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Creative Fixes for Each Struggling MLB Team to Turn Around 2013 Season

Ben StepanskyCorrespondent IJuly 20, 2013

Creative Fixes for Each Struggling MLB Team to Turn Around 2013 Season

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    Part two of the 2013 MLB season premiered Friday night, and while the season is already 60 percent complete, two-thirds of the league are still vying for 10 playoff spots. 

    In the American League, the East is stacked with talent, pitting four teams within six games of each other. The Central and West Divisions are largely two-team races at the moment, but a key deadline move or winning streak could bring teams like the Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Angels back to life.

    The National League features a rejuvenated Central Division where three teams—the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds—stand no more than four games apart. The Atlanta Braves are in control of the East while the West Division is completely up for grabs, as the first- and fourth-place teams are separated by just 4.5 games.

    The following 10 teams were deemed fringe playoff teams or teams that have underachieved despite high preseason expectations. Each may make a move (or more) at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline that could be the missing piece to kick the squad into high gear.

    The creative fixes are current knowledge-based rumors, my own personal opinions or a combination of the two.  


    Rumor information is courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors, and stats and contract information are courtesy of Team Rankings and Spotrac, respectively, unless noted otherwise. 


New York Yankees

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    The New York Yankees are currently scoring just 3.92 runs per game, which is bad enough to be the third-lowest rate in the AL, and struggling to hit home runs, waiting for every 36th at-bat to round the bases for free.

    The Bronx Bombers have been disarmed.

    The obvious need for the Yankees is offensive help, particularly at the corner-infield spots. Kevin Youkilis is out until early September, Mark Teixeira is done for the season and even captain Derek Jeter was placed on the 15-day disabled list after making his ever-so-brief 2013 return.

    Lyle Overbay, Eduardo Nunez and Luis Cruz are not long-term solutions, not even for the remainder of the season if the Yankees hope to continue to compete. In addition, nobody knows how long Alex Rodriguez's stay in the majors will be once the MLB cracks down on those linked to Biogenesis.

    The Yankees inquired about third baseman Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres but were told he is unavailable. This begs the question of whether Padres rookie Jedd Gyorko is considered available, as he is a natural third baseman stuck manning second. Michael Young is also a plausible solution, but there are other teams that may seek his services a little more desperately.

    Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios may be right-handed bats who come up in talks in the following weeks as well.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    After spending a lot of time, money and effort to craft a winning team this past offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays are falling way short of their 2013 goals.

    The most pressing issue for the Jays is their starting pitching, which is 29th in quality starts (38) and 24th in ERA (4.24). R.A. Dickey (4.69 ERA), Mark Buehrle (4.83) and Josh Johnson (5.16) have all been disappointments.

    The Blue Jays are one of three teams on this list interested in Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, who, according to scouts, could be major league-ready after just a few minor league starts. They may lose out on Gonzalez, however, due to his inevitably high price tag.

    A cheaper arm may be realistic for the Jays, someone like, say, Bud Norris, who has generated a ton of interest in the past month. Also, the White Sox will be sellers at the deadline, so an arm like Jake Peavy may become available.

Kansas City Royals

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    How quickly the Kansas City Royals come out in the second half will determine if they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline. A 1-0 win over the division-leading Tigers on Saturday isn't a bad way to start.

    The Royals may look to upgrade at the hot corner, as Mike Moustakas, the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, limps through the season with a .221/.280/.342 slash line. 

    Ervin Santana is a possible trade chip, though he's been the team's best pitcher with 130.1 innings pitched and a 3.18 ERA in 19 starts. They can chose to hold on to Santana or flip the free-agent-to-be for the Milwaukee Brewers' Aramis Ramirez, whose value has dramatically dropped due to his high salary (he's in the middle of a three-year, $36 million contract) and multiple disabled-list stints this season

    Could K.C. also be in the running for Michael Young? Why not? It seems like everyone else is.

Los Angeles Angels

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    The crux of the issue in Los Angeles has simply been the Angels' underperforming stars (*cough* Josh Hamilton).

    The pitching has been a pain as well, with a rotation that ranks 11th in the American League with a 4.45 ERA. 

    The Angels anxiously await the return of starter Jason Vargas (6-4, 3.65 ERA), who has been out since June 18 due to surgery to remove a blood clot in his left armpit, and reliever Sean Burnett (9.2 IP, 0.93 ERA), who has been hampered by elbow problems.

    The team likely won't make any big moves, especially if it doesn't start winning games, but one realistic option is Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes. The Yankees were looking to ship off the free-agent-to-be for a bat, but the market hasn't opened up for Hughes. The Angels have shown interest in the past, but according to CBS Sports, it looks like that time has passed. 

Washington Nationals

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    The Washington Nationals have one of the best sets of top-three starters in the majors in Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg. After that, we run into some trouble.

    Dan Haren has been a disaster, pitching to a 4-10 record, 5.61 ERA and -1.1 WAR. No. 5 starter Ross Detwiler has been out of commission since July 4, and his replacement, rookie Taylor Jordan, is a question mark in his first full season since Tommy John surgery.

    While it seems like the Nats' biggest concern should be a back-of-the-rotation starter, manager Davey Johnson wants another bat off the bench. Names like Justin Morneau or Justin Smoak come to mind as left-handed bats, especially with Adam LaRoche struggling this season.

    If the Nationals do decide to seek rotation help, however, they'll likely be outbid for the services of Matt Garza. But in the event Ervin Santana becomes available, Washington would be a nice landing spot.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    The Philadelphia Phillies are stacked with trade chips but may choose to stay put or find temporary replacements rather than sell at the deadline. Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley have all been names that have surfaced over the past few weeks, but if the Phillies want to make a run at the first-place Braves, they may need their stars down the stretch.

    One move that is approaching the inevitable is a trade involving first-year Phillie Michael Young. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has reported that there is intense interest in Young from multiple teams, including the Boston Red Sox.

    If the Phillies decide to move Young, longtime minor leaguer and unproven internal option Kevin Frandsen would be the fill-in at third—not necessarily an ideal replacement. For this reason, the Phillies may stick with the 36-year-old. 

    Ben Revere and Ryan Howard are both set to spend six to eight weeks on the disabled list, so don't be surprised if the Phillies go after an outfield replacement such as the Brewers' Norichika Aoki or former Phillie Juan Pierre.

New York Mets

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    At nine games under .500 and 11 games out of first place, the New York Mets are not likely to be a playoff team and will be sellers at the trade deadline. 

    In the case of a miraculous hot streak, in which they'd have to win multiple series against their division mates, the Phillies, Braves and Nationals, prior to July 31, the Mets could hypothetically add a middle-of-the-order bat to upgrade their lineup. Chase Utley would certainly be an improvement over Daniel Murphy at second base.

    Realistically, however, the Mets will either stand pat or make a menial move as they continue to prepare for the future. 

    Their hottest trade bait is veteran Marlon Byrd, who has slugged his way back onto the scene with a .274/.319/.509 slash line and 16 home runs. GM Sandy Alderson is remaining stubborn about moving Byrd unless a deal truly impresses him.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    All of a sudden, the Los Angeles Dodgers have come out of nowhere to win 19 of their last 24 games. All aspects of the game are coming together; the team is hitting .285 in the month of July (third-best in the majors), the rotation, including the newly acquired Ricky Nolasco, is turning in quality starts and the bullpen is much improved after a dismal start to the season.

    One interesting scenario for the Dodgers is to continue upgrading their bullpen by way of Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins. The asking price for the All-Star reliever would likely be high, but the Dodgers have an extra outfielder as a trade chip, in particular Andre Ethier.

    Kenley Jansen has taken over the closer role for the Dodgers after Brandon League's struggles, but with the addition of Perkins, having 7-8-9 guys of League, Jensen and Perkins would be lights out.

    If the lineup stays hot, one or two small moves may be all the Dodgers need to make a run.

Colorado Rockies

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    The Colorado Rockies sit just 3.5 games out of first place in the NL West, and with a favorable start to the second half (series against the Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers), they may be buyers at the deadline.

    If the Rockies stay in the playoff race, the likelihood of them moving Michael Cuddyer, who is in the second year of a three-year, $31.5 million contract, is slim to none.

    The Mile High team could use some help at first base with, you know, Todd Helton being almost 40 years old and everything. Seattle slugger Kendrys Morales could be a nice fit.

    Bullpen help is also a necessity, and a trade for Jesse Crain of the White Sox is not completely unfathomable. Crain, who grew up in Colorado, has a 0.74 ERA in 36.2 innings pitched and has yet to allow a home run all season. He will be a free agent at season's end, and the White Sox can get some great value in return.  

    The steep asking price is worth it for the Rockies.

San Francisco Giants

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    The Giants are one of a handful of teams interested in the Cubs' Matt Garza. However, it would prove beneficial to check in with Bud Norris of the Astros as well, because once Garza is off the market, a deal for Norris will quickly follow suit.

    A deal between the Cubs and Rangers for Garza fell through on Friday, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, but the two teams remain in talks, so the Giants should step up their game or begin looking elsewhere. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Barry Zito have all been below-average starters in 2013, combining for a 4.72 ERA.

    Adding a power bat in the middle of the lineup would support the mediocre pitching staff just as the addition of Hunter Pence did in 2012. Seattle's Raul Ibanez or Minnesota's Josh Willingham are both viable options.

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