure simply isn’t an option.
Below are five MLB teams that can’t afford to fail at the trade deadline this year.
All statistics sourced (through July 18, 2013) from Baseball-Reference.com.
New York Mets
Going into 2013, it was pretty clear the New York Mets were in full rebuilding mode. The Mets traded 2012 Cy Young Award-winner R.A. Dickey and made Shaun Marcum their highest-paid free-agent signing with a one-year, $4 million contract.
Despite reports stating otherwise from David Lennon of Newsday and Jorge Castillo of The Star-Ledger, general manager Sandy Alderson must actively shop Marlon Byrd, Daniel Murphy and Bobby Parnell if the team is serious about its future.
The Mets signed Byrd to a $700,000 deal in February 2013 with the hopes that the former All-Star could provide at least league-average production. The 35-year-old has surpassed expectations, hitting .271 with a park-adjusted 127 OPS+, 15 home runs and gloving a well above-average 6.8 UZR/150 in right field. Mets fans shouldn’t expect a top prospect in return for Byrd (i.e. Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran), but he’d probably be a cheaper alternative to Alex Rios, for instance.
Murphy just entered his first year of arbitration, meaning any prospective team would have the second baseman under team control for the next two seasons. The 28-year-old is enduring a down season, however, posting a 95 OPS+ (versus career 109 OPS+) and 4.25 percent walk rate (versus career 6.6 percent walk rate). Regardless, Murphy will likely earn around $8 million combined through arbitration over the next two seasons, making him a comparatively cheap commodity.
Like Murphy, Parnell will also be entering his second arbitration year. The 28-year-old closer has hurled a 2.30 ERA (versus park-adjusted 157 ERA+), 0.90 WHIP, 3.80 K/BB and 17 saves for the Mets this year. Even though teams rarely trade team-controllable closers, the Mets should learn a lesson from the Kansas City Royals and Joakim Soria.
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox were supposed to be good in 2013. The same team, more or less, won 85 games last season under the guidance of manager Robin Ventura.
The 2013 White Sox, however, have been a complete and utter failure. The team is 18 games below .500 and has received substandard production from the likes of Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo, Alex Rios and Paul Konerko.
(*OPS+ is a park-adjusted statistic)
General manager Rick Hahn already dealt left-handed reliever Matt Thornton to the Boston Red Sox this month. But trading Thornton will just be the start of dismantling the underachieving team.
With valuable trade chips like Rios, Konerko (if he waives his 10-and-5 rights), Alejandro De Aza, Alexei Ramirez and Jake Peavy, the White Sox could quickly rebuild their farm system and be competitive again within three years.
The Texas Rangers are only two games behind the Oakland Athletics in the American League West. Even if the Rangers can’t catch the A’s, the team is still on pace (by a hair) to capture one of the two wild-card spots.
The Rangers, however, could kiss their playoff chances goodbye if they fail to acquire a starting pitcher or two. As of July 19, 2013, the Rangers’ disabled list features the likes of Yu Darvish, Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando, Matt Harrison and Nicholas Tepesch. And only Lewis and Ogando have begun their respective rehab assignments, according to Jason Martinez of MLBDepthCharts.com.
Finding an available starting pitcher shouldn’t be particularly difficult. The Rangers have been linked to acquiring Matt Garza, even though the negotiations have reportedly hit a “snag.”
Sources: Cubs-Rangers deal for Garza hits snag, no longer a certainty. While teams still negotiating, Chicago seeking alternatives to Texas.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 19, 2013
If acquiring Garza doesn’t work out, the Rangers could also pursue Jorge de la Rosa (Colorado Rockies), Jeremy Hefner (New York Mets), Ervin Santana (Kansas City Royals), Bud Norris (Houston Astros), Kyle Lohse (Milwaukee Brewers) or Tim Lincecum (San Francisco Giants).
The 2013 Detroit Tigers still have the same weakness the 2012 team did: lacking a dominant closer. And considering the Tigers fell short in the World Series last year, general manager David Dombrowski needs to actively pursue a closer at the deadline.
After using an unsuccessful combination of Jose Valverde and Bruce Rondon this year, the Tigers recently turned to setup man Joaquin Benoit. Even though Benoit has performed quite well (2.16 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 3.00 K/BB in save situations), it would still behoove the Tigers to acquire a more proven option.
The ideal candidate would be Jonathan Papelbon, whom the Philadelphia Phillies could dangle if they deem 2013 a lost year. Another option could be New York Mets’ closer Bobby Parnell, who has posted a 2.30 ERA (versus park-adjusted 157 ERA+), 0.90 WHIP, 3.80 K/BB and 17 saves this year.
The Chicago Cubs have already been active during the month of July, dealing reliever Carlos Marmol and starter Scott Feldman. While trading the two pitchers was the correct move, general manager Theo Epstein still has a long way to go before righting the ship.
Epstein must market pitcher Matt Garza as the sole upper-tier starting pitcher on the trade block. Garza has pitched to the tune of a 3.17 ERA (versus park-adjusted 126 ERA+), 1.14 WHIP and 3.10 K/BB for the Cubs in 2013. The Texas Rangers had been linked to the right-hander, but the rumored trade is “no longer imminent,” according to Steve Adams of MLBTradeRumors.com.
In addition to Garza, Epstein should also actively dangle Alfonso Soriano, Nate Schierholtz, David DeJesus, Dioner Navarro, Edwin Jackson, Carlos Villanueva, Kevin Gregg and perhaps even James Russell.
With the exception of Soriano, Epstein shouldn’t have much difficulty moving any of the above.