Best Player Each MLB Buyer Can Add Before the 2019 Trade Deadline
The July 31 MLB trade deadline is more than a month away. But with the amateur draft in the rearview and top free-agent hurlers Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel at long last signed, expect swaps to start happening soon.
With that in mind, let's examine the best player each buyer can realistically add, based on need and resources.
Some clubs are on the postseason bubble and will probably see how they fare over the next few weeks before deciding whether to buy or sell. We included them but left off these seemingly obvious sellers: the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays.
Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Sergio Romo
The Arizona Diamondbacks are as likely to be sellers as buyers at the trade deadline, as they are tied for a distant second place in the National League West.
Then again, they're over .500 and might want to make a surprise run. If so, they could improve their bullpen without raiding their farm system by trading for Miami Marlins right-hander Sergio Romo.
The veteran has a less-than-superlative 5.25 ERA but has struck out 21 in 24 innings and locked down 12 saves for the Fish. He also has extensive experience in the division from his days with the Giants.
Atlanta Braves: LHP Madison Bumgarner
The Atlanta Braves are in first place in the National League East and inked ace lefty Keuchel to a one-year, $13 million deal.
They could stand pat and still be dangerous. Or they could gild the lily by acquiring Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner.
MadBum is a native of Hickory, North Carolina, so it'd be something of a Deep South homecoming. Plus, he's in a contract year and among the most legendary postseason pitchers in history.
Round peg, meet round hole.
Boston Red Sox: LHP Tony Watson
The Boston Red Sox could use help in the back end of their bullpen as they try to climb out of third place in the American League East.
Unfortunately for the defending champions, they have the 30th-ranked farm system in baseball by Bleacher Report's estimation.
Acquiring a top-shelf closer probably isn't in the cards, but Giants left-hander Tony Watson is an interesting option. The 34-year-old has posted a 2.60 ERA with 14 holds in 30 appearances and owns a 2.25 ERA in 16 career postseason games.
Chicago Cubs: LHP Jake Diekman
The Chicago Cubs significantly upgraded their bullpen by signing Kimbrel to a three-year, $43 million pact.
That was probably their big splash, but the Cubbies could use more left-handed depth in their relief corps.
Chicago White Sox: LHP Matthew Boyd
The Chicago White Sox's rebuild is nearing its conclusion. The South Siders might be another year from serious contention and could deal veteran first baseman and impending free agent Jose Abreu this offseason.
That said, they're hanging around .500 and play in the weak American League Central. If the ChiSox want to get bold, they could raid their No. 7 farm system and acquire left-hander Matthew Boyd from the Tigers.
Assuming Detroit is willing to deal within the division, Chicago would add a 28-year-old with a 3.35 ERA and 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings to a rotation that ranks 28th in baseball with a 5.44 ERA. Plus, Boyd is controllable through 2022.
Cleveland Indians: OF Yasiel Puig
The Cleveland Indians are an enigma. They're sunk in second place in the AL Central, yet they're above .500 and in the wild-card mix.
If they want to contend, they'll need to improve an offense that ranks 25th with a .706 OPS and an outfield that has vacillated between mediocre and downright awful.
Their No. 24-ranked farm system won't net them a game-changer, but they could take a flier on the Reds' Yasiel Puig.
Puig is having a down year, but he's posted an .860 OPS in June and boasts the pop, pedigree and personality to inject some life into a sputtering squad.
Colorado Rockies: RHP Marcus Stroman
The Colorado Rockies need starting pitching. What else is new? Their starting corps ranks dead last in the game with a 5.85 ERA.
Enter Blue Jays righty Marcus Stroman, who has posted a 3.18 ERA through 87.2 innings and is controllable through 2020, meaning he'd be more than a rental.
He'd cost the Rox at least a few prized prospects, and there's no guarantee he'd be immune to the Mile High curse. But he'd make them better, that's for sure.
Houston Astros: 1B Jose Abreu
It sounds paradoxical, but the White Sox may be buyers and sellers at the deadline. Acquiring a controllable arm such as Boyd makes sense. So does trading Abreu.
The 32-year-old has 17 home runs and an American League-leading 54 RBI in his contract year. He'd fit nicely into the lineup of many contenders, including the Houston Astros.
The 'Stros are a complete team, but they could stand an upgrade at first base, where the depth chart is topped by Yuli Gurriel (.678 OPS) and Tyler White (.656 OPS).
Adding Abreu's pop would significantly enhance Houston's chances of winning another Commissioner's Trophy.
Los Angeles Angels: RHP Marcus Stroman
The Los Angeles Angels want to get Mike Trout back onto the postseason stage after signing him to a record-breaking extension. Meanwhile, their starting rotation ranks dead-last in the Junior Circuit with a 5.47 ERA.
The Halos have worked hard to rebuild their farm system, but they can't afford to waste Trout's prime. If they're willing to part with a couple of top-rung prospects from their MiLB ladder, they could pry Stroman away from the Blue Jays.
We outlined the 28-year-old's credentials for the Rockies. And there's no doubt he'd immeasurably improve the Angels' starting five.
Los Angeles Dodgers: LHP Will Smith
A trade between the archrival Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers always sounds like a dim possibility. But with former Dodgers executive Farhan Zaidi in the Giants front office, it might happen.
L.A. needs to upgrade a bullpen that owns a 4.37 ERA. The Giants have Will Smith, who owns a 2.20 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 28.2 innings.
He's been a closer for San Francisco but could slot behind Kenley Jansen to give the Dodgers needed late-inning muscle as they try to win their first World Series since 1988.
Milwaukee Brewers: LHP Madison Bumgarner
Speaking of San Francisco southpaws, let's return to Bumgarner.
Teams with World Series aspirations should be lining up, including the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew's rotation is 20th with a 4.75 ERA.
Bumgarner would give them the playoff-tested ace they need and a real shot to vault past last season's Game 7 National League Championship Series finish.
It would mean depleting a No. 26-ranked farm system, but sometimes you have to strike while the iron is hot.
Minnesota Twins: RHP Ken Giles
The Minnesota Twins have a comfortable lead in the AL Central but could buttress a bullpen that ranks 20th with a 4.69 ERA.
The Blue Jays placed right-hander Ken Giles on the injured list Wednesday with elbow inflammation. Before that, he'd posted a 1.08 ERA and 15.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 2019. He is also under under club control through 2020.
Health provided, he'd be a big addition to the Twinkies' postseason push.
New York Mets: RHP Ken Giles
The New York Mets loaded up on veterans this offseason in an effort to contend. They're under .500, but general manager Brodie Van Wagenen told reporters he wants to "push that gas pedal down."
If so, the Mets will need to improve a bullpen that ranks 27th with a 5.25 ERA.
We already outlined Giles' credentials and injury concerns. If his elbow heals, he could help the Queens contingent in their gas pedal-pressing quest.
New York Yankees: LHP Madison Bumgarner
The New York Yankees added slugger Edwin Encarnacion in a swap with the Mariners. Yet their starting rotation has a 4.13 ERA and is without injured ace Luis Severino.
Bumgarner, as mentioned, is an October demigod in his contract year on a selling team. This deal makes too much sense to pass up.
MadBum isn't necessarily the hurler he used to be. But he's 29 years old and owns an impeccable playoff portfolio. There isn't a fan in the Bronx who wouldn't want him in pinstripes come the postseason.
Oakland Athletics: RHP Mychal Givens
After winning 97 games and snagging a wild-card slot in 2018, the Oakland Athletics have their fingernails on the edge of the postseason race.
A losing week or two would surely motivate them to sell; the small-market A's are always after cost-controlled MiLB chips.
If they reel off a hot streak, however, they could try to improve a bullpen that ranks 16th with a 4.41 ERA. The Orioles' Mychal Givens has an unsightly 5.28 ERA, meaning he wouldn't require Oakland to part with any top prospects.
But Givens is also 29 years old, under club control through 2021 and is averaging 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
Philadelphia Phillies: LHP Will Smith
The Philadelphia Phillies must enhance a bullpen that's 18th with a 4.62 ERA if they want to win the National League East and make a deep run.
The Giants' Smith makes a lot of sense as a setup man or situational closer to augment righty Hector Neris.
Whatever his role, Smith would be a high-upside rental for a team on the cusp of full-blown contention.
San Diego Padres: RHP Trevor Bauer
Like the White Sox, the Indians could be another club that tries to have it both ways by buying and selling at the deadline.
If so, they could send righty Trevor Bauer to the San Diego Padres.
The Pads are caught on the edge of contention but need starting pitching. Per Ken Rosenthal and Dennis Lin of The Athletic, they've been eyeing Bauer at least since March.
The deal could male sense for Cleveland in the short term as well, as it could command an MLB chip such as powerful outfielder Hunter Renfroe, who might help the Indians right away, along with ancillary pieces.
St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Marcus Stroman
The St. Louis Cardinals' starting five ranks 16th with a 4.44 ERA. The Cards are above .500 but treading water in third place in the National League Central.
They need to make a move.
They'll have to get in line with the other clubs previously mentioned in the bidding war for Stroman but could deal from a perennially deep farm system to shore up a potential weakness and make a run at the Brewers and archrival Cubs.
Tampa Bay Rays: 1B Jose Abreu
The Tampa Bay Rays are David in the David vs. Goliath story in the American League East. They are also tied for 18th with 93 home runs.
The White Sox's Abreu would be a welcome addition at first base and/or designated hitter and inject needed thump into the Rays lineup.
They'd have to part with precious prospects, but the contract-year Abreu would come as a relatively cheap rental as Tampa Bay tries to build on last season's surprise 90-win campaign.
Texas Rangers: RHP Tanner Roark
The Texas Rangers are caught between buying and selling, rebuilding and retooling.
If they have intentions on contending in the near-term, they could target a mid-shelf arm such as Reds right-hander Tanner Roark, who owns a 3.63 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 74.1 innings.
A top-10 Cy Young Award finisher as recently as 2016, Roark could bolster a rotation that ranks 23rd with a 5.09 ERA, though he's an impending free agent.
It wouldn't make the Rangers instant World Series hopefuls, but it'd help.
Washington Nationals: LHP Will Smith
The Washington Nationals need to decide if they're contending or selling in the post-Bryce Harper era. If they're selling, ace Max Scherzer should be on the block.
If they're buying, on the other hand, they must augment a bullpen that ranks last in MLB with a 6.27 ERA and missed on an obvious play for Kimbrel.
The Giants' Smith is a logical target. It'd cost prospects the Nats may not want to expend, but they need to do something to get better unless they want to accept a rebuild.
All statistics accurate as of Monday and courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.