In the next few weeks, Major League Baseball will embark in trade frenzy. Every team must quickly decide whether its a buyer or seller.
Does it have a chance to compete this year? Is it better to hold the pieces for a run next year? Should it sell any valuable assets to rebuild for the future?
It's not easy for a general manager to make these decisions. As much as teams are concerned with on-field performance, they must also consider revenue and profit, and may have to dump larger contracts to be in the black.
The next slides will take a look at all 16 NL teams (by division) and evaluate whether they are buyers, holders, or sellers, along with some potential targets.
This year, the NL East is wide open. The Mets, Phillies, and Braves are all within three games of the division. In order to widen their slim lead, the Braves need to make a few key moves at the deadline.
First, the Braves need to add another bat to their lineup. With a .260 batting average, Atlanta simply isn’t getting enough hits to drive in its runs. The team will look to add an experienced veteran like Travis Hafner.
In addition, Atlanta can greatly benefit from a No. 1 starter.
The Phillies have Roy Halladay and the Mets have Johan Santana, but who is No. 1 for Atlanta? Jair Jurgens? Tommy Hanson?
Expect the Braves to make a play for Roy Oswalt or Cliff Lee, even if it is only a three-month loan. A No. 1 starter can mean the difference between a playoff bound team and a September bust.
Although the Phillies will be part of one of the toughest division races in baseball, the team should not panic. The roster, which made it to the World Series in 2009, is relatively unchanged, except for Roy Halladay.
The team has a relatively low ERA, and a balanced lineup.
Although Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have struggled during parts of the season, they are experienced enough to come through when it matters most.
Jason Werth and Shane Victorino are also becoming vital parts of the Phillies’ offense.
The Phillies are one of the most balanced teams in the game and shouldn’t make any rash decisions.
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Although the Mets have the ninth best ERA in baseball, the team needs just as much pitching help as anyone else.
After Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, the rest of the pitching staff is inexperienced. There is little belief that R.A. Dickey and Hinsori Takahashi will continue their fast starts, so the Mets would love to acquire another arm.
The team will look at Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt but a more viable option is Kevin Millwood. Kevin Millwood would provide the staff with another healthy arm and could be a huge asset, with his postseason experience, down the stretch.
The Mets lineup has not met its lofty expectations yet, but with Wright, Reyes, and Bay, it can turn around at any moment. Pitching, not offense, should be the team’s worry.
This season, the Florida Marlins have been an average team; its hitting and pitching statistics rank in the middle of the League.
Unfortunately, average does not get you anywhere in baseball.
Although the team will retain many of its younger players, it may look to obtain an inexpensive relief pitcher to ease the gap between the rotation and Leo Nunez.
The Marlins are smart enough to realize they will have difficulty competing this year and will look to make a few small moves to position themselves for a future division run.
Sometimes the best things in life are worth waiting for.
After a miserable two years, baseball in Washington is starting to get exciting again. This week, Stephen Strasburg showed the world the immediate impact he can have for the Nationals and Bryce Harper was drafted No. 1 overall.
Imagine what the Nationals will be like in two to three years. Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Drew Storen all have the potential to emerge into All-Star pitchers.
Zimmerman and Harper will only mature into better players.
The franchise has shown improvement since moving to Washington, but Strasburg and Harper will be the team’s much needed catalysts to jump into playoff contention.
Since this season is most likely out of reach for the Nationals, it makes most sense for the team to wait a year before acquiring a big-name player and not give into the temptation of trading for Roy Oswalt.
At the beginning of the season, many people predicted the Reds would be a surprise team, but did anyone guess they would be this good?
Right now, the Reds have the highest batting average (a whopping .276) and RBI (285) of any team in the National League. In addition, the pitching staff has an impressive 33-26 record.
The team’s biggest weakness is probably its inexperience. As a result, look for the Reds to trade for a few veteran players, especially in the bullpen. One likely target for the team is David Weathers. Kevin Millwood may also fit in nicely for the team.
The Reds also have one other player who will be critical to a postseason run: Aroldis Chapman.
The Cardinals are similar to the Phillies; both teams are in fierce division battles but they both have enough postseason experience that they shouldn’t panic.
After acquiring Matt Holliday last season, the Cardinals addressed most of their hitting problems. Parts of the offense have struggled this year, (the team batting average is .261) but Albert Pujos, Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick will only get better down the stretch.
What makes the Cardinals really stand out is their starting rotation. Anchored by Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, the team has a 3.12 ERA. One of their biggest surprises was the emergence of Jaime Garcia.
So far, Garcia is 5-2 with a 1.47 ERA. If Garcia continues his stellar pitching, he can lead the Cardinals deep into October.
The Chicago Cubs seem to never meet the expectations of baseball writers and fans. Every year, it appears the team builds a good enough roster to make a deep postseason run, but it always fall short.
Currently the Cubs are 24-32, six games out of first in the NL Central. On paper, it seems like the Cubs are better than they actually are; the Cubs have a team batting average of .261 and an ERA of 4.01.
So what is the Cubs biggest problem?
In my mind, the team has too many underperforming veterans. For proof, look at the team’s speed: the Cubs have only stolen 27 bases in 58 games.
Also, key players seem to get injured for the Cubs all the time. For example, Aramis Ramirez was recently placed on the 15-day DL.
The Cubs will look to trade some of their hitters before the trade deadline. Perhaps the most talked about name will be Derek Lee. The Angels, Rays, and Braves could always be interested in him.
The Milwaukee Brewers will be one of the more intriguing teams come the trading deadline. It will be interesting to see whether the team is willing to part with some of its big bats in exchange for much needed pitching.
Milwaukee’s biggest problem is its starting rotation and bullpen. The team’s hitting is fine (its 71 HRs rank fourth in the League), and it has Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, two of the best young bats in the game.
This season, the Brewer’s bullpen has a 5.30 ERA, 29th in the League. With a bullpen ERA this high, it will be nearly impossible to compete, no matter how good the team’s hitting may be.
One rumor floating around is that the Brewers will look to trade Prince Fielder.
The team is unsure whether it will be able to resign him when he becomes a free agent and could really use some pitching help.
Since Fielder is the face of the franchise, I doubt the Brewers would trade him. He means too much to ticket sales, team apparel sales, and marketing for the team to get rid of him like that.
A more viable option for the team is to trade Corey Hart. Hart has hit 15 HRs this season and could really help a team struggling with its offense. San Diego, Oakland, and San Francisco will take a close look at Hart.
Every year, it seems like no team has worse luck than the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team hasn’t produced a winning season since 1992, and 2010 isn’t its year either.
The Pirates rank last in all of baseball with a .238 batting average and have a 5.30 ERA, 28th in the League.
There are only two things going for the Pirates: Andrew McCutchen and Brad Lincoln. McCutchen has shown this season that he can be an All-Star caliber talent. Lincoln, the team’s first-round draft pick this season, is bringing a lot of optimism to the Pittsburgh pitching staff.
The Pirates do not have many valuable pieces to trade so it makes more sense for the team to sit and wait a few more seasons before its young talent matures.
By far, the Houston Astros have the best chance to make a splash at the trade deadline, but not in a good way.
From afar, it appears Houston has a solid team with Hunter Pence, Lance Berkman, and Roy Oswalt, but this is not the case.
Hunter Pence has struggled this season and desperately needs a new change of scenery. Expect Atlanta, Cincinnati, and the LA Angels to look for Pence.
Lance Berkman is another player who would benefit from a new location. The Rays and Athletics will both look to trade for him.
The biggest name of the trade deadline will be Roy Oswalt. Oswalt has a 3-7 record this season but does still have an ERA under 4.00. Oswalt’s losing record isn’t a reflection of his pitching but of the lack of run support Houston provides him.
Some of the teams interested in trading for the pitcher include the Braves, Mets, Nationals, Red Sox, and Rangers. Even with his no-trade clause, it is unlikely Oswalt will stay an Astro for the remainder of the season.
This season, the Dodgers have shown a rare combination of hitting and pitching.
The team’s offense has batted .269 and the pitching staff has a solid 3.95 ERA. Two of its most important players have been Andre Ethier and Jonathan Broxton.
Even though he was put on the DL for two weeks in May, Ethier has proved himself on the field; he is currently batting .364 and has only 22 strikeouts in 43 games.
After Mariano Rivera, Broxton has proven himself as the No. 2 closer in the game. Broxton has recorded 16 saves for the Dodgers and has an ERA under 1.00.
Since LA has strong offense, pitching, and relief, it does not need to make any big moves at the trade deadline.
One of the biggest surprises of the season has been the San Diego Padres.
At the beginning of the season, many people, including myself, thought the Padres would be looking to trade Adrian Gonzalez at the deadline. As their 34-24 record shows, this will not be the case.
San Diego’s success this season has relied mostly on its strong rotation and bullpen.
Many of the team’s younger players, such as Matt Latos, Clayton Richard, and Kevin Correira, have stepped up and placed the Padres only a half-game away from the Dodgers. The team’s pitching staff has a 2.99 ERA, the lowest in baseball.
Unlike the team’s pitching staff, San Diego needs a lot of help in its lineup. After Adrian Gonzalez, the team does not have another big bat.
Look for the Padres to target Derek Lee or Ty Wigginton at the deadline.
In my mind, the San Francisco Giants are one piece away from pulling away in the NL West: another power hitter.
The Giants have one of the best rotations in baseball.
Imagine trying to face Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Barry Zito in a three-game series. Lincecum has recently struggled, but he is still the third best pitcher in baseball (after Roy Halladay and Ubaldo Jimenez).
Zito has surprised many people this season and is finally looking like the $17 million-a-year pitcher he was signed for.
Much like the Padres, the Giants do not have enough big bats on their team. The team ranks 23rd in the League in HRs and 25th in RBI.
Look for the Giants to target Hunter Pence from Houston, Jose Bautista from Toronto, and Travis Hafner from Cleveland.
Every year, it seems like the Rockies are in the same position at the trade deadline. The team is always four or five games back and then it pulls away with the division in September.
This season looks to be no different. Right now, the Rockies are 4.5 games back from the Dodgers and only four games out of the wild card. Ubaldo Jimenez has pitched brilliantly for the team and the offense has started to get better.
Unlike most teams, the Rockies need most of their help in the closer role. When Houston Street was placed on the DL in April, the team lost one of its most important players. This year, the team has used Franklin Morales (who was also placed on the DL) and Manny Corpas in the closer role.
Look for the Rockies to target Joakim Soria from Kansas City or Octavio Dotel from Pittsburgh.
This year, the Arizona Diamondbacks are a mess.
The team lost Brandon Webb for most of the season and its bullpen ERA is well over 7.00 (over four points higher than San Diego or Detroit). Its hitting has also struggled, with a team batting average under .250.
Besides Justin Upton, Stephen Drew, Dan Haren, and Brandon Lyon, it looks like every player on the Diamondbacks is available.
Expect teams in need of pitching help to try to acquire Edwin Jackson, or a team in dire need of offense to take a chance on Mark Reynolds and hope he replicates his 2009 season.