Unfixed Problems That Will Come Back to Haunt MLB's 2019 Contenders

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2019

Unfixed Problems That Will Come Back to Haunt MLB's 2019 Contenders

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

    The MLB trade deadline has come and gone, and with no August waiver trades this year, the door has shut on impact additions as contenders turn their attention to the playoff push.

    For several contenders, the deadline provided an opportunity to plug some glaring holes.

    The Houston Astros bolstered their starting rotation with the additions of Zack Greinke and Aaron Sanchez, while the Washington Nationals added multiple pieces to a bullpen in need of reinforcement.

    For other teams, a lack of activity could prove costly.

    Ahead we've highlighted five contenders that were expected to be busy at the trade deadline but instead stood pat, leaving them with a glaring unfixed problem that could come back to haunt them over the final two months.

Atlanta Braves: Right Field

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    Adam Duvall
    Adam DuvallRich Schultz/Getty Images

    Adam Duvall looked absolutely lost at the plate after joining the Atlanta Braves in a deadline deal last season, going 7-for-53 (.132 BA) with one extra-base hit in 57 plate appearances.

    Is an impressive five-game stretch enough to erase that memory?

    Veteran Nick Markakis took a fastball off the wrist on July 26, and the resulting fracture will keep him sidelined for the foreseeable future.

    Duvall was called up to fill his spot on the roster, and he's gone 11-for-22 with four home runs in his return from a season-long relegation to Triple-A.

    The former All-Star has two 30-homer seasons at the MLB level under his belt, so it's not surprising that he's been teeing off on minor league pitching to the tune of a .931 OPS with 29 home runs in 94 games.

    Still, it's hard to forget about last year's struggles, and at the very least, it would have been prudent for the Braves to pick up some insurance.

    Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Phillies were essentially gifted outfielder Corey Dickerson from the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Nicholas Castellanos cost the Chicago Cubs nothing more than a pair of mid-level pitching prospects.

    In other words, there were moves to be made, but the Braves opted to trust Duvall. We'll soon find out if that was the right move.

    The Braves did address their biggest need by bolstering the bullpen, but right field could now pose an issue.

Boston Red Sox: Bullpen

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    Nathan Eovaldi
    Nathan EovaldiBillie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    Shortly after the MLB trade deadline passed, MLB.com's Ian Browne reported: "Dombrowski admitted not having a realistic chance to win the division played a big part in his decision not to make a deal."

    For those of you who are not familiar, that would be Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who is publicly stating that his team doesn't have a realistic chance of winning the AL East, while seemingly ignoring the fact that they are just 2.5 games back in the wild-card standings.

    Regardless, not a great look.

    The bullpen was the glaring need for the reigning World Series champions leading up to the trade deadline, and unless middling starter acquisition Andrew Cashner suddenly starts throwing complete games every time out to give the relievers a night off, nothing they did in July addressed that issue.

    They seem to be pinning their hopes on Nathan Eovaldi settling into a late-inning role and the incumbent guys not named Brandon Workman benefitting from some positive regression.

    It's not the worst strategy for a team with limited prospect capital and some big arms that have underperformed. Still, doing nothing almost feels like a white-flag wave.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Bullpen

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    Joe Kelly
    Joe KellyG Fiume/Getty Images

    A few days before the trade deadline, in an article titled "MLB Teams at Serious Risk of Blowing the 2019 Trade Deadline," I wrote the following about the Los Angeles Dodgers:

    "Despite being linked to many of the trade market's top bullpen arms last summer, they settled instead for the following moves:

    • July 4: Dylan Floro acquired in a trade with CIN.
    • July 11: Zac Rosscup claimed off waivers from COL.
    • July 31: John Axford acquired in a trade with TOR.
    • Aug. 31: Ryan Madson acquired in a trade with WAS.

    They can't expect a similar approach to work this time around. If the deadline comes and goes without significant additions made to the bullpen, it will be a huge missed opportunity for the Dodgers."

    Wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what happened.

    Despite some rumblings surrounding Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez, they wound up settling on Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Adam Kolarek as the only notable addition to the relief corps.

    The 30-year-old has a 3.95 ERA with 15 holds in 54 appearances, and he's held lefties to a .187 average and a .531 OPS, so he'll be a useful arm.

    However, he's far from the game-changing addition this bullpen needed, so now they're left to hope guys like Pedro Baez and Joe Kelly can adequately bridge the gap to closer Kenley Jansen in the late innings.

Minnesota Twins: Starting Rotation

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    Jake Odorizzi
    Jake OdorizziHannah Foslien/Getty Images

    The Minnesota Twins played it safe.

    With one of the deepest farm systems in baseball and an ever-loosening stranglehold on the top spot in the AL Central standings, a blockbuster move could have jumpstarted their stretch run.

    Instead, they settled on adding Sam Dyson and Sergio Romo to the bullpen while ignoring the need for starting pitching help.

    Jose Berrios has pitched like an ace with a 2.80 ERA that ranks third in the AL, but the team is lacking a quality No. 2 starter to help him shoulder the load.

    Jake Odorizzi was that guy for much of the second half, posting a brilliant 1.92 ERA in his first 13 starts to earn a spot on the AL All-Star team. The wheels have fallen off, though. He has a 7.04 ERA in his last eight starts and is serving up a .299 opponents' batting average.

    Meanwhile, Kyle Gibson (4.10 ERA, 1.27 WHIP), Michael Pineda (4.30 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) and Martin Perez (4.38 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) all profile best as the No. 4 starter in a playoff series, and needing to rely on two of them in October could spell disaster.

    The Twins have seen their lead over the Cleveland Indians shrink from 11 games in mid-June to just three games at the start of August. Rather than approach the trade deadline with a sense of urgency, the front office played it safe, and it could wind up costing the Twins a shot at their first division title since 2010.

New York Yankees: Starting Rotation

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    Luis Severino
    Luis SeverinoElsa/Getty Images

    Luis Severino has not thrown a pitch in an MLB game since Oct. 8, 2018, when he allowed seven hits and six earned runs against the rival Boston Red Sox in the ALDS.

    After the New York Yankees greeted the trade deadline with a chorus of crickets, he'll now be counted on to emerge from a season on the injured list and stabilize a questionable starting rotation for a team with legitimate title aspirations.

    No pressure, Luis.

    A case can be made that the Yankees were the team to beat heading into deadline day. Now they're left looking up at a Houston Astros team that pulled the trigger on a bold move and added Zack Greinke to their starting rotation.

    The Yankees currently rank 18th in the majors with a 4.77 ERA from their starting pitchers. That's not terrible, but this is not a team that is aiming for not terrible.

    It's World Series or bust for this club, and unless Severino returns with a flourish and the rest of the staff steps it up down the stretch, it's hard to envision this not ending at bust.


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