MLB Trade Deadline 2022: The Biggest Need Every Contender Must Address

Brandon ScottJuly 14, 2022

MLB Trade Deadline 2022: The Biggest Need Every Contender Must Address

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    MLB contenders will battle for the best players on sellers as the trade deadline approaches Aug. 2.

    We're in the thick of the schedule where borderline teams have tough decisions to make: whether to go all-in for a title run or punt for future seasons.

    At this point, every team could use bullpen help, an extra bat, or a starting pitcher who changes the complexion of their rotation.

    Here, we'll look at specific needs for each contender (teams within four games of the last wild-card spot) with less than three weeks to go until the deadline.

American League East

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    New York Yankees: Outfield Upgrade

    It seems like just a matter of time before Joey Gallo is no longer a member of the New York Yankees. It comes down to whether he's traded by the deadline or simply signs elsewhere in free agency after the season.

    The Yankees have a real opportunity to win the World Series this year. Injecting some life into the lineup occupied by Gallo's .168/.288/.341 slash line would make the Yankees scarier than they already are.

    If the Yankees can replace Gallo with Andrew Benintendi or Ian Happ, they solidify their lineup where it is weak.

    Like every contender, the Yankees could use another weapon in their bullpen, which has the second-lowest ERA and third-highest WAR as is. However, Michael King has racked up the third-most innings for a reliever, while Aroldis Chapman has given up three runs and five walks and struck out three in four appearances since returning from the IL.


    Tampa Bay Rays: Power-Hitter

    The Rays have been decimated by injuries lately. Shortstop Wander Franco (wrist) and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (left hip inflammation) were both placed on the 10-day injured list this week.

    Tampa already had right fielder Manuel Margot, second baseman Brandon Lowe and catcher Mike Zunino on the injured list. Their pitching staff hasn't been healthy all year.

    At the very least, the Rays could use someone who hits the ball hard. They don't have a lot of that.

    Tampa ranks 22nd in slugging percentage and home runs. The Rays should be taking a long look at David Peralta, Willson Contreras and Sean Murphy.


    Boston Red Sox: First Base

    The Red Sox have high hopes for Bobby Dalbec, but he just has not been able to put it together.

    Dalbec's woeful triple slash of .208/.292/.340 has contributed to a ranking of 27th in WAR and wRC+ at first base. It's even worse defensively. Boston ranks last in outs above average and runs prevented at first base.

    This team clearly needs an upgrade at that position if they are serious about contending after the deadline.

    Their intention, however, is the awkward part. J.D. Martinez spoke recently about the strange position the Red Sox front office is in, considering their proximity to contention and the number of key expiring contracts.

    Martinez is among a group of core players like Enrique Hernandez, Christian Vazquez and Nate Eovaldi on expiring contracts. Xander Bogaerts appears set to opt out of his contract. The team risks losing them for nothing if they don't trade them but also needs these players if they are going to make a run.

    Boston, oddly enough, could be buyers and sellers at the deadline. Nationals first baseman Josh Bell should be in high demand to address the Red Sox' need at first.


    Toronto Blue Jays: Starting Pitching

    This is a rotation plagued by injuries and underperformance. Hyun Jin Ryu is out for the rest of the season due to forearm inflammation. Kevin Gausman was dealing with an ankle injury but appears ready to take the mound against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.

    Yusei Kikuchi was recently placed on the 15-day injured list with a neck strain. But his poor performance led to former manager Charlie Montoyo calling him out publicly before Montoyo lost his own job.

    José Berríos, who Toronto traded for ahead of last year's deadline and extended this past offseason, has the third worst ERA among qualified pitchers.

    For a team that's invested so much in its starting pitching over the last year, between Berríos, Kikuchi and Gausman, another arm could go a long way for an underachieving group.

    Toronto's starters ranked 11th in WAR and had the 14th-highest ERA as of Wednesday.

    Frankie Montas and Luis Castillo are the two most obvious trade targets for a starting pitcher.


    Baltimore Orioles: Stand Pat

    The Orioles are playing with house money, winners of 10 straight and one of the hottest teams in baseball. They are not supposed to be here. The fact that they are suggests it would be good for Baltimore to go from sellers to buyers at the deadline.

    But they shouldn't jeopardize their future to get in early on the success. Make a run with this current, overachieving group and see where it goes.

American League Central

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    Minnesota Twins: Bullpen Help

    On the surface, Minnesota's bullpen doesn't seem all that bad. But closer inspection reveals that it has some glaring holes.

    The Twins' bullpen has been carried by rookie right-hander Jhoan Duran, who has struck out 48 and recorded a 2.54 ERA. in 39.0 innings pitched. Twins relievers have combined for minus-0.16 Win Probability Added, which ranks 18th in baseball despite Duran accounting for plus-2.23 WPA.

    A large responsibility for those woes falls on the shoulders of Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar and Emilio Pagan, who have all thrown at least 30 innings despite having an ERA north of 4.10.

    Chicago Cubs' David Robertson, at age 37, is one of the best late-inning right-handed pitchers in the game and will be in high demand. His 2.10 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 34.1 innings could help this Twins team that will need it to compete with the Astros or one of the vaunted AL East lineups.


    Cleveland Guardians: Catcher

    The Guardians rank 27th in WAR at the catcher position and could stand a significant upgrade. Their catchers rank last in wRC+ and RBI.

    Cleveland is one of the obvious candidates to pursue the Cubs' Willson Contreras or the Athletics' Sean Murphy. Either would add an instant, much-needed boost to a Guardians lineup that ranks 18th in OPS.


    Chicago White Sox: Corner Outfield

    The combination of Eloy Jimenez, Gavin Sheets, Adam Engel and A.J. Pollock has been disappointing for the White Sox.

    Jimenez is hitting .206, and none of the others are hitting better than .243. White Sox outfielders rank 28th in WAR and 20th in wRC+.

    General manager Rick Hahn should be calling across town to Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer about Ian Happ or see if division rival Kansas City Royals would give up Andrew Benintendi.

American League West

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    Houston Astros: Left-Handed Reliever

    The Astros are in a much better place with their bullpen than a year ago, when they made trades for Kendall Graveman, Rafael Montero, Yimi Garcia and Phil Maton.

    Houston's bullpen has the lowest ERA and opponent batting average in baseball going into Wednesday's games.

    The only problem is they don’t have a lefty out of the bullpen. Maton, a right-handed pitcher who serves as Houston’s left-handed specialist, has been shaky at times this season. He is the Astros' worst reliever in WAR.

    Blake Taylor has been shelved since early June, and even when healthy, the Astros could use a more reliable option.

    The more obvious need for the Astros is at first base, where Yuli Gurriel has gone from AL batting champion to nearly a non-factor in the lineup. He's slashing .229/.281/.385 after posting a .319/.383/.463 line last year.

    There has also been speculation about the Astros upgrading offensively at catcher with Willson Contreras on the market, and Martin Maldonado providing next to nothing as a hitter.

    But both Gurriel and Maldonado carry so much respect within the organization—Maldonado for his defensive prowess and the work he does with pitchers; Gurriel as a key member of the 2017 World Series club.


    Seattle Mariners: Outfielder, Starting Pitcher

    The Mariners are one of the hottest teams in baseball and should only get stronger as they get players off the injured list.

    Ty France, Seattle's most productive hitter before suffering a left elbow sprain in a June 23 collision with a baserunner, was activated last week.

    Mitch Haniger (ankle) is supposed to begin more vigorous agility exercises this week. Kyle Lewis (concussion) is scheduled for rehab assignments in Triple-A.

    As far as adding to the roster, the Mariners could still use an outfielder and some reassurance on their already excellent rotation.

    Kansas City Royals outfielder Andrew Benintendi was a much more intriguing trade possibility before it was revealed Wednesday that he is unvaccinated and therefore cannot play games in Canada.

    But the Mariners won't play there again this regular season, and Benintendi's .784 OPS would rank third in Seattle's lineup.

    The Mariners have also relied on good fortune with injuries, as none of their top four starters have missed an outing.

    MLB Network's Jon Morosi suggested the Mariners target a pitcher who could give them length, whether starting or out of the bullpen, in an interview with Seattle Sports' Wyman and Bob.

    Or maybe they trade for the Cincinnati Reds' Tyler Mahle to fill out the rotation and bring George Kirby back up from Triple-A for reassurance.

National League East

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    New York Mets: Another Bat, Bullpen Help

    Mets team president Sandy Alderson indicated on a podcast with Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman earlier this week that New York would be prioritizing its bullpen and adding another bat to the lineup.

    The Mets are not getting the production from the designated hitter they were hoping for in its first full season adopted by the National League.

    Most of those DH at-bats have gone to Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis, neither of whom is hitting particularly well. Both have also been talked about as trade candidates.

    Trey Mancini or Nelson Cruz as rentals make sense for the Mets, whose DH position ranks 24th in WAR and 25th in wRC+.

    Mancini's .281/.358/.417 slash line would especially be an upgrade for the Mets. But now Mancini's availability could be in question, given how far ahead of schedule the Orioles appear to be right now.

    As for the bullpen, Mets relievers rank 12th in WAR. That's obviously in the better half of the league. But there's also a sense they don't have many trustworthy arms beyond Edwin Diaz and Adam Ottavino.


    Atlanta: Left-handed Bat

    No team had a more meaningful trade deadline than Atlanta's last year. It was adding Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler and Joc Pederson that helped propel Atlanta into contention and ultimately to a title.

    This year, the need is on the left side of the plate. It was addressed in part by acquiring Robinson Cano to hit toward the bottom of the lineup. Atlanta has been without switch-hitting second baseman Ozzie Albies with a broken foot, while Rosario is slashing .149/.200/.257.

    Go back to a few weeks ago when Atlanta GM Alex Anthopoulos acknowledged the lineup was right-handed heavy. That's still the case.

    Atlanta ranks third in OPS behind only the Yankees and Dodgers. When batting left, Atlanta ranks 11th in OPS.


    Philadelphia Phillies: Bullpen

    The Phillies' starters already have the highest WAR and ninth-lowest ERA in baseball. They also have a top 10 offense by OPS and runs scored.

    While they trail the Mets and Atlanta in the NL East, the Phillies have a well-rounded baseball team.

    Even the bullpen is performing better over the last month. Philly had the 10th-worst bullpen ERA up until manager Joe Girardi's firing on June 3, but they have turned it around with the sixth-best ERA since then.

    That said, the Phillies still could use another high-leverage reliever if they are going to be in the mix after the trade deadline.

    Corey Knebel struggled badly enough to be demoted earlier in the year. He's their second-most valuable reliever after Nick Nelson.

    A reunion with David Robertson would not be the worst idea.

National League Central

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    Milwaukee Brewers: Middle-of-the-Order Bat

    The Brewers are 11th in baseball in runs scored but behind all of the other National League contenders like the Dodgers, Atlanta, Mets, Giants, Phillies and Cardinals.

    Milwaukee should be at the front of the line targeting the likes of Josh Bell, Bryan Reynolds and Tommy Pham.

    The Brewers are going to be a factor as long their pitching is elite, which it has been over the past two years. But they will run into similar problems as last year if they don't upgrade the lineup with some power.


    St. Louis Cardinals: Offense

    With the Cardinals going on a recent skid, upgrading the offense is a priority.

    St. Louis has scored the fourth-fewest runs in baseball since July 1. Their OPS for the month ranks 23rd, despite ranking 12th on the season.

    MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported earlier this week the Cardinals have checked in with the Washington Nationals, among other teams, with hopes of upgrading their offense.

    The Nationals have first baseman Josh Bell and designated hitter Nelson Cruz expected to be in high demand.

National League West

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    Los Angeles Dodgers: Starting Pitching

    The Dodgers are one of three teams alongside the New York Yankees and Houston Astros that, on the surface, appear to have no weakness.

    Still, if the Dodgers want to better their chances at returning to the World Series this year, they could use another arm.

    Sure, they are tied for the lowest WHIP and have the second-lowest ERA in baseball.

    But they have been without Dustin May all season due to Tommy John surgery. Walker Buehler and Andrew Heaney are both on the injured list, and Clayton Kershaw also missed time earlier this season.

    The Dodgers have been relying on Mitch White, who has yet to pitch through six innings in his eight starts.

    MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported Monday the Dodgers and Reds had preliminary trade conversations about right-handed pitcher Luis Castillo, whom many other clubs are also interested in acquiring.

    The Dodgers "are definitely involved," according to Morosi.


    San Diego Padres: Power Bat

    This has been an issue for the Padres since the second half of last season, which Fernando Tatis Jr. missed due to injury.

    Here they are again in the same situation, except this time the pitching is holding up well enough to keep San Diego relevant.

    The Padres' offense ranks 20th in OPS, 18th in batting average and 15th in runs scored.

    That won't be enough offense to keep up. Atlanta and the Los Angeles Dodgers, for example, rank second and third in OPS, respectively. The Phillies are eighth. The Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets round out the top 10.

    Only the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics are worse in slugging.

    San Diego should be in the market for outfield power bats like Bryan Reynolds.


    San Francisco Giants: Catcher, Offense

    If there is any team that should be pursuing Willson Contreras, it's the Giants. Their idea for replacing retired future Hall of Fame catcher Buster Posey has not gone smoothly.

    San Francisco's catcher position ranks 22nd in batting average, 21st in slugging and second in strikeout percentage.

    Contreras would immediately inject life into the Giants' lineup. Among the Giants hitters with at least 100 plate appearances, Contreras' .480 slugging percentage would trail only Joc Pederson, a former teammate with the Cubs.

    The Giants and Cubs just did this a year ago, trading one of the 2016 World Series members away in a contract year. This is set up perfectly for them to do it again.

    Oakland Athletics catcher Sean Murphy could also be on the market. Oakland is not trying to win now, and a player as good as Murphy on their roster makes little sense given his potential trade value.

    Murphy and Contreras are second and third, respectively, in WAR among qualified catchers.

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