One Big Regret Each MLB Team Must Avoid at the 2018 Trade Deadline
The All-Star break is over. Now it's on to Major League Baseball's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, which is less than two weeks away.
Teams had better not screw it up.
The last thing any team wants after the trade deadline has come and gone is to be filled with regret. So, we've come up with a handy guide for how each team can avoid that fate. It covers glaring needs that must not go unfilled, trade chips that must not go undealt and everything in between.
We'll go in alphabetical order by city.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Failing to Add an Impact Hitter
The Arizona Diamondbacks have endured an up-and-down season largely because their offense has followed a similar pattern.
Judging from their interest (per Jon Heyman of Fancred) in Manny Machado, the D-backs understand their offense needs a major fix. Now that he's with the Los Angeles Dodgers, they should be feeling even more pressure to add an impact hitter.
The Snakes can't hope to add a hitter as dangerous as Machado. But whether it's J.T. Realmuto, Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Asdrubal Cabrera or somebody else, there are many Plan Bs to pursue.
The only inexcusable thing would be to do nothing and and trust that their incumbent offense can get them back atop the National League West. Their lineup didn't put them there at the end of the first half. It would be foolish to believe it can do so in the face of a loaded Dodgers team in the second half.
Atlanta Braves: Failing to Add an Impact Reliever
The Atlanta Braves' early shine is wearing off. They're 3-8 in their last 11 games and 23-24 in their last 47 games overall.
Their struggles don't trace back to a singular source, but their bullpen stands apart as a big flaw. It's put up a 4.65 ERA over the last 30 days. Making matters worse is Arodys Vizcaino's shoulder, which has landed him on the disabled list twice since June.
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos isn't oblivious to what's going on. He told Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "We’re definitely trying to add to that group, trying to add to the depth."
The Braves must not be content to merely add warm bodies to their bullpen, however. They need a shutdown guy, be it Raisel Iglesias or any of the top rentals: Jeurys Familia, Zach Britton or Joakim Soria.
Anything less than that, and Atlanta's chances of winning the National League East can only get slimmer.
Baltimore Orioles: Stopping at Manny Machado
At long last, the Baltimore Orioles have traded Machado. Thus ends a saga that feels like it was eons in the making.
Now all they have to do is trade everyone else.
OK, fine. Maybe not everyone. But certainly their other pending free agents with value: Britton, Adam Jones, Brad Brach and Danny Valencia. Each is a piece that should be able to bring something back.
This should be simple enough, but the behind-closed-doors nature of the Orioles could make it difficult. They're an organization mired in dysfunction, as one executive told Joel Sherman of the New York Post: "There are a lot of different agendas from a lot of different stakeholders with the Orioles."
Somehow, some way, somebody must take charge and do what must be done to help get this 28-69 team on a path toward a bright future.
Boston Red Sox: Failing to Add an Impact Reliever
It's hard to find faults on a team that's on pace to win 112 games. The Boston Red Sox have pretty much everything they need.
Still, their bullpen could be better. There are few (if any) closers better than Craig Kimbrel, but the bridge to him lacks a setup man that's even close to being on his level.
This likely won't keep the Red Sox from winning the American League East, but it could loom large in October. That's when the Red Sox are going to be up against the New York Yankees and/or Houston Astros, who rank first and second in the AL in bullpen ERA.
"They're looking to get a guy. A real guy," one evaluator told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. To this end, Kyle Barraclough and Wade Davis are on their radar.
If true, the Red Sox have their head in the right place. Now they just have to follow through.
Chicago Cubs: Failing to Add Starting Pitching Depth
As the Milwaukee Brewers have fallen, the Chicago Cubs have risen in the NL Central. They entered the All-Star break in first place following a 13-4 stretch.
The Cubs don't need to do anything drastic to keep this up. While they've only recently reclaimed first place in the NL Central, they've long had a huge run differential that suggested such a fate was inevitable.
One thing the Cubs do need, however, is extra starting pitching depth.
At this point, they should know they can't rely on Tyler Chatwood. It's anyone's guess when Yu Darvish will be healthy and effective again. Meanwhile, Mike Montgomery has recently been getting knocked around.
Although the starting pitching market is short on high-end options, there's plenty in the bargain bin. Somebody like Tyson Ross or Nathan Eovaldi could be all the Cubs need.
Chicago White Sox: Failing to Move Joakim Soria
The most famous of the Chicago White Sox's trade chips are Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia and James Shields.
There are challenges to moving any of the three, however. Shields is probably Plan Z for pitching-needy contenders. Meanwhile, Abreu is slumping, and Garcia is on the DL. Since both are controlled through 2019, the White Sox don't need to rush to cash either of them in.
Thus, Soria is Chicago's only real trade chip of consequence.
The 34-year-old is fresh off an excellent first half, complete with a 2.75 ERA and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Even for a guy pulling in a $9 million salary, that's good stuff that should translate into solid value on the trade market.
Rather than keep him and exercise his $10 million option for 2019, the White Sox should get something for Soria while the getting's good.
Cincinnati Reds: Failing to Move Matt Harvey
Contenders around MLB would no doubt love to get their hands on Scooter Gennett or Raisel Iglesias, but they shouldn't hold their breath.
The Reds feel emboldened by the strong baseball they've played under interim manager Jim Riggleman. According to Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the team plans to raise payroll in 2019.
That would seem to preclude the Reds from trading any of the players they control through next year. That covers everyone except for one guy: Matt Harvey.
The Reds took him on as a roll-of-the-dice reclamation project when they acquired him from the New York Mets in May, and he's been reclaimed to the tune of a 3.64 ERA in 12 starts.
Since he's the best starting pitcher they have right now, the Reds may be inclined to hold on to Harvey. But if they have any sense, they'll cash him in while they can.
Cleveland Indians: Failing to Address Their Outfield Next
The Cleveland Indians pulled off a massive trade Thursday, acquiring relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from the San Diego Padres for catching prospect Francisco Mejia.
This is an appropriate response to the ugly numbers (including a 5.28 ERA) that their bullpen put up in the first half. With Hand and Cimber alongside Cody Allen and a healthy Andrew Miller, Cleveland's bullpen could turn from a major weakness to an ironclad strength.
Now Cleveland must address its outfield.
Michael Brantley is fine in left field, but center field and right field have combined for minus-0.4 WAR so far. Whether they merely get a defensive specialist (e.g. Billy Hamilton) or an offensive threat (e.g. Adam Jones), this is something the Indians must fix.
If they don't, their effort to catch up with the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros will come up short.
Colorado Rockies: Failing to Do Anything
If nothing else, the Colorado Rockies are competitive. They've done plenty of wavering throughout 2018, yet they'll enter the second half with only a two-game deficit in the NL West.
If they want to actually win the division, however, "competitive" isn't going to cut it. They need to be genuinely good.
At present, it's hard to slap that label on the Rockies for a variety of reasons. Their offense is really hit-or-miss outside of Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. Their outfield defense has huge holes in it. At times, both their starting rotation and their bullpen have been raging dumpster fires.
All this is to say: There really aren't any areas where the Rockies can neglect upgrades. They need to put as many hands in as many pies as they can.
Otherwise, they risk being left in the dust of the Dodgers and/or Diamondbacks.
Detroit Tigers: Failing to Trade Nicholas Castellanos
The Detroit Tigers have two players whom they don't have to trade but arguably should: Michael Fulmer and Nicholas Castellanos.
Now isn't the best time to trade the former. Although plenty of rumors have been circling around Fulmer, that may have something to do with how the former Rookie of the Year and All-Star has hurt his value with a 4.50 ERA. If the Tigers are going to trade him, it must not be in a sell-low deal.
If they trade Castellanos, on the other hand, they'll be selling high.
The 26-year-old has matured as a hitter to a point where he's now a legitimate threat every time he steps in the box. He's working on a .305/.359/.517 slash line, with 47 extra-base hits.
And whereas Fulmer is controlled through 2022, Castellanos' time is up after 2019. It's unlikely the Tigers will contend before then, so they might as well boost their rebuild by moving him.
Houston Astros: Failing to Add an Impact Reliever
As mentioned earlier, the Astros bullpen is already excellent. And it arguably doesn't need a closer, as Hector Rondon has thrived in that role since taking over on June 6.
And yet, another power arm wouldn't hurt.
Ken Giles was supposed to be Houston's resident fireballer, but a series of calamities knocked him down to Triple-A Fresno on July 12. Even when his high-octane fastball is factored in, there hasn't been as much fastball velocity in the Astros pen as in those of the Red Sox and Yankees.
Fixing that is a "better safe than sorry" situation for the Astros. According to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com, the pie in the sky may be Iglesias. Per Heyman, Britton is another reliever on Houston's radar.
If the Astros can get one of them or any other top-flight arm, they'll have everything they need to pursue a second straight World Series title. If not, their pursuit will be in some jeopardy.
Kansas City Royals: Failing to Take Advantage of the Whit Merrifield Market
The Kansas City Royals' most valuable trade chip may be one they prefer to keep: Whit Merrifield.
Following a surprise breakout in 2017, he's become a legit star with a .307/.378/.434 slash line and 2.8 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference. Moreover, he isn't due for free agency until after 2022.
However, the Royals must be hesitant to view Merrifield as a long-term building block. He's 29 years old, so it may not be long before his prime gives way to his decline.
Merrifield would fit a lot better on a win-now team, and plenty are interested in him. Per Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com, the Philadelphia Phillies are one. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Milwaukee Brewers are another. Heyman reports the Red Sox are also in the hunt.
If they want to, the Royals may be able to wage a bidding war for Merrifield. Given how much work their farm system needs, they should want to.
Los Angeles Angels: Failing to Move Blake Parker
Somewhere in the same boat as the Royals and Merrifield are the Los Angeles Angels and Blake Parker.
Although the Angels are still technically in contention, their 12-20 stretch since June 10 is putting an end to whatever playoff hopes they have. They must pivot to 2019 sooner rather than later.
Alas, the Angels don't have as much to trade in reality as they do in theory. They have a long list of pending free agents, but it mostly covers injured (e.g. Garrett Richards) or ineffective (e.g. Ian Kinsler) players. The Angels can only make an impact trade by dipping into their controllable assets.
Parker is their best hope. He's proving with a 3.05 ERA and 10.2 K/9 through 43 appearances that his 2017 breakout was the real deal. However, he's an older player (33) whose decline could come at any moment.
That should be Los Angeles' cue to cash him in.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Failing to Add to Their Bullpen Next
Now that the Dodgers have secured Machado, they must move on to other matters.
To be sure, their offense is set. It had been trending upward even before Machado and his .963 OPS came aboard. Now they have the best lineup in the National League.
On paper, the Dodgers also have an elite pitching staff. Its 3.49 ERA is the best in the NL.
One thing that should worry them, though, is their bullpen's workload. Their pen has handled more innings than all but four others. They have enough pitching depth to keep that from derailing their quest for a sixth straight NL West title, but the last thing they'll want in October is a tired bullpen.
The Dodgers don't necessarily need to pursue additional relief aces to line up alongside Kenley Jansen. But at the least, they need to go out and get more depth.
Miami Marlins: Failing to Fleece the Nationals in a J.T. Realmuto Trade
In the person of Realmuto, the Miami Marlins hold one of the best players and most valuable trade chips in MLB.
But since the All-Star catcher is also controlled through 2020, the Marlins don't need to trade him. They should only do so only if they have an opportunity to take advantage of a singularly desperate contender.
Washington Nationals, come on down.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said in an MLB Network Radio interview on June 22 that the asking price for Realmuto was too high. According to Heyman, however, the Nationals are prepared to revisit the prospect of trading for the 27-year-old. In a related story, they rank dead last in catching WAR.
The Marlins need prospects if they want their rebuild to go anywhere. There's no time like the present to gain a whole bunch in a highway robbery of an NL East rival.
Milwaukee Brewers: Failing to Do Anything Drastic
The Brewers aren't sinking yet, but they are taking on water.
They're just 19-22 since the start of June, and they went into the All-Star break as losers of six in a row. They held a 2.5-game lead in the NL Central as recently as July 6. Now they have a 2.5-game deficit.
Since they've missed out on Machado, the Brewers can't hope to get back on course with a single move. It's going to take several moves, and the bigger, the better.
The Brewers know it. According to Morosi, they're eyeing Dozier and Escobar. Per Heyman, they also have the ever-underrated Derek Dietrich on their radar. On the pitching side of things, they could be one of many teams in the market for J.A. Happ, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
If the Brewers ultimately settle for less, even a wild-card entry into October could escape their grasp.
Minnesota Twins: Completely Blowing It Up
The Minnesota Twins went into the break hot with nine wins in their last 11 games. Nonetheless, they know it's time to look forward to 2019.
According to Morosi, the Twins are prepared to trade their many rentals, including Dozier, Escobar, Lance Lynn and Zach Duke. They can also offer Ervin Santana, Logan Morrison and Fernando Rodney, who have team options for 2019.
The Twins may not stop with those guys, however. Per Sherman, they're also open to dealing Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi, whom they control through 2019. If so, other controllable assets may also be available.
This is unnecessary. The Twins have had a rotten year, but they can hope to come back and rally around Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano in 2019. If Cleveland reels from losing Andrew Miller and/or Michael Brantley to free agency, their prize may be an AL Central title.
For Minnesota, this is a time to retool. Not to rebuild.
New York Mets: Caving in on Jacob DeGrom
It seems even Jacob deGrom's agent wants the New York Mets to trade him.
"If the Mets don’t share same interest [in a long-term partnership]," said Brodie Van Wagenen on Monday, via Rosenthal, "we believe their best course of action is to seriously consider trade opportunities now."
Since deGrom is controlled through 2020 and arguably the man to beat for the NL Cy Young Award, his value may never be higher. Cashing in on that could be a boon to the Mets' future contention efforts.
However, the Mets' trying season shouldn't obscure that deGrom is a vital part of a solid foundation of stars. They should be more interested in retooling for 2019 than in begining a rebuild by trading their best player.
This doesn't mean they should automatically say no if the right offer comes along. But it does mean they shouldn't say yes to anything less than the right offer.
New York Yankees: Failing to Aim High in Their Pitching Hunt
The Yankees are another team that missed out on Machado, but that's OK. He wouldn't have satisfied their biggest need anyway.
The Yankees need a starting pitcher, preferably one that could slot toward the top of their rotation. Luis Severino and CC Sabathia have been carrying the load, and the latter has only been good for two trips through the lineup.
Because of their deep farm system and deep pockets, there really isn't any pitcher who's outside the realm of possibility for the Yankees. Hence why their connections to guys like deGrom and even Madison Bumgarner can't be dismissed out of hand. At the least, notables like Happ and Ross are very doable.
The worst-case scenario involves the Yankees getting sticker shock and backing off entirely. This isn't something that's likely to happen, but it's worth emphasizing anyway: Their team is too good and their ambitions are too high to justify going that route.
Oakland Athletics: Failing to Add Pitching
The Oakland Athletics are coming for a playoff spot. Since June 16, they've won 21 of 27 games and climbed to within 3.5 games of the AL's second wild card.
And yet, here's something slightly concerning.
- Through June 15: 4.05 ERA
- Since June 16: 3.93 ERA
Oakland's pitching has been only marginally better of late. Such is life when manager Bob Melvin is mixing and matching starters and relievers as if he's blindly pulling them off the nearest shelf. He needs more reliable options.
The A's need not target only the biggest names to satisfy this need. Simply adding depth in between staff ace Sean Manaea and relief aces Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen would be fine.
If not, their pedestrian pitching will remain a threat to undermine their surprising rise to relevance.
Philadelphia Phillies: Failing to Add an Impact Hitter
The Philadelphia Phillies didn't get Machado either. Which is a shame, because they arguably needed him the most.
The Phillies haven't risen to first place in the NL East on the strength of their offense. It's been consistently mediocre since day one. While not the problem, a problem of note is that it's struggled to get anything out of the shortstop position.
In lieu of Machado, that would be a good place to install Escobar if the Phillies can get him. Or, they could just as easily pluck Dozier from the Twins. If they're really feeling adventurous, Castellanos would be a fine upgrade for a right field position that's also been an offensive sore spot.
As long as they do something, the Phillies don't just stand to gain their first NL East title since 2011. They'll also stand a much better chance of getting through to the World Series.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Failing to Move Their Pending Free Agents
Just when the Pittsburgh Pirates seemed to be out of the NL playoff race, they finished the first half by winning eight of their last nine. But since that only got them to 48-49, they're not good enough to go all-in.
However, neither are they bad enough to blow it up. GM Neal Huntington was in the right when he said, per Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "We're built around young players. We're built around young guys who have the ability to be here beyond this year."
The only real exceptions, in fact, are Jordy Mercer and Sean Rodriguez. They're the only Pirates veterans who are ticketed for free agency after 2018. If the Pirates can get something for them, they should.
Otherwise, they have license to stand pat. The best way they can take the next step in 2019 is by simply keeping the band together.
San Diego Padres: Failing to Move Tyson Ross Next
The Padres' deadline work is pretty much done.
Although they didn't have to trade Hand or Cimber, each was a valuable trade chip that the Padres had to listen on. Sending them in a package deal to Cleveland for Mejia is a coup, as he brings San Diego's list of MLB.com top-100 prospects up to 10. Before long, those players will help the Padres go places.
Still, they can't close for business until they trade Ross.
Although the veteran right-hander owns a modest 4.32 ERA, the bulk of the damage was done when he served up 15 runs in back-to-back starts on July 1 and 7. For the most part, he's been a perfectly solid mid-rotation type. He's also earning just $1.75 million in a one-year deal.
The Padres probably can't snag another top-100 prospect in a Ross deal. But whatever they get can only help.
San Francisco Giants: Failing to Pluck a Starter from the Bargain Bin
Whether they do it by adding to their rotation or their bullpen, the San Francisco Giants' top priority for the trade deadline is bolstering their pitching depth.
The catch is that their hands are tied with regard to the kinds of trades they can make.
Even after dumping Austin Jackson and Cory Gearrin on the Texas Rangers, the Giants are still brushing up against the $197 million luxury-tax threshold. They're also sitting on a weak farm system. Above all, there's a question of whether their contention chances are even worth blockbuster trades.
All told, the Giants' best play is to keep things simple by targeting low-risk, low-cost upside plays. Between Harvey, Ross and Eovaldi, there are more of those available on the starting pitching market than on the relief market.
That's where the Giants should focus their efforts. If they go elsewhere, they might gain nothing in the present and lose plenty in the future.
Seattle Mariners: Failing to Add an Impact Starter
If the Mariners want to regain the distance that used to be between them and the A's, they must address a rotation that's suddenly on thin ice.
Granted, it hasn't been on thick ice at any point. But now that James Paxton and Felix Hernandez are on the DL, it's Mike Leake, Wade LeBlanc, Marco Gonzales and whoever they can dig up on days those guys can't pitch. That's a recipe for trouble.
According to Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, Seattle's rumored interest in veteran left-hander Cole Hamels was "greatly overplayed." Their connection to Happ (per Morosi) makes more sense. The Mariners know him well from his time with the team in 2015, and he's spent much of the last four years as the very definition of a reliable starter.
The Mariners will be asking for trouble if they let their search for pitching drift toward lesser options. Their rotation needs the best help it can get.
St. Louis Cardinals: Trading Carlos Martinez
Could the St. Louis Cardinals really trade staff ace Carlos Martinez, who's signed for cheap through 2023?
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, it's a possibility that rival executives can't help but wonder about. Between their 48-47 record and the many controversies that helped lead to the firing of manager Mike Matheny, the Cardinals have lost their way. Trading Martinez would be a pivot toward a fresh start.
The Cardinals would certainly make a killing if they traded Martinez, but they're not obligated to do so. It's not for lack of talent that they've had a disappointing year, and almost everyone is due to come back in 2019. To boot, Adam Wainwright and Greg Holland coming off the books will be an excuse to invest in free agents.
Ultimately, a Martinez trade should never leave the drawing board.
Tampa Bay Rays: Trading Any of Their Cornerstone Players
The Tampa Bay Rays got bad news Thursday when All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos was put on the DL with a hamstring strain. He's likely to stay on it until after July 31.
There goes the Rays' best trade chip. The best they can hope for now is trades involving other rentals like Eovaldi, Adeiny Hechavarria, Carlos Gomez and Sergio Romo. None is likely to bring back much, if anything.
Perhaps this will embolden rival executives to push the Rays to trade their controllable cornerstones, such as Blake Snell, Chris Archer, Kevin Kiermaier and Matt Duffy. A trade of any one of them would shower the Rays in the sort of prospect riches they can't get from trading rentals alone.
If this does happen, however, the Rays must resist. They've put up a 49-47 record this year despite being a collection of stars and scrubs. They should get even better as they mine more stars from their farm system. They only need to let it happen.
Texas Rangers: Failing to Entertain Offers for Anyone and Everyone
This week, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram asked Rangers GM Jon Daniels if any of his players are untouchable.
His response: "I think most organizations would say the same: There are some that are a lot less likely to be talked about than others. Ultimately, you're always going to listen."
That's not a hard "no," which is the right position in light of the Rangers' current predicament.
While they're most likely to get calls on Hamels, Adrian Beltre, Bartolo Colon and Jake Diekman, the Rangers shouldn't hang up on anyone who expresses interest in Elvis Andrus, Nomar Mazara or Joey Gallo. These are cornerstone pieces, but the Rangers have fallen too far in the last two seasons to avoid considering a rebuild.
If an opportunity to take a big first step into a rebuild presents itself, the Rangers should take it. No matter who has to be traded to make it happen.
Toronto Blue Jays: Blowing It Up
Rather than rebuilding, the Toronto Blue Jays spent the previous winter filling out their depth ahead of a possible playoff run. As their 43-52 record clearly indicates, it's not working out.
Where the Blue Jays go from here is the big question. There's certainly an argument that they should rebuild, starting with trades of their best controllable assets.
But while that's easy to suggest in theory, reality is another thing. Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Devon Travis are well below their peak value. Kevin Pillar is injured. Roberto Osuna is serving a suspension for domestic violence.
Since their best controllable assets are pretty much untradeable, the Blue Jays should restrict their trade efforts to Happ and other rentals and then aim to right the ship in 2019.
If their guys bounce back while top prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette establish themselves, that could actually be doable.
Washington Nationals: Failing to Go All-In
Rather than run away with the NL East like they were supposed to, the Nationals have fallen behind the Phillies and Braves.
They aren't without hope, however. Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman are due off the DL on Friday against the Braves. Sean Doolittle's return should follow shortly. Once the Nats have all three back, they'll be at full strength for the first time in a long time.
Their next step should be to further augment their comeback by throwing their weight around at the deadline. If that means going for Realmuto, so be it. If it means targeting pitching upgrades instead, that also works.
Even if they don't ultimately finish with the best record, the idea should be to craft a team that can tear through October. The Nationals are pretty close to having such a team as is. And with Bryce Harper possibly in his final season with the team, now's the time to throw caution to the wind.