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

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterMay 23, 2019

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

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    What of Yasiel Puig and the Cincinnati Reds?
    What of Yasiel Puig and the Cincinnati Reds?Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    Major League Baseball only has one trade deadline this season, and it'll be here in a little over two months.

    Rather than wait to see how the summer trading season plays out, we've predicted how MLB's 30 teams will split into buyers and sellers.

    This mostly involved a straightforward look at where teams are now, as well as what needs contenders have to fill and trade chips pretenders have to offer. For teams on the bubble, it involved predicting whether they'll catch up to the competition in time to lean into contention.

    We'll proceed in alphabetical order by city.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Manager Torey Lovullo
    Manager Torey LovulloJulio Aguilar/Getty Images

    Record: 25-25, 3rd in NL West

    The Arizona Diamondbacks were a game out of first place in the National League West as recently as May 5. But they're now mired in a 5-12 stretch that's coincided with a hot run by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    But while the Diamondbacks face a tall task in dethroning the Dodgers, the NL wild-card race is a wide-open affair wherein the bar for entry may be as low as 85 wins. At the least, the D-backs have a strong offense to help them get there.

    The Snakes won't necessarily be in the market for a blockbuster trade or two. They have neither the standing nor the prospect depth for such things.

    According to Nick Piecoro of, however, general manager Mike Hazen has already said he's looking to add starting pitching. A late-inning reliever is another need he might fill.

    Verdict: Buyer

Atlanta Braves

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    Brian Snitker (L) and Austin Riley (R)
    Brian Snitker (L) and Austin Riley (R)Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Record: 27-23, 2nd in NL East

    The Atlanta Braves' defense of their 2018 NL East title got off to a rocky start. More recently, however, they've come alive with a 15-9 record since April 28.

    With Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson and now Austin Riley leading the way, Atlanta's offense is set. With plenty of help from Mike Soroka, even the club's much-maligned starting rotation has been stable lately.

    Still, the Braves rotation would look better with a veteran ace up top. Likewise, their bullpen could use a veteran reliever to work in tandem with Luke Jackson.

    These aren't small needs to fill, but the Braves have the means (i.e., their elite farm system) and the motive (i.e., catching up to the Philadelphia Phillies) to fill them.

    Verdict: Buyer

Baltimore Orioles

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    Andrew Cashner
    Andrew CashnerNick Wass/Associated Press

    Record: 15-34, 5th in AL East

    After accruing 115 losses in 2018, the Baltimore Orioles are on pace to improve to...[drum roll]...112 losses in 2019.

    So yeah, they're a seller. The only catch is that the Orioles cashed in their best trade chip when they shipped Manny Machado to the Dodgers last July, and what's left frankly isn't very impressive.

    Yet they should get a nice package for right-handed reliever Mychal Givens. While he isn't likely to bring back a haul in his own right, veteran starter Andrew Cashner has quietly been stringing together quality starts since bombing in his 2019 debut. There should also be a market for utility man Jonathan Villar.

    Verdict: Seller

Boston Red Sox

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    Alex Cora (L) and Mookie Betts (R)
    Alex Cora (L) and Mookie Betts (R)Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    Record: 26-23, 3rd in AL East

    The Boston Red Sox looked nothing like the defending World Series champions earlier in the year. However, a 20-10 record since April 19 has put minds across New England at ease again.

    Of course, the Red Sox are still in a tricky spot. Neither the New York Yankees nor Tampa Bay Rays are guaranteed to cede ground in the American League East. And when it comes to potential trades, the Red Sox will be held back by their weak farm system and luxury-tax situation.

    Ultimately, the Red Sox may stand pat at the deadline and trust in their incumbents. But since they could use insurance for both their starting rotation and their bullpen, it's more likely that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will pull whatever strings he must to add depth before July 31.

    Verdict: Buyer

Chicago Cubs

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    Joe Maddon
    Joe MaddonDavid Banks/Getty Images

    Record: 29-18, 1st in NL Central

    The Chicago Cubs have won 26 of their last 36 games, and their overall record puts them on pace for 100 wins. Ordinarily, these would be excuses for them to breathe easy.

    In reality, not so much. The Milwaukee Brewers are keeping pace, and the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals are also factors in the NL Central race. None of these four clubs will be able to get away with inaction this summer.

    Like the Red Sox, the Cubs will be at a disadvantage on the trade market because of their farm system and luxury-tax status. But president of baseball operations Theo Epstein will have to find ways around those, especially if it means upgrading a bullpen that's not as strong as even its 3.91 ERA indicates.

    Verdict: Buyer

Chicago White Sox

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    Jose Abreu
    Jose AbreuTom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Record: 22-26, 3rd in AL Central

    The Chicago White Sox are closer to the end of their rebuild than to the beginning of it. But if not from their record, you can take it from their minus-39 run differential that they're not ready to contend just yet.

    If the White Sox really want to go for broke, they'll look to trade slugger Jose Abreu and breakout catcher James McCann this summer. Per James Fegan of The Athletic, however, Chicago GM Rick Hahn has indicated he'd sooner keep both players.

    Still, that doesn't mean the White Sox will be completely closed for business this summer. They might get something for first baseman Yonder Alonso, catcher Welington Castillo or righty relievers Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera.

    Verdict: Seller

Cincinnati Reds

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    Yasiel Puig
    Yasiel PuigRobert Reiners/Getty Images

    Record: 22-27, 5th in the NL Central

    If you squint hard enough, the Cincinnati Reds might start to look like a sleeping giant.

    Even now, their 3.50 ERA is the best in the National League. All they really need is some offense, and they might get plenty if Joey Votto, Yasiel Puig, Nick Senzel and a healthy Scooter Gennett live up to their billing.

    However, it's getting late early for the Reds. They're already saddled with a big deficit in the NL Central, and there's also a crowd ahead of them in the wild-card race. And given how many pending free agents they have, they can only afford to wait so long for a season-saving hot streak.

    In all probability, the Reds won't have much choice but to cash in their rentals, starting with Puig, Gennett and veteran righty Tanner Roark.

    Verdict: Seller

Cleveland Indians

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    Terry Francona
    Terry FranconaJason Miller/Getty Images

    Record: 25-23, 2nd in AL Central

    The Cleveland Indians have one of the least effective offenses in the American League, as well as an injured list headlined by righty aces Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger.

    Between these maladies and the Indians' deficit to the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central, there's an argument that they should cut their losses at the trade deadline. Specifically, by dealing All-Star righty Trevor Bauer.

    Yet the Indians have won more than they've lost, and the AL's second wild card spot may be between only them and the Red Sox.

    A team like this isn't likely to go all out on the summer trade market, but the Indians figure to at least shop for low-risk, high-reward hitters who could give Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez much-needed support.

    Verdict: Buyer

Colorado Rockies

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    Bud Black
    Bud BlackJustin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Record: 22-25, 4th in NL West

    The Colorado Rockies are not only in deep trouble in the NL West, but they're also looking up at a whole bunch of teams in the NL wild-card race. Meanwhile, their offense and pitching are trending in opposite directions.

    Trouble is, the Rockies don't actually have much to sell.

    Veteran slugger Mark Reynolds and veteran righty Seunghwan Oh are their only pending free agents, and neither has much trade value. Among Colorado's controllable assets are a few high-paid albatrosses and some untouchable stars.

    The best thing the Rockies can do is let it ride and hope that fate gives them an excuse to go for it. To this end, they're owed better luck, which could manifest in an improvement of their abnormally low winning percentage at Coors Field.

    Verdict: Buyer

Detroit Tigers

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    Nicholas Castellanos
    Nicholas CastellanosMark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Record: 18-28, 4th in AL Central

    The Detroit Tigers raised a few eyebrows when they got off to an 8-4 start. But ever since then, life has consisted of a 10-24 record on the field and key arms going on the injured list.

    The bright side, such as it is, is that the Tigers still have some trade chips they can cash in to improve what's already a pretty good farm system. Slugger Nicholas Castellanos is the most obvious of the bunch, but righty closer Shane Greene and utility man Josh Harrison should also be in demand.

    A more interesting question is whether the Tigers will look to capitalize on left-hander Matthew Boyd's breakout into an All-Star-caliber pitcher. It's not likely they will, but Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that a "premium young hitter" might get them to budge.

    Verdict: Seller

Houston Astros

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    A.J. Hinch
    A.J. HinchJoel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Record: 33-17, 1st in AL West

    The Houston Astros have easily the largest division lead of any team in baseball, and it's being fueled by probably the best offense ever and a pitching staff that's plenty outstanding in its own right.

    A team like this doesn't truly need anything, so perhaps the Astros will merely shrug their shoulders as the trade deadline inches closer.

    Or, they could take the approach that overkill is underrated. They might do that by making their offense even better by improving on Tyler White in the designated hitter slot. They might also consider a third ace to help Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole carry the load.

    And with their farm system, no available player should be beyond the Astros' reach on the summer market.

    Verdict: Buyer

Kansas City Royals

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    Alex Gordon
    Alex GordonJohn Sleezer/Getty Images

    Record: 17-32, 5th in AL Central

    The Kansas City Royals are in better shape than the Orioles, but a 106-loss pace is still a 106-loss pace.

    From orbit, veteran left fielder Alex Gordon and veteran righty Ian Kennedy look like the Royals' two most attractive trade chips. But their big salaries complicate their trade value, and Gordon has made no promises about waiving his 10-and-5 rights if the Royals attempt to trade him.

    "I don't want to play anywhere else," Gordon said, according to's Jeffrey Flanagan. "Yeah, I want to retire as a Royal. I've established my family here with my kids. This is home."

    If not Gordon or Kennedy, however, the Royals might at least move lefty Jake Diekman, righty Homer Bailey or catcher Martin Maldonado.

    Verdict: Seller

Los Angeles Angels

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    Brad Ausmus
    Brad AusmusVictor Decolongon/Getty Images

    Record: 22-26, 4th in AL West

    Another year, another case of the Los Angeles Angels struggling to do right by resident super-duper-star Mike Trout.

    The effort to do so is nonetheless ongoing, so it's doubtful the Angels are going to enter into a complete rebuild any time soon. Even if they wanted to, they have the same problem of a lack of marketable rentals that the Rockies have.

    There's also the reality that the Angels' situation isn't completely hopeless. A wild-card spot isn't yet out of their reach, and that's despite the fact they've only recently welcomed Shohei Ohtani back to their lineup. Justin Upton will also be back eventually.

    What the Angels need now is help for a starting rotation with a 5.59 ERA. Rather than give up, they might pursue low-risk fixes for that problem.

    Verdict: Buyer

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Dave Roberts
    Dave RobertsMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Record: 32-18, 1st in NL West

    Given that they've won the division every year since 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers once again being atop the NL West is little more than a sign that the earth is still spinning.

    Yet these Dodgers have more on their minds than simply capturing a seventh straight division title. They're after their first World Series championship since 1988, and the effort needs some help.

    The Dodgers could use a relief ace who can serve as insurance for veteran closer Kenley Jansen. According to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has also targeted a right-handed-hitting outfielder as a need in the wake of A.J. Pollock's elbow surgery.

    With both deep pockets and a deep farm system at their disposal, the Dodgers should have little trouble filling these needs.

    Verdict: Buyer

Miami Marlins

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    Neil Walker
    Neil WalkerEric Espada/Getty Images

    Record: 15-31, 5th in NL East

    Even after five wins in a row, the Miami Marlins are still stuck with a minus-85 run differential and a 109-loss pace.

    In the meantime, the Marlins' farm system still needs a lot of work. That wouldn't be the case if the team's management had gotten more for all the various stars it's shipped out in recent years, but, well, it is.

    This is where there should be some sort of bright side. Outside of Neil Walker, Starlin Castro, Curtis Granderson and Sergio Romo, however, the Marlins are short on trade chips. And even those guys have limited value.

    All the Marlins can do is put them out there and hope somebody overpays.

    Verdict: Seller

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Craig Counsell
    Craig CounsellDylan Buell/Getty Images

    Record: 29-22, 2nd in NL Central

    It feels like the Milwaukee Brewers haven't even fully come together, yet they've played well enough to put themselves within striking distance of the Cubs in the NL Central.

    There are any number of things the Brewers might do to keep the pressure on. An offense that's been overly reliant on reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich could use a bat. Likewise, both their rotation and their bullpen could use an impact arm.

    It won't be easy for the Brewers to land these things. After all, their payroll is already stretched beyond its 2018 endpoint, and their farm system has seen better days.

    The Brewers will try, though, because ultimately they must.

    Verdict: Buyer

Minnesota Twins

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    Rocco Baldelli
    Rocco BaldelliBruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Record: 32-16, 1st in AL Central

    Though the Twins haven't yet buried the Indians in the AL Central, there isn't much keeping them from doing exactly that.

    The Twins offense is a powerful unit that ranks second in runs per game. The pitching staff, meanwhile, has a strong rotation trio—Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi and Martin Perez—and a deceptively deep bullpen.

    The Minnesota pitching staff could nonetheless use some improvements. The rotation would be helped by a veteran ace. The bullpen would benefit from an ace closer who's more overpowering than Blake Parker, who has only 12 strikeouts next to seven walks in 16.1 innings.

    It's a good thing the Twins have the farm system depth to pursue pretty much any upgrade they desire.

    Verdict: Buyer

New York Mets

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    Mickey Callaway (left) and Zack Wheeler
    Mickey Callaway (left) and Zack WheelerFrank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Record: 23-25, 3rd in NL East

    Things started fine for the Mets, but they are now stuck in a 14-21 tailspin since April 13.

    The Mets aren't lacking in big names, and they stand to gain a few more off the injured list as the season progresses. In theory, they might regain a foothold in the NL East through a mix of power pitching and power hitting.

    So far, however, New York can't blame its situation on bad luck. And even if better days are ahead, whatever charge it mounts could be too little, too late to catch up to the Phillies and Braves.

    It's doubtful the Mets will blow their roster up at the deadline. But at the least, they're sure to shop electric righty Zack Wheeler and other pending free agents.

    Verdict: Buyer

New York Yankees

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    Aaron Boone
    Aaron BooneChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Record: 31-17, 1st in AL East

    It's not surprising to see the Yankees atop the AL East, but they certainly didn't get there via the route they expected to take.

    The Yankees have had rotten luck with injuries ever since spring training, and so it goes. They have 13 players on the injured list, including sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and aces Luis Severino and James Paxton.

    If it wants, New York can simply be patient and wait for good health to upgrade its roster as it gets closer to July 31. As a bonus, it'd save both money and prospects that way.

    But with Miguel Andujar out for the rest of the year, the Yankees might at least look at the third base market. They could also move for a starter if Severino's recovery hits further snags.

    Verdict: Buyer

Oakland Athletics

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    Bob Melvin
    Bob MelvinMichael Zagaris/Getty Images

    Record: 25-25, 3rd in AL West

    After a relatively smooth ride to 97 wins in 2018, the Oakland Athletics have taken more of a one step forward, one step back approach to 2019.

    Even if the A's are still reasonably close to .500 come July, they'll probably sell. The AL West and AL wild-card races aren't going to wait for them, after all, and executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane is sure to get good offers for stars such as closer Blake Treinen and perhaps even shortstop Marcus Semien.

    The A's have been somewhat unlucky to this point, however, and there's enough talent on their roster to usher in a change of fortune. It's already starting to happen, as they've won six games in a row.

    If this keeps up, the A's may only be a trade for a reliable starting pitcher (or two) from taking off.

    Verdict: Buyer

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Bryce Harper and Gabe Kapler
    Bryce Harper and Gabe KaplerMatt Rourke/Associated Press

    Record: 28-21, 1st in NL East

    The Phillies are right where they want to be following an offseason push that netted Bryce Harper and a handful of other stars.

    And yet their hold on the NL East feels oddly tenuous. Their offense has been good but not great. Their starting rotation is getting neither Aaron Nola's nor Jake Arrieta's best work. Their bullpen, meanwhile, could use another shutdown arm alongside Hector Neris'.

    Philadelphia has already far surpassed what it spent in 2018, and it's not far from the $206 million luxury-tax threshold. It also has a diminished farm system.

    Still, the Phillies haven't come this far to play it safe. They'll do whatever they can to see their resurgence through to the end.

    Verdict: Buyer

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Clint Hurdle
    Clint HurdleDenis Poroy/Getty Images

    Record: 24-22, 3rd in NL Central

    In light of their minus-50 run differential, there probably isn't a bigger overachiever in baseball right now than the Pirates.

    The details aren't so flattering either. The Pittsburgh offense is one of the worst in baseball. The pitching staff has been more reliable, yet it'll be without ace righties Trevor Williams and Jameson Taillon for a while.

    Of course, the Pirates pulled a similar overachieving trick last season and still went big at the trade deadline with trades for Chris Archer and Keone Kela. But rather than further empty their farm system for the sake of a second straight long shot, it's more probable that they'll sell.

    They don't have too much to offer, but rentals such as righty Jordan Lyles, lefty Francisco Liriano and outfielder Melky Cabrera have quietly been building up value.

    Verdict: Seller

San Diego Padres

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    Andy Green (left) and A.J. Preller
    Andy Green (left) and A.J. PrellerDenis Poroy/Getty Images

    Record: 26-24, 2nd in NL West

    The San Diego Padres have also overachieved, as they've won more games than they've lost despite allowing 19 more runs than they've scored.

    Yet the Padres have excuses to dream big. Their pitching staff has already surpassed expectations. And while their offense has done the opposite, that could change in a hurry if Manny Machado gets hot and Fernando Tatis Jr. returns from the injured list.

    Hence why the Padres are dreaming big. According to Rosenthal, their goals for the trade deadline involve finding a No. 1 starter and a left-handed hitter.

    Given that they have arguably baseball's best farm system to barter with, there aren't many ways the Padres can't fill these needs.

    Verdict: Buyer

San Francisco Giants

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    Madison Bumgarner
    Madison BumgarnerThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Record: 21-27, 5th in NL West

    The San Francisco Giants have been surprisingly non-terrible, but their last-place standing and lopsided run differential cast clear writing on the wall.

    Likewise, it's plenty clear what the Giants have to offer. Despite Madison Bumgarner's disappointing results, teams figure to line up to rent the lefty ace for the rest of the year. Ditto for lefty reliever Will Smith, who's putting together a second straight outstanding season.

    The Giants' other rentals include lefty Drew Pomeranz and, albeit with 2020 options, fellow lefties Derek Holland (club) and Tony Watson (player). It's possible they'll even make first baseman Brandon Belt and catcher Buster Posey available rather than let their values diminish even further.

    Verdict: Seller

Seattle Mariners

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    Edwin Encarnacion
    Edwin EncarnacionStephen Brashear/Getty Images

    Record: 23-29, 5th in AL West

    The Seattle Mariners were the toast of Major League Baseball at one point. But now that they've lost 27 of their last 37 games, they're, well, toast.

    Mind you, the Mariners aren't going to be traditional sellers. That would be too straightforward for GM Jerry Dipoto. For good or ill, he prefers to be more creative than to simply use trades to cut payroll or hoard prospects.

    Still, the headlines will focus on the big names leaving Seattle rather than coming in. Veteran sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce are candidates to go. There might also be markets for infielder Tim Beckham and outfielder Domingo Santana, each of whom has re-established their trade value this season.

    Verdict: Seller

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Mike Shildt
    Mike ShildtDilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Record: 25-24, 4th in NL Central

    The Cardinals were in first place as recently as May 6, but a suddenly inconsistent offense and ongoing issues with their pitching staff have taken them down a few notches.

    Yet this is no time for doom and gloom. The Pirates almost certainly aren't better than the Cardinals. And with the right moves, St. Louis might quickly gain ground in both the NL Central and NL wild-card races.

    Above all, the Cardinals need at least one impact arm for a starting rotation that's been about as rough as its 4.72 ERA indicates. A late-inning reliever is a secondary need but not one that's easily downplayed.

    In any case, the Cardinals should have enough prospect depth to turn over whatever stones they please.

    Verdict: Buyer

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Kevin Cash
    Kevin CashJulio Aguilar/Getty Images

    Record: 28-18, 2nd in AL East

    The Rays were riding high for a while there, but their 14-14 stretch since April 18 has coincided with strong play on the part of the Yankees and Red Sox.

    Regarding possible trades, the Rays have still more issues. Their payroll is already bumping up against what they spent in 2018. And while they have plenty of prospect depth, it wouldn't be in their character to sacrifice it for high-priced rentals.

    The Rays, however, have too great an opportunity to simply do nothing at the trade deadline.

    What's more, they really only need to build a stronger team around a pitching staff that's already put up an MLB-best 3.00 ERA. Something as simple as a trade for a slugger would do the trick, and we've already covered plenty who should be available.

    Verdict: Buyer

Texas Rangers

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    Hunter Pence
    Hunter PenceTim Warner/Getty Images

    Record: 24-23, 2nd in AL West

    The Texas Rangers are the most "better than you think" team in baseball. Their winning record is supported by a plus-14 run differential, which has come courtesy mostly of their MLB-best offense.

    Trouble is, the Rangers have the rotten luck of sharing the AL West with the Astros. And if their offense cools even slightly, they'll no longer be able to downplay a pitching staff with a 5.15 ERA.

    If nothing else, the Rangers can use their strong play as an excuse to keep their core pieces together. Their rentals, however, can and should go.

    Among them are born-again veteran hitters Hunter Pence and Logan Forsythe as well as the ever-capable Asdrubal Cabrera. The Rangers might also shop veteran righty Shawn Kelley, who has a $2.5 million salary this year and a $2.5 million club option for 2020.

    Verdict: Seller

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Marcus Stroman
    Marcus StromanMatt Marton/Associated Press

    Record: 20-29, 4th in AL East

    Now that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is hitting like everyone expected him to, the Toronto Blue Jays' future is beginning to come into focus.

    How many of their stars will stick around for it is nevertheless a good question.

    According to Rosenthal (via Mike Johnston of Sportsnet), the Blue Jays mean to shop first baseman Justin Smoak and righties Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. The latter two are under their control through 2020, yet both have value that should be cashed in before either runs afoul of the injury bug again.

    While they're at it, the Blue Jays might also put righty closer Ken Giles on the table. After a disastrous 2018, he's found his value again with a strikeout-laden 1.31 ERA.

    Verdict: Seller

Washington Nationals

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    Anthony Rendon
    Anthony RendonLynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Record: 19-30, 4th in NL East

    Never mind the fact that the Washington Nationals are way behind in the NL East. What's more telling is that they're only 2.5 games ahead of the Marlins.

    The Nationals aren't getting nearly enough from players not named Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto or Sean Doolittle. That's arguably a sign they should tear it apart and start from scratch.

    That seems unlikely to actually happen, but the Nats won't have much choice but to shop their pending free agents. That list is notably headlined by Rendon, who is shaping up to be this year's Manny Machado.

    A trade of Doolittle, who has a $6.5 million club option for 2020, is another possibility, as there's wisdom in cashing the lefty closer in before his history of nagging injuries becomes something worse.

    Verdict: Seller


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.