MLB Trade Deadline 2014: Analyzing Wants and Needs for Every Contender

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2014

MLB Trade Deadline 2014: Analyzing Wants and Needs for Every Contender

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    As MLB's non-waiver trade deadline rapidly approaches, general managers of teams still in contention are sitting behind their desks with two lists in front of them: A list of what they want to do and a list of what they need to do.

    With so many teams still believing that they are in contention for a playoff spot, the supply of available players is drastically lower than it has been in the past. It's a seller's market, to be sure, and the price of doing business has never been higher.

    Yet moves are going to be made despite those high asking prices, and in some cases, we could see a contender overpay for a player that they want, reducing their ability to acquire the piece (or pieces) that they actually need.

    So as we take a deeper look at the wants and needs of every contender, it's important for fans and general managers alike to take a deep breath and remember the lesson taught to us by those immortal lords of rock, The Rolling Stones: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."

     

    *For our purposes, "contenders" are being limited to teams that are within seven games of their division lead or those with a win-loss record no worse than one game below .500.

Atlanta Braves (57-48, 1.5 GB in NL East)

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    Will someone take B.J. Upton...please?
    Will someone take B.J. Upton...please?Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    What the Braves Want: Someone to take B.J. Upton off their hands

     

    Is anyone in the market for a five-tool outfielder that's never been able to put it all together?

    Atlanta certainly hopes that's the case, as the Braves are "desperate to get someone to take B.J. Upton at almost any cost" as one general manager put it to Peter Gammons recently.

    Upton, who celebrates his 30th birthday in August, is hitting .217 with 28 extra-base hits (seven home runs), 27 RBI and a .623 OPS in 99 games for the Braves and is striking out 30 percent of the time.

    Due more than $50 million through 2017, it would be a miracle if the Braves were able to find a taker for the talented-but-underachieving outfielder, even if the team was to pick up the bulk of the money left on his deal.

     

    What the Braves Need: Veteran left-handed reliever, veteran bat off the bench

     

    With Chasen Shreve, who has been in the big leagues for about a week, currently the only left-handed reliever on the roster, it goes without saying that the Braves would benefit from adding a southpaw with a bit more experience for the stretch run.

    Boston's Andrew Miller has become the team's top priority, per CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, but the Braves are sure to have competition to obtain the 29-year-old.

    Should general manager Frank Wren fail to land Miller, he could turn his attention to Arizona's Oliver Perez, Chicago's James Russell and Wesley Wright or Houston's Tony Sipp, among others.

    As for the bench, Braves pinch hitters have hit a combined .165 with one home run and a .462 OPS, the latter the 28th-lowest mark of any team in baseball, per ESPN.

    With a bench full of light-hitting reserve infielders, adding a veteran bat with some pop—think an Adam Dunn-type who can actually play the field—would go a long way towards bolstering the team's chances when the pitcher steps to the plate in the late innings.

Baltimore Orioles (58-46, 1st Place in AL East)

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    Dylan Bundy isn't going anywhere.
    Dylan Bundy isn't going anywhere.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    What The Orioles Want: To obtain a front-line starter without surrendering a top prospect

     

    When names like Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Hunter Harvey are being bandied about in conversations with Colorado about a potential trade for Jorge de la Rosa, as reported by MLB.com's Thomas Harding, well, you can see how what Baltimore wants is nothing more than a pipe dream.

    Front-line starters simply don't become available all that often, and when they do, they either cost a boatload of prospects (see Jeff Samardzija, who would have commanded Addison Russell and more from Oakland by himself), a boatload of money (see Philadelphia's Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee) or both.

     

    What the Orioles Need: Rotation upgrades (preferably a strikeout artist) and a catcher with a live bat

     

    When it comes to starting rotations, Baltimore's is one of the worst in the American League. Take a look at where the club ranks out of the 15 teams on the junior circuit across a number of categories:

    StatisticBaltimore '14AL RankMLB Rank
    xFIP4.361530
    BB/93.261428
    K/96.561428
    IP5941225
    QS451326

    Those are pretty damning numbers right there, and they only emphasize how badly the Orioles need to add a big-time arm to the rotation.

    Someone like San Diego's Ian Kennedy, who ranks ninth in baseball with a 9.51 K/9 ratio, averages nearly seven innings per outing and has delivered a quality start more than half the time he takes the mound, would be an ideal addition.

    Behind the plate, Baltimore hasn't been able to find a suitable replacement for Matt Wieters' offensive production. The team's current tandem of Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley has combined to hit only .203 with 13 extra-base hits (five home runs) and 22 RBI.

    While not nearly as big an issue as upgrading the rotation, the Orioles could certainly use a more productive backstop. Minnesota's Kurt Suzuki could be a target.

Cincinnati Reds (52-52, 6 GB in NL Central)

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    Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist would be a perfect fit in Cincinnati.
    Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist would be a perfect fit in Cincinnati.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    What The Reds Want: A productive bat that can play multiple positions

     

    Cincinnati general manager Walt Jocketty didn't dance around the question of what he'd like to do before the trade deadline arrives when asked by MLB.com's Mark Sheldon recently:

    I’d like to add a bat. We just haven’t found anything that attracts us yet. It may not happen before the 31st.

    We’ve had a few discussions with clubs but it’s been relatively quiet. It’s a little surprising.

    That (adding a versatile player) would be better because eventually we’re going to get Joey [Votto] and Brandon [Phillips] back so you don’t want to limit yourself if you can.

    ESPN's Jim Bowden asked Jocketty if Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist, one of the most versatile players in the game, would be a potential trade target. "That's a good name, that's all I'll say," Jocketty replied.

     

    What the Reds Need: A reliable veteran reliever

     

    A year after posting the seventh-lowest bullpen ERA in baseball (3.29), Cincinnati's relief corps has seen that number balloon to a robust 3.83, 24th in the game. 

    Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman still make for a formidable late-inning duo, but the rest of the bullpen has been mediocre at best.

    Adding another left-handed reliever to help Manny Parra (3.86 ERA, 1.44 WHIP), the lone southpaw of the group, would be ideal.

Cleveland Indians (52-53, 6.5 GB in AL Central)

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    Francisco Lindor is off-limits.
    Francisco Lindor is off-limits.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    What The Indians Want: A front-line starter and a right-handed hitting outfielder

     

    If the Indians have their way, they'll be able to bring a front-line starter and a right-handed hitting outfielder to Cleveland before the trade deadline hits, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes.

    The team will not consider any deal that would require them to surrender top prospect Francisco Lindor, however, which likely takes them out of the running for the truly top-end starters that could potentially be available (Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Jon Lester and David Price).

     

    What the Indians Need: Exactly what they want

     

    While advanced metrics say that Cleveland's rotation has pitched better than its 4.38 ERA would indicate (3.73 FIP, 3.54 xFIP), there's no question that the Indians would benefit from adding a veteran arm to a largely inexperienced and inconsistent starting rotation.

    They can't count on Justin Masterson or Zach McAllister returning to the form that they've flashed in the past, and the combination of Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar has made 41 major league starts between them.

    The team's outfield is a mess after All-Star Michael Brantley, with Michael Bourn unable to stay healthy, Corey Dickerson best utilized as a fourth outfielder, David Murphy maddeningly inconsistent and Ryan Raburn just maddening.

    While the team has yet to be linked to either Chicago's Dayan Viciedo or Philadelphia's Marlon Byrd, both are believed to be available and would provide the Indians with the powerful right-handed bat that they seek. 

Detroit Tigers (57-45, 1st Place in AL Central)

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    Alex Avila is brutal against left-handed pitching.
    Alex Avila is brutal against left-handed pitching.Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    What The Tigers Want: A left-handed reliever

     

    Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi says that the Tigers are still looking to bolster their bullpen after adding Joakim Soria and have turned their attention to the left-handed relief market, though the team is open to adding another right-handed reliever if the right one became available.

    It's been four years since Phil Coke posted an ERA below 4.00 or a WHIP below 1.45—before he ever put on a Tigers uniform. The other two southpaws in the bullpen, Blaine Hardy and Ian Krol, have less than 75 major league innings for their careers combined.

    Clearly, adding a veteran southpaw to the mix would benefit a Tigers bullpen that, for years, has needed reinforcements. 

    Possible targets include the Philadelphia Phillies' Antonio Bastardo, Chicago Cubs' James Russell and Wesley Wright, Houston Astros' Tony Sipp and Texas Rangers' Neal Cotts.

     

    What the Tigers Need: A left-handed reliever, a catcher that can hit left-handed pitching

     

    Since hitting .295 with 19 home runs, 82 RBI and a .895 OPS in 2011, Alex Avila has battled injury and inconsistency, hitting a combined .231 with 27 home runs, 122 RBI and a .710 OPS. His struggles against left-handed pitching over the course of his career—a .210 batting average and .613 OPS—certainly hasn't helped things.

    The problem is that Detroit's backup catcher, Bryan Holaday, isn't much better against southpaws, hitting .234 with a .614 OPS.

    While the Tigers offense is potent enough to make this less of an issue than it might be for other teams, adding a competent defensive catcher that can hit left-handed pitching would only help Detroit on its quest for success in the Fall Classic.

Kansas City Royals (53-51, 5 GB in AL Central)

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    Nori Aoki has been a major disappointment.
    Nori Aoki has been a major disappointment.Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    What The Royals Want: A right-handed right fielder

     

    If there's an outfielder that hits right-handed and has been thought to be available, you can bet that Kansas City has checked in on them. Philadelphia's Marlon Byrd, Boston's Jonny Gomes and Texas' Alex Rios have all been linked to the Royals in recent weeks.

    Byrd and Rios would be immediate upgrades over the team's current right field platoon of Nori Aoki and Raul Ibanez, while Gomes would give the club a major boost as the right-handed part of a platoon with Aoki.

     

    What the Royals Need: An upgrade in right field, another left-handed reliever

     

    After addressing the right field situation, the Royals could certainly use another established left-handed reliever to bolster the bullpen. Scott Downs has been effective against left-handed batters (.200 BA, .601 OPS) but has struggled mightily with his command, walking nearly as many batters as he's struck out.

    Francisley Bueno has been even tougher on lefties (.171 BA, .400 OPS), but he's 33 years old and already reached his career-high in innings pitched (21.1). Nobody knows if he'll hold up down the stretch.

    Those are likely some of the reasons why the club has been linked to Philadelphia's Antonio Bastardo, with CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury reporting that the Royals were particularly interested in acquiring the 28-year-old.

Los Angeles Angels (63-41, 2 GB in AL West)

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    Can Garrett Richards stay effective as the innings add up?
    Can Garrett Richards stay effective as the innings add up?Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    What The Angels Want: They already got

     

    The Angels wanted to upgrade the back end of their bullpen and did just that with the acquisition of closer Huston Street from San Diego.

    The acquisition of Street, coupled with the team's earlier moves to acquire southpaw Joe Thatcher from Arizona and former All-Star closer Jason Grilli from Pittsburgh, took what was a major weakness and turned it into one of the better bullpens in baseball.

    With the bullpen fortified, general manager Jerry DiPoto doesn't anticipate making any other moves before the deadline hits, as he told MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez"We really like our team. The likelihood is that we’ll do nothing, but we will stay in touch."

     

    What the Angels Need: A veteran starter as an insurance policy

     

    Garrett Richards (137.1 IP) is on his way to throwing more innings than he ever has before, while Tyler Skaggs (108.1 IP) has already shattered his previous career high. It's fair to wonder whether the pair will be able to remain as effective as they have been down the stretch.

    Throw in that both of the rotation's veteran leaders, Jered Weaver (lower back) and C.J. Wilson (knee) have dealt with injuries—Wilson's requiring a stay on the disabled list—and it certainly wouldn't hurt to add another arm as insurance.

    The problem, of course, is that the Angels' cupboard is bare, with DiPoto having already played his most valuable trade chips. Short of taking on an overpaid veteran in a salary dump, the club may not have what it takes to bring that insurance arm in.

Los Angeles Dodgers (59-47, 1st Place in NL West)

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    Is Matt Kemp staying or going?
    Is Matt Kemp staying or going?Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    What The Dodgers Want: To add another starter without having to surrender one of their top prospects and/or to add another setup man.

     

    Los Angeles general manager Ned Colletti recently spoke with MLB.com's Ken Gurnick about his plans as the deadline approaches:

    He likened the endless search for pitching to a traveler embarking on a trip through the desert making sure he has enough gas and water. He said he's open to obtaining a setup reliever or a starter.

    Colletti has remained steadfast in his resolve to not trade any of the team's top prospects—Joc Pederson, Corey Seager or Julio Urias—in any deal, a stance that would take the Dodgers out of the running for the elite starting pitchers that could be available.

    That means that Dodgers fans hoping to see the likes of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Jon Lester or David Price added to the front end of a rotation that already features Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are likely going to be disappointed when Aug. 1 rolls around.

     

    What the Dodgers Need: To trade Matt Kemp

     

    Colletti continues to claim that he has no intention of trading any of his veteran outfielders, but reports to the contrary continue to pop up.

    CBS Sports' Jon Heyman says that the Dodgers are shopping disgruntled former All-Star Matt Kemp, while a rival executive told Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal that the Dodges would "kill" to move Kemp and the nearly $110 million that remains on his contract.

    Kemp has butted heads with manager Don Mattingly in the past and is not happy about being displaced from his spot in center field or a lack of consistent playing time. His agent, former All-Star pitcher Dave Stewart, told Heyman that parting ways may be the best thing for all parties involved.

    “Eight years is a long time to be in one place," Stewart said. "Sometimes change is good. This might be the time to change.”

Milwaukee Brewers (59-47, 1st Place in NL Central)

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    K-Rod's July struggles are concerning.
    K-Rod's July struggles are concerning.Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    What The Brewers Want: Another late-inning reliever

     

    Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin wouldn't get into specifics with the Journal Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt about what it is that he's looking to do as the trade deadline approaches:

    I've been pretty aggressive as far as contacting teams.

    There are a lot of people in Cooperstown now, a lot of teams sent people there. I called a few clubs to check in and they said they'd call back Monday. I'm on top of everything I think is available and what's not available.

    You read all these rumors and you chase them to get them off the rumor list. There's so-called availability without asking for people we don't want to give up. You have to weigh all that.

    But when pressed on whether some late-inning relievers would interest him, Melvin showed his hand a little bit: "I don't think they're going to move him (Colorado's LaTroy Hawkins). Same with (Chad) Qualls. His name was out there but they want to keep him."

    While Francisco Rodriguez has had a strong season, converting 30-of-34 save opportunities, he's struggled in July, pitching to a 6.75 ERA, the second time in the past three months that he's posted an ERA above 5.00 (he had a 5.73 ERA in May).

    Adding another veteran reliever, preferably one with some closing experience, would not only strengthen Milwaukee's relief corps, but provide manager Ron Roenicke some insurance should Rodriguez continue to flounder.
     

    What the Brewers Need: A left-handed bat with some power off the bench

     

    Milwaukee has a pair of light-hitting lefties on its bench—first baseman Lyle Overbay and outfielder Logan Schafer.

    The pair has combined to hit only .218 (63-for-289) with four home runs and 34 RBI, and while Overbay has been successful as a pinch hitter, hitting .400 (6-for-15), Schaefer has not, hitting only .167 (2-for-12).

    Clearly, the Brewers could stand to replace one of them with a more productive option. It's all speculation on my part, but someone like Chicago's Adam Dunn—with his power and ability to get on base consistently—would be an intriguing addition.

    Not only would Dunn provide pop off the bench, but he could potentially spell Mark Reynolds at first base. While neither one is overly effective against left-handed pitching, Dunn's OPS against right-handed pitching is nearly 100 points higher (.848) than Reynolds' (.755).

New York Yankees (54-50, 4 GB in AL East)

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    Carlos Beltran's first season in pinstripes has been a disappointment.
    Carlos Beltran's first season in pinstripes has been a disappointment.Elsa/Getty Images

    What The Yankees Want: Another productive bat

     

    During a recent interview on ESPN Radio 98.7 FM in New York, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was asked what his priority was heading into the trade deadline (h/t MLB.com's Bryan Hoch and Jake Kring-Schreifels):

    Our pitching has been drastically altered because of the injuries, and despite losing four out of five starters and all that stuff, our pitching has survived -- surprisingly -- to this point. I think our offense should be better.

    It still feels like the pitching needs more help, but honestly, the offense has been consistently poor throughout the entire year. The answer has to be an offensive piece, I guess.

    Despite the additions of high-profile free agents Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann during the offseason, this year's club has failed to live up to the "Bronx Bombers" moniker.

    StatisticYankees '14AL RankMLB Rank
    Runs4091220
    Home Runs89914
    BA.2521117
    OBP.31411T-17
    OPS.6951118

    With Beltran seemingly unable to stay healthy and Ichiro Suzuki never intended to play on a regular basis, adding an outfielder would seem to make the most sense.

    The Yankees have been linked to Minnesota's Josh Willingham and Texas' Alex Rios recently, and more names are sure to pop up on the rumor mill as we get closer to July 31.

     

    What the Yankees Need: Reinforcements for the rotation

     

    As Cashman noted, the Yankees' injury-ravaged rotation has been pretty good, something that wasn't lost on former CBS Sports scribe Danny Knobler: "Yankees seemed to be in trouble when they put Tanaka on DL. But in 14 games since then, their rotation has 2.46 ERA."

    That said, expecting a rotation of Hiroki Kuroda, Brandon McCarthy, Chris Capuano, David Phelps and Shane Greene to continue performing at such a level is insanity. Sooner or later, that group's luck is going to run out.

    The Yankees have been linked to Chicago's John Danks and Colorado's Jorge de la Rosa, and you can never count them out of the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, though a move for Lee probably wouldn't come until sometime in August.

    But San Diego's asking price for Ian Kennedy—prospects Ian Clarkin and Eric Jagielo, per Heyman—is too rich for the Yankees' tastes, while the club doesn't seem to have any interest in Philadelphia's A.J. Burnett, Chicago's Edwin Jackson or Minnesota's Kevin Correia.

    With few quality options available, the Yankees may be hard-pressed to land the pitching that they need to remain in contention.

Oakland Athletics (65-39, 1st Place in AL West)

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    Eric Sogard might be a fan favorite, but he offers little at the plate.
    Eric Sogard might be a fan favorite, but he offers little at the plate.Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    What The A's Want: Someone to take Jim Johnson off their hands

     

    The Jim Johnson experiment in Oakland is going to end one way or another, but the A's would certainly prefer to trade the embattled reliever rather than release him outright.

    Johnson lost the closer's job only two weeks into the season, has an American League-worst 7.14 ERA among qualified relievers and is due the balance of his $10 million salary over the rest of the season.

    Baltimore, per ESPN's Jayson Stark, and Miami, per Rosenthal, had both expressed interest in Johnson at one point, but talks on both fronts went nowhere quickly.

     

    What the A's Need: An offensive upgrade at second base

     

    Sure, Oakland has one of baseball's most potent offenses, but just imagine how much more dangerous the A's would be if they could get something—anything—out of second base.

    No team in the American League has gotten less production from the position as the A's have, with Andy Parrino, Nick Punto and Eric Sogard combining for a woeful .205/.286/.264 slash line. 

    Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle said that Seattle Mariners infielder Nick Franklin was a "top target" for the A's, but asking the Mariners to help a division rival may not be something that Seattle has any interest in doing.

    The team could look to reopen talks with Chicago about Luis Valbuena, who they tried to acquire when they traded for Jeff Samardzija, per Rosenthal, or perhaps shift gears and try to work out a deal for Arizona's Aaron Hill, especially if the D-Backs are willing to eat some of the money left on his contract.

Pittsburgh Pirates (55-49, 3 GB in NL Central)

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    A change of scenery hasn't helped Ernesto Frieri.
    A change of scenery hasn't helped Ernesto Frieri.Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    What The Pirates Want: To obtain upgrades without surrendering a quality prospect

     

    There isn't a contender on this list that wouldn't love to make a big splash and land, say, David Price at the deadline, but making a big move comes at a big price. With the way things have shaped up this year, even lesser moves are still proving to be quite expensive in what is most definitely a seller's market.

    While Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle wouldn't specify what the Pirates are looking to do at the deadline in a recent conversation with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Travis Sawchik, he understands the difficulty that general manager Neal Huntington faces in trying to obtain upgrades:

    I think we are looking at a couple specific areas. It could be the same number (of needs as 2013), just different areas.

    You start talking about moving three or four prospects in your top 10, 15? That can get a little dicey. What can help now versus hamstring you later?

    While Huntington tries to find the right balance between contending in 2014 and the long-term future of the club, there's little question that the Pirates will be active as the deadline draws near.

     

    What the Pirates Need: A veteran arm in both the rotation and bullpen

     

    With Gerrit Cole sidelined by injury and Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez delivering inconsistent performances, the Pirates have relied heavily upon Charlie Morton and the duo of Jeff Locke (10 GS, 3.54 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) and Vance Worley (6 GS, 2.79 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) to stabilize the rotation.

    The problem is that neither Locke nor Worley is likely to continue performing at such a high level down the stretch, and the Pirates don't have the internal options to replace them when those struggles begin. Adding a veteran arm to guard against a downturn in production would certainly make a lot of sense.

    After Jared Hughes (40 G, 1.88 ERA, 1.12 WHIP), Mark Melancon (48 G, 19-of-22 SV, 2.17 ERA, 0.85 WHIP) and All-Star Tony Watson (49 G, 1.64 ERA, 1.07 WHIP), Pittsburgh's bullpen has been maddeningly inconsistent in some cases, infuriatingly bad in others.

    Adding another quality reliever, such as Boston's Andrew Miller, who the team is known to have interest in, per Sawchik's colleague Rob Biertempfel, would make it easier for the club to hold a lead—or keep things close—in the later innings.

San Francisco Giants (57-48, 1.5 GB in NL West)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    What The Giants Want: They've already gotten

     

    With Matt Cain sidelined with elbow inflammation, San Francisco wanted to add an established starter to both take his place in the rotation and serve as insurance should he not be able to return for the stretch run. 

    The Giants did just that with the team's recent addition of Jake Peavy, who was solid in his debut for the club against the Dodgers on Sunday night, allowing four runs (three earned) over six innings of work, walking two and striking out five.

     

    What the Giants Need: An upgrade at second base

     

    Does anyone really believe that Dan Uggla is the short-term answer for what ails the Giants at second base? He's committed more errors (three) than he's recorded hits (zero) in the three games in which he's played for the club, which I suppose shouldn't really surprise anyone, given his issues in Atlanta.

    Adding a more dependable second baseman, both at the plate and in the field, should be atop general manager Brian Sabean's list of things to do before the non-waiver trade deadline arrives.

    Should Tampa Bay decide to sell, the Giants are "ready to act" if Ben Zobrist becomes available, sources tell Morosi and Rosenthal. Fallback options could include Arizona's Aaron Hill and Martin Prado and Seattle's Nick Franklin, though San Francisco hasn't been linked to that trio as of yet.

Seattle Mariners (54-51, 11.5 GB in AL West)

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    The addition of Kendrys Morales isn't enough to bolster a mediocre lineup.
    The addition of Kendrys Morales isn't enough to bolster a mediocre lineup.Uncredited/Associated Press

    What The Mariners Want: To add another run producer to the lineup without trading away pitching

     

    With an offense that ranks 14th in the American League with 403 runs scored (25th in all of baseball), it's no surprise that the Mariners are seeking upgrades to the offense.

    It's the team's pitching staff that has kept the club in contention, and subtracting from that group would be counterproductive, even if the deal included some of their young arms, such as the currently injured James Paxton or Taijuan Walker, who has made only three starts for the Mariners and is back in Triple-A.

     

    What the Mariners Need: Exactly what they want

     

    Only three players in Seattle's starting lineup have posted an OPS above .700: second baseman Robinson Cano (.843), third baseman Kyle Seager (.830) and left fielder Michael Saunders (.761), who has battled injury throughout the year and is currently on the disabled list.

    Upgrades could be added at nearly every position on the field, but the club seems most intent on adding a powerful outfield bat. No team in baseball has gotten less production from its outfielders, with Seattle's group ranking last in baseball in on-base percentage (.289), slugging percentage (.348) and OPS (.637).

    Seattle is casting a wide net in trying to improve those numbers and has been linked to no fewer than seven big-league outfielders: Marlon Byrd, Matt Kemp, Alex Rios, Drew Stubbs, Dayan Viciedo, Josh Willingham and Ben Zobrist.

St. Louis Cardinals (56-48, 2 GB in NL Central)

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    Michael Wacha's injury has become an issue.
    Michael Wacha's injury has become an issue.Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    What The Cardinals Want: To add a "stop-gap" starter

     

    With Michael Wacha still sidelined by injury and neither Carlos Martinez nor Shelby Miller consistent enough to rely upon down the stretch, adding a veteran arm is at the forefront of what the Cardinals want to do as the trade deadline draws near.

    "Looking at the next two months, if we could find a way to sort of bridge that gap between now and the time we may get Wacha back, I think we want to try to do that," GM John Mozeliak said in an interview with Bowden for ESPN.

    The Cardinals have the young prospects needed to trade for pretty much anyone that they choose, so finding that arm shouldn't be too much of an issue.

      

    What the Cardinals Need: Exactly what they want

     

    While St. Louis hasn't been linked to him as of yet, one name that could be an intriguing option is Jon Lester. Boston is listening to those who call on their ace, according to ESPN's Buster Olney, who says that the Red Sox may be looking to get more than the value of a compensatory draft pick in exchange.

    Given Boston's need for a young, athletic outfielder that can help them now and in the future—and the Cardinals' plethora of players that fit that description—it's fair to wonder whether a package built around, say, Stephen Piscotty, could be enticing enough for the defending world champions to pull the trigger on a deal..

    A free agent after the season, Lester isn't going to cost the Cardinals as much in the way of prospects as, say, David Price would, and with no long-term financial commitment required, he wouldn't impact St. Louis' future payroll.

Toronto Blue Jays (56-50, 3 GB in AL East)

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    Aaron Sanchez is as close to untouchable as a player can be.
    Aaron Sanchez is as close to untouchable as a player can be.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    What The Blue Jays Want: To obtain an upgrade that is under team control past this season and won't cost the team either Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman to obtain

     

    As MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm notes, there's no shortage of places that Toronto could look to upgrade before the trade deadline arrives:

    Toronto could use upgrades in the starting rotation, bullpen and the everyday lineup, but it's unrealistic to expect (general manager Alex) Anthopoulos to plug each of those holes. The next few days will be about deciding what the Blue Jays need the most and then finding the right fit for the right price.

    The key phrase there is "the right fit for the right price."

    While Anthopoulos wouldn't call anyone "untouchable," it would take quite a return to convince him to part with the likes of Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez:

    It all depends what you're going to get back. You're always reluctant (to trade top prospects), but in the right context, you certainly would do it. It all depends upon what you're going to get back versus what you're going to give up. The more talent you give up, the more years of control and the more talent you want back.

      

    What the Blue Jays Need: An upgrade at second or third base

     

    More than the rotation or the bullpen, the biggest issues facing Toronto are the gaping holes at two premium infield positions.

    For as well as Munenori Kawasaki has played at second base recently, he's not an everyday player. A versatile player like Arizona's Martin Prado, who can play second or third base, would be an ideal addition, and the team is known to have some interest in the veteran.

    But he's owed an additional $22 million through 2016, a financial commitment that the club may not be willing to make. Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera, a free agent after the season, is another possibility, but he's not played anywhere but shortstop in a number of years.

Washington Nationals (57-45, 1st Place in NL East)

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    Ryan Zimmerman's issues defensively and health-wise have Washington concerned.
    Ryan Zimmerman's issues defensively and health-wise have Washington concerned.Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    What The Nationals Want: A big-time third baseman

     

    One of the skills that is required of a major league general manager is the ability to say one thing while doing the complete opposite. Washington general manager Mike Rizzo is becoming pretty adept at doing just that.

    After being rebuffed by Texas in his attempt to pry Adrian Beltre away from the Rangers, Rizzo was asked whether he was hoping to add a third baseman at the trade deadline by MLB.com's Bill Ladson:

    We have a great third baseman. His name is Anthony Rendon. We have another Gold Glove-caliber guy. His name is Ryan Zimmerman, who is going to be back soon. We feel pretty confident, especially at that position. We like our depth, and we like the way our roster has been constructed. We like the guys that will have to step up and play to their potential. I think we have the man power to do it.

    If that's true (and I'm not disputing Rizzo's characterization of Rendon), why then did he make an overture for Beltre?

      

    What the Nationals Need: An upgrade at second or third base, another left-handed reliever

     

    Aside from the fact that Ryan Zimmerman can't stay healthy, his defense at the hot corner is a major issue and it's become clear that he's best suited for left field or first base, where the wear and tear on his body would be significantly reduced.

    As is the case in Toronto, Washington has a player (Rendon) that is capable of holding things down at either infield position, but he can't play both at the same time. Wherever the team believes Rendon is the best fit, they should be actively seeking to fill the hole where he's not.

    In the bullpen, Jerry Blevins (43 G, 4.71 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) has been a disappointment while Ross Detwiler (29 G, 3.56 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) isn't a guy that you want to use in high-leverage situations.

    There's more than a few quality left-handed options available, and it would behoove the Nationals to go out and obtain one of them for the stretch run.

     

    *Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs and are current through games of July 27. All injury information courtesy of MLB.com.