Glaring Weaknesses and Quick Trade Fixes for Each MLB Contender
Even the greatest major league teams are severely flawed. The St. Louis Cardinals, for instance, are tied for the best record in baseball—yet their starting shortstop ranks toward the bottom in park-adjusted wRC+.
This is why the non-waiver trade deadline is so essential for contending teams trying to improve their rosters. Aces, right fielders and even middle relievers might be put on the block at inflated prices, but if you’re a team facing a 20-year playoff drought like the Pittsburgh Pirates are, perhaps October glory is worth the exorbitance.
Below are the glaring weaknesses and quick trade fixes for each MLB contender.
Boston Red Sox
The good news is that Clay Buchholz will pitch again in 2013. The bad news, however, is that the Boston Red Sox will likely be without their star pitcher until September.
Buchholz was in the midst of a terrific season, pitching a 1.71 ERA (versus park-adjusted 250 ERA+), 1.02 WHIP and 2.79 K/BB until injuring his shoulder. The right-hander was placed on the disabled list on July 13 with shoulder bursitis.
The void created by Buchholz’s injury is a significant one for the American League East leaders.
But according to Peter Gammons, the Red Sox have been heavily scouting starting pitchers around the league. With Bud Norris, Yovani Gallardo, Edinson Volquez and Jake Peavy all available, the Red Sox’s playoff hopes might not be in jeopardy.
In fact, Scott Merkin of MLB.com reported that the Red Sox have discussed dangling maligned third baseman Will Middlebrooks in a trade for Peavy.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays like catcher Jose Molina’s defense, but his park-adjusted 73 OPS+ and 6.0 percent walk rate are eyesores.
The Rays would quickly fix their catching woes by re-acquiring Dioner Navarro.
Navarro played for the Rays from 2006 to 2010 but has enjoyed a renaissance season for the Chicago Cubs in 2013. The 29-year-old is hitting .284 with a 135 OPS+, 9.9 percent walk rate and nine home runs. Navarro has also been particularly dominant versus southpaws, posting a park-adjusted 311 wRC+ against them.
Given the Cubs’ seller status, the impending free agent likely wouldn’t cost the Rays too much—like Advanced-A arm Jesse Hahn.
The Baltimore Orioles have been particularly active in July, acquiring pitchers Scott Feldman and Francisco Rodriguez. Even though the addition of K-Rod solved the team’s bullpen woes, Feldman doesn't improve the rotation enough to propel the Orioles into the playoffs.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, the Orioles could target Houston Astros starters Erik Bedard and Lucas Harrell. Rosenthal also notes that while Bud Norris would be the best fit, the Orioles might balk at the Astros’ asking price of two prospects.
Even with the success of Joaquin Benoit (2.04 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 3.00 K/BB and nine saves in save situations), the Detroit Tigers should still acquire another late-inning option.
The Tigers lost out on Francisco Rodriguez, but Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com reported interest in San Diego Padres reliever Luke Gregerson. It’s likely that Gregerson, who has 15 saves in his career, would set up for Benoit—not replace him as closer.
Unlike trading for New York Mets closer Bobby Parnell, acquiring Gregerson wouldn’t cost the team Nick Castellanos.
The Cleveland Indians have been a surprising contender in the American League Central. But the team desperately needs an ace atop its rotation to stay relevant.
Prior to Matt Garza being traded, David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com listed the Cleveland Indians as a “strong pursuer” of the then-Chicago Cubs hurler. Garza was later traded to the Texas Rangers for three prospects.
With Garza out of the picture, Jake Peavy has emerged as the prime pitcher bait on the market. And while Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com rejects the likelihood of the Indians winning the Peavy sweepstakes, the Ubaldo Jimenez trade in 2011 is proof that the Tribe is capable of making a splash.
Peavy, 32, would be a rotation fixture for the Indians at least through 2014. The right-hander also has a player option for 2015.
The only question is whether the Indians would part with 18-year-old shortstop prospect Dorssys Paulino.
The Oakland Athletics could be a dark-horse candidate in the Jake Peavy sweepstakes—at least Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com thinks so. While adding Peavy would certainly bolster the Athletics' seemingly light rotation, A’s starters have posted a combined 3.78 ERA, which ranks eighth in the majors.
Instead, the Athletics should acquire a right fielder to challenge the disappointing Josh Reddick. Reddick, who hit 32 home runs in 2012, has only knocked out five dingers in 2013. The left-handed hitter’s park-adjusted 81 OPS+ is also 30 points below his 2012 rate.
Dealing for New York Mets outfielder Marlon Byrd would make sense for the A’s. Byrd has posted 17 home runs and a 133 OPS+ in 2013. The 35-year-old’s mere $700,000 salary also meshes well with the small-market organization.
Even though Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reported that the Mets plan to hang on to Byrd unless overwhelmed with an offer, perhaps the inclusion of outfield prospect B.J. Boyd would change their minds.
The Texas Rangers made headlines by acquiring top-of-the-rotation starter Matt Garza on Monday, July 22. The Rangers only trail the Oakland Athletics by three games in the American League Central, but in order to narrow the lead further, they need to acquire an outfield bat.
The usually dependable David Murphy (career park-adjusted 109 OPS+) has slumped to a mere 77 OPS+ in 2013. Although hitting against southpaws was never his strong suit (career park-adjusted 71 wRC+), the left-handed hitter only owns a 43 wRC+ against them this season.
Especially if Nelson Cruz faces any Biogenesis-related suspension time, Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram believes that the Rangers will acquire one of Alex Rios, Hunter Pence or Kendrys Morales. Jurickson Profar is unlikely to be moved for any of those players, but perhaps Martin Perez is less safe.
Tim Hudson recently fractured his ankle while covering first base on a ground ball and will subsequently miss the rest of 2013. Even though, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, the Atlanta Braves were already coveting starting pitching, the Braves may need to speed the acquisition process now.
The Braves could covet Jake Peavy, who was almost acquired in 2008, but Bud Norris wouldn’t require nearly as much talent. Despite witnessing his K/9 dip from 8.8 to 6.4 this season, the 28-year-old Norris has posted a career-best park-adjusted 105 ERA+.
The known asking price for Norris is “two prospects,” according to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, but perhaps the Houston Astros would settle for either of the Braves' pitching prospects, Cody Martin or Aaron Northcraft.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals have one the most balanced rosters in the major leagues. This is perhaps why Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opined that it was “unlikely” the Cardinals would make a big deadline move.
As great as the 61-win Cardinals have played, shortstop Pete Kozma has struggled offensively all season. Kozma has posted a park-adjusted 63 OPS+ and just one home run over 326 plate appearances.
According to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, talks between the Cardinals and Chicago White Sox about Alexei Ramirez fizzled. But Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com thinks the Cardinals' interest in Ramirez could be genuine.
Despite Gonzales' report stating otherwise, one has to think that the White Sox would swap Ramirez for top pitching prospect Carlos Martinez in a heartbeat.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are en route to making their first playoff appearance since 1992. After a 20-year draught, it’s likely the Pirates will have a “win now” mentality at the deadline.
While the knee-jerk reaction might be to acquire a closer to replace the injured Jason Grilli, setup man Mark Melancon can easily slip into the familiar role. Melancon owns 24 career saves and has posted a lights-out 0.93 ERA (versus park-adjusted 384 ERA+), 0.80 WHIP and 8.00 K/BB in 2013.
The Pirates will instead turn their attention to upgrading right field. The team currently sports a respectable three-way platoon (in right field and first base) between Garrett Jones (park-adjusted 116 wRC+ against right-handed pitching), Gaby Sanchez (179 wRC+ versus left-handed pitching) and Travis Snider (83 wRC+ versus right-handed pitching).
But according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, the Pirates heavily covet Alex Rios. Rios would provide the Pirates with a big-name player, but his park-adjusted 104 OPS+ in 2013 has been pedestrian.
There’s little chance the Pirates would part with pitching prospect Jameson Taillon for Rios, but outfielder Gregory Polanco is not as untouchable as perhaps he should be.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been scouting Jake Peavy’s starts, but recent acquisition Ricky Nolasco should have settled their starting pitching needs.
Your scout lineup for Jake Peavy's start today: Red Sox, Cardinals, Dodgers, Braves, O's, Reds & Rangers have 2. #youmaynowjumptoconclusions— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 25, 2013
Mark Saxon of ESPN.com opined that the Dodgers should instead focus on acquiring a veteran reliever. Considering Brandon League was demoted from both closer and setup duties, Kenley Jansen only has fellow youngster Paco Rodriguez below him on the depth chart.
With Jesse Crain’s recent rehab setback, the Dodgers could covet Houston Astros closer Jose Veras. In his first season as a closer, Veras has posted a 3.05 ERA (versus park-adjusted 136 ERA+), 1.01 WHIP, 3.14 K/BB and 18 saves. The 32-year-old also has an affordable $3.25 million team option for 2014.
The Astros will likely ask for the sky in return (i.e. Zach Lee), but should settle for earth (i.e. Ross Stripling).
The Arizona Diamondbacks have recently slipped in the standings, falling behind the surging Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.
The Diamondbacks' biggest hurdle looking forward is finding solace in the back of their bullpen. With Heath Bell, J.J. Putz and David Hernandez all struggling, the Snakes have turned to middle reliever Brad Ziegler to close out games. Needless to say, Buster Olney of ESPN.com unsurprisingly reported on the Diamondbacks' recent push in the reliever market.
The second-place team should turn its attention to acquiring Addison Reed. The Chicago White Sox have made their 24-year-old closer “available,” according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe.
The starting-heavy Diamondbacks farm system could afford to dangle lefties David Holmberg and Andrew Chafin in a trade for Reed. Reed won't be a free agent until 2018.