The news that the Yankees nearly acquired the biggest trade chip this summer is sending shockwaves around Major League Baseball. Not only because the best team in the league came close to acquiring one of the best pitchers, but because the trade of Cliff Lee will act as the catalyst.
Lee's trade will likely kick start the frenzy before the July 31 trading deadline.
Numerous teams across the league need numerous pieces. However, there are 15 glaring holes that need to be filled if these teams are to contend or continue to contend as they have done to this part of the season.
Here is a look at the 15 most pressing needs in baseball on the Friday before the all-star break.
The Cardinals enter the last weekend before the break three games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central. It's certainly not a daunting hole given the Cardinals pedigree, but the club currently sits 10th in the National League in runs scored.
That is not going to cut it as they chase the Reds who currently sit atop the NL in runs scored. The Cardinals have so far survived thanks to their excellent starting pitching which has surrendered the fewest runs in the NL. However, another bat to put in the middle of the lineup is needed to find balance and make a strong second half push.
The Blue Jays are shopping Jose Bautista who could be another strong power source from the 6-hole for the Cards.
The White Sox recent run has been a valiant one to get them back into the AL Central mix. If they want to keep that going they will need another bat to help boost an offense that has scored the 11th most runs in the American League and is hitting .253 as a team.
The hole left by Jermaine Dye hasn't quite been filled while the ChiSox have ridden the very strong starts by Paul Konerko and Alex Rios.
The Mets have their closer in Francisco Rodriguez. They have their left-hander in Pedro Feliciano. Yet the team still has a question mark has to who can lock down the eighth inning.
That spot has been something a revolving door between Jenrry Mejia (sent back down to Double-A), Ryota Igarashi, Raul Valdes and others. The Mets brought back Bobby Parnell from the minors, but all of these spare parts have not left the club very confident in front of K-Rod.
The Red Sox have scored the most runs in the American League this year, but even they cannot feel comfortable with the way their lineup is constituted given their recent run of injuries.
Adrian Beltre's welcomed production and David Ortiz's re-emergence have buoyed the Red Sox lineup that has seen Jacoby Ellsbury, Victor Martinez and Dustin Pedroia all hit the disabled list. Bench players Bill Hall, Daniel Nava and Darnell McDonald can't possibly infuse enough confidence for a late-season run.
The Red Sox need another bat they can stick somewhere in the 5-7 spots in their order to give the lineup added depth.
The Rangers have raced to the front of the American League West on the heels of their potent offense and impressive young pitching. The ineptitude in Seattle, the lack of offense in Oakland and the injuries in Anaheim all have to give the Rangers confidence about their post-season chances.
That's what trading starting pitcher is about. The post-season. Despite the unbelievable financial situation owner Tom Hicks finds himself in, which is essentially beholden to MLB, the Rangers have a real shot a post-season run.
The injury and ineffectiveness of Rich Harden (and his replacements) and the inconsistencies of Scott Feldman will force the Rangers to look for another arm. They have the prospect pieces to pull it off. However, do they have the financial means coming from the front office?
The Phillies have endured bouts of inconsistency from their lineup, but it is in the rotation where they could use a jolt.
Roy Halladay goes without saying, but Kyle Kendrick, the ageless Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton and Cole Hamels have all battled at times through the season. The Phillies also give up a lot of home runs. Their starting pitchers have surrendered 77 home runs.
The Phillies needs a pitcher who can step in, eat innings, keep the ball inside Citizens Bank Park and bring stability to the rotation if the team is to make a run at the Braves in the NL East.
It is no surprise that Friday's rumors of Cliff Lee to the Yankees also came with Javy Vazquez to the Phillies rumors.
The Braves will obviously get a boost when Jason Heyward returns from the disabled list. However, other than Heyward and Troy Glaus, the Braves have received little in the way of consistent power production. Brian McCann has 10 home runs and 37 RBI, but a .266 average from the former All-Star is disappointing.
The Braves have to figure the Mets and Phillies will make a move at some point. The Braves have the pitching. Now they need another offensive threat to balance the team.
The Tigers cling to a 1/2-game lead in the AL Central entering the final weekend before the break and much of that is to do with a disappointing starting rotation.
Justin Verlander has captained the rotation, but the collection of arms behind including Jeremy Bonderman, Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer, Andrew Oliver and everyone else have not given the Tigers the stability it needs to hang onto that lead through the summer.
The Tigers instantly jumped into the ring for a late-inning reliever when Joel Zumaya crumpled to the ground with a serious elbow injury. Jose Valverde is an All-Star closer, but there is little insurance ahead of him in the seventh and eighth innings.
The Tigers need to close that void if they are to bolster the bullpen which has often saved a shaky starting rotation.
The news that Jake Peavy is likely out for the rest of the season instantly sent off an alarm for White Sox general manager Kenny Williams.
Williams has watched four of his starting arms pitch to a 4.50 ERA and that isn't going to cut it over the long haul in addition to the loss of Peavy. The White deficiencies at the plate also press the button on the need for another starting pitcher.
Heading into the all-star break, the Mets have to look at themselves in the mirror and feel good about what they've done in the first half of the season. They are three games back entering the last weekend of the first half and play the first place Braves with a chance to inch closer.
To get even closer or pass the Braves, the Mets will need another arm to fill out a rotation so far led by Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey and the emerging Jon Niese. R.A. Dickey has been a very pleasant surprise in the fourth spot of the rotation with the fifth spot acting as a revolving door.
The Mets have been attached to Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, and Roy Oswalt. While Lee figures to be too rich for the Mets blood, they should be players at least for Haren and Oswalt.
The Padres pitching has been other-worldly for most of the season. They have far and away allowed the fewest runs in baseball, but have at the same time been outscored by all but four teams in the National League.
The Padres are hitting .249 as a team with a team .318 on-base percentage. Those are ugly numbers for a team looking to make a postseason run. While their pitch could be enough for a deep postseason run, at some point they are going to need more production around Adrian Gonzalez.
The Angels' season flashed before their eyes when Kendry Morales' lower leg snapped on home plate. Since, they have sought a replacement bat who can stem the tide until (if) Morales returns later this summer.
The Angels' run production has taken a significant hit over the last month and the result has been a significant slip in the standings. The Angels find themselves 5-1/2 games back in the standings entering the last weekend before the break.
Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui have both endured disappointing seasons which has been other cause for a power outage.
The Reds have raced to the top of the NL Central standings mostly on the back of their very productive offense. However, if the Reds are to stay atop the division, they will need help in the rotation.
Stud prospect Aroldis Chapman is expected to get called up but will most likely go to the bullpen.
Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto (who is having something of a breakout year), and rookie Mike Leake have all been reliable this season. However, Aaron Harang and his 5.00 ERA and a revolving five-spot force the issue for the Reds to get another arm that can add depth and stabilize the Reds rotation.
The Twins have ridden the success of Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano to the top of the AL Central in the first half of the season. But Minnesota still needs another arm to make to October and then advance once it gets there.
Cliff Lee is an ideal fit for the Twins who need an arm not only stave off the Tigers and White Sox in the division, but to beat the Yankees in the first round-a proposition that looks more likely with each passing month. n
The Twins' season could be determined before July 31 and whether or not they secure another power arm to lead the starting rotation.