Playing Buyer or Seller with All 30 MLB Teams in Late May

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2018

Playing Buyer or Seller with All 30 MLB Teams in Late May

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    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    We're more than two months from the July 31 non-waiver MLB trade deadline. Still, we can gaze ahead and extrapolate which teams will be buyers and which will be sellers when that fateful cutoff arrives.

    Let's examine all 30 clubs based on standings, organizational direction and a dash of gut feeling, keeping in mind that statuses can and will shift between now and late July.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Buyer

    With the defending division champion Los Angeles Dodgers scuffling, the Arizona Diamondbacks entered play Tuesday just a half-game behind the Colorado Rockies for the NL West lead.

    Center fielder A.J. Pollock is on the disabled list with a fractured thumb and right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (strained right pectoral) joined him Tuesday, per The offense ranks No. 28 with 178 runs scored.

    If the D-backs want to acquire an impact bat, they'd likely have to part with high-upside right-hander Jon Duplantier or polished college hitter Pavin Smith. A trade of either would downgrade a system that already checks in at No. 25 in the game, per Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter.

Atlanta Braves

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Predicted status: Buyer

    The Atlanta Braves have blossomed ahead of schedule and currently lead the NL East at 29-18.

    Top prospect and outfielder Ronald Acuna is producing for the big club and wouldn't be traded for the world, but the Braves could make additions with a No. 1-ranked farm system to get them over the hump in 2018, boosting the offense and pitching staff.

    No one expected them to be a serious postseason player, let alone challenge the Nats for division supremacy, yet here they are.

    Enjoy it, Atlanta faithful. It's the first step in a march back to glory.

Baltimore Orioles

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Predicted status: Seller

    The Baltimore Orioles rank 25th in baseball in OPS (.696) and 27th in ERA (5.02). Unsurprisingly, they're in last place in the AL East at 15-33. 

    They also employ Manny Machado, one of the best players in the game and an impending free agent.

    Machado could be among the most impactful trade-deadline rentals of all time. The O's also have outfielder Adam Jones and closer Zach Britton—who is recovering from a ruptured Achilles—among their list of contract-year pieces.

    It's a painful reality for the Camden Yards crowd, but the Orioles could strengthen their No. 23-ranked farm with a trade-deadline fire sale. 

Boston Red Sox

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    Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Buyer

    The Boston Red Sox are in for a dogfight in the American League East with their old archrivals, the New York Yankees.

    The Sox are second only to New York with 257 runs, and their pitching staff is second in the American League with a 3.54 ERA.

    Every contender wants to add something come July, however. Boston will need to dig into a farm system that Reuter ranked No. 21 before top position-player prospect Michael Chavis was hit with an 80-game PEDs suspension and 19-year-old lefty Jay Groome underwent Tommy John surgery.

    Needless to say, Boston won't have many high-performing blue chips come late July.

Chicago Cubs

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Predicted status: Buyer

    The Chicago Cubs are on a title quest after busting professional sports' most famous drought in 2016 and being eliminated in the National League Championship Series in 2017.

    They don't have any glaring needs at the moment, but reinforcements are always helpful come mid-summer.

    The Cubbies will have to get creative with a farm Reuter ranked No. 27. They've been linked to Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machadoby Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times, among othersbut that type of deal would mean parting with MLB pieces as well as top prospects, including right-hander Adbert Alzolay.

    Will the Cubs do it? Should they?

Chicago White Sox

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Seller

    The Chicago White Sox are awash in young talent, but they're still a year or two away from serious contention. They should look to unload their veteran pieces and further stock a farm system that already rates as the second-best in baseball.

    The ChiSox could find takers for flawed vets such as right-hander James Shields. Their best chip, however, is first baseman Jose Abreu.

    The 31-year-old Cuban slugger is hitting .306 with eight home runs through 44 games and won't hit free agency until 2020. 

    He'd fetch a nice return on the South Side and boost the middle of many contenders' lineups.

Cincinnati Reds

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Seller

    The Cincinnati Reds are the only team in the National League Central with no designs on contending. Their veteran franchise player, first baseman Joey Votto, has a full no-trade clause and doesn't want to go anywhere.

    The Reds could trade secondary pieces including speedy, light-hitting outfielder Billy Hamilton. His .205/.297/.301 slash line doesn't leap off the stat sheet, however.

    Mostly, Cincinnati is on the tank-and-snag-a-high-draft-pick trajectory.

Colorado Rockies

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Buyer

    As they flirt with first place in the NL West, the Rockies should be all-in on a deep postseason run. Since joining MLB in 1993, the Rockies have won only two playoff series and never captured a title.

    Colorado could seek to bolster a pitching staff that's 22nd with a 4.37 ERA. Even adjusting for Mile High realities, that's a regrettable figure.

    Infielder and top prospect Brendan Rodgers should only be available for a glistening return of controllable talent, but Colorado has enough other players in its No. 17-ranked system to swing a deal to improve its October odds.

Cleveland Indians

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    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Buyer

    The bad news: The Cleveland Indians were 23-23 entering play Tuesday.

    The good news: They're in first place and one game up on the Minnesota Twins in the mediocre American League Central.

    The Tribe might seek help for a bullpen that used to be an unmitigated strength but checks in last in the Junior Circuit with a 5.65 ERA.

    Top prospect Francisco Mejia is hitting a scant .189 at Triple-A. The odds the Indians will sell low on their possible franchise catcher are slim to none, and their MiLB contingent earned an ignoble No. 24 ranking.

    Most likely, they'll need late-inning ace Andrew Miller to overcome his hamstring and back troubles and resurrect the relief corps.

Detroit Tigers

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    Abbie Parr/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Seller

    At 20-28, the Detroit Tigers are only four games out in the AL Central.

    They're also committed to a rebuild, as they should be.

    Right-hander Michael Fulmer will generate the most interest come late July, but the Tigers should keep their 25-year-old hurler and instead shop names such as lefty Francisco Liriano and shortstop Jose Iglesias. 

    Detroit would also be wise to listen to offers for franchise icon Miguel Cabrera if the buyer is willing to take on a significant portion of his massive contract, though that's more far-fetched. 

Houston Astros

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Predicted status: Buyer

    The defending champion Houston Astros lead the AL West at 31-18, but the Mariners and Angels are nipping at their heels.

    The top priority for the 'Stros is left-handed relief, with the Padres' Brad Hand looking like a prime target. 

    The Astros should hang on to outfielder Kyle Tucker and righty Forrest Whitley, but they should be able to cobble together an enticing package from the remainder of their No. 13-ranked farm. 

    After all, title windows don't stay open forever.

Kansas City Royals

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Predicted status: Seller

    The Kansas City Royals bid adieu to old friends Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer this offseason, but they brought back third baseman Mike Moustakas and shortstop Alcides Escobar.

    With a woeful 15-33 record, it's time for K.C. to initiate an overdue rebuild.

    That'll mean trading relief ace Kelvin Herrera, who should interest almost every contender. It'll also mean selling off Moustakas, who's making $5.5 million this season with a $15 million team option and $1 million buyout for next season. In light of his 10 home runs and .847 OPS, someone will jump.

    Saying goodbye to familiar names is never easy, but bolstering the bottom-ranked farm system is worth it.

Los Angeles Angels

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Buyer

    Two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani is living up to expectations on the mound and in the batter's box. Mike Trout remains the best baseball player on the planet. And the Los Angeles Angels are serious contenders in the AL West.

    Getting Trout back to the postseason stage should be a priority for the Halos, meaning they should be prepared to plug any glaring holes at the deadline. An ace-level arm to join with Ohtani, Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs is one possibility.

    Their farm system has evolved from dreadful to serviceable and features toolsy pieces such as outfielders Jo Adell and Jahmai Jones.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Buyer

    The Los Angeles Dodgers made it to Game 7 of the World Series in 2017. For a squad that hasn't won it all since 1988, it's Commissioner's Trophy or bust in 2018.

    At 20-27, the Dodgers sit 5.5 games out in the NL West. They're bound to make moves by the deadline to improve their lineup, pitching staff or both.

    They should only deal outfielder Alex Verdugo and right-hander Walker Buehler for a top-shelf return. L.A. likely has enough in its No. 5-ranked system to keep both and reel in a big fish such as Machado, who would fill the crater left in the wake of shortstop Corey Seager's Tommy John surgery.

Miami Marlins

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Seller

    After selling off their entire 2017 starting outfield and speedy second baseman Dee Gordon this winter, the Miami Marlins don't have too many marquee trade pieces left.

    They do, however, possess catcher J.T. Realmuto.

    The 27-year-old is hitting .313 with a .919 OPS for the Fish at a premium position. Along with second baseman and four-time All-Star Starlin Castro (.295 average), he headlines the remainder of the Marlins' carcass waiting to be picked clean.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Predicted status: Buyer

    The Milwaukee Brewers gave the Cubs a run for their money last season in the NL Central, and they sought to build on that success by acquiring outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich over the offseason.

    So far, it's working. The Brew Crew sit in first place, 2.5 games ahead of the Cardinals and three games up on the Cubbies.

    Top prospect Keston Hiura, who battled an elbow issue early in the season, is an advanced hitter who would pique the attention of myriad suitors. Behind him, right-hander Corbin Burnes headlines a deep MiLB stable.

    The Brewers aren't swimming in money and want to develop their own talent, but they should be able to facilitate needed deals this summer.

Minnesota Twins

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Buyer

    The Minnesota Twins went from 103 losses in 2016 to the AL's second wild-card berth in 2017. They're under .500 this year, but they're still clear contenders in the ho-hum AL Central.

    Shortstop and 2017 No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis is untouchable.

    After that, the Twins could tap a system that checked in at No. 12 to bolster a roster that's been hurt by injuries to key contributors such as center fielder Byron Buxton and third baseman Miguel Sano.

    Another highly rated shortstop, 22-year-old Nick Gordon, would be an appealing piece of trade bait.

New York Mets

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Predicted status: Buyer

    The New York Mets have rebounded from last season's 70-92 finish and are in the thick of the National League playoff picture. They shipped troubled former ace Matt Harvey to the Cincinnati Reds, but they project to be deadline buyers.

    Most essentially, New York could seek to boost an offense that ranks 24th in baseball with a .696 OPS.

    Unfortunately for the Queens contingent, its farm system isn't stacked. In February, Reuter ranked it No. 29 in the game.

    Young arms such as left-hander David Peterson and righties Justin Dunn and Chris Flexen should draw interest, but dealing them would deplete an already-thin MiLB cache.

New York Yankees

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Buyer

    The New York Yankees are reaping the rewards of their rebuilt farm system at the big league level. 

    They also have pieces marinating in the minors, including left-hander Justus Sheffield, recently demoted outfielder Clint Frazier and injured stud outfielder Estevan Florial. Overall, their system checks in at No. 3. 

    The Yanks won't give away their burgeoning core, but they won't be shy about acquiring pitching help or even another slugger to join their big-bopping offense. 

    The Bronx Bombers have options, which should be a scary thought for everyone else.

Oakland Athletics

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Predicted status: Seller

    The Oakland Athletics have been one of the pleasant surprises of 2018. At 25-23, they're only 5.5 games off the pace in the AL West.

    If they stay above .500 into the summer, the A's might be a buyer. We'll take the pessimistic tack, along with Oakland's relatively even run differential, and say the small-market club will be selling by the deadline.

    Veteran second baseman and impending free agent Jed Lowrie (nine home runs, .314 average) is the most obvious sell-high chip. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, among others, would also elicit interest.

    It isn't time for the Athletics to wave the white flag yet. If they do, they'll be able to acquire cost-controlled talent, which is always their goal.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Predicted status: Buyer

    One of multiple surprise contenders in the NL East, the Philadelphia Phillies have promoted infielders Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford (who is working his way back from injury), but they still boast a robust farm system fronted by rising talent such as outfielder Adam Haseley and ample payroll flexibility.

    They could use it to add a starter, reliever or impact bat and make a run ahead of schedule. Conversely, they could hoard their chips and see where this current roster takes them.

    Either way, it's currently better to be a Phils fan than it has been in a while.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Predicted status: Buyer

    Despite trading ace Gerrit Cole and franchise outfielder Andrew McCutchen this winter, the Pittsburgh Pirates are improbably in the thick of the NL Central race.

    That might change by July, but we'll give the Bucs and their plus-19 run differential the benefit of the doubt for now.

    Pittsburgh isn't going to mortgage the farm to stay in contention, meaning top pieces such as recently promoted outfielder Austin Meadows are probably off-limits. 

    The Pirates could dip into a No. 16-ranked system, though, to put extra wind in their sails and make an unexpected run.

San Diego Padres

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Seller

    The San Diego Padres are the doormat in a muddled but deep NL West.

    They aren't about to part with any young pieces, but left-handed reliever Brad Hand could net them a nice cache of prospects.

    The 28-year-old has fanned 37 in 24.1 innings with 14 saves and was an All-Star in 2017. He's inked to a deal that runs through 2021 with a $10 million team option. 

    Relievers are always coveted at the deadline, which means the Friars should be able to play multiple suitors against each other.

San Francisco Giants

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Buyer

    The San Francisco Giants are hanging around .500 despite injuries to aces Madison Bumgarner (finger) and Johnny Cueto (elbow). They went all-in over the winter with the acquisitions of veteran hitters Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen.

    San Francisco is on track to make one more run with its even-year core of Buster Posey et al.

    If the Giants seek to add to their lineup, rotation or bullpen by the trade deadline, they'll do so with a farm system Reuter ranked No. 28.

    Young outfielders Steven Duggar and Heliot Ramos would make sellers pick up the phone. More likely, San Francisco will shop power hitting first baseman/outfielder Chris Shaw and other, lesser names and hope for effective returns by Bumgarner and Cueto.

Seattle Mariners

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    Predicted status: Buyer

    Despite losing second baseman Robinson Cano to an 80-game performance-enhancing drugs suspension and center fielder Dee Gordon to a fractured toe, the Seattle Mariners are in second place in the American League West at 28-19.

    The M's might look for offensive help or to buttress a starting rotation that ranks 22nd in baseball with a 4.55 ERA.

    They'll have to do so with the fifth-worst farm system in MLB. Outfielder Kyle Lewis is an intriguing piece, but his extensive injury history limits his value. Right-hander Sam Carlson and first baseman Evan White are also worthy chips.

    Seattle may have to decide between decimating an already weak minor league corps and continuing its 16-years-and-counting postseason drought.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Buyer

    The St. Louis Cardinals are tied for 19th with a .713 OPS. Offensive help would be welcome as they challenge Chicago, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh in the surprisingly deep NL Central.

    A play for Machado, while tempting, wouldn't gel with the Cards' history of nurturing and developing cost-controlled talent.

    With that said, St. Louis likely will go shopping for a bat and could dangle the likes of right-hander Jack Flaherty and outfielder Tyler O'Neill if the return was significant and controllable enough.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    John McCoy/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Seller

    The Tampa Bay Rays are hanging around in the AL East, but with the Yankees and Red Sox atop the heap and the Blue Jays fluttering around, also-ran status seems inevitable.

    The Rays could shop any number of players at the deadline, but two-time All-Star Chris Archer and his affordable contract, which runs through 2021 with a pair of affordable tam options, is the most obviously alluring name.

    Archer sports a 5.01 ERA, but his 4.23 FIP suggests a degree of bad luck. He's also struck out 57 in 59.1 innings. 

    The Rays are perennially among the bottom clubs in terms of salary and attendance. Cashing in their chips come July could make all kinds of sense. 

Texas Rangers

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Seller

    As they wallow in last place in the AL West, the Texas Rangers are officially the Lone Star State's other team.

    If and when they initiate a deadline sell-off, they should draw suitors for their veteran pieces.

    Third baseman Adrian Beltre is battling a hamstring issue, but he could garner a notable return if he makes his way back. Left-hander Cole Hamels, meanwhile, has struck out 64 in 58.2 frames with a 3.38 ERA and recently hinted he'd like to join the Yankees, per Kevin Kernan of the New York Post.

    Beltre and Hamels are on the back end of their careers. That makes them exactly the type of players a club heading toward a rebuild can leverage.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Predicted status: Buyer

    It's possible the Toronto Blue Jays will sell at the trade deadline, beginning with franchise third baseman and impending free agent Josh Donaldson.

    At the moment, however, Toronto is vaguely in the mix at 23-25, and Donaldson has had a shoulder injury and hit .224.

    It's a precarious position for the Jays. They'd be foolish to trade top prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette for anything less than a king's ransom. They'd also be foolish to trade Donaldson at a sell-low moment, even in his contract year.

    Maybe a month-plus of more losing than winning and a hot streak by Donaldson will make this an easy decision. Until then, Toronto is stuck in neutral.

Washington Nationals

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    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Predicted status: Buyer

    In Bryce Harper's probable D.C. swan song, the Washington Nationals bullpen ranks 24th in the game with a 4.52 ERA.

    That won't do for a team in unambiguous win-now mode, especially considering the National League East is shaping up to be a stacked, competitive division.

    If Washington wants to acquire an impact, late-inning arm such as the Kansas City Royals' Kelvin Herrera or the San Diego Padres' Brad Hand, it'll have to part with at least one top prospect from its No. 22-ranked farm system.

    Outfielder Victor Robles should be off limits, but right-hander Erick Fedde might be enough to top a potential package.


    All statistics and contract information current through Tuesday and courtesy of Baseball Reference and unless otherwise noted.