Each MLB Team's Nightmare 2019 Trade Deadline Scenario
The July 31 trade deadline is approaching. May every team in Major League Baseball get everything it wants.
But what would the opposite of that look like?
We've endeavored to answer this question by imagining the nightmare trade deadline scenario for all 30 MLB teams. The specifics vary, but they essentially involve sellers failing to sell and buyers failing to buy.
We'll proceed in alphabetical order by city.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Overplaying Their Hand
Record: 43-45, 3rd in NL West
When Zach Buchanan of The Athletic asked Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen in June about his trade deadline plans, he replied: "The amount of the resources that we contribute are going to be more of a reflection of where we're at playing-wise at the time."
Where the D-backs are now is complicated. On one hand, they've been inconsistent since a strong April. On the other hand, they're technically still in a crowded National League wild-card race.
If they don't pick up the pace between now and the deadline, the Snakes' best play would be to back off and trade rentals such as Greg Holland and Adam Jones.
In lieu of that, the worst thing they could do is try too hard to stay in the race. They're essentially attempting to contend and rebuild at the same time. At their current pace, the former pursuit isn't worth subtracting major pieces from their No. 12-ranked farm system.
Atlanta Braves: Failure to Add Pitching
Record: 50-36, 1st in NL East
The Atlanta Braves entered June with a three-game deficit in the NL East. They exited the month with a 5.5-game lead, and they picked up 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel along the way.
But despite the addition of Keuchel, the Braves can't rest easy with their pitching staff just yet.
Their bullpen came around in a big way with an MLB-best 2.59 ERA in June, yet it would look even better with an additional late-inning reliever or two. Their rotation, meanwhile, continued its season-long struggle with a 5.46 ERA last month.
The Braves are sitting on MLB's No. 2-ranked farm system, so they have no excuses not to acquire more arms for the stretch run.
Baltimore Orioles: Nobody Wants Their Wares
Record: 25-61, 5th in AL East
Based on their record, the Baltimore Orioles are about as obvious of a seller as sellers come.
But how much of a seller can they be, really?
The O's ditched their best trade chips (e.g., Manny Machado) ahead of last year's deadline. What's left is an assortment of veterans headlined by veteran pitchers Mychal Givens, Andrew Cashner and Dylan Bundy and young-ish slugger Trey Mancini.
Those three pitchers may have limited value. Mancini might be too one-dimensional to generate serious interest. As such, the Orioles could have little leeway for adding to a farm system that must be better than merely the No. 13-ranked system in baseball.
Boston Red Sox: Failure to Add Relief Pitchers
Record: 46-41, 3rd in AL East
The Boston Red Sox lost ace closer Craig Kimbrel to free agency last winter. Rather than do something about it, they shrugged their shoulders and went about their day.
Per Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, team owner John Henry doesn't want to add "a lot" of payroll ahead of July 31. According to NESN's Tom Caron, Boston's preferred solution may be to use Nathan Eovaldi as a late-inning reliever once he comes off the injured list.
In short, the Red Sox are looking to pinch pennies and waste a perfectly good No. 5 starter. What they should do is suck it up and move heaven and earth for proper bullpen upgrades.
Chicago Cubs: Coming Away Empty-Handed
Record: 46-42, T-1st in NL Central
The Chicago Cubs secured a major piece when they signed closer Craig Kimbrel last month. Their bullpen figures to be much better with him there to handle the ninth inning.
Now all they need is the rest of a functional contender.
The Cubs seem to have everything they need on paper, but it hasn't looked that way in practice. Nearly anything would help them achieve greater consistency, although they especially need another bat and another bullpen arm alongside Kimbrel.
According to Madeline Kenney and Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cubs are well-aware of both needs. With an NL Central title and a possible World Series run at stake, failure to do anything would be unacceptable.
Chicago White Sox: Failure to Cash in Alex Colome
Record: 41-43, 3rd in AL Central
If not Abreu, the White Sox should absolutely cash in on Alex Colome.
They acquired the 30-year-old right-hander from the Seattle Mariners in November, and he's paid off with a 2.08 ERA over his first 35 appearances. Between that and his club control through 2020, he's one of the more desirable options on a trade market that's saturated with relievers.
The White Sox might keep Colome and hope he's closing games in a pennant race for them next year. But in the event that his low strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate comes back to bite him, they'll wish they had sold high.
Cincinnati Reds: Overplaying Their Hand
Record: 41-44, 5th in NL Central
The Cincinnati Reds look like a seller, but their plus-42 run differential suggests they deserve better.
They could creep up the NL Central ranks if their bad luck turns good, and they may be counting on that. According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the Reds are "open to adding" a controllable bat.
While that would indeed boost an offense sorely in need of a boost, the Reds must be wary of overestimating their playoff odds. They face an uphill climb to the top of the NL Central, and the wild-card race is a veritable Royal Rumble.
If the Reds do get a hitter, they should target one who doesn't cost much from their No. 6-ranked farm system. And if their bad luck ultimately doesn't turn around, they'll have to swallow their pride and move rentals like Yasiel Puig and Tanner Roark.
Cleveland Indians: Failure to Add a Hitter
Record: 48-38, 2nd in AL Central
Plenty of contenders would love to get their hands on ace starter Trevor Bauer or ace closer Brad Hand, but the Cleveland Indians might have other ideas.
The Indians haven't been horrible at any point this season, and they were downright good amid a 17-9 June. Their pitching staff turned in yet another solid month, and even their much-maligned offense came around.
With two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber nearing his return from a broken arm, Cleveland can focus its trade efforts on safeguarding its offense against regression. The team needs an impact hitter who can support Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana.
The worst-case scenario involves the Indians wanting to keep their payroll nice and cheap while also becoming overprotective of their No. 24-ranked farm system. Such an approach would put their recent momentum in jeopardy.
Colorado Rockies: Failure to Add a Hitter
Record: 44-42, 2nd in NL West
As always, the Colorado Rockies need more pitching. Their staff's 5.18 ERA is the worst in the National League.
However, it would be futile for the Rockies to make pitching their top priority. Coors Field is going to punish any new arms they bring aboard, no matter how talented. Besides, they can simply wait on closer Wade Davis and starter Kyle Freeland to get their acts together.
Instead, the Rockies should seek reinforcements for an offense that doesn't have much depth around All-Stars Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story and David Dahl. This issue is especially evident on the road, where they have only a .660 OPS as a team.
If the Rockies don't do something about this, they'll risk missing out on a third straight postseason berth.
Detroit Tigers: Failure to Cash In on Nicholas Castellanos
Record: 28-54, 4th in AL Central
The Detroit Tigers could trade breakout ace Matthew Boyd for a haul of prospects. Alternatively, they can keep him under their control through 2022. They could also hypothetically keep ace closer Shane Greene, who's controlled through 2020.
Nicholas Castellanos, on the other hand, has to go.
This is his final season under Detroit's control, and it sure doesn't seem like a contract extension is forthcoming. Meanwhile, Castellanos has been recovering from a slow start with an .899 OPS since May 19.
Tigers GM Al Avila has had trouble generating interest in Castellanos in the past, but he's bound to hear from offense-needy contenders over the next few weeks. For the sake of the team's almost-elite farm system, he'll need to get something out of one of them.
Houston Astros: Failure to Add a Starting Pitcher
Record: 55-32, 1st in AL West
The Houston Astros could do no wrong for a while there, but then came a June swoon.
Specifically, the month came for the back end of their starting rotation. Brad Peacock and Framber Valdez both had ERAs over 6.00 in June, and they allowed 12 home runs between them.
According to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow understands pitching needs to be his top priority ahead of the trade deadline. If he's strictly interested in hanging on to the AL West lead, a mere back-end starter will do. But given the club's prospect depth, something better is possible.
In any case, adding no new starting pitching would be both a massive letdown and potentially a problem for the stretch run and (knock on wood) the postseason.
Kansas City Royals: Failure to Sell High on Ian Kennedy
Record: 29-59, 5th in AL Central
The Kansas City Royals will be open for business this month. According to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, pretty much everyone except shortstop Adalberto Mondesi and third baseman Hunter Dozier is available.
The Royals don't necessarily have to move certain players (i.e., Whit Merrifield) right away. Then there's Ian Kennedy, who's the ultimate sell-high candidate.
The 34-year-old righty came into 2019 as a failed starter. Now he's a relatively successful closer with a 3.18 ERA, 41 strikeouts and only seven walks through 33 appearances. Suddenly, the $16.5 million he's making both this year and next doesn't look so bad.
But if Kennedy wavers, he'll go right back to looking like an albatross. The Royals must move him before that happens.
Los Angeles Angels: Failure to Replace Tommy La Stella
Record: 44-44, 4th in AL West
In the wake of the tragic death of young lefty Tyler Skaggs on Monday, playing and winning baseball games must feel like a secondary concern for everyone in the Los Angeles Angels organization.
Yet the Angels must play on, and a wild-card berth might be in reach with the right kind of effort at the trade deadline. That includes providing their lineup with a replacement for Tommy La Stella.
Mere days after he was named an All-Star for the first time, La Stella broke his leg on a foul ball Tuesday. He's due to miss 8-10 weeks, which would put him out of action until September.
La Stella had broken out with an .848 OPS and 16 home runs. The Angels can't afford not to try and replace that kind of production, as their offense was already having a hard enough time carrying the team.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Failure to Add a Late-Inning Reliever
Record: 60-29, 1st in NL West
If any team in MLB can justify crossing its arms and saying "we're good" at the trade deadline, it's the Los Angeles Dodgers.
They have an explosive offense and a dominant rotation, and even their oft-criticized bullpen hit its stride with a 3.26 ERA in June. In short, they have all of the ingredients to win an elusive World Series title.
However, Los Angeles' bullpen is the weakest of these elements. The Dodgers can trust Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning, but the bridge to him would benefit from at least one more impact arm. In particular, an impact left-hander.
Between their deep pockets and their No. 9-ranked farm system, the Dodgers have the means to go get one. They just need to do it.
Miami Marlins: Failure to Cash in Neil Walker
Record: 32-53, 5th in NL East
The Miami Marlins are far from good, but their young and talented starting rotation has recently been helping them achieve a certain level of respectability.
The question is whether they'll subtract any pieces from it for the sake of a farm system that ranks only 23rd. According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, president of baseball operations Michael Hill is open to the idea.
The Marlins don't have to do that, however. Besides, they might only be able to sell high on Sandy Alcantara. Seeing as he's only 23 and is now an All-Star, they're better off keeping him.
Instead, the Marlins should settle for moving Neil Walker. He isn't worth much, but his experience and generally reliable bat give him some value for the Marlins to exploit. Failure to do so wouldn't be an outright disaster, but it would at least be a bummer.
Milwaukee Brewers: Failure to Add a Starting Pitcher
Record: 46-42, T-1st in NL Central
The Milwaukee Brewers are in first place in the NL Central despite having allowed more runs than they've scored. That's a red flag if there ever was one.
The best way the Brewers can lower it is by fixing their starting rotation. It's been weak since Opening Day, and it just posted a 5.87 ERA in June. Additionally, Jimmy Nelson (elbow) and Gio Gonzalez (arm fatigue) could be out of action for a while.
Still, that isn't an excuse for no action at all. No matter how creative they have to get, the Brewers can't let the trade deadline come and go without adding any new starters.
Minnesota Twins: Failure to Add Pitching
Record: 54-32, 1st in AL Central
Assuming the Cleveland Indians don't go out and get a Mike Trout or a Christian Yelich for their offense, the Minnesota Twins are probably safe atop the AL Central.
Their upcoming trip to the postseason is a different story.
The Twins' homer-happy offense will play well in October, but it won't mean much if their pitching staff is vulnerable. It would benefit from a No. 3 starter to help out Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi, as well as from a relief ace to support Taylor Rogers.
The Twins do have MLB's 10th-ranked farm system to barter with, but it doesn't look as well-stocked with trade chips if shortstop Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff are subtracted from the equation. If they are, it will be that much harder for the Twins to land the arms they need.
However, "harder" doesn't equal "impossible." With the right kind of effort, the Twins may be able to have it both ways.
New York Mets: Failure to Move Zack Wheeler
Record: 39-48, 4th in NL East
The New York Mets came into this season with high hopes, but they've since crashed and burned.
The Mets have no choice but to cut their losses and sell at the trade deadline, yet even that will be easier said than done. Their most valuable trade chips are young and talented players who they control beyond 2019. Meanwhile, many of the guys they'd probably like to move are devoid of value.
If nothing else, the Mets should aggressively market Zack Wheeler. Otherwise, they'll lose him for nothing in free agency this winter.
Wheeler hasn't helped his value by following a 3.31 ERA in 2018 with a 4.42 ERA this season, but there should be interest in his upper-level fastball and array of nasty secondary pitches. The Mets must capitalize on it.
New York Yankees: Failure to Add a Starting Pitcher
Record: 56-29, 1st in AL East
The New York Yankees are running away with the AL East even though they're only now starting to recover from an early-season injury epidemic.
However, it's no secret that the Yankees have issues in their starting rotation. It posted a 5.75 ERA in June, and whether righty ace Luis Severino will return to his No. 1 slot this season remains up in the air.
Granted, the Yankees aren't ideally situated to trade for a replacement ace. Their farm system ranks 20th in MLB, and they're brushing up against the $246 million threshold for the harshest luxury-tax penalties.
According to David Lennon of Newsday, team owner Hal Steinbrenner says the luxury tax won't stop the Yankees from adding to their rotation.
They now need to deliver on that promise.
Oakland Athletics: Failure to Add a Starting Pitcher
Record: 48-40, 2nd in AL West
They probably won't win 97 games again, but the Oakland Athletics apparently aren't finished as a contender just yet.
They're 33-19 since May 7, in which time their offense, defense and pitching staff have performed more up to the standards of last year's Cinderella club. As a result, they're now a favorite for the AL's second wild card.
Nevertheless, Oakland's starting rotation still doesn't inspire confidence. It boasts a pedestrian 4.10 ERA, and that figure would be even higher without the efforts of breakout star Frankie Montas, who is now serving an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
The A's would be wise to fill Montas' shoes with a comparable ace. Or, if nothing else, a competent innings-eater.
Philadelphia Phillies: Coming Away Empty-Handed
Record: 45-42, 3rd in NL East
The Philadelphia Phillies seemed to successfully transform themselves into a World Series contender over the offseason, but their effort to make good on that promise has hit some snags.
The Phillies are only 12-20 since May 30. Jay Bruce has helped to fill in for Andrew McCutchen (knee) so far, but the club's offense needs more help around Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins. Meanwhile, its pitching staff could use more talent in support of aces Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin and closer Hector Neris.
Fortunately for the Phillies, they have a halfway decent (No. 14 in MLB) farm system to barter with. After several consecutive years of lean payrolls, they should also have some spare cash to put toward trades.
In short, there's no reason they should come away from the summer trading season with nothing.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Overplaying Their Hand
Record: 42-44, 4th in NL Central
Just like they did in 2018, the Pittsburgh Pirates are hanging around despite peripherals (e.g., their minus-46 run differential) that don't add up.
Also like in 2018, the Pirates don't seem to be in a selling mood. Ace closer Felipe Vazquez has been the subject of trade chatter, but Pirates GM Neal Huntington shut it down during a radio interview (h/t Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors) over the weekend.
The Pirates may plan to sit back and hope their surging offense and talented pitching staff can lead the way to October. Or, they might fancy trades to help either one.
But if the Pirates are going to buy, they must be protective of their No. 16-ranked farm system. Some of their best prospects (e.g., right-hander Mitch Keller and third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes) are MLB-ready, and it frankly isn't worth going all-in on this season.
San Diego Padres: Overplaying Their Hand
Record: 42-45, 4th in NL West
The San Diego Padres wanted to contend this year. Halfway through, they only kinda-sorta are.
However, they may not be ready to retreat. Although plenty of contenders would love to take ace closer Kirby Yates off their hands, it would take an "unforeseen haul" to do so, according to Dennis Lin of The Athletic.
The Padres could let the season play out with what they already have. Yet they may have loftier ambitions.
If the Padres go that route, they must emphasize team control just as much as talent. The last thing they should do right now is take for granted that they'll be legit contenders in the near future.
San Francisco Giants: Nobody Wants Madison Bumgarner*
Record: 39-47, 5th in NL West
*At the San Francisco Giants' asking price.
There has been and will be interest in Madison Bumgarner ahead of July 31. Plenty of contenders need a top-of-the-rotation starter, and he has four All-Star selections and three World Series rings to his name.
According to Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic, the Giants are ready to play hardball and potentially keep Bumgarner if no team meets their asking price. But in light of his disappointing returns and his upcoming free agency, they'll have a hard time winning a game of chicken.
Seattle Mariners: Failure to Move Mike Leake
Record: 38-53, 5th in AL West
The Seattle Mariners have already traded Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion. They likely don't have many more moves to make.
However, they might find a taker for Mike Leake.
The Mariners acquired the veteran right-hander in August 2017 in a salary dump from the St. Louis Cardinals. Leake hasn't done much to justify the deal from the Mariners' perspective, as he's put up a 4.35 ERA over the last two seasons.
Still, some teams might look at Leake and see a fairly reliable innings-eater. That could mean a window for the Mariners to get out of the $22 million they owe him through 2020.
If that does indeed happen, they must not hesitate to take advantage.
St. Louis Cardinals: Failure to Add Pitching
Record: 43-42, 3rd in NL Central
It's been two steps forward, two steps back for the St. Louis Cardinals for most of the season, but neither the Milwaukee Brewers nor the Chicago Cubs have left them behind in the NL Central race.
Going forward, the Cardinals will need their offense to awaken from its slumber. But both Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter are much better hitters than they've shown to date this year.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals pitching staff is in immediate need of outside help. Their starting rotation has been an issue all season long, and their bullpen is now reeling from the loss of flamethrowing closer Jordan Hicks (Tommy John surgery).
The Cardinals might rise to the top of the NL Central if they outfit their pitching staff with fresh arms. If not, they may be doomed to remain suspended in animation.
Tampa Bay Rays: Coming Away Empty-Handed
Record: 50-38, 2nd in AL East
Although they still hold the AL's top wild-card spot, the Tampa Bay Rays are fresh off running into some difficulties in June.
They went 5-12 at one point and finished 13-16 overall for the month. Their offense fell into a slump, as did reigning Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. Meanwhile, breakout ace Tyler Glasnow suffered a setback in his recovery from a forearm strain.
The Rays are thus approaching the trade deadline with needs in their offense and starting rotation. According to Juan Toribio of MLB.com, they also hope to address their overworked bullpen.
To fix these issues, the Rays will have to subtract from their third-ranked farm system and add to their payroll. They may not want to do either, but they've come too far to play it safe now.
Texas Rangers: Coming Away Empty-Handed
Record: 47-40, 3rd in AL West
The Texas Rangers have been one of the big surprises of the 2019 season, but whatever magic potion they've been drinking seems to be running low.
For one thing, an offense that started hot has been getting colder each month. For another, their pitching staff looks even thinner around staff aces Mike Minor and Lance Lynn following the losses of Drew Smyly and Shelby Miller, both of whom were designated for assignment.
The Rangers should be on the lookout for both hitters and pitchers in the coming weeks, yet they have to choose their targets wisely. They aren't having a season worthy of sacrificing the best prospects from their No. 29-ranked farm system.
At the same time, the Rangers are too good to stand pat and hope a postseason berth comes to them.
Toronto Blue Jays: Failure to Sell High on Marcus Stroman
Record: 33-55, 4th in AL East
The Toronto Blue Jays probably could have traded Marcus Stroman over the winter. But perhaps because they didn't want to sell low on him following his trying 2018 season, they kept him.
That gambit is paying off now, as Stroman has rebounded with a 3.18 ERA over 18 starts. He was even selected to the AL All-Star team for the first time.
Since they're rebuilding and he's only under their control through next season, Stroman remains an obvious trade chip. Yet the Blue Jays might hang on to him because of his remaining club control if no team is willing to meet their asking price.
In light of Stroman's history with injuries and inconsistency, that would carry some obvious risk. Even if it means settling for a merely good offer, the Blue Jays must be prepared to budge on Stroman.
Washington Nationals: Underplaying Their Hand
Record: 45-41, 3rd in NL East
The Washington Nationals might have been left for dead amid their slow start to 2019, but they've since roared to life with a 26-10 record since May 24.
All of the sudden, the Nats have a chance to overtake the Phillies for second place in the NL East. Failing that, there isn't much keeping them from pursuing a wild-card berth.
The Nats could safeguard against regression by adding a bat or two to an offense that's being carried by Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. Even better would be an arm or two for a bullpen that's thin beneath closer Sean Doolittle.
Caution ordinarily would be advised for teams in the Nationals' position. But since their contention window may not be open for much longer, they should throw caution to the wind and go for it.