Buy, Sell or Stand Pat for Every Team at 2019 MLB Trade Deadline
The time for evaluating is over. With the July 31 trade deadline bearing down, teams across Major League Baseball must decide how they're going to handle it.
We can't make this choice for them, but we do have notions as to which clubs should buy, sell or stand pat ahead of the deadline.
Buyers are clubs that are in contention to some degree or another, while sellers are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Then there are the teams in no man's land that should stand pat.
We'll proceed in alphabetical order by city.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Stand Pat
Record: 47-47, T-2nd in NL West
The Arizona Diamondbacks are mired in their second straight season of mediocrity. The National League West lead is far out of reach, and they're merely one of many teams in a crowded wild-card race.
Hence what general manager Mike Hazen told Nick Piecoro of AZCentral.com regarding the club's approach to the deadline: "We're going to have to make a complicated decision. It just doesn't appear that it's going to be an easily defined decision."
Selling would be in order if the D-backs were loaded with valuable rentals, but those pickings are slim. As for their top controllable trade chips, outfielder David Peralta's value is down, and ace righty Zack Greinke's value is complicated by his $34.5 million salary and no-trade protection.
Rather than force a fire sale, the best thing the Snakes can do is dig in and hope their plus-50 run differential leads to a strong second half.
Atlanta Braves: Buy
Record: 58-37, 1st in NL East
A 28-10 run since June 1 has put the Atlanta Braves safely in the lead in the NL East. Now that they're there, they should dig in their heels.
There isn't much question that the Braves need more pitching. They added Dallas Keuchel last month, yet he alone can't fix a starting rotation with a pedestrian 4.39 ERA. Their bullpen is in better shape, but it could use another arm nonetheless.
With MLB's No. 2 farm system at their disposal, the Braves certainly have the means to pursue big names on the trade market. They may have it in mind to do just that, as they've been connected to the likes of Matthew Boyd (Chris McCosky of the Detroit News) and Madison Bumgarner (Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic).
If the Braves make good on their lofty deadline ambitions, a second straight NL East title will be as good as theirs.
Baltimore Orioles: Sell
Record: 28-65, 5th in AL East
The Baltimore Orioles' farm system has improved to the No. 13 system in MLB since the club went into rebuilding mode last summer. But while that's a good start, it must still get better.
To this end, the Orioles absolutely will be selling ahead of July 31. The only real question is how far they'll go.
The O's have already moved veteran righty Andrew Cashner across the American League East to the Boston Red Sox. From here, righty reliever Mychal Givens and utility infielder Jonathan Villar figure to be next.
If the O's are feeling really bold, they'll shop breakout slugger Trey Mancini. He's limited defensively, yet his club control through 2022 gives the club grounds to demand a big haul for him.
In any event, Baltimore's rebuild will carry on.
Boston Red Sox: Buy
Record: 51-43, 3rd in AL East
The Red Sox face a long climb back to the top of the AL East, but they may at least salvage a wild-card berth.
The Red Sox filled a big need when they acquired Cashner from Baltimore for two minor leaguers on Saturday. He'll slot into a starting rotation that's had all sorts of trouble in the No. 5 slot.
Now all the Red Sox need to do is address their bullpen. It initially handled the loss of Craig Kimbrel to free agency quite well, but its 4.98 ERA since June 1 is reflective of an overall gas outage. Meanwhile, the team's reported plan of using Nathan Eovaldi as a closer carries plenty of risk.
Chicago Cubs: Buy
Record: 50-43, 1st in NL Central
The Chicago Cubs are in first place, yet president of baseball operations Theo Epstein isn't happy.
"Right now, we are in a collective slump," he said, per Bruce Levine of 670 The Score. "We are not playing in a way I feel represents who we are. It has gone on for a while. So we are all searching for answers. We are looking for every lever we can pull to get the thing going in the right direction."
Chicago's most pressing needs are in its rotation and bullpen, both of which could use an impact arm. Yet the Cubs shouldn't necessarily leave good enough alone with their offense even after adding catcher Martin Maldonado on Monday. Specifically, upgrades are needed at second base and in the outfield.
The Cubs' trade outlook is complicated by their weak farm system. But who knows? Perhaps they'll make things interesting by putting Kyle Schwarber or Albert Almora Jr. on the table.
Chicago White Sox: Sell
Record: 42-47, 3rd in AL Central
The Chicago White Sox aren't there yet, but their rebuild is very close to its end.
They've had to cash in chips such as Chris Sale and Adam Eaton to get to this point, and there's now an argument that slugging first baseman Jose Abreu should be next. He is a free agent this winter, after all.
However, the White Sox have consistently resisted the idea of trading the three-time All-Star. So it goes now, as GM Rick Hahn told James Fegan of The Athletic, that there's a "touchy-feely, emotional side" that gives the team pause with regard to shopping Abreu.
Still, the White Sox shouldn't do nothing at the deadline. The least they can do is find a taker for righty reliever Alex Colome, who has a somewhat misleading (see his strikeout rate) 2.21 ERA in his penultimate season of club control.
Cincinnati Reds: Sell
Record: 42-48, 5th in NL Central
Perhaps more than any other team in MLB, the Cincinnati Reds are in an awkward spot in the run-up to July 31.
They set out to be competitive this season, and they've done a better job of it than their record would indicate. Their pitching staff (which ranks second in the NL with a 3.85 ERA) has been fantastic, and their plus-33 run differential is second to only the Cubs within the NL Central.
Nevertheless, the Reds are in last place, and time is running out. Rather than take it for granted that things will get better, they should get what they can for rentals such as red-hot right fielder Yasiel Puig and reliable righty Tanner Roark.
If they're lucky, the Reds might be able to have it both ways. To wit, perhaps they can leverage their rentals into getting the controllable hitter they covet, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.
Cleveland Indians: Buy
Record: 51-40, 2nd in AL Central
The Cleveland Indians seemed ticketed to sell for a while, but a 25-13 run since May 28 has changed their fortunes. They're tied for the AL's second wild-card spot and 6.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins for first in the AL Central.
There's still chatter about Cleveland possibly selling. Specifically, Rosenthal speculated that they're going to be "aggressive listeners" on ace righty Trevor Bauer, whose club control runs out after 2020.
But while that covers what the Indians might do, what they should do is keep Bauer atop their rotation and fortify their roster for the stretch run. That would involve adding bats, particularly for an outfield that's produced just a .712 OPS.
If the Indians pursue any course of action other than buying, their fans will have even more reason to question whether the team is more interested in its bottom line than its winning percentage.
Colorado Rockies: Buy
Record: 46-48, 3rd in NL West
The Colorado Rockies went into the All-Star break on a six-game losing streak. That only increased their deficit in the NL West, and it did them no favors in the wild-card race.
Yet the Rockies' sub-.500 record obscures what's mostly been a good season. In between a rough start and their recent skid was a 37-22 record between April 14 and June 20.
The Rockies offense got Trevor Story back off the injured list shortly before the All-Star break. And this past weekend, their rotation welcomed left-hander Kyle Freeland, who was a Cy Young Award contender in 2018, back from his banishment to the minors.
What the Rockies need now are more hitters for an offense that's actually regressed from a difficult 2018 season. Second base and the outfield would be ideal places for them.
Detroit Tigers: Sell
Record: 29-60, 5th in AL Central
Sellers don't come much more obvious than the Detroit Tigers.
They're the worst team in by far the worst division in Major League Baseball, and their rebuild has thus far only built their farm system into the No. 11 system. It must be better.
The Tigers' next steps figure to be trades of outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, who's due for free agency after this season, and righty reliever Shane Greene, who'll hit free agency after 2020. The nuclear option, meanwhile, would be a trade of breakout lefty Matthew Boyd.
Because Boyd is under their control through 2022, the Tigers won't be quick to pull the trigger on a deal. But with as many as seven teams chasing him (per an overview by Connor Byrne of MLB Trade Rumors), they should be able to find an offer to their liking.
Houston Astros: Buy
Record: 59-35, 1st in AL West
As they sit atop the AL West for a third straight season, the Houston Astros mostly have nothing to worry about.
This doesn't mean they can neglect their starting rotation. It's solid up top with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley in the first three slots. But after them comes Brad Peacock, who is on the injured list with shoulder discomfort, and a question mark in the No. 5 slot.
The Astros have the farm system depth to aim high in their search for a starter. High enough, perhaps, to potentially pursue Bauer (Joel Sherman of the New York Post), Bumgarner (Rosenthal) or even Noah Syndergaard (Morosi).
With few true needs elsewhere on their roster, Houston's trade deadline experience will be a disappointment if it doesn't come away with at least a back-end starter.
Kansas City Royals: Sell
Record: 33-62, 4th in AL Central
As the Kansas City Royals head for a second straight 100-loss season, they must also worry about the state of their farm system. It ranks as just the 19th-best system in MLB.
The Royals will indeed be open for business ahead of July 31, but how open isn't entirely clear. According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, they're willing to go as far as dealing All-Star utility man Whit Merrifield. General manager Dayton Moore, however, told reporters that the club's asking price will be "crazy."
That might put the kibosh on any potential deal for Merrifield. But even after dealing veteran righty Homer Bailey to the Oakland Athletics and Maldonado to the Cubs, the Royals have other chips to put on the table.
Assuming they're willing to swallow some of his contract, they might move veteran righty Ian Kennedy. Fellow reliever Jake Diekman could also go. Lefty starter Danny Duffy and outfielder Jorge Soler are longer shots to be moved, but the Royals should at least listen to offers.
Los Angeles Angels: Stand Pat
Record: 49-46, 4th in AL West
The Los Angeles Angels began their second half with a sweep of the Seattle Mariners, the highlight of which was certainly their combined no-hitter in honor of their late teammate, Tyler Skaggs.
Ultimately, however, the Angels are once again an also-ran in the AL West and AL wild-card races. They've been getting by almost entirely on their offense, which recently lost All-Star second baseman Tommy La Stella for 8-to-10 weeks with a broken leg.
Even if they wanted to, there isn't much the Angels can sell. Veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who's on a one-year contract, is out for the foreseeable future following a nasty collision with Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick. Outfielder Kole Calhoun is only guaranteed through this season, but he has an option for 2020.
Since a rebuild is out of the question, the Angels should just coast through the rest of 2019 and hope better things await them next year.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Buy
Record: 63-33, 1st in NL West
The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in baseball, not to mention a 15-game lead in the NL West. They don't need to do anything at the deadline to punch their ticket to the postseason.
If, however, the Dodgers want to protect against a third straight defeat in the World Series, they should leave no stone unturned.
The most obvious area of need in Los Angeles is the team's bullpen, which has been thin underneath ace closer Kenley Jansen. To this end, Morosi reported that they have eyes on lefty closer Will Smith and other San Francisco Giants relievers.The Dodgers might also upgrade a starting rotation that will be without veteran southpaw Rich Hill for a while as he recovers from a forearm strain.
Since both the Dodgers' pockets and farm system run deep, they should have few limitations on the trade market.
Miami Marlins: Sell
Record: 34-57, 5th in NL East
A better question here is what the Miami Marlins can sell.
They don't have many marketable stars left following trades of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, J.T. Realmuto and Dee Gordon. Maybe Starlin Castro, Curtis Granderson or Neil Walker, but each has more name value than actual value at this point.
What would really be interesting is if the Marlins graced the trade block with some of their controllable starters, such as All-Star righty Sandy Alcantara. According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, president of baseball operations Michael Hill is at least open to it.
Given that the Marlins are a last-place team with the No. 23 farm system in MLB, they might want to be more than just open to that idea.
Milwaukee Brewers: Buy
Record: 48-47, 3rd in NL Central
The Milwaukee Brewers' record puts them on pace to fall well short of the 96 wins they racked up last season. Plus, their minus-24 run differential suggests they deserve even worse.
This partially has to do with the difficulties they've had generating consistent offense outside of reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich. But it more so has to do with their pitching. Their starting rotation has a 4.73 ERA. Their bullpen, meanwhile, features a flimsy bridge to ace closer Josh Hader.
More caution would be advised if the NL Central lead was far out of the Brewers' reach. But since they're only two games behind the Cubs, they should go for it.
Minnesota Twins: Buy
Record: 58-34, 1st in AL Central
Although the Indians have been creeping closer in recent weeks, the Twins still have a strong hold on the AL Central lead.
There isn't much doubt that their MLB-best offense is up to the task of helping them keep it. There's a little more doubt where their pitching staff is concerned. It has talent, but both the rotation and the bullpen could use additional depth.
According to LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune, the catch is that the Twins don't want to move top prospects Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff or Brusdar Graterol. That's not necessarily unwise, but it will limit their options on the blockbuster market.
New York Mets: Sell
Record: 42-51, 4th in NL East
The New York Mets came into 2019 with good intentions, but, well, you know what they say about the road to hell.
The Mets don't have much choice but to cut their losses by selling at the trade deadline. To this end, no fewer than six teams have approached them about Syndergaard, according to Tim Healey of Newsday.
Per Mike Puma of the New York Post, however, the Mets would have to be "overwhelmed" to consider dealing not only Syndergaard but also fellow starter Steven Matz and catcher Wilson Ramos. That makes some sense, as they're all part of a group of controllable players who might lead a resurgence in 2020.
But at the least, Zack Wheeler should go. His pending free agency gives the Mets incentive to move him. And assuming he makes a swift recovery from shoulder fatigue, the flamethrowing righty offers loads of tantalizing talent.
New York Yankees: Buy
Record: 59-33, 1st in AL East
The New York Yankees are likely safe atop the AL East, where their record is backed up by a plus-117 run differential.
But if they want to win their 28th World Series championship, they must reinforce a pitching staff that's been merely good enough. It definitely needs an impact starting pitcher. An impact reliever is a lesser need, yet not a bad idea.
The Yankees clearly understand that they need pitching, as it would take less time to list arms that haven't been rumored to be on their wish list. To name just a few, they've been connected to Bauer (Rosenthal), Bumgarner (also Rosenthal) and Stroman and Giles (Mitchell).
There isn't a whole lot in the Yankees' 20th-ranked farm system that they can barter with, but they do have a sort of trump card in former top prospect Clint Frazier. One way or another, they should get what they need.
Oakland Athletics: Stand Pat
Record: 53-41, 2nd in AL West
The Oakland Athletics started slow, but they're 34-16 since May 17 and now tied for the AL's second wild card.
They've also already made a significant trade. Bailey is far from the No. 1 starter he was in his prime, but he'll bring a measure of reliability to the back end of Oakland's rotation. Before long, it should also benefit from the return of lefty Sean Manaea, who's coming back from shoulder surgery.
Meanwhile, the A's lineup has stabilized since it slumped its way through the season's first month. The hope now is that Khris Davis and Stephen Piscotty will eventually get healthy and hit like their usual selves.
Altogether, the A's are sitting pretty enough to take it easy at the deadline. Which is good, because it would be best for the organization's future if its No. 17 farm system was kept intact.
Philadelphia Phillies: Buy
Record: 48-46, 3rd in NL East
The obstacles have been coming hard and fast for the Philadelphia Phillies this season, yet they still have a shot at returning to October via a wild-card berth.
Nonetheless, the Phillies aren't short on needs. They include both an impact starter and an impact reliever, plus a bat or two from an offense that's gotten less than it bargained for from Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura.
In an interview with MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, Phillies president Andy MacPhail indicated that the club will be "judicious" with its young talent. That's understandable, as their current standing isn't worth dismantling MLB's No. 14 farm system.
The bright side is that the Phillies should have plenty of money to commit to trades after many years of lean spending. They might be a landing spot for some bad contracts, such as Kennedy or even Greinke.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Sell
Record: 44-49, T-4th in NL Central
This time last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates opted to buy despite the fact they were only kinda-sorta in the NL playoff picture.
It would be harder for them to justify doing the same thing this time around. Things have just never really come together for the Buccos this season, and their minus-55 run differential suggests they're lucky to be even five games under .500.
The Pirates shouldn't see this as a cue to rebuild, but they do need to proactively retool for 2020. Rental chips such as outfielders Melky Cabrera and Corey Dickerson should be on the block, and they should at least listen to offers for lefty closer Felipe Vazquez.
If the Pirates aren't properly back in the race next season, that's when they should consider dealing standouts like Josh Bell and Starling Marte as part of a full-on rebuild.
San Diego Padres: Stand Pat
Record: 45-48, 4th in NL West
As more time goes on, the more it looks like it's not going to happen for the San Diego Padres this season.
Yet the Padres aren't a cut-their-losses sort of team. Righty reliever Craig Stammen is their only true rental, and he doesn't have the sort of value that absolutely must be cashed in. Meanwhile, the Padres don't need to worry about adding to a farm system that's already the league's best.
If anything, they might consider subtracting from their farm system in an oft-rumored deal for a controllable No. 1 starter, such as a Boyd or a Syndergaard. According to AJ Cassavell of MLB.com, however, the Padres aren't committed to that.
Nor should they be. There should still be ace options on the trade market this winter, after all, and their acquisition costs probably won't be as heavy as they are now. The Padres should wait and find out.
San Francisco Giants: Sell
Record: 45-49, 5th in NL West
It's probably just a matter of time before the Giants trade Bumgarner, Smith and other trade chips, right?
Maybe not, actually. As told to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi claims that he and the team's leadership "don't feel like we have to do anything." They might simply let the deadline come and go without any fuss, or perhaps even seek to buy.
But then there's the other reading of that comment: That it's a thinly veiled negotiating ploy, and that the Giants are very obviously going to sell at the deadline.
It would be a mistake if they didn't. The Giants have indeed been better than expected, but they're ultimately still a last-place club with a 22nd-ranked farm system that needs fixing. To boot, Bumgarner and Smith are ticketed for free agency.
Seattle Mariners: Sell
Record: 39-58, 5th in AL West
The brief moment when the Seattle Mariners took MLB by storm earlier this season already feels like ancient history. Since then, they've sunk to the bottom of the AL West and traded Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce.
General manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed on MLB Network Radio that he's committed to dealing still more veterans. Righty starter Mike Leake and speedy infielder Dee Gordon are the top candidates to go next.
Dipoto could push the envelope even further, yet he doesn't have much recourse to do so. Daniel Vogelbach and Domingo Santana are standout hitters who are unfortunately limited defensively. Mitch Haniger would have loads of value if he was fully healthy, but he's still recovering from a ruptured testicle.
Still, Dipoto should rule nothing out. Rather than a moribund major league roster, his top priority should be further improving the club's No. 5 farm system. That may require a drastic trade or two.
St. Louis Cardinals: Buy
Record: 47-45, 2nd in NL Central
After winning 88 games in 2018, the St. Louis Cardinals have certainly underachieved this season. Yet they're tied for the NL's second wild card and there's generally plenty of hope for them.
To wit, their offense might snap out of its funk if Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter return to their All-Star form. Likewise, their pitching will become more stable if Miles Mikolas and Andrew Miller can do the same.
Rather than put all their chips in this line of thinking, however, the Cardinals should indeed see what's out there for them on the trade market. They could use an arm for a rotation that's been weaker than its 4.13 ERA indicates, as well as for a bullpen that lost flame-throwing righty Jordan Hicks to Tommy John surgery.
With the right moves, the Cardinals might be able to make a sudden move up the NL Central ranks.
Tampa Bay Rays: Buy
Record: 56-40, 2nd in AL East
Even if the Tampa Bay Rays continue to trail the Yankees in the AL East race, they could at least fall back on the AL's top wild-card spot.
That should prompt the Rays to be on the lookout for impact arms, but they shouldn't necessarily stop there. Although they have pretty good depth in their lineup, it could use an impact hitter to tie it all together.
In light of their ever-present financial constraints, the Rays will have to be careful about dealing from their third-ranked farm system. They must not be afraid to do so, however.
Texas Rangers: Sell
Record: 50-44, 3rd in AL West
It says "Sell" up there, but we're thinking the 2019 Texas Rangers should take a cue from the 2017 Twins.
Those Twins got off to a surprising start only to fade around July 31, which they took as a prompt to cash in Jaime Garcia and Brandon Kintzler. But they kept their core intact, and that allowed them to rebound and ultimately clinch a wild-card berth.
The Rangers are on a similar trajectory now, as they've recently hit a wall (11-11 since June 18) following a strong start that few saw coming. Between this and the fact that their No. 29 farm system badly needs depth, they shouldn't hang up on teams calling after ace lefty Mike Minor and other trade chips.
But the Rangers shouldn't feel compelled to hold a fire sale either. They might only go as far as dealing rental righty Chris Martin, and then hope that their sturdy foundation proves capable of sustaining a playoff run.
Toronto Blue Jays: Sell
Record: 35-60, 4th in AL East
Between Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Cavan Biggio, the Toronto Blue Jays already have the first pieces in place for a lineup that should be a ton of fun to watch in the near future.
In the meantime, they must stay in talent acquisition mode. Specifically, they could use more arms to balance out the bats that they have in their fourth-ranked farm system.
This is where Stroman and Giles should come in handy. The two righties are both having outstanding seasons, and their club control through 2020 only adds to their trade value. Slugging first baseman Justin Smoak doesn't have quite as much value, but his bat should fetch a fair price.
In any case, the next two weeks should be good for a rebuild that's already going pretty well.
Washington Nationals: Buy
Record: 49-43, 2nd in NL East
It wasn't that long ago that people were speculating about the Washington Nationals possibly trading Max Scherzer or Anthony Rendon.
So much for that. The Nats have gone 30-12 since May 24 and, in the process, moved to second in the NL East and first in the NL wild-card race. This puts them squarely in a position to buy at the deadline.
Especially in the context of the run they've been on since late May, the Nationals don't have many true needs. There's an obvious one in their bullpen, however. It has an NL-worst 5.93 ERA, and there's definitely a talent vacuum underneath ace closer Sean Doolittle.
If the Nats can add an arm or two (or three), their strong lineup and ace-laden rotation might just make them a sleeper to go deep in October.