Ranking the Most Aggressive MLB Teams Heading into Trade Deadline Day
Ah, the trade deadline.
It's that time of year where fans obsessively refresh Twitter and the careers of many baseball players and executives hang in the balance.
Due to the addition of the second wild card to postseason play, the amount of teams willing to trade off notable pieces has declined. With more teams in the hunt to play in October, there are fewer impact players available on the market that buyers can go after.
That makes this trade deadline rather intriguing in two ways: 1) The teams that are clear sellers know the advantage they have in possessing pieces to deal with a big bounty headed back in return, and 2) there are many more teams interested in acquiring assets to fuel playoff runs.
With limited resources available on the market and increased competition, the trade deadline could be boom or bust. The two highest sellers are big-market teams that don't need to make moves just for the sake of making a move, while buyers could blanch at high prices, which would freeze the trade market. On the flip side, sellers could have no trouble finding a trade package they like out of the varied options available to them.
Here are the five teams most likely to be aggressive heading into July 31, trade deadline day.
5. Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays have a chance to accomplish something that hasn't been seen in 21 years: October baseball in Toronto.
To pull it off, the Jays are going to have to battle it out with the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and a surging Tampa Bay Rays squad. In order to do that, the team really could use a starting pitcher and a right-handed-hitting infielder.
The Jays looked like they were sliding out of the postseason picture before the All-Star Game but have reversed their fortunes after the break to make them solid contenders once again. That 2-8 run entering the All-Star break, however, should tell general manager Alex Anthopoulous that the team has some shoring up to do in order to be a viable postseason contender.
As for the right-handed infielder, after striking out on Chase Headley, as Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun chronicles, the team could focus on Asdrubal Cabrera, says Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. The club has yet to make a deal of any significance this season, increasing the odds that Toronto's move will come soon.
Toronto will have a bit of a tough row to hoe to add pieces it needs. The two sellers with the most to move are the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox, and it's unlikely Toronto can do a deal with Boston. Intra-division trades are extremely rare and unlikely. Furthermore, the Red Sox and Rangers are probably looking to reload quickly to contend in 2015. Most of Toronto's tradeable pieces are in the lower levels of the minors, as Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com points out.
Any team dealing with the Blue Jays will need to be content with a package that may not bear fruit for the next few seasons. That could make a trade difficult, but this much is certain: Toronto will do everything it can to make it to October after decades of struggling under the yoke of the Red Sox and Yankees.
4. New York Yankees
The New York Yankees have already acquired starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy and third baseman Chase Headley. There's no reason to think New York won't stay aggressive as they try to win the division.
The Yankees can't pull off blockbusters but should continue pursuing incremental upgrades leading up to the trade deadline. New York simply doesn't have the major league or minor league depth to proffer bids for players such as shortstop Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies or Rays ace David Price.
However, as McCarthy and Headley prove, sometimes incremental upgrades can be enough. As the aging and battered Yankees try to fend off a push from the Rays to escape last place, McCarthy and Headley have been major keys to the recent play of New York.
The Yankees have unleashed McCarthy's cut fastball and mixed up his pitches, as John Harper of the New York Daily News writes. Meanwhile, Headley has played in just six games for New York through Sunday but already has made an impact. The 30-year-old has gone 8-for-23 (.348) with two doubles and a home run. In his first game donning pinstripes, Headley delivered the game-winning hit in the 14th inning.
New York is clearly trying to compete and has the pieces to pull off another deal. The club has been linked to pitchers as of late. John Danks of the White Sox is the latest name linked to the club, as CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. The team could also use an upgrade at second base, plus an infusion of power in the outfield.
New York might not make a deal that registers high on the excitement scale, but GM Brian Cashman will certainly be looking to make some type of move that upgrades the squad.
3. Boston Red Sox
Jon Lester. Jon Lester. Jon Lester.
Pretty much all the ink leading up to the trade deadline will repeat that name ad nauseam, as Lester is currently the biggest fish on the trade market. With Tampa Bay hitting a hot streak and inserting itself into the division race, David Price does not figure to be traded. That's to Boston's benefit, which now is front and center in a seller's market with little effective starting pitching available behind Lester.
Boston also figures to be aggressive on other pieces of its squad that likely won't be part of the next World Series team to come out of Boston. According to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, platoon outfielder Jonny Gomes could be moved, as well as relievers Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop and Craig Breslow. Even starting pitcher John Lackey has been involved in trade discussions, as Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports.
While Boston figures to be among the more aggressive teams out there solely because of its enviable position as a no-doubt seller with plenty of intriguing pieces, the Red Sox could also stand pat.
By holding onto Lester, Boston would send a message to its team that it rewards loyalty. The Red Sox also understand Lester's desire to stay with the team, something they seem to be testing, as Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe tweets:
Lester’s loyalty to the #RedSox seems to be working against him. Team now seems to want to test that. Quite a message to other players.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) July 28, 2014
How the whole saga with Lester plays out is going to be watched closely by teammates. As WEEI's Rob Bradford wrote in May, "there is a clear desire among the majority of the players to do anything and everything to retain the services of Lester beyond ’14."
Among all those considerations, Boston can tender Lester a qualifying offer and receive a first-round pick if the 30-year-old bolts via free agency.
Certainly, all signs point to Lester's departure, but it's not a foregone conclusion.
Boston will mostly likely be aggressive in shipping off its lesser players that hold no value for 2015. Jon Lester? Wait and see.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers have a window in which to win, and they know it.
Comprised of stars not getting any younger, the first-place NL West club has been linked to all the major names in the trade market thus far because of Los Angeles' enviable financial resources, plus a solid farm system with some high-end names that could bring in impact players.
The team appears focused on bringing in a starting pitcher to pair with Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu and has been linked to the three biggest pitchers on the market: Philadelphia's Cole Hamels, per Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, Boston's Jon Lester, as Buster Olney of ESPN tweets, and David Price of the Rays, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
With so much money invested in the team with a $229 million, according to Cot's Contracts, and a window to strike while the iron's hot, the Dodgers will do whatever they can to bring a title to Los Angeles without significantly mortgaging their future. Thanks to the team's ability to cover payroll, GM Ned Colletti even has a trade chip that could interest many teams at the right price: Matt Kemp.
If the Dodgers cover enough of Kemp, other teams might be interested. The Red Sox were linked to L.A. in a deal where Kemp would be shipped to Boson and Jon Lester would move west, as ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes writes.
Even if Kemp doesn't get traded, look for the Dodgers to reduce their outfield surplus in some way, whether it be by moving a veteran like Kemp, Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford or a prospect such as Joc Pederson.
The Dodgers have one modus operandi this year: win the World Series. Los Angeles will do everything it can to further that goal at the trade deadline.
1. Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers were so beset by injuries so early on that the team never had a chance to contend.
Now that the Rangers are in the chase for the No. 1 overall pick in next season's amateur draft, the focus has turned firmly to 2015.
A major chip came off the board when Texas dealt closer Joakim Soria to the Tigers for two minor league prospects. The Rangers have shown they are willing to be aggressive in deals and should pull off at least a couple before the trade deadline expires.
Yu Darvish and Adrian Beltre are going nowhere, as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweets:
Sources: Teams calling #Rangers on Beltre, but team has not engaged. TEX considers Beltre and Darvish virtually untouchable.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 28, 2014
That doesn't mean that Texas doesn't have chips to deal, because it certainly does. Outfielder Alex Rios has been linked to four teams in particular, as Rosenthal tweets: Mariners, Giants, Yankees and Reds.
Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post (h/t MLB Trade Rumors' Mark Polishuk) notes that the Rangers had a scout watching the Triple-A squads of the Nationals and Braves, two teams known to be seeking relief arms. Atlanta, in particular, has also been linked to Boston's Andrew Miller, as CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported.
Texas is not going to let the trade deadline go by quietly. GM Jon Daniels has an opportunity here to reload a contending team and get it better positioned for the future. While he undoubtedly would have preferred to have the Rangers in the hunt for the playoffs, Daniels' moves so far show that he understands what he can accomplish to further future contention.