5 MLB Contenders Still Desperate for a Waiver-Trade Upgrade
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport
Nine American League teams are still fighting it out for five playoff spots. Anything can happen. Nothing is close to being set in stone. Over in the National League, however, the Dodgers and Braves have all but wrapped up playoff spots while three National League central teams have a pretty good grasp on the others.
Those three—the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds—are still fighting it out for the division title while still trying to not lose focus of two teams within striking distance of the wild-card spots. The D-backs were six games back coming into today, while the Nationals were eight games out.
The Bucs already made a big move, acquiring right fielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck from the Mets today, per ESPN's Adam Rubin. Here are five other teams that should follow suit and upgrade their rosters through a waiver trade.
With Wilson Betemit returning from the disabled list today, the O's have one more possible solution to the gaping hole that has been the designated hitter spot all season long. But even if the 31-year-old switch-hitter gives the team some offense out of the gate, it's important to note that he's been much better against right-handed pitching throughout his career (.824 OPS versus RHP, .637 OPS versus LHP).
A platoon partner, such as Mariners slugger Michael Morse (career .845 OPS versus LHP), could be ideal. The 31-year-old Morse (pictured) was placed on waivers recently, although there have been no reports as of yet on whether he's been claimed or not.
Of course, there's no certainty that Betemit will be effective against any pitchers after missing the first four-and-a-half months of the season with a knee injury. He didn't exactly light it up on his rehab assignment, either (18-for-62, 0 HR, 3 2B). It wouldn't be a surprise if they placed a claim on Morse's teammate Kendrys Morales—Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports reported that he had been claimed by an unknown team yesterday—or pursued Justin Morneau or Josh Willingham of the Twins to fill the role full-time.
The O's are having another great season. But if they fall just short of the playoffs, it will be hard to ignore the fact that the team has had almost no production out of the designated hitter spot—they went in to today with a combined .665 OPS from that spot—and general manager Dan Duquette did little to fix the problem.
With Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton missing a majority of the season with injuries, the Reds have gotten fantastic production from a slew of unknown relievers, including J.J. Hoover (3.09 ERA, 12 holds), Sam LeCure (3.04 ERA, 16 holds) and Alfredo Simon (3.24 ERA, 6 holds).
But it's getting to be crunch time and with Broxton (elbow surgery) out for the year and Marshall (shoulder) still a question mark to return in 2013, the Reds could use a reliable veteran in the late innings to help get the ball to closer Aroldis Chapman.
If and when the Cubs place closer Kevin Gregg (pictured) on the waiver wire, the Reds would be smart to put in a claim. The 35-year-old has had a career resurgence in Chicago, posting a 3.18 ERA with 26 saves in 31 chances. He'd be a solid addition as the seventh- or eighth-inning setup man in Cincinnati.
There could be a few other relief options made available in the next few days, and the Reds should do what they can to make sure they can add at least one to their roster.
New York Yankees
For as many injuries as they've had this season, the drama surrounding the Alex Rodriguez circus and the decline of their ace, CC Sabathia, the Yankees are amazingly just 4.5 games out of a playoff spot heading into Tuesday. So why not reward these guys with one final piece to the puzzle for the stretch run?
With shaky performances from two rotation spots over the second half of the season—Sabathia has a 7.30 ERA in his last seven starts; Phil Hughes has a 5.94 ERA over his last seven starts—the Yankees could go after one of the best starters available in August. That would be Nationals right-hander Dan Haren (pictured), who has already cleared waivers and has a 2.53 ERA over his last 57 innings with only 43 hits and 11 walks allowed while striking out 54.
Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo and Royals starer Ervin Santana have reportedly been placed on waivers, although the price tag would be extremely high at this point and the Yankees don't quite have the farm system depth to make a move of that magnitude. Haren would probably cost them just one mid-level prospect if they can eat his remaining salary (est. $2.4 million).
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals' pitching depth has been put to the test in 2013 with season-ending injuries to Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia. Now they'll be without Jake Westbrook for a couple weeks because of a lower back strain.
Several young pitchers, including Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly, have helped to pick up the slack, but it's risky to rely on an inexperienced group heading into September in the middle of a heated pennant race. They certainly have the farm system depth to acquire a big name, should one be made available.
An acquisition of Haren or Santana (pictured) would be a huge boost for a Cardinals rotation—as well as a young bullpen—that has logged a lot of innings in 2013. Both of the aforementioned pitchers are innings-eaters who consistently pitch deep into ballgames and could give the relief corps a much-needed breather before the playoffs.
A number of Rangers hitters have gotten hot in the month of August, helping to make up for the loss of power-hitting right-fielder Nelson Cruz, who is serving a 50-game suspension. There's still room for one more bat, though, and that could be the difference in a tight division race with Oakland.
Designated hitter Lance Berkman could be that guy. He's set to return from a long stint on the disabled list due to hip and knee injuries in early September. Whether the 37-year-old switch-hitter can make it through the remainder of the season is another story. Or whether he can actually be productive—he was in a 1-for-12 slump when he was placed on the disabled list.
If Texas wants a more reliable option, though, there are several first base/corner outfield/designated hitter types who could be available, including Morales, Morneau, Morse and Willingham (pictured). Willingham was placed on waivers today, according to Peter Gammons. His numbers are way down from years past, but a change of scenery into a playoff race could help.
The same could be said for Diamondbacks outfielder Jason Kubel, who was designated for assignment today. The 31-year-old has struggled (.612 OPS, five home runs in 89 games), but he's only a year removed from a season in which he posted an .833 OPS with 30 homers and 90 runs batted in.