Each MLB Contender's 2019 Trade Deadline Shopping List at Midseason

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2019

Each MLB Contender's 2019 Trade Deadline Shopping List at Midseason

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    Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    With the All-Star Game now in the rearview, the baseball world turns its attention to the rapidly approaching July 31 trade deadline.

    Even the best of teams could stand to upgrade at least one spot on the roster for the stretch run. Last season's World Series participants are the perfect example, as they each added a handful of players during the summer.

    • Boston Red Sox: SP Nathan Eovaldi, 1B/OF Steve Pearce, 2B Ian Kinsler
    • Los Angeles Dodgers: SS Manny Machado, 1B David Freese, 2B Brian Dozier, RP Ryan Madson, RP Dylan Floro

    With that in mind, we've compiled a shopping list for each contender heading into trade season.

    For some teams, it's as simple as adding some reinforcements to the bullpen or some depth to the back of the rotation. For others, there are more pressing needs if they hope to get over the hump and contend for a World Series title.

    In order to be considered a contender, teams need to have at least a 20 percent chance of reaching the postseason, according to the latest projections from FanGraphs.

St. Louis Cardinals (FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 21.1 Percent)

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    Jordan Hicks
    Jordan HicksL.G. Patterson/Associated Press

    1. Starting Pitcher

    Despite a 44-44 record, the St. Louis Cardinals are still right in the thick of a wide-open NL Central race. After a busy offseason that included the blockbuster deal to land first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, there's no reason to think they won't approach the trade deadline as buyers.

    The biggest need would appear to be bolstering a starting rotation that ranks 13th in the majors with a 4.33 ERA and has lacked a true ace. Rookie Dakota Hudson (3.51 ERA) is the only regular starter with an ERA under 4.00, and he's tight-roped around a 1.53 WHIP and a .276 opponents' batting average.

           

    2. Closer/Late-Inning Reliever

    Jordan Hicks was on his way to emerging as a dominant ninth-inning option before his season abruptly ended with a UCL tear that required Tommy John surgery. John Gant (3/5 SV, 2.22 ERA) and Carlos Martinez (3/5 SV, 2.37 ERA) have handled closer duties in his absence, but the team could use a more proven option.

    The Cardinals were linked to Chicago White Sox closer Alex Colome back when he was still pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays, so he could emerge as a potential target.

              

    3. Left-Handed Reliever

    With Brett Cecil on the injured list and Andrew Miller (39 G, 3.81 ERA) falling short of expectations, the Cardinals could look to add a left-handed depth piece to the bullpen as well.

Philadelphia Phillies (FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 25.2 Percent)

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    Nick Pivetta
    Nick PivettaScott Taetsch/Getty Images

    1. Starting Pitcher (ideally left-handed)

    Behind Aaron Nola (3.74 ERA) and Zach Eflin (3.78 ERA), the Philadelphia Phillies rotation has been hugely disappointing. High-priced veteran Jake Arrieta (4.67 ERA) and Vince Velasquez (4.63 ERA) will presumably hold down two other spots in the rotation, but the fifth spot is in serious need of an upgrade.

    Nick Pivetta (11 GS, 5.84 ERA) and Jerad Eickhoff (10 GS, 5.71 ERA) have both been hit hard, and minor league depth options like Cole Irvin (3 GS, 7.82 ERA) and Enyel De Los Santos (1 GS, 7.36 ERA) have not stepped up.

    With an all right-handed staff, finding a quality lefty to bring some balance would be an added bonus.

              

    2. Late-Inning Reliever

    Hector Neris has done a fine job filling in for injured closer David Robertson, and veteran setup man Tommy Hunter is finally healthy, but the Phillies bullpen as a whole has been lacking in reliable late-inning options.

    Adam Morgan (15 HLD, 4.15 ERA) and Seranthony Dominguez (9 HLD, 4.01 ERA) have been far from lights-out, and they lead the team in holds, so finding a solid eighth-inning setup option would be ideal. Toronto Blue Jays veteran Daniel Hudson could be a fit.

              

    3. Bench Bat

    The Phillies rank 28th in the majors with a .554 OPS in pinch-hitting situations, and they've gotten little in the way of production from bench players like Sean Rodriguez (.224 BA, 83 OPS+) and Roman Quinn (.111 BA, -10 OPS+). It won't need to be a flashy addition to be an upgrade.

Milwaukee Brewers (FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 37.3 Percent)

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    Zach Davies
    Zach DaviesG Fiume/Getty Images

    1. Starting Pitcher

    The Milwaukee Brewers rode a rotation led by scrapheap pickups Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez to the NLCS last season, thanks to a dominant late-inning trio and some great work from multi-inning relievers Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes. However, the bullpen has not been nearly as dominant this season, which has left the starting rotation exposed.

    Woodruff (18 GS, 3.67 ERA) and Zach Davies (18 GS, 3.07 ERA) are the only starters on the staff with an ERA under 4.00, and Davies has already taken a step back with a 5.33 ERA in his last six starts.

    Swinging a deal for someone like the Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman could be the move that pushes this team over the top.

               

    2. Late-Inning Reliever/Middle Reliever

    With Corey Knebel out for the season and Jeremy Jeffress (32 G, 3.82 ERA) no longer performing at an All-Star level, the Brewers bullpen has been somewhat pedestrian beyond All-Star closer Josh Hader and veteran middle reliever Matt Albers.

    They don't necessarily need to swing for the fences with someone like the Giants' Will Smith or the Blue Jays' Ken Giles, but adding a quality bullpen piece could go a long way.

Cleveland Indians (FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 52.4 Percent)

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    Bobby Bradley
    Bobby BradleyCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

    1. Starting Pitcher

    Entering the 2019 season, the Cleveland Indians had arguably the best starting rotation in baseball with four pitchers coming off 200-strikeout seasons and No. 5 starter Shane Bieber looking like a potential breakout candidate.

    However, with Corey Kluber (fractured arm) and Carlos Carrasco (leukemia) both watching from the sidelines, bolstering the starting staff behind Bieber, Trevor Bauer and a healthy Mike Clevinger has become the team's No. 1 priority.

    Given financial constraints and a fairly thin farm system, a depth addition appears more likely than targeting one of the top-tier arms on the market.

              

    2. Power Hitter

    Offensive production has been an issue for the Indians this season. They rank 19th in the majors in home runs (115), 20th in OPS (.739) and 20th in runs per game (4.50).

    With that in mind, adding another power bat to the mix seems like a borderline necessity. They have some flexibility at the DH spot with no clear everyday guy, so that opens things up in terms of potential targets.

    Detroit Tigers outfielder Nicholas Castellanos and Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak could both be a fit, and the acquisition price figures to be reasonable since they're both rentals.

Boston Red Sox (FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 60.9 Percent)

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    Nathan Eovaldi
    Nathan EovaldiEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    1. Starting Pitcher

    According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Boston Red Sox are already "pushing to add" a starting pitcher, and they would "prefer to act sooner rather than later" in their pursuit of a rotation upgrade.

    The starting staff as a whole ranks 18th in the majors with a 4.70 ERA, and there's a clear hole to fill with Nathan Eovaldi reportedly headed for the closer's role once he returns from the injured list, according to NESN's Tom Caron.

    The Red Sox have one of the thinnest farm systems in baseball, so expect them to aim relatively low with whoever they target. Someone like the Orioles' Andrew Cashner could be an option here.

                 

    2. Late-Inning Reliever

    As mentioned, Eovaldi will be taking over ninth-inning duties once he returns to the active roster. He was dominant out of the bullpen last postseason, but that's still a big roll of the dice for a contending team.

    While Ryan Brasier (7/10 SV, 3.58 ERA) and Matt Barnes (4/10 SV, 4.62 ERA) battled for the closer job early in the year, Brandon Workman (43 G, 14 HLD, 1.79 ERA, .107 BAA) quietly emerged as the team's best bullpen option. He's really been the team's only reliable option.

    So whether they target a proven closer or a setup reliever, adding another quality arm to the bullpen mix is a must for the defending champs.

Tampa Bay Rays (FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 70.5 Percent)

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    Jose Alvarado
    Jose AlvaradoMike Stobe/Getty Images

    1. Closer/Late-Inning Reliever

    The Tampa Bay Rays have relied on the young trio of Jose Alvarado (7/9 SV, 5.06 ERA), Diego Castillo (7/8 SV, 3.93 ERA) and Emilio Pagan (5/9 SV, 1.75 ERA) to close out games this season. All told, they've closed out just 21 of 33 save chances for a 63.64 percent save conversion rate that ranks 18th in the majors. 

    That said, they won't necessarily be in the market for any of the top names on the reliever market, with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times offering up the following:

    "Best guess right now on the Rays is an approach similar to 2017, making several modest additions (Steve Cishek, Lucas Duda, Dan Jennings, Sergio Romo) rather than bid for bigger names, such as Will Smith or ex-Ray Kirby Yates."

    Perhaps someone like San Francisco Giants lefty Tony Watson, who has a wealth of late-inning experience but will come at a lower price point, could be of interest.

               

    2. Right-Handed Bench Bat

    In a recent mailbag article, Juan Toribio of MLB.com wrote: "The Rays will also explore adding a right-handed bat to its lineup, which has been missed during different parts of the season. Getting Yandy Díaz back from injury will be a start, but with Matt Duffy still without a timetable, getting another right-handed bat makes a lot of sense for Tampa Bay."

    With no clear positional need, the Rays can cast a wide net in their search for a right-handed bat while placing value on platoon splits rather than looking for a potential everyday option.

Chicago Cubs (FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 73.7 Percent)

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    Daniel Descalso
    Daniel DescalsoQuinn Harris/Getty Images

    1. Another Bat

    Whether they target a corner outfielder or a versatile infielder who can fill a utility role, the Chicago Cubs need to add another piece to the offensive puzzle.

    Daniel Descalso (.186 BA, 46 OPS+) is struggling to justify a roster spot, while manager Joe Maddon was willing to give scrapheap pickup Carlos Gonzalez semi-regular playing time in the outfield before he was eventually cut loose, so there's clearly an opening for another bat.

    The organization places tremendous value on defense, but right-handed hitter Nicholas Castellanos would be a nice addition to the outfield mix. Incumbent right fielder Jason Heyward is hitting just .188/.246/.281 in 69 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, while Castellanos has a .357/.431/.607 line in 65 appearances against southpaws.

              

    2. Left-Handed Reliever

    For better or worse, the Cubs have already made their high-profile move to address the back of the bullpen, signing Craig Kimbrel to a three-year, $43 million deal.

    However, they could still look to add a complementary piece or two to the bullpen. They did well at the deadline last year with the under-the-radar additions of Jesse Chavez and Jorge De La Rosa.

    A lefty would be ideal, and this looks like another potential landing spot for Giants veteran Tony Watson.

Washington Nationals (FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 78.5 Percent)

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    Fernando Rodney
    Fernando RodneyMitchell Layton/Getty Images

    1. Late-Inning Reliever

    The Washington Nationals have their closer in Sean Doolittle (19/23 SV, 3.13 ERA), and Fernando Rodney (6 G, 2/2 SV, 3.38 ERA) has a chance to be a key contributor after joining the team at the end of June.

    However, the rest of the bullpen has been a mess. The relief corps currently sports an NL-worst 6.08 ERA with 18 blown saves, and if they have any hope of chasing down the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, they will have to add another reliable late-inning arm.

    The front office paid a steep price for Ryan Madson and Doolittle at the deadline in 2017, shipping top pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo to the Oakland Athletics in that deal. Will that give them pause this summer?

                  

    2. Starting Pitcher

    The first four spots in the Nationals rotation have been rock-solid with Max Scherzer (19 GS, 2.30 ERA), Patrick Corbin (18 GS, 3.34 ERA), Stephen Strasburg (18 GS, 3.64) and Anibal Sanchez (16 GS, 3.66 ERA) all pitching well.

    The fifth spot in the rotation has been a disaster:

    • Jeremy Hellickson: 8 GS, 6.23 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, .294 BAA
    • Erick Fedde: 6 GS, 3.79 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, .250 BAA
    • Austin Voth: 3 GS, 5.52 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, .259 BAA
    • Kyle McGowin: 1 GS, 9.90 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, .326 BAA

    Even shopping at the bottom of the starting pitcher market, it shouldn't be hard to find an upgrade.

Atlanta Braves (FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 96.3 Percent)

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    Mike Foltynewicz
    Mike FoltynewiczScott Taetsch/Getty Images

    1. Starting Pitcher

    Even after signing Dallas Keuchel (4 GS, 3.60 ERA) in early June, the Atlanta Braves are still in need of starting pitching.

    All-Star Mike Soroka (15 GS, 2.42 ERA) has emerged as the de facto ace, while fellow up-and-comer Max Fried (18 GS, 4.29 ERA) and longtime rotation staple Julio Teheran (19 GS, 3.75 ERA) have been solid.

    However, the presumptive one-two punch of Mike Foltynewicz (11 GS, 6.37 ERA, demoted to minors) and Kevin Gausman (13 GS, 6.21 ERA) has been brutal, and there's now a clear need for another experienced veteran to join Keuchel in leading the young staff.

    Madison Bumgarner makes a lot of sense here.

              

    1a. Closer/Late-Inning Reliever

    It's a coin toss whether bolstering the rotation or solidifying the bullpen is a bigger need for the Braves.

    Luke Jackson (14/20 SV, 2.66 ERA) has done an admirable job of stepping into the closer's role, and he's converted 7-of-9 save chances with a 2.12 ERA in 17 appearances since the start of June.

    Still, all of the top names—Kirby Yates, Will Smith, Ken Giles and Shane Greene—figure to be in play here.

    With a reliance on converted starters such as Touki Toussaint and Sean Newcomb, the team could also look to add a more traditional middle-relief arm or two. That will be secondary to addressing the late innings.

Minnesota Twins (FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 96.4 Percent)

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    Taylor Rogers
    Taylor RogersAdam Bettcher/Getty Images

    1. Closer/Late-Inning Reliever

    Similar to a few years ago when Brandon Kintzler and Matt Belisle were plugged into the closer's role, the Minnesota Twins have turned to the unheralded duo of Taylor Rogers (12/15 SV, 1.82 ERA) and Blake Parker (10/11 SV, 3.77 ERA) to close games for a bona fide contender.

    Both guys have handled the ninth inning well, but acquiring a proven closer and pushing that duo back into a setup role would make the entire relief corps stronger. Ryne Harper, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Mike Morin and Matt Magill have also pitched well, so it's not like the bullpen needs a complete overhaul.

    Trading for someone such as Ken Giles or Will Smith would make this one of the better bullpens in baseball.

                   

    2. Starting Pitcher

    The Twins have a pair of All-Stars fronting the staff in Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi, and they have a rock-solid middle-of-the-rotation starter in Kyle Gibson. However, their other two starters—Michael Pineda and Martin Perez—have been inconsistent.

    They don't need a splashy addition, but with a chance to win the AL Central, they could be motivated to approach the deadline as aggressively as anyone.

    Any of a number of starters would help, but Madison Bumgarner looks like the perfect target. He'd provide a boost for the rotation and a veteran voice in a young clubhouse that is largely lacking in postseason experience beyond the team's 2017 AL Wild Card Game appearance.

New York Yankees (FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 98.8 Percent)

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    Luis Severino
    Luis SeverinoJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    1. Starting Pitcher

    The New York Yankees have battled injuries up and down the roster all season, and the starting rotation has been no exception.

    CC Sabathia, James Paxton and Domingo German have all spent time on the injured list, while ace Luis Severino has been sidelined all season with rotator cuff inflammation and a lat strain. That group is healthy, aside from Severino, but adding another arm still looks like the obvious move.

    Marcus Stroman and Trevor Bauer should both be in play, along with rentals Zack Wheeler and Madison Bumgarner. There's little question this team is capable of making a World Series run, and one of those guys could be the piece that pushes the Yankees over the top.

                            

    2. Middle Reliever

    The Yankees bullpen has not been as dominant as it was a year ago:

    • 2018: 3.67 IP/G, 3.38 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .221 BAA
    • 2019: 3.89 IP/G, 4.05 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, .243 BAA

    As the innings-per-game mark indicates, they're also using their bullpen more, despite the downturn in results.

    That seems like a recipe to add another arm or two, and with Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino and Zack Britton handling the late innings, it doesn't have to be a splashy addition.

Houston Astros (FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 99.7 Percent)

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    Framber Valdez
    Framber ValdezBob Levey/Getty Images

    1. Starting Pitcher

    The Houston Astros are probably the most complete team in baseball.

    Even pointing to the rotation as an area of need, one can't help but notice the starting staff has a 3.85 ERA, good for sixth-best in the majors. They also trail only the Los Angeles Dodgers (52) with 50 quality starts in 90 games.

    That said, with Corbin Martin (UCL) and Brad Peacock (shoulder) both on the injured list and Collin McHugh and Josh James in the bullpen, the rotation could use depth behind the veteran trio of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley.

    They already have two aces, so an innings-eating middle-of-the-rotation starter would be a fine addition. This is another spot where Andrew Cashner could make sense.

    It's also worth mentioning the bullpen is without a lefty reliever.

    However, closer Roberto Osuna (.115 BAA) and setup men Ryan Pressly (.108 BAA) and Hector Rondon (.140 BAA) have all dominated left-handed hitters, so it's a non-issue.

Los Angeles Dodgers (FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 100 Percent)

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    Joe Kelly
    Joe KellyHarry How/Getty Images

    1. Late-Inning Reliever

    Bridging the gap from the starters to closer Kenley Jansen has been a consistent issue for the Los Angeles Dodgers in recent seasons.

    While Pedro Baez (41 G, 16 HLD, 2.70 ERA) has been solid once again, he's been the only consistent setup option, and even Jansen hasn't been his usual dominant self.

    Expensive offseason addition Joe Kelly has quietly posted a 0.68 ERA in 13.1 innings over his last 12 appearances, lowering his ERA from 8.83 to 5.28. If he continues to pitch well, he's capable of handling high-leverage situations.

    Still, finding another late-inning reliever looks like the club's top priority.

                      

    2. Starting Pitcher

    How comfortable are the Dodgers with relying on Ross Stripling and Julio Urias to fill rotation spots?

    A case can be made that Urias is more valuable as a multi-inning bullpen weapon, while Stripling has been solid in the swingman role once again this year.

    It's hard to envision they'll give up any significant young talent when the rotation is not a pressing need, but a depth addition could allow them some flexibility and peace of mind.

                       

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.