MLB Trade Speculation: 5 Contenders Who Could Afford to Not Make a Trade
Especially in this age of "smart spending," it seems like more and more MLB teams come out of the trade deadline having done a lot more talking than dealing.
We hear for weeks, sometimes months, leading up to July 31 about what each team needs in order to strengthen its roster. And sure, some moves end up being made, but often, the big names headlining the trade market remain right where they were on Opening Day.
(Just look at all the years Manny Ramirez wasn't traded from the Boston Red Sox.)
For fans, this often leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. Not only does a small part of us believe our teams let us down by standing pat, but we also feel as if we were duped into reading, watching and listening to endless rumors and debates surrounding the trades that didn't come to pass.
Still, sometimes the best moves are the ones not made.
Here are the five contenders whose fans should be the least disappointed if their rosters look the same on Aug. 1.
1. Boston Red Sox
Current Standing: First place, American League East
Biggest Deadline Need: Left-handed reliever
Why They Can Survive: The Boston Red Sox bullpen is noticeably weaker with Hideki Okajima pitching in AAA Pawtucket instead of dominating in the majors. Still, the rest of their relief core, headlined by the right-handed tandem of Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon in the eighth and ninth innings, is strong enough to compensate.
More importantly, the Boston rotation, despite several injuries, has been impressive all year. Josh Beckett (9-3, 2.07 ERA) looks about as good as he ever has, and Jon Lester (10-4, 3.31 ERA) returned from the disabled list on Monday night and pitched 5.1 solid innings against the Royals.
Clay Buchholz's ongoing back injury is a concern, but he is reportedly making progress on his road back to the active roster. As long as he is back before the end of the season—and there's no reason to believe he won't be—Buchholz should be primed for the playoffs, leaving the Red Sox with a formidable trio of starters.
And if Beckett, Lester and Buccholz are starting the first three games of Boston's playoff series, the bullpen—lefties included—will hold far less significance.
That being said, Franklin Morales has done a good job since being traded from the Colorado Rockies, holding lefties to a .222 batting average in 2011.
2. Philadelphia Phillies
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Current Standing: First place, National League East
Biggest Need: Right-handed outfielder
Why They Can Survive: Honestly, why anyone feels this team needs help offensively is beyond me. Sure, a Dominic Brown (.249 batting average)/Ben Francisco (.223) platoon in right field isn't exactly intimidating, but this is still a lineup that features Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins.
Those three are among the best hitters in baseball, and more importantly, they all have playoff experience (read: a World Series ring). Once October comes rolling around, they should be trusted to carry the offense.
More to the point, though, the worst-kept secret in the world is how incredibly dominant the Philadelphia rotation is. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and even rookie Vance Worley have ERAs under 3.00. When Roy Oswalt comes back from the disabled list, runs will be even harder to come by.
I think Philadelphia can make due with a less-than-stellar hitter in right field.
3. New York Yankees
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Current Standing: Second place, American League East (First place, American League Wild Card)
Biggest Need: Left-handed reliever
Why They Can Survive: The Yankees seemed prepared this year to finally solve their biggest bullpen deficiency in recent seasons: the left-handed specialist. They signed Pedro Feliciano to a two-year deal and already had Boone Logan and Damaso Marte.
Marte, they knew, may miss the entire season due to a late 2010 shoulder surgery. But Feliciano went down before the season even began with shoulder issues of his own, and Logan struggled to get lefties out during much of the first half of the season.
Trading for a southpaw like Oakland's Craig Breslow or the Nationals' Sean Burnett would help, but the Yankees may be able to make due with the relievers they have now. David Robertson, a deserving first-time All-Star, has held left-handed batters to a .177 batting average and a .241 slugging percentage this season.
Rafael Soriano, who could return from the disabled list in the near future, is more effective against righties but has still limited left-handed sluggers to a .235 batting average over his career.
4. Atlanta Braves
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Current Standing: Second place, National League East (First place, National League Wild Card)
Biggest Need: Right-handed hitting outfielder
Why They Can Survive: The Atlanta Braves have struggled offensively in 2011, with the fourth-worst team batting average in the majors to go along with the sixth-worst on-base percentage.
One can only imagine where they would be without Brian McCann, who leads them in almost every major batting category.
Their outfield has been particularly weak, as it currently consists of left-handed hitting Nate McLouth, Jordan Schafer and Jason Heyward. All three are hitting .234 or worse, with Heyward being the biggest disappointment after his spectacular rookie season.
Still, the Braves have perhaps the most underrated starting pitching in the league. Their rotation is second in batting average against and fourth in quality starts. Young guns Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson balance well with veterans Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe, and rookie Brandon Beachy has performed well in 14 starts, posting a 3.58 ERA.
Plus, there is help coming on the horizon, with Martin Prado having recently come back from the disabled list and Chipper Jones hitting a home run in his return last night. Both can be expected to pick up their production in the last two months of the season.
5. San Francisco Giants
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Current Standing: First place, National League West
Biggest Need: Shortstop
Why They Can Survive: Doesn't it seem like the San Francisco Giants have needed offensive help in every season since Barry Bonds left? Somehow, even in spacious AT&T Park, the Giants have managed to score enough runs to get by.
Last season, with a lineup not much more productive than this year's, the Giants didn't make any major deadline moves, and the only significant additions to their lineup came in August—in the form of outfielders Cody Ross and Jose Guillen.
If memory serves, things turned out pretty well for them.