Although the July 31 trade deadline has passed, the activity across major league baseball is not yet finished.
The past week saw a number of blockbuster deals, including Jon Lester going to the Oakland Athletics and David Price being sent to the Detroit Tigers as part of a three-team deal. All of these trades were completed before the non-waiver deadline.
Fortunately, front offices are still able to make moves to improve their teams over the next month if they go through waivers. A player has to be made available to the 29 other organizations before he is able to be traded. If he is claimed, the team has a choice to either complete a deal with that team or pull him back off waivers.
As a result, this period mostly features veterans with large contracts being dealt, as no one will want to take on more money.
Despite these obstacles, there are a few teams that can use an upgrade before August 31.
The Pirates have one of the best teams in the National League, but it will be hard to compete for a playoff spot without upgrading the rotation.
Pittsburgh ranks just 10th in the NL in starter ERA, and there is simply no ace capable of taking control when needed. Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted earlier in the week that Lester would have been an excellent addition:
Meanwhile, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported the Pirates were in the running for Price:
In the end, the squad was unable to bring in either of these players and are left with a rotation that will have to exceed expectations just to keep up with the rest of the league. Gerrit Cole should be returning soon, but the team could use a veteran capable of leading the group into the postseason.
Fortunately, there are players who fit this description and could be on the move in August. One of them is a familiar face in A.J. Burnett. The 37-year-old pitcher accumulated a 3.41 ERA over the past two years in Pittsburgh and could be had without giving up too much in the form of prospects.
Bob Pompeani of KDKA notes that Burnett is just one option from the NL East who could help:
Bartolo Colon has been inconsistent this season, but he is an experienced pitcher who can be a difference-maker in the final few months of the year. The added cost to the payroll would be worth it for a shot at contention.
San Francisco Giants
Second base has been a black hole for the Giants this season. From Brandon Hicks to Joe Panik to Dan Uggla, not much has worked at the position.
Heading into the trade deadline, the squad ranked dead last in the majors with a .176 batting average from second basemen.
Despite this obvious problem, general manager Brian Sabean did not feel the need to make a deal, via John Shea of SFGate.com:
I’ve done this a long time, and I feel as good about not getting something done as any year we’ve done something....We just couldn’t execute the deal based on what the ask was. A lot of that had to do with too many buyers in the market, and we’d do the same thing if we were on the other side of the fence. (Teams) held out to the very end to get what we weren’t willing to give up.
Although a deal was not completed this week, Sabean has not ruled out a potential move before the August deadline.
Daniel Murphy represents a potential option, especially if the New York Mets start to fall down the standings in the next few weeks. However, it might take a decent package for the team to part with its only All-Star in 2014.
Another potential target is Aaron Hill, but he also comes with a $24 million price tag over the next two seasons. The good news is this almost guarantees that he will not be claimed on waivers.
If the Giants are willing to take on this salary, though, the Arizona Diamondbacks would likely be ready to part with the second baseman.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have one of the best lineups, a solid rotation and an improved bullpen. However, this still might not be enough to keep up with the Oakland Athletics in the AL West.
Adding Lester to an already excellent rotation could make the A's almost unbeatable in the postseason. If the Angels want to win this season, they will need to add weapons to the arsenal.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times notes that the current pitching battle is not even close between the two:
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported a week before the non-waiver deadline that the squad did not want to make a move that would cost prospects:
The good news is this period could allow a team to acquire a player without giving up high-level prospects. The key factor is the willingness to take on an elevated contract, which the Angels apparently have the ability to do.
One possible option is Cole Hamels, who ESPN's Buster Olney (subscription required) believes should dealt this month:
The Phillies should at least have a conversation with the claiming team about what they would offer in trade. By the time the Phillies are really good again -- maybe in the last years of this decade -- Hamels will either be overvalued in his salary or he will be retired. They might as well swap him for prospects to accelerate the franchise turnaround.
While he is under contract through the 2018 season, it might not be the worst thing for the Angels to bring in a player who still has some great pitching left in him.
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