Buy, Sell or Stand Pat for Every MLB Team 2 Weeks Before the 2020 Trade DeadlineAugust 18, 2020
Buy, Sell or Stand Pat for Every MLB Team 2 Weeks Before the 2020 Trade Deadline
The shortened 2020 MLB season and expanded 16-team playoff format add ample uncertainty to the upcoming Aug. 31 trade deadline.
With so many clubs in contention, we could see a dearth of impact swaps. Plus, with the COVID-19 pandemic, teams might be less enthusiastic about reshuffling rosters and shipping players from city to city.
That said, every club has holes to fill. And deadline deals are often the best and fastest way to fill them.
Let's run through all 30 franchises and assess whether they should be buyers, sellers or simply stand pat between now and the end of August.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Sell
After limping out of the gate, the Arizona Diamondbacks have won four straight and seven of their last 10 to climb back into the National League playoff race.
They have solid offensive pieces, including Starling Marte and Ketel Marte.
Yet big offseason acquisition Madison Bumgarner is on the injured list with a balky back after posting a 9.35 ERA in four starts. D-backs pitchers are 25th in baseball with a 5.51 ERA.
That could be their cue to go shopping for arms, but that would mean depleting a farm system they've worked hard to build up to the No. 8 slot in our post-draft rankings.
Instead, the Snakes should dangle expiring players such as veteran lefty Robbie Ray to add more young talent rather than mortgage the future to improve their fringy wild-card hopes.
Atlanta is in the thick of the National League East race and could be a force in the postseason, assuming star right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. returns strong from a wrist injury that landed him on the IL.
The team could use more pitching, however, after losing burgeoning ace Mike Soroka to a season-ending Achilles injury and with southpaw Cole Hamels sidelined indefinitely by a triceps injury.
Top prospects such as outfielder Cristian Pache should be off-limits. But Atlanta has enviable prospect depth in its No. 3-ranked system and should push to add an arm or two as well as, possibly, a veteran bat at third base, where the duo of Austin Riley and Johan Camargo have provided minimal production.
Baltimore Orioles: Sell
At 12-9, the Baltimore Orioles are one of the coolest stories of 2020. The presumed doormats of the American League East, they have a plus-seven run differential and a real chance to make the playoffs.
That said, the big picture in Baltimore is defined by a flashing "rebuild" sign. The O's certainly shouldn't trade any prospects or cost-controlled young talent.
They could deal veterans such as right-hander Mychal Givens, who has struck out 11 in eight scoreless innings out of the bullpen and would fetch a nice haul in what figures to be a competitive market for relief pitchers.
Baltimore fans hungry for October baseball may want to see the club go all-in on this Cinderella run, but the Orioles' primary focus should be on building a sustainable winner down the road.
Boston Red Sox: Sell
After winning the World Series in 2018, the Boston Red Sox are mired in last place in the AL East. They dealt superstar Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers in February and lost ace Chris Sale to Tommy John surgery in March.
Boston has some interesting veteran trade chips, including center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., closer Brandon Workman, designated hitter J.D. Martinez and first baseman Mitch Moreland.
The Sox should strike as many deals as possible between now and Aug. 31 to boost their No. 25-ranked farm system and accept that a significant retool—if not a full-blown rebuild—is necessary.
Chicago Cubs: Buy
The Chicago Cubs are in first place in the NL Central and appear poised to make another deep run behind the core that led them to a drought-busting title in 2016.
Talk of trading stars such as third baseman Kris Bryant will be put on hold until the offseason, at least. But the Cubbies could use help in a bullpen that has posted a 5.58 ERA.
Chicago would need to dip into a thin farm system, but the prospect of challenging for another title while this group remains intact should motivate president of baseball operations Theo Epstein to get creative on the trade market.
"There are going to be unique conversations held throughout the game," Epstein said on the Kap and J.Hood show on ESPN 1000 (h/t Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune). "There's more risk in acquiring a player this year when you bring him in this kind of environment when there’s no guarantee about the integrity of the schedule or the postseason going forward."
Chicago White Sox: Stand Pat
The Chicago White Sox are 11-11 with a minus-three run differential. They have emerging stars in outfielders Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez and third baseman Yoan Moncada and could blossom slightly ahead of schedule.
Their pitching staff, however, checks in at No. 16 with a 4.31 ERA and could use a proven arm or two.
But the ChiSox should not, under any circumstances, trade impact prospects. Their window is just opening. Now is not the moment to go for broke.
Rather, Chicago should see how high its group can fly while resting assured it'll soon be a force in the division and the Junior Circuit as a whole.
Any success this year is icing on the cake.
Cincinnati Reds: Buy
The Cincinnati Reds acted aggressively this offseason and upgraded their offense with right fielder Nick Castellanos. Their starting pitching is loaded at the top with Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo.
The Reds have a shot in the crowded NL Central despite a 9-11 start and could be a dangerous foe for any opponent in the postseason.
But Cincinnati should buttress its bullpen, which owns an unsightly 6.23 ERA.
The competition for impact relievers will be stiff, and the Reds shouldn't gut their No. 19-ranked farm. Yet, with Bauer ticketed for free agency after the season, Cincinnati shouldn't be shy about making deadline upgrades.
Superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor can become a free agent after the 2021 season and will almost surely price himself out of penny-pinching Cleveland's budget.
For now, though, the team is 13-9 thanks in no small part to a dominant pitching staff led by ace Shane Bieber, who has fanned 54 in 34.2 innings and is in the conversation for AL Cy Young Award honors.
Lindor trade talk will feature heavily this offseason. At the moment, Cleveland should seek to add to its playoff-caliber club with an impact bat to augment a suspect outfield unit that lacks a regular with a .700 OPS.
Colorado Rockies: Buy
The Colorado Rockies are 13-8 with a plus-23 run differential. The Dodgers remain the prohibitive favorites in the NL West, but a wild-card spot is well within the Rox's reach.
Colorado has stars on offense, including right fielder Charlie Blackmon, shortstop Trevor Story and third baseman Nolan Arenado. And its starting staff has been a huge boon with a seventh-ranked 3.48 ERA.
But Colorado could use help in the pen, as closer Wade Davis is on the injured list with a shoulder strain and late-inning reliever Scott Oberg is out for the season with blood clots in his arm.
Arenado can opt out after the 2021 season and could be a trade candidate in the offseason or at next year's deadline. For now, the Rockies should look to make a run.
Detroit Tigers: Sell
The Detroit Tigers have been decent this season and are 9-10. But they came into 2020 as presumed rebuilders, and their minus-12 run differential does nothing to alter that calculus.
Left-hander Matthew Boyd seemed like an obvious trade chip coming into the season, though he hasn't boosted his stock with a 10.24 ERA through four starts.
If the Tigers can offload Boyd and any other veteran assets to improve the farm, they should. Either way, they can look to their decent start and the cache of up-and-comers in their No. 6-ranked system as positive signs.
Houston Astros: Buy
Not surprisingly, the Houston Astros have been lightning rods for controversy in the wake of their sign-stealing scandal, which rocked the franchise. There have been benches-clearing incidents and suspensions.
The 'Stros are also without ace Justin Verlander (forearm) and closer Roberto Osuna (elbow).
At 11-10, the defending AL champs are squarely in the playoff mix. And they're in a win-now moment, as their starting outfield—Michael Brantley, George Springer and Josh Reddick—is set to reach free agency after the season.
Houston should be in the market for pitchers as it tries to push toward the postseason, villain status be darned.
Kansas City Royals: Sell
The Kansas City Royals are in last place in the AL Central. They came into 2020 as rebuilders, and they'll assuredly exit in the same fashion.
In terms of tradeable assets, the Royals can dangle bullpen arms—including Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland—to any number of relief-deficient contenders.
They should also consider dealing Whit Merrifield, a versatile defender who led the game in hits in 2018 and 2019 and is hitting .302 with an .893 OPS.
He's signed at least through 2022, but the 31-year-old is more valuable as a trade piece.
Los Angeles Angels: Buy
Mike Trout is the best baseball player on the planet. He has played a paltry three postseason games in his exemplary career.
Despite a 7-15 start and minus-14 run differential, the Los Angeles Angels should do everything possible to get him back to the playoff stage.
That will mean upgrading a pitching staff that ranks No. 22 with a 4.77 ERA and lost two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani's mound-straddling services to injury.
They'll have to deplete their No. 24-ranked farm system, but squandering Trout's prime is inexcusable.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Buy
The Dodgers are arguably MLB's most complete team. They can hit, they can field, and they have enviable depth in the bullpen and starting rotation.
They also haven't hoisted a Commissioner's Trophy since 1988 despite multiple recent near misses—and are facing competition from the Rockies and San Diego Padres in the NL West.
Los Angeles could stand pat at the deadline and let the chips fall where they may. But as the mother of all win-now franchises with the No. 9-ranked farm system, it should do what it takes to bathe in champagne and confetti.
A proven bat with the ability to play multiple positions would be a wise addition, as would more arms to further protect their starting corps and late-inning unit from the vagaries of injury and underperformance.
Miami Marlins: Sell
An early COVID-19-induced hiatus put the Miami Marlins' season in doubt, but the Fish returned. They're now 9-6.
Could Miami make a shocking playoff run? Sure. It has burgeoning talent, and experienced players such as third baseman Brian Anderson and first baseman Jesus Aguilar are doing their part.
But the Marlins join the White Sox and Orioles in the column of clubs whose best days are ahead. If teams come calling about their veterans, Miami should bite.
Failing that, it should take this campaign for the anomaly it is and aim for serious contention in 2021 and beyond.
Milwaukee Brewers: Buy
At 10-10, the Milwaukee Brewers are contenders in the wide-open NL playoff chase. Star left fielder Christian Yelich got off to a troublingly slow start but has five home runs in 19 games and should be fine.
Brew Crew starting pitchers, meanwhile, own a 26th-ranked 5.44 ERA and could use an ace-level arm to make a deep playoff push.
Such arms will be in short supply and high demand ahead of the trade deadline. And mid-market Milwaukee can only dig so deep into its ho-hum No. 28 system.
The Brewers are contenders and should act accordingly, but their odds of making a game-changing trade are limited.
Minnesota Twins: Stand Pat
The Minnesota Twins are 14-8 with a plus-35 run differential. They have no glaring weaknesses and could challenge for AL supremacy as is.
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz continues to defy Father Time. Miguel Sano is a top-shelf power threat. Byron Buxton might finally be enjoying the breakout we've all been waiting for. And they rank third with a 3.44 ERA.
They also don't have the budget to trade top prospects willy-nilly from their No. 15-ranked farm system.
Minnesota could push its chips in. It hasn't won a title since 1991. But sacrificing young talent to upgrade what already seems like a complete squad that can't hang with the big clubs financially would be shortsighted.
New York Mets: Stand Pat
The New York Mets are in last place in the NL East at 9-14. Potential rotation stalwarts Noah Syndergaard (Tommy John surgery) and Marcus Stroman (calf, opted out) are out for the season. So is slugger Yoenis Cespedes (opted out).
On the plus side, ace Jacob deGrom (neck) appears to have dodged an injury bullet.
The Mets are in an odd place: not clear-cut contenders but not full-on rebuilders, either. A hot streak could put them back in the postseason race. But their minus-21 run differential portends the opposite outcome.
New York should not trade from its No. 27 farm system. Yet it isn't out of it—and doesn't have many obvious trade chips unless it wants to undergo a total rebuild.
In a deep division, the Mets should take a see-what-happens approach.
New York Yankees: Buy
The New York Yankees are among the top teams in the American League but have been dinged of late by injuries to sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.
At 15-6, New York leads the AL East and boasts a plus-35 run differential. This is no time to ease off the accelerator.
Assuming their lineup-anchoring mashers return, the Yanks could tinker with a supplementary bat, preferably a left-handed swinger who could take aim at Yankee Stadium's short right field porch.
They could also seek to augment the pitching staff, which has benefited from ace Gerrit Cole but is just now set to get closer Aroldis Chapman back from a COVID-19 absence.
Their farm sits at No. 23, but they should consider depleting it in the quest for title No. 28.
Oakland Athletics: Buy
The Oakland Athletics have the best record in baseball at 16-6 and a plus-34 run differential. They're almost assuredly playoff-bound.
Corner infielders Matt Olson and Matt Chapman anchor an offense that ranks fourth in the AL with a .763 OPS. Their pitching staff checks in at No. 4 with a 3.52 ERA.
Once again, Billy Beane's small-market bunch is among the game's top contenders.
Given financial limitations, The A's aren't likely to raid their No. 22-ranked farm system. But they could acquire another proven arm or veteran left-handed hitter to supplement a squad that's equipped to take October by storm.
Philadelphia Phillies: Buy
The Philadelphia Phillies had a COVID-19-caused hiatus and are 8-9, third in the NL East.
But look: Bryce Harper owns a 1.165 OPS to lead an offense that paces the NL in that stat at .803. And Zack Wheeler has strengthened a starting five that already featured Aaron Nola.
Phillies relief pitchers, on the other hand, are dead-last with an 8.77 ERA. The Phils need bullpen reinforcements.
They'll need to decide how much to give up from their No. 17 system. But don't count Philadelphia out as a trade-deadline player.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Sell
The Pittsburgh Pirates are buried in the NL Central at 4-14. Potential ace Mitch Keller is on the injured list with an oblique ailment.
Switch-hitter Josh Bell should generate trade interest after swatting 37 home runs with a .936 OPS in 2019.
Yes, he's hitting a scant .203, but as one of the only obvious sellers at the deadline, the Buccos should be able to command a solid return from any number of contenders seeking lineup balance (i.e., the Yankees and A's).
With its minimal budget and abysmal record, Pittsburgh should have the goal to add prospects before Aug. 31.
San Diego Padres: Buy
At 11-12, the San Diego Padres are in a similar boat to the White Sox. Namely, they're stacked with talent and could make an ahead-of-schedule run.
Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is already a superstar in his sophomore season. And the starting rotation ranks fifth with a 3.43 ERA.
On the other hand, Friars relievers check in at No. 28 with a 6.48 ERA, and closer Kirby Yates is on the IL with an elbow injury.
Top names from the Pads' No. 4 system, such as left-hander MacKenzie Gore, are virtually untouchable. But San Diego, which started 6-2, has enough MiLB depth to make a charge while keeping its status as a future powerhouse intact.
San Francisco Giants: Sell
The San Francisco Giants have enjoyed strong starts from hitters such as center fielder Mike Yastrzemski and journeyman second baseman Donovan Solano.
But they've mostly been as advertised with an 8-15 record and minus-43 run differential.
They'd have to eat a large chunk of salary to move veterans, including right-hander Johnny Cueto and first baseman Brandon Belt. The future lies in top prospects, including catcher Joey Bart.
This year, the Giants will likely endure a trade deadline that's as uneventful as their season.
Seattle Mariners: Sell
With the game's No. 2-ranked farm system, the Seattle Mariners can look to the future with optimism.
In the present, the M's are in last place in the AL West at 7-16 with a minus-47 run differential.
Veteran third baseman Kyle Seager has an .853 OPS with seven doubles, three home runs and 19 RBI in 23 games and could interest a club—such as Atlanta—with a need at the hot corner.
If so, the Mariners should add to their loaded collection of prospects, even if it means parting with a franchise player who has spent his career in the Pacific Northwest.
St. Louis Cardinals: Stand Pat
Because of COVID-19, the St. Louis Cardinals have played just eight games.
The defending NL Central champs are 4-4 and could be a postseason factor. But if they're going to come close to playing the full 60-game slate, it will mean a dizzying array of double-headers.
That doesn't mean St. Louis should throw in the towel. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt and his .927 OPS anchors the offense, and Jack Flaherty is among the game's most exciting young arms.
But with so many unknowns, it would be foolhardy for the Cards to trade any top prospects. The hope now is that they can make up the ground they lost and supplement the roster as required with internal options.
Tampa Bay Rays: Buy
A 14-9 record and plus-16 run differential make the Tampa Bay Rays sneaky contenders. If the Yankees' injury issues persist, they might emerge as favorites in the AL East.
The Rays don't have a gaping hole to fill, but they could add an experienced power bat to complement second baseman Brandon Lowe and an arm or two.
Given their tight budget, the Rays won't tap the top level of their No. 1-ranked farm system, which will make them a contender for years to come.
But if the right deal presents itself, Tampa Bay is well-positioned to swoop in.
Texas Rangers: Stand Pat
The Texas Rangers are 10-10 in the AL West with a minus-15 run differential. Yet they've won seven of nine and could easily claim a wild-card spot.
Lance Lynn has pitched like an ace, with a 1.11 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 32.1 innings. They have weapons on offense, including veterans Joey Gallo and Todd Frazier.
But with key offseason pitching acquisition Corey Kluber out with a shoulder injury and a lineup that ranks 27th with a .663 OPS, the Rangers would be foolish to trade from their No. 21-ranked farm system.
Texas can see how it does. In a short season, anything is possible. But the future should trump the present when it comes to meaningful deals.
Toronto Blue Jays: Stand Pat
The Toronto Blue Jays are a team on the rise behind up-and-coming second-generation infielders Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. They also employ a burgeoning ace in right-hander Nate Pearson.
They were forced to vacate their home north of the border for temporary digs in Buffalo, New York, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On paper, the Jays seems like the perfect squad to make an unexpected drive in the weird ride that is 2020.
Yet they are 7-11 with a minus-10 run differential. Even in a small sample, they have exemplified the promise and uneven results associated with a close-but-not-quite franchise.
For now, the club should see what happens while protecting its young assets and angling for contention in the near term.
Washington Nationals: Buy
The defending champion Washington Nationals lost superstar slugger Juan Soto to a COVID-19 diagnosis for the first part of the season. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg is on the shelf with a hand injury after two rough starts.
The Nats are 8-11 with a minus-four run differential in a highly competitive division.
On the bright side, Washington has a strong offensive core in Soto (six homers in 11 games) and other young standouts such as Trea Turner and Victor Robles, as well as veterans such as Asdrubal Cabrera. And Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin front the rotation in Strasburg's absence.
Winning back-to-back titles is hard under any circumstances. Doing it in a short season amid a pandemic is extra difficult. Adding to the degree of difficulty, the Nationals landed No. 30 in our farm system rankings.
But they're good enough as is to be in the picture—and should be at least peripheral buyers to boost the pitching staff and possibly the offense.
All statistics accurate through Sunday and courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.