Each Team's Nightmare 2020 MLB Trade Deadline Scenario

Martin FennCorrespondent IAugust 30, 2020

Each Team's Nightmare 2020 MLB Trade Deadline Scenario

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    The trade deadline offers contending MLB teams the final opportunity to improve their rosters entering the season's closing stretch.

    Alternatively, other clubs are seeking to acquire young talent to bolster the farm system and build for the future. Regardless, some sort of value can almost always be found.

    But this year's deadline makes it harder than ever to determine which teams will buy or sell. Over half the league (16 teams) will participate in the 2020 postseason, and nearly every club in the National League is at least within striking distance of a playoff spot.

    Some teams will seize the deadline, while others might watch Monday pass by without leaving much of a mark.

    Regardless, there are always reasons to be concerned or anxious about deadline day. Here is every team's nightmare 2020 MLB trade deadline scenario.

New York Teams Fail to Land a Starter

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    New York Yankees

    The Yankees are in desperate need of an innings-eating starting pitcher.

    Gerrit Cole has been effective, but he has also given up 10 home runs in 41 innings. Left-hander James Paxton (elbow) was having a rough year before he went on the injured list, posting a 6.64 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 20.1 frames. Meanwhile, fellow left-hander J.A. Happ has shown a total lack of command, and the Yankees might be limiting his innings because of a vesting option for 2021.

    It seems unlikely the Bronx Bombers can rely on youngsters like Jordan Montgomery and or spot starters such as Jonathan Loaisiga to carry the load for a World Series contender. The Washington Nationals proved last season quality starting depth is imperative in October, and the Yankees would do well to acquire at least one starter at the deadline. 

    A wealth of options populate the market, including half-season rentals like Kevin Gausman, whom the Yankees have called the San Francisco Giants about, per SNY's Andy Martino. It would be a huge disappointment if the Yankees fail to land a starter and once again have to rely on a tired bullpen to throw high-leverage innings in the playoffs.


    New York Mets

    The Mets also need starting pitching, but they have limited assets to offer, and their nightmare scenario might already be unfolding.

    Given New York's somewhat shallow farm system and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen's cautious deadline approach this year, it would seem the Mets do not have a ton of options other than rental players.

    One of those players—former Seattle Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker—is already off the market after the Toronto Blue Jays traded for him Thursday. Gausman is another option, though he is likely to have a number of suitors given his affordability and strong peripherals.

    The Mets might bank on Robbie Ray's upside, but the Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander has a 7.84 ERA and leads the league in walks (31) and wild pitches (6). Maybe Boston Red Sox lefty Martin Perez will be moved. Perez had a 3.45 ERA in six starts before a rough outing Friday and could be a back-end option. 

    In any case, the Mets cannot expect to make a playoff run without adding a starter. Failure to do so might cost Van Wagenen his job and provoke a further sense of uncertainty amid the impending sale of the team.

Braves, Rangers Not Aggressive in SP Market

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Atlanta Braves

    The Braves have a ton of premium prospects and might be in the best position of any team to make a play for a marquee starter like Mike Clevinger or Lance Lynn. 

    But Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has a history of being cautious with elite prospects. Moreover, Atlanta likely envisions its future outfield consisting of Ronald Acuna Jr. along with top prospects Cristian Pache and Drew Waters. However, the starting rotation is a more pressing concern for a team expected to contend for a World Series title right now.

    Ian Anderson looked fantastic in his MLB debut Wednesday (6 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K), and Max Fried has been excellent. But Cole Hamels (triceps) has yet to throw a pitch this year, and Mike Soroka is out for the season (Achilles). Kyle Wright, Sean Newcomb and Touki Toussaint all struggled before being optioned.

    The Braves need a controllable, front-end starter, and they have the prospect capital to get it done. If Atlanta settles for a rental, it risks lacking the rotation depth to get out of the division series and leaves the rotation as a big question mark entering the offseason.


    Texas Rangers

    The Rangers had the opportunity to get value from left-hander Mike Minor at last year's deadline, instead retaining the veteran in the hopes of being more competitive.

    Fast-forward to this season, with the Rangers struggling to stay in the playoff picture and Minor spoiling his value with an 0-5 mark and 5.60 ERA in his first seven starts. Texas cannot afford to make this same mistake with right-hander Lance Lynn.

    The 33-year-old was 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his first seven starts before tossing another quality start (6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 6K) against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday. Lynn has also been one of the three most valuable pitchers in baseball since the beginning of last year, per FanGraphs.

    Moreover, Lynn is under contract for just $8 million in 2021, which makes him one of the most desirable arms on the market.

    The Rangers will be no closer to contention should they keep Lynn for next season. The lineup is full of holes—Texas is dead last in MLB in runs scored—and the farm system was ranked 21st by MLB.com.

    This is a big opportunity for the Rangers to acquire young talent. They cannot be goaded into keeping Lynn, thinking he will be just as valuable next season, and it would be a disaster if he regressed similarly to Minor.

Indians Retain Controllable Starters While Blue Jays Miss Out

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Cleveland Indians

    The Indians are one of the AL's better teams. They also rank 13th in the AL in runs scored and OPS.

    Cleveland's rotation has been the narrative of its season. From Shane Bieber's dominance to impressive youngsters like Triston McKenzie and right-handed reliever James Karinchak, the Indians staff has carried the team. Of course, Clevinger's and Zach Plesac's breach of protocol also garnered plenty of attention.

    The time has come for the Indians to choose: Do they trade one of Clevinger or Plesac, or perhaps even both?

    Both players have years of team control remaining and would certainly fetch plenty of value on the open market. Simultaneously, Cleveland might feel the depth of its staff can carry it to a World Series.

    Meanwhile, the lack of lineup production is evident, especially considering Cleveland's outfield ranks 29th in FanGraphs WAR (fWAR). This has been a problem for years, one the Indians have not been able to solve via free agency or trades.

    The worst-case scenario is pretty clear: The Indians retain all their pitching assets, but the offense—notably the outfield—does not score enough to get them past the division series.


    Toronto Blue Jays

    The Blue Jays have every incentive to make a playoff push, considering the number of additions they made to the rotation last offseason as well as a lineup that ranks second in the AL in homers and third in OPS.

    General manager Ross Atkins got the pitching he desired, acquiring Walker from the Mariners for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

    Walker got off to a decent start with Seattle, posting a 4.00 ERA in his first five outings and racking up consecutive quality outings against the Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers. He could provide some stability in Toronto's rotation given the myriad injuries in that group.

    Alternatively, Walker could collapse, raising questions as to why the Blue Jays did not pursue a more controllable, dependable starter. Jim Bowden of CBS Sports reported the Blue Jays are giving up a top-30 prospect for Walker. This will seem like a steep price if Walker—a free agent this winter—struggles, particularly given his track record of injuries.

Rebuilders Buy, Only to Miss Playoffs

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    Miami Marlins

    The Marlins are still years from contention. Yet thanks to the nature of this season, they are in the thick of the playoff chase midway through the year. 

    Naturally, there could be an instinctual desire to buy at the deadline. The Marlins have not made the playoffs since they won the World Series in 2003, and now is as good a time as any to make a run for October. Indeed, MLB.com's Jon Morosi reported the Marlins are hoping to buy at the deadline, citing their pursuit of bullpen arms.

    The Marlins wouldn't lose much by acquiring rentals. However, they have more to gain by dealing veteran relievers Brandon Kintzler and Brad Boxberger, and perhaps infielders Miguel Rojas or Jonathan Villar.

    It will feel liked a missed opportunity if the Marlins fail to reach the postseason and don't cash in these veterans.


    Baltimore Orioles

    Baltimore and Miami share worst-case scenarios.

    The Orioles are still jostling for playoff position, though three teams are above them in the AL East and three AL Central clubs have opened some ground. 

    Sure, the O's could make a run at the postseason. But it is unlikely their success is sustainable given they rank 10th in the AL in staff ERA and just seventh in runs scored.

    Like the Marlins, there is a big opportunity to sell. Mychal Givens might be a marquee relief piece, and Jose Iglesias has been a tremendous addition at shortstop. Left-hander Alex Cobb might also be interesting, though the O's would likely have to include money in that deal.

    In any case, the Orioles might regret retaining some of these pieces or not selling high on catcher Pedro Severino.

Phillies and Twins Watch Rivals Make Splashes

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    Philadelphia Phillies

    The Phillies addressed bullpen needs by acquiring Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree from the Boston Red Sox as well as veteran David Hale from the New York Yankees earlier in August. This might be the extent of their maneuvering.

    Though the argument could be made Philly could use even more help in the bullpen or the back end of the rotation, the team has limited farm assets and appears unlikely to give up even more prospects for rentals.

    Thus, the Phillies have to hope the other teams in the NL East fail to make a splash, notably the Washington Nationals.

    Washington is in the NL East cellar but could try to leverage a top prospect like Carter Kieboom into making a big move. This would be bad news for the Phils, as it might further crowd the division and make it tougher to get a playoff spot, even with an expanded postseason.


    Minnesota Twins

    The Twins are probably not looking to make a big addition before the deadline.

    Minnesota's pitching staff has been strong, and the Twins will hope Josh Donaldson (calf) and Mitch Garver (intercostal strain) can find something closer to their 2019 form when they return from injury as they hope to jump-start the offense.

    But the Twins might have reason to be concerned if the Indians get another impact bat.

    As mentioned, the Indians have tremendous pitching depth but a shortage of run-producers in the outfield. What if Cleveland trades for a slugger like Mike Yastrzemski or Jorge Soler?

    Sure, it is unlikely. But the Indians have MLB-ready assets and intriguing farm prospects. Perhaps they buy high, especially knowing Francisco Lindor's free agency looms large.

    Such a move would make the Indians an even more imposing threat in the AL Central, and they could push the Twins for the division crown.

Cardinals Fail to Add to Lineup; Brewers Sit on Sidelines

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    St. Louis Cardinals

    The Cardinals are in a good position ahead of the deadline. St. Louis navigated a COVID-19 outbreak, and the Redbirds' staff ranks second in the NL in team ERA.

    However, the Cardinals need another bat in the lineup, notably the outfield. Harrison Bader has shown good signs early, and Dexter Fowler has been serviceable. But youngsters like Tyler O'Neill and Dylan Carlson simply have not been able to get going.

    O'Neill and Carlson are both hitting below .200, and the rookie Carlson had a .529 OPS and ranks in just the eighth percentile in average exit velocity and ninth percentile in whiff rate, per Baseball Savant. Tommy Edman has also had a disappointing sophomore season.

    It would be disastrous for the Cardinals to watch their young players continue to struggle rather than attempting to add a bat—maybe someone like Boston's Kevin Pillar. Otherwise, they risk not having enough sustained offense to make a deep playoff push.


    Milwaukee Brewers

    It is conceivable the Chicago Cubs, Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds might all be buyers, while the Brewers are forced to either reposition or bank on internal improvements.

    To be clear: The Brewers could certainly add assets, perhaps a rental in the starting pitcher market or a left-handed bat like Mitch Moreland, for the right cost. But MLB.com ranked their farm system as the worst in baseball, and Milwaukee needs all the prospects it can get as the team builds around Christian Yelich. 

    In fact, the Brewers might even consider dealing left-hander Brett Anderson, who is on an expiring contract. They have entertained dealing Josh Hader, though he would come at a "bananas price," per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

    Regardless, the Brewers are unlikely to make an impactful move, and their playoff odds will certainly go down if the other NL Central contenders add key pieces for the stretch run.

Reds Roll Dice with Bauer; White Sox Pay Too Much for Pitching

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    Cincinnati Reds

    The Reds have an intriguing trade piece in right-hander Trevor Bauer, who is on an expiring contract and having a tremendous season. 

    But Cincinnati is still fighting tooth and nail to reach the playoffs, and Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported the Reds are keen on keeping Bauer through the deadline.

    The 29-year-old has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, going 3-1 with a 1.65 ERA in his first five starts prior to taking the loss against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday afternoon. Bauer also led the majors in hits allowed per nine innings (4.1) while leading the NL's qualified starters in WHIP (0.74) and strikeouts per nine (13.5) prior to Saturday's outing.

    Bauer would be one of the most attractive arms on the market, and moving him would offer the Reds a chance to add premium young talent.

    It would be a nightmare to miss the playoffs and watch Bauer walk after half a season in 2019 and an abbreviated 2020 campaign.


    Chicago White Sox

    The White Sox will look to add pitching before the deadline, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, and someone like Dylan Bundy of the Los Angeles Angels could be a good target considering he still has another year of control.

    But say the White Sox choose to pursue Bauer or Lynn and really go for it this season. After all, the offense has been explosive, and both Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel have been dealing. Why not complement those guys with another legitimate arm?

    Acquiring Lynn could make sense, given he is under contract through 2021. Bauer might be slightly less expensive, given he will be a free agent.

    Regardless, trading for Lynn or Bauer would seem to cost a team's top-10 pitching prospect. This could prove detrimental if the White Sox fail to win the World Series and watch either guy depart in free agency.

    The White Sox will almost certainly pursue a younger starter or a cheaper rental. But if they buy big and fail to win now, they might wonder what could have happened if they let young arms continue to develop.

Rebuilding Clubs Struggle to Acquire Value

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    Pittsburgh Pirates

    The Pirates have almost nothing to lose, given they are in full rebuilding mode. 

    But will general manager Ben Cherington have success cleaning house? 

    Morosi reported the Blue Jays were looking into Pirates right-handers Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl, but it's unclear if Toronto is still interested after acquiring Walker.

    Reliever Keone Kela would have been a bullpen target, but Kela was placed on the injured list Thursday with forearm tightness, which could soil his value.

    The Pirates might be forced to explore deals for controllable players like catcher Jacob Stallings and even first baseman Josh Bell.

    Failing to acquire prospects would be a major hindrance in the rebuild.


    Detroit Tigers

    Unlike the Pirates, the Tigers are within striking distance of a playoff spot.

    But just as Pittsburgh is in the midst of a rebuild, Detroit is also likely to sell as much as possible in a reconstruction phase.

    This means the Tigers might choose to seek suitors for guys on expiring contracts—notably Austin Romine and Jonathan Schoop—and inquire as to how much value a Spencer Turnbull or left-hander Daniel Norris has on the market.

    It also seems likely the Tigers will try to trade Matthew Boyd, though his value has likely plummeted after he posted an 8.48 ERA in six starts.

    Nevertheless, the Tigers need to keep adding young talent, especially now that top pitching prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal are in the bigs.

Cubs and Rockies Buy Low in Bullpen

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Chicago Cubs

    Chicago's bullpen cannot seem to provide any steadiness. 

    Craig Kimbrel's continued struggles early in the year prompted manager David Ross to turn to right-hander Rowan Wick at closer. While Wick excelled early, he has since allowed four runs in one inning over two appearances.

    Fellow right-hander Ryan Tepera had thrown 9.2 scoreless innings before giving up five hits and three runs against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Casey Sadler and Dan Winkler have had command issues, and left-hander Kyle Ryan's struggles have elevated the need for a pitcher who can work effectively against left-handers.

    However, the Cubs limited offseason spending to mitigate potential luxury-tax woes, and it's unclear whether they would dip into the prospect pool, given they have the 23rd-ranked farm, according to MLB.com.

    It is feasible team president Theo Epstein adds someone like Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Andrew Chafin (though he's out with a finger sprain) in a low-cost move. But the Cubs need an impact arm in the later innings and will regret not being more aggressive if the bullpen continues to struggle.


    Colorado Rockies

    The Rockies are another team in need of a late-game arm.

    Colorado has mostly gone with a closer-by-committee look, with decent success. Daniel Bard and Jairo Diaz were both 3-for-3 in save opportunities prior to Saturday's game against the San Diego Padres, and Carlos Estevez had converted his only opportunity while also being a steady setup man.

    Still, the bullpen lacks quality depth beyond those three guys and Yency Almonte, though right-hander Jeff Hoffman has solid peripherals.

    Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said recently there is some uncertainty as to how the Rockies will proceed at the deadline. But Colorado missed the playoffs last year, and Bridich might be motivated to make moves given Nolan Arenado's frustrations at the team's inactivity this offseason.

    Or, Colorado could hold steady. But it risks leaving the bullpen lacking in enough firepower down the stretch, and missing the playoffs this year could have long-term implications for Arenado's future in Colorado.

Blockbuster Shake-Up: AL West

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    Oakland Athletics

    The A's have made their play for a left-handed bat, acquiring Los Angeles Angels infielder Tommy La Stella for Franklin Barreto. 

    It is possible the A's might still attempt to add a bullpen piece or two, though Oakland's relievers ranked fourth in fWAR entering the weekend. They are mostly set heading into the final stretch.

    The worst thing that could happen to Oakland is if the Astros make another big move. Houston acquired Zack Greinke just before last year's deadline. Do the Astros have another surprise in store?

    They have had a tough time building momentum. They started the year 7-10, only to rattle off eight straight wins and surge back into contention. But the Astros had gone just 2-4 since then, entering Saturday night's game against the A's, and are once again seeking stability.

    Houston's only hope to catch the A's might be to make a splashy move for a top starter or reliever, even if it would further deplete the farm.

    But until that happens, the Athletics can feel confident in their hold over the AL West.


    Houston Astros

    Indeed, the Astros' best bet might be to go for broke. How much longer can they afford to wait for Jose Altuve and George Springer to get going?

    Houston has nothing to gain by selling or attempting to reposition. The Astros could deal Springer but—as bad as he has been (91 OPS+)—they would likely be worse off without him. Michael Brantley would certainly fetch something, but again, Houston's offense would suffer.

    Maybe the Astros take on a pitcher with upside, like Ray. They have reportedly shown interest in in the D-backs left-hander, per The Athletic's Eno Sarris and Brittany Ghiroli.

    But the more likely scenario is the Astros go big, maybe attempting to trade Forrest Whitley and more in a package for a controllable pitcher like Clevinger or Plesac, or even Lynn.

    Of course, if the Astros do indeed clean out the farm to acquire a top arm, they better compete for a title. An early exit—followed by the potential departure of Springer and Brantley, who are both on expiring contracts—would make things look bleak for the future, particularly considering both Greinke and Justin Verlander will be free agents in 2022.

Angels Miss Out on Young Pitching; Mariners Reach to Sell Arms

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    Los Angeles Angels

    The Angels began the selling process by trading La Stella to the A's on Friday night, acquiring former top-100 prospect Barreto in exchange.

    Los Angeles needs to keep working to acquire young talent, though it would be a big loss if the team fails to acquire multiple young pitchers.

    The Angels had one of the worst farm systems (26th per MLB.com) even before Jo Adell made his debut. They desperately need young arms to stabilize a rotation that has struggled for years.

    Coincidentally, the Angels might have to trade a pitcher to get one in return. Bundy has been terrific in L.A. after a lackluster run in Baltimore, and he is under team control through 2021. The Halos should sell high on Bundy as they look to supplement the farm with impact talent.

    Regardless of who the Angels cut ties with, they need pitching. Otherwise, they will be stuck in a cycle of mediocrity while wasting two elite talents in Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon.


    Seattle Mariners

    Not a whole lot can go wrong for Seattle at the deadline. The Mariners are a clear-cut seller looking to add to a strong farm system.

    The Mariners might hurt themselves, however, if they are too eager to deal certain pitchers. 

    Left-hander Marco Gonzales is likely to draw interest, but he is also under contract through at least 2024, with a player option in 2025. The Mariners might not garner the kind of return they desire for a player with that much control. Plus, they can sell him at any time. 

    Closer Taylor Williams might also receive interest, but he is another guy under team control through 2024. Granted, Williams is already 29, but—like Gonzales—the M's could deal him later. Who knows, his value might be higher next year.

    Seattle cannot afford to bail on a ton of players simply to shake things up, especially considering the uncertainty of this deadline. If Jerry DiPoto gets too aggressive, he might find the return haul is rather underwhelming.

Padres and Royals: Reliever Conundrums

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    San Diego Padres

    "Slam Diego" has captivated the baseball world this season, with Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado both among the leading MVP candidates.

    The Padres ranked second in the NL in runs scored and first in OPS entering the weekend, and even unsung acquisitions like Jake Cronenworth and Trent Grisham are making their mark.

    The Friars then made their push for a late-game reliever by acquiring Trevor Rosenthal from the Kansas City Royals on Saturday.

    Rosenthal has mostly been excellent for the Royals, with 21 strikeouts in 13.2 innings and seven saves on the season. However, he had a clunker against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, and is also walking 4.6 per nine innings. 

    Command has been an issue for Rosenthal. What if he suddenly struggles to close games and falls apart in San Diego? It would be a nightmare for the Padres, who are desperate for more steadiness in close games.


    Kansas City Royals

    Perhaps the Royals should be in a better position. After all, their Pythagorean win-loss record would give them two more wins, which might make it easier to buy at the deadline.

    Or, will Kansas City buy anyway?

    Royals general manager Dayton Moore said Monday he feels the team has enough talent to make the playoffs, indicating he might choose to add a piece or two.

    But the Royals have three tough playoff contenders ahead of them in the division, and they ranked 14th in the AL in runs scored as of Saturday.

    Kansas City still has two relievers on expiring contracts after dealing Rosenthal, including Ian Kennedy and Greg Holland. Both could be in high demand, giving the Royals the opportunity to pit teams against one another in a bidding war.

    Alternatively, the Royals could lose out on prospects if they commit to a playoff push.

Red Sox Saddled with J.D. Martinez; Nationals Caught in Between

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    Tommy Gilligan/Associated Press

    Boston Red Sox

    The Red Sox should look to deal other assets before J.D. Martinez, including outfielders Pillar and Jackie Bradley Jr. and right-handed reliever Ryan Brasier. But they should still attempt to move Martinez.

    The three-time All-Star can opt out of his contract after this season. But for the Red Sox, it might be equally bad news if he opts in for 2021.

    Martinez will be 34 next August. Sure, his status as a designated hitter might give him more longevity, but it seems unlikely he will be part of the next contender in Boston. Would the Red Sox not prefer to have over $19 million to possibly spend on pitching next season, or even save that money as a way of recouping luxury-tax losses?

    The salary and opt-out might make it hard to deal Martinez, who also has a mere .692 OPS. But if the Red Sox can make a trade work, they might be wise to do so even if it means getting back a lesser return.


    Washington Nationals

    The Nats cannot afford to stand pat at the deadline.

    Washington has a hole in the rotation after Stephen Strasburg's carpal tunnel surgery, a gap that only seems amplified given the struggles of Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez. The Nationals could also use another reliever capable of commanding the zone and missing bats, and would benefit from adding another hitter.

    At the same time, the Nats have veteran players on expiring contracts. Bats like Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera could be in demand at the deadline, and perhaps a team is willing to take a flier on Sean Doolittle despite injuries and homer issues.

    In any case, Washington has to choose. It either must try to reap value from some of these expiring deals and grab prospects, or try to make a splashy move to position itself for the future. Perhaps a controllable star like Josh Bell of the Pittsburgh Pirates would make sense, if the price is right.

Giants Repeat 2019 Mistakes; D-Backs Overly Cautious

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    San Francisco Giants

    In 2019, the Giants were practically eliminated from the playoff race. That is, until they won 16 of their first 19 games in July to move to 52-50 and climb into the wild-card scrum. 

    San Francisco's stunning run prompted first-year team president Farhan Zaidi to retool, as he sold bullpen arms like Sam Dyson and Mark Melancon but kept the club's most valuable assets in Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith. 

    The Giants went 22-32 after the deadline and—while they got compensation picks for the departing Bumgarner and Smith—missed a chance to add to a strong farm.

    It seems like history is repeating itself. San Francisco can interest teams in need of pitching with starters such as Gausman, Trevor Cahill and Drew Smyly, as well as left-handed reliever Tony Watson. The Giants could also dangle outfielder Donovan Solano and infielder Wilmer Flores, both of whom are signed through next season. 

    But San Francisco might be tempted to make a run at the playoffs again after a decent start. Naturally, the Giants' worst-case scenario is a repeat of last season, in which they keep viable trade assets and subsequently crash out of the playoff picture.


    Arizona Diamondbacks 

    The Diamondbacks looked like they would figure into the NL playoff picture in mid-August after starting 13-11. But Arizona lost eight straight, drastically changing its outlook ahead of the deadline.

    Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said Wednesday he was unsure how aggressive the team will be in terms of buying reinforcements. Most of Arizona's core pieces are under contract through next season, which might make this the time to sell the few moveable players with some value.

    Left-handers Ray and Chafin both have ERAs over 7.00 but are also strikeout pitchers with upside. Any number of teams might be interested in those guys as rentals, even if the return might not yield much more than a low-level prospect and cash considerations.

    Or, perhaps the Diamondbacks feel they can get value from Kole Calhoun, who had eight homers and an OPS over .840 entering Saturday's game against the Giants.

    But the Diamondbacks cannot afford to ride things out and see if internal improvements carry them to a playoff spot. They should sell now and gear up for a run next season.

The Cream of the Crop Watches Other Contenders Make Big Moves

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Los Angeles Dodgers

    It is hard to say the Dodgers have a need at the deadline.

    Past years might have necessitated bullpen depth, but L.A. has one of the strongest relief units in the league this season and will have even more options should the team go to a four-man rotation in October.

    The argument could be made the Dodgers should pursue someone like Lynn or look to trade Joc Pederson before he becomes a free agent after this season. But Lynn would be costly, and Pederson gives the team depth, which is once again a strong suit.

    Thus, L.A.'s worst-case scenario would be the Braves landing a front-line starter. Atlanta is still probably the best challenger to the Dodgers and would stand a much better chance going toe-to-toe with L.A. if it acquired a Lynn or a Clevinger.


    Tampa Bay Rays

    The Rays could use a run-producer at first base or DH. The pitching staff also has injuries galore.

    But Tampa Bay has weathered the storm, and Kevin Cash is one of the best managers in baseball. It is not the end of the world if the Rays do not make a splashy move ahead of the deadline. 

    However, it would be quite frustrating for the Rays if the Yankees landed one of the top arms, such as Lynn, Plesac, Clevinger or Bauer. 

    Tampa Bay is 6-1 against the Yankees this year. The Rays have every reason to feel confident about winning the AL East, especially given uncertainties in New York's rotation with Paxton on the shelf and injuries to position players like Aaron Judge (calf) and Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring).

    That said, acquiring a marquee starter might give the Yankees the ammo they need to climb back to the top of the division, which would be immensely frustrating for the Rays.


    All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, FanGraphs or Baseball Savant, unless otherwise noted. Contract info via Spotrac.