MLB Trades to Boost Your Team's Chances of Winning the World Series

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterAugust 12, 2020

MLB Trades to Boost Your Team's Chances of Winning the World Series

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    Pretty much everyone should want Whit Merrifield.
    Pretty much everyone should want Whit Merrifield.Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Major League Baseball's August 31 trade deadline is nigh, and this year's expanded playoff field means that more teams can dream of winning the World Series.

    So, we put these two things together and imagined trades that teams can make right now to boost their odds of winning it all in 2020.

    For legitimate contenders, this was as simple as identifying problems and picking out potentially available solutions. For kinda-sorta contenders and bottom feeders—of which there are surprisingly few right now—we looked for possible buy-low opportunities that could pay off beyond this season.

    Some of our ideas are more, ahem, imaginative than others. All the same, we shall proceed in alphabetical order by city.   

                

    Note: Stats and records are current through Tuesday, August 11.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Mitch Moreland

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Because they're looking up at three very real contenders in the National League West, the Arizona Diamondbacks might not be too gung-ho about buying at the deadline.

    If they do, though, they'll likely focus on an offense that has disappointed in mustering only a .675 OPS and 4.2 runs per game.

    Specifically, it's not surprising that Arizona has gotten only a .339 OPS out of Jake Lamb. That performance is more or less in line with what the first baseman/designated hitter did in injury-marred campaigns in 2018 and 2019.

    If the Snakes fancy an upgrade, they should call the Boston Red Sox about Mitch Moreland. He's come out of the gate hot with a 1.299 OPS and six home runs, and he's just as capable at first base as he is at DH.   

Atlanta: Mike Minor

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    Richard W. Rodriguez/Associated Press

    Even though Atlanta has put itself in a position to win a third straight NL East title, the club's starting rotation has already broken down.

    Said rotation has just a 5.57 ERA, and injuries (Mike Soroka and Cole Hamels) and demotions (Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb) have whittled its depth to Max Fried and basically whoever can pitch that day.

    Assuming he gets his arm back into shape in the coming weeks, Texas Rangers ace Mike Minor might be the best starter available on this summer's market. If so, Atlanta should be interested.

    Minor is an old friend, after all. As he showed in a 2019 campaign that was marked by an MLB-high 7.8 rWAR, he's also a heck of a pitcher when he's right.        

Baltimore Orioles: Dereck Rodriguez

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Orioles aren't necessarily good, but they can take pride in being competitive for the first time in four years.

    This is largely thanks to an offense that's put up a .788 OPS and 5.3 runs per game. The O's have also gotten good pitching out of Alex Cobb and Wade LeBlanc.

    Still, the Orioles almost certainly won't "buy" in a traditional sense. Even if they look to add, they'll surely protect their best prospects and look around for straw that they might spin into gold.

    Dereck Rodriguez could fit the bill. He's fallen out of favor in San Francisco since posting a 2.81 ERA as a rookie in 2018, so the Giants may be willing to listen if the Orioles come calling about him.         

Boston Red Sox: Alex Cobb

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    At the rate they're going, the Red Sox will probably look to cut their losses and sell at the deadline.

    What would make things interesting, though, is if their offense finally wakes up and starts carrying the team. With no clear favorite for the second playoff spot in the American League East, that might (emphasis on "might") spur the Red Sox's front office to go for it.

    If so, the club's threadbare rotation will be its top priority. And given how much payroll flexibility they now have, the Red Sox could look to take on some money in lieu of giving up precious prospects.

    Provided that the Orioles were willing to eat some of his $15 million salary for 2021, Alex Cobb could be an option. Even in his post-prime state, the 32-year-old is still better than what Boston has in its rotation after Nathan Eovaldi.         

Chicago Cubs: Brandon Workman

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Whereas everyone else in the NL Central has struggled to get it together, the Chicago Cubs have started hot and opened up a sizable lead in the division.

    But if anything can threaten said lead, it's the Cubs bullpen.

    Chicago relievers have combined for a 6.80 ERA, and the worst of the worst has been none other than presumed closer Craig Kimbrel. He's allowed seven runs in four appearances and recorded only two strikeouts.

    With Kirby Yates struggling (and also on a winning team) and Ken Giles injured, Red Sox right-hander Brandon Workman is in line to be the best rental closer on the market. Albeit with a few too many walks, he's tallied a 1.88 ERA and 13.0 strikeouts per nine innings since last season.       

Chicago White Sox: Joe Musgrove

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    The Chicago White Sox's effort to return to the playoffs in 2020 has been met with mixed results so far. 

    Though their offense has scored only 4.3 runs per game, it has a solid .732 OPS. It also has room to improve, as guys like Jose Abreu, Edwin Encarnacion and Eloy Jimenez are better than they've shown.

    Things are less rosy for the White Sox on the mound. Their rotation, in particular, has a 4.57 ERA that frankly undersells how shaky things have been around veteran sinker-baller Dallas Keuchel.

    If the White Sox make a move for a starter, it probably won't be for a rental such as Mike Minor or Robbie Ray. Out of the slim pickings among controllable starters, Pirates right-hander Joe Musgrove stands out by way of his innings-eating capabilities and high strikeout rate.      

Cincinnati Reds: Chris Stratton

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    For the second year in a row, the Cincinnati Reds' mission to reestablish themselves in the NL Central isn't panning out like they'd hoped.

    Though Nick Castellanos has more than done his part with a 1.106 OPS and seven home runs, it hasn't helped that Cincinnati's offense has been up and down on the young season.

    And yet, more offense will be in order once Mike Moustakas gets healthy and Eugenio Suarez gets hot. Come the deadline, the Reds might be more interested in deepening a bullpen that's flopped hard with a 7.52 ERA.

    Pirates right-hander Chris Stratton would suit them. He can work multiple innings at a time, and his exceptional spin rate would fit right in on a Reds staff that leads MLB in that department.          

Cleveland: David Peralta

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    On the plus side, Cleveland's pitching staff is the envy of the American League right now. Led by the nigh-unhittable Shane Bieber, it has a microscopic 2.32 ERA and a 4.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

    That offense, though...yikes.

    Manager Terry Francona's bats have managed only a .597 OPS and 3.3 runs per game. Things are especially bad in left field, where a revolving door of starters has put up only a .386 OPS.

    A trip to the World Series will be well within reach if Cleveland thinks big with its solutions for this problem. A call to Arizona about David Peralta, who's a career .290/.347/.477 hitter, would do the trick.           

Colorado Rockies: Whit Merrifield

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    After losing 91 games in 2019, the Colorado Rockies are playing well enough now to start planning for their third postseason berth in the last four years.

    Ordinarily, you'd expect the Rockies to boost their October odds by seeking pitching depth. But as evidenced by their 3.64 ERA, the guys they already have are plenty capable of fending for themselves.

    By comparison, Colorado's offense falls more in the range of merely average. It could use an effective leadoff man, preferably one who could play both the outfield and infield as needed.

    Basically, Whit Merrifield. The Kansas City Royals have been reluctant to trade the All-Star utility man, yet their slow start and general need for prospects might make this the year they finally do.     

Detroit Tigers: Miguel Andujar

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    In the wake of a 114-loss campaign in 2019, the Detroit Tigers are suddenly in the running for the AL Central's second playoff spot.

    Granted, the lasting power of the Tigers' success is suspect. The early indications are that they've lucked into their winning record.

    Still, the Tigers might open themselves to moves that could help them now and pay off in the future. To this end, they could look to take a spare hitter off another team's hands.

    The Holy Grail here is Miguel Andujar, who's fallen out of favor with the New York Yankees since making a run at the AL Rookie of the Year in 2018. With Detroit, he could one day be part of a dynamic corner infield duo with Spencer Torkelson.    

Houston Astros: Robbie Ray

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    After winning over 100 games in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the Houston Astros have looked decidedly "blah" through the first few weeks of 2020.

    As time goes on, their offense should improve on its already non-terrible .729 OPS and 5.2 runs per game. It's their pitching that ought to have them worried, as their depth looked thin even before Justin Verlander and Roberto Osuna were felled by arm injuries.

    The least the Astros can do is target one of the market's top rentals, and Robbie Ray would suit them.

    Despite the 10.59 ERA he has this year, the D-backs left-hander is precisely the kind of pitcher Houston has had success with in the past. As in, one with swing-and-miss stuff who just needs some fine-tuning.   

Kansas City Royals: Dereck Rodriguez

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    D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

    Though teams will surely be going after Merrifield ahead of the August 31 deadline, the Royals might have it in mind to hold on to him and make a run at the postseason.

    They are, after all, coming off a four-game winning streak that included a sweep of the Minnesota Twins. They also have some good bones, including a powerful and speedy offense and a sneaky-good bullpen.

    At least until their best prospects are ready, what the Royals lack is starting pitching. This could put them in the market for change-of-scenery candidates who could be had in low-risk deals.

    This points us back in the direction of Dereck Rodriguez, who would fit at least as well in Kansas City as he would in Baltimore.     

Los Angeles Angels: Chad Kuhl

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    At long last, the Los Angeles Angels offense is no longer just the Mike Trout Show.

    Said offense has scored 4.9 runs per game and posted a .753 OPS so far. And now that Trout, Anthony Rendon, Shohei Ohtani and top prospect Jo Adell are sharing the everyday lineup, both of those numbers figure to go nowhere but up.

    Now, if only the Angels had some pitching. Their rotation and bullpen have combined for a 4.35 ERA, and each is very much in need of a boost.

    So, how about a swingman who could help both units? Pirates right-hander Chad Kuhl matches that description, and the Angels would even get to keep him through 2022.            

Los Angeles Dodgers: Nathan Eovaldi

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    There's little question that the Los Angeles Dodgers will be buying at the trade deadline. But whom? 

    The Dodgers came into the season with plenty of depth, and both their winning record and their plus-36 run differential testify to how it hasn't let them down. 

    Still, more pitching is never a bad idea for a team with eyes on the World Series. That's doubly true this year, wherein pitchers have been dropping like flies.

    Perhaps the most intriguing option for the Dodgers is Red Sox fireballer Nathan Eovaldi, who gave them an up-close look at how good and versatile he can be during the 2018 World Series. And if their offense doesn't come to the rescue, the Red Sox would surely love to move the remainder of his contract ($34 million over next two years).      

Miami Marlins: Miguel Andujar

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    By all rights, the Miami Marlins should be an afterthought in the National League playoff picture.

    They came into this season off a 105-loss campaign and promptly suffered a coronavirus outbreak that required them to put 13 players on the injured list.

    And yet they're making a run at the NL East title. This has naturally required some good luck, but they might not need further good fortune if they can balance out their effective pitching staff with a functional offense.

    To this end, they're another team that should be thinking about plucking Miguel Andujar out of New York. The Marlins could stash him at third base and move Brian Anderson to right field, resulting in a deeper overall lineup.   

Milwaukee Brewers: Whit Merrifield

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Now that the Milwaukee Brewers have Christian Yelich more or less back to normal, they need to get the rest of their lineup going.

    This won't be so easy without Lorenzo Cain, who opted out of the season Aug. 1. Without him, the Brewers have a hole in center field and a need for a reliable table-setter.

    Paging Whit Merrifield.

    Granted, the Royals star probably fits best at second base. He's no stranger to center field, however, and the Royals could use a .300 hitter like him in their leadoff spot.   

Minnesota Twins: Mike Minor

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    Richard W. Rodriguez/Associated Press

    Despite their recent sweep at the hands of the Royals, the Twins still have the inside track to a second straight AL Central title.

    Ironically, their biggest issue is their offense. After slamming 307 home runs in 2019, it has sputtered out of the gate in 2020 to the tune of a .715 OPS and "only" 4.8 runs per game.

    But given the talent involved, this is a problem that should fix itself in the long run. It's harder to extend similar confidence to Minnesota's rotation, which could use a co-ace for Jose Berrios.

    This need should put the Twins in the market for Minor, who would have the added bonus of balancing out a right-leaning rotation.     

New York Mets: Joe Musgrove

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    This season isn't going the way the New York Mets hoped.

    Their offense deserves some blame for that, as it hasn't lived up to its power potential in posting a .383 slugging percentage. In theory, though, that number will go up once Pete Alonso finally heats up.

    On the other side of the ball, the Mets rotation is much more ripe for upgrades. Without Noah Syndergaard (Tommy John surgery), Michael Wacha (shoulder) and Marcus Stroman (opt-out), there's too much weight on Jacob deGrom's shoulders.

    In lieu of a rental, the Mets should pursue a starter who would stay on past 2020. To repeat a familiar refrain, Musgrove might be as good as it gets on that corner of the market.    

New York Yankees: Mike Minor

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Speaking of New York clubs with rotation shortcomings, the Yankees can't be spared from that conversation.

    The early returns on Gerrit Cole's $324 million contract have been fine. Albeit in a limited number of innings, the Yankees have also gotten good stuff out of Masahiro Tanaka since he returned from a concussion.

    Otherwise, their rotation is kind of a mess. They've been especially let down by left-handers James Paxton, J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery, who have a 7.09 ERA between them.

    If they want to get back to the World Series for the first time in 2009, the Yankees should be looking at the best available trade option. That's Minor, who was notably on their radar last summer.    

Oakland Athletics: Jay Bruce

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Even after having their winning streak snapped at nine Monday, the Oakland Athletics are still sitting pretty atop the AL West.

    What's more, they bear a passing resemblance to the Dodgers in the sense that they don't need much.

    They might consider a rotation upgrade, but they can also afford to wait for Sean Manaea to get his act together. They also might need offense, but what they have is mostly fine.

    If "mostly" isn't good enough for the A's, they could consider a left-handed power hitter who could help out at DH and in the outfield. If the Philadelphia Phillies continue to lag behind in the NL East, that could lead the A's to veteran slugger Jay Bruce.   

Philadelphia Phillies: Miguel Castro

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    Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

    Apropos of the Phillies lagging behind in the NL East, it's no secret where their biggest problem is located.

    To call their bullpen merely "bad" would be a kindness. It's repugnant. Even despite three scoreless appearances from closer Hector Neris, Phillies relievers have coughed up a league-worst 10.19 ERA.

    Given how desperate the team is to return to the playoffs, this problem ought to have the Phils looking around for a Hail Mary. So we'll go ahead and suggest one: Miguel Castro.

    The right-hander might not be available if the Orioles keep playing competitive baseball. But if that changes, acquiring him would mean adding a guy with a deadly fastball-changeup combo who's controlled through 2022.      

Pittsburgh Pirates: Jared Walsh

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    To this point, we've taken an optimistic outlook for each team's chances of making it to the playoffs.

    But with the Pirates, we just can't do it. They're 10 games under .500, and neither their offense nor their pitching portends much hope of a turnaround.

    Pittsburgh's situation is further compacted by its lack of must-have trade chips. Slugging first baseman Josh Bell might have been one, but he's now in a slump that extends back to the 2019 All-Star break.

    We're left wondering if the Pirates might be able to snag an undervalued prospect who doesn't factor into his club's current plans. If they and the Angels do business, they could ask about Jared Walsh. He was the best hitter in the Pacific Coast League last year, and he can pitch.          

San Diego Padres: Christian Vazquez

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The San Diego Padres are good, folks.

    It had been a while since anyone could say that sincerely, but it's true now. They're winning games with the help of an offense (Fernando Tatis Jr.!) and pitching staff (Dinelson Lamet!) that are both dripping with talent.

    If the Padres are wanting for anything, it's better catching. Neither Austin Hedges nor Francisco Mejia is hitting, and only Hedges has standout defense to fall back on.

    The depth of San Diego's farm system can hypothetically open many trade doors, perhaps up to and including that of Red Sox star Christian Vazquez. He's one of the game's best two-way backstops, and he has a contract that runs through 2021 with an option for 2022.    

San Francisco Giants: Logan Allen

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Just as they were in 2019, the San Francisco Giants seem good enough to stay closely tethered to the .500 mark in 2020.

    But whereas the Diamondbacks should have a sense of urgency about catching up to the Dodgers, Rockies and Padres, the Giants are playing the long game right now. 

    This could involve moving not only bad contracts at the deadline but perhaps also some of their more productive players. They have a concentration of those in the outfield, which might make them a match for Cleveland.

    If so, the Giants could try to get at one of the many pitchers who's on the outside looking in at Cleveland's stacked rotation. Logan Allen, who was a top prospect, is one of them.    

Seattle Mariners: Kyle Muller

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Between Kyle Lewis, J.P. Crawford, Austin Nola and Dylan Moore, the Seattle Mariners have some exciting young hitters in their midst.

    Yet the team's rebuild is ongoing, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the results of its pitching staff. Notably, those include a 5.60 ERA.

    The Mariners might look to subtract from their offense for the sake of adding to their moundstaff. To wit, they could eat some money and trade Kyle Seager to a team that needs a third baseman and has some young arms to offer.

    Sans Josh Donaldson at the hot corner, Atlanta could be game to take on Seager. And while Atlanta obviously can't spare many arms, the one belonging to work-in-progress lefty Kyle Muller is a possible exception.   

St. Louis Cardinals: Whit Merrifield

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The St. Louis Cardinals have played only five games, and they won't be playing again until they get their coronavirus outbreak under control.

    This naturally makes it hard to assess what the Cardinals need. Yet there were concerns about their offense coming into the year, and it's telling that they were immediately realized.

    Cardinals hitters mustered only a .663 OPS and 18 runs in the club's first five games. In particular, their offense will still need a bat even after the organization inevitably promotes top prospect Dylan Carlson.

    Once again, Merrifield looks like a solution. He could play either center field or right field in St. Louis, and he would deepen the club's lineup by moving into the leadoff spot and pushing Kolten Wong down the order.  

Tampa Bay Rays: Whit Merrifield

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Though some had the Tampa Bay Rays pegged as World Series contenders coming into 2020, it's been a grind for them so far.

    Specifically, the Rays have had a hard time getting consistent offense out of a lineup that features many moving parts. They're sitting on a .708 OPS and 4.5 runs per game.

    Things have been more difficult from the right side (see here and here) of the plate so far. The catch, though, is that any right-handed hitter the Rays acquire would need to fit in with the aforementioned moving parts.

    So for the last time, we'll point to Merrifield. We'll also grant that it wouldn't be like Tampa Bay to force a win in a bidding war for him, but there's no question that he'd be an ideal Ray.       

Texas Rangers: J.D. Martinez

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Texas Rangers are a flawed team, but that doesn't necessarily preclude them from playing in October.

    They figured to be at best a third wheel in the AL West after the Astros and A's in 2020. But with the former struggling, there's an opportunity for the Rangers, Angels or Mariners to steal a playoff spot.

    The Rangers should seek an edge in the form of a slugger who could help boost their measly .342 slugging percentage. More specifically, a right-handed hitter who could work in tandem with Joey Gallo would be best.

    Contrary to other clubs, the Rangers might be able to afford to take J.D. Martinez off Boston's hands. If they do, they'd then just have to hope he could get hot and live up to his stellar track record.       

Toronto Blue Jays: Abraham Toro

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Coming into the year, one could declare the Toronto Blue Jays a dark-horse contender based on their offense's extreme upside.

    Said upside has yet to materialize, as the Blue Jays have scored just 3.1 runs per game. Third base has been especially problematic, producing only a .358 OPS.

    This, of course, was going to be Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s domain before the Blue Jays moved him across the diamond. That was the right move, but it did open up a need for a long-term solution at the hot corner.

    This could prompt the Blue Jays to call the Yankees about Andujar, but they might have better luck with a team that's not an AL East rival. For instance, they might approach Houston about Abraham Toro, who's stuck behind Alex Bregman.      

Washington Nationals: J.D. Martinez

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Even after their 16-run outburst against the Mets on Monday, the Washington Nationals still have the look of a team that needs an offensive boost.

    They're scoring only 3.9 runs per game. And apart from Juan Soto and Asdrubal Cabrera, none of their regulars is lighting up any leaderboards.

    The elephant in the room here is the absence of Anthony Rendon. Washington isn't just feeling at third base but also more generally on the right side of the plate and in the middle of Washington's lineup.

    Obviously, a trade for Martinez wouldn't solve the third-base conundrum. But it would solve the other two, and the money side of the equation would likely save the Nats from having to sacrifice anything from a farm system that's weak enough as is.

                          

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.