1 Flaw Every MLB Team Needs to Address by the 2021 Trade Deadline
It's never too early for MLB front offices to start thinking about how they can improve their respective teams.
Yes, players are still getting acclimated and making adjustments in the early part of the season. But it also seems likely general managers are poring over the details from the first week-plus of the season and projecting potential needs.
We're going to take a look at some of the key flaws each of the 30 clubs should look to address before the July 31 trade deadline. Because not every team is likely to buy, some should sell off parts and add young talent or positional depth. Conversely, teams gunning for the playoffs could look to buy big.
Seems reasonable enough, right? Let's break it down.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Acquire More Young Pitching
The Arizona Diamondbacks seem like they will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs, especially given the top-heavy nature of the NL West and the San Francisco Giants looking competitive early. Arizona also has interesting trade assets such as Eduardo Escobar and Kole Calhoun, both of whom are on expiring contracts.
Frankly, it doesn't matter whether the D-backs sell or add a piece for a playoff push. Either way, they would do well to add young starting pitching.
Zac Gallen is a front-line arm, and Luke Weaver is off to a good start (2.13 ERA) in 2021 after a woeful 2020. Both were acquired in trades. Both figure into the future rotation mix. General manager Mike Hazen should follow that trend and hunt pitching ahead of the deadline.
Hazen is likely aware of the need for young starters, particularly because Madison Bumgarner (five years, $85 million, 7.64 ERA with the club) has been a pretty brutal investment.
Atlanta Braves: Upgrade at the Hot Corner
The Atlanta Braves have tried to make it work with Austin Riley at third base. How much longer will GM Alex Anthopoulos ride the train?
Riley is hitting .188 to start the season. He has 11 strikeouts and just two walks in 36 plate appearances. Atlanta can love the raw power, but it means little if Riley's swing-and-miss tendencies remain prevalent and he struggles to hit the ball out of the yard.
The rest of Atlanta's positional group is set, and the bullpen has been surprisingly terrific (2.62 ERA). Perhaps adding an impact bat at third is the move to put the team over the top.
The Braves could pursue any number of third basemen at the deadline, including Kris Bryant and Eugenio Suarez, depending on availability. Escobar is another option.
Baltimore Orioles: Get More Position Talent in the Pipeline
Despite turning to vets like Matt Harvey to fill out the rotation, the Baltimore Orioles actually have strong arm talent.
Grayson Rodriguez could be a fast riser, as might DL Hall. Dean Kremer is already in the majors, and Mike Baumann could join him later this year. John Means will be 28 in two weeks, but the O's might still feel he has a role to play in the coming years. Bruce Zimmermann has impressed early.
What Baltimore should do is add positional talent. Catcher Adley Rutschman headlines the farm, but Baltimore's system could use depth at the infield corners and in the outfield.
Granted, the O's likely wouldn't pass on the opportunity to add a future impact starter, nor should they. But bolstering the position group should be a priority.
Boston Red Sox: Acquire Starting Pitching
This one is perhaps a little tougher than it might seem. Rotation needs were paramount for the Boston Red Sox heading into the offseason. Judging by Garrett Richards' start (10.29 ERA), they still might be.
However, Boston might also look to upgrade in the outfield if Hunter Renfroe and Marwin Gonzalez both continue to struggle, though Franchy Cordero has looked good early and Jarren Duran could join the big league roster at some point after impressing this spring. First base could be interesting if Bobby Dalbec's swing-and-miss tendencies do not dissipate.
Still, Boston could use rotation depth, especially if Richards cannot rebound. There is no telling how Chris Sale will perform (or if he can stay healthy) when he returns from Tommy John rehab, nor is it certain that Martin Perez can hold things down at the back end. Nick Pivetta's early command issues (5.7 walks per nine) could also lead to regression.
President of baseball operations Chaim Bloom helped cultivate a strong group of arms during his time in Tampa Bay. He could well be on the lookout for more starting pitching ahead of the deadline.
Chicago Cubs: Add Rotation Depth; Otherwise Blow It Up
The way things are going, the Chicago Cubs need offense. The club is last in the National League in batting average and OPS.
But the position group is pretty well entrenched. The North Siders have a more glaring need at second base, though Nico Hoerner figures to fill that void at some point.
The best route for the Cubs, if they still hope to contend, might be adding to the rotation. Kyle Hendricks is a steady No. 1, but the rest of the group is shaky.
Jake Arrieta has been effective, though his batted-ball numbers and whiff rate indicate regression is imminent. Trevor Williams is a wild card, and Adbert Alzolay is still developing. Zach Davies could produce volatile results as a soft-tosser reliant on command.
Chicago could look to add starting depth if it is still in contention ahead of the deadline. Otherwise, it would not be a surprise to see one or multiple of Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo change teams, as all are on expiring contracts. Closer Craig Kimbrel is another trade candidate, as he could be a free agent after this season if his option doesn't vest or the club buys him out.
Chicago White Sox: Get a Bat, Preferably a Corner Outfielder
The team on the South Side of Chicago has also gotten off to a slow start offensively. Unlike the Cubs, the White Sox have good arm talent in the rotation and especially in the bullpen.
General manager Rick Hahn might be after another bat, especially in the corner outfield spots. Adam Eaton has been steady, and Andrew Vaughn has shown advanced discipline (.400 OBP) for someone who hadn't played above High-A ball before this season. Adam Engel will also enter the mix when he returns from a hamstring injury.
Still, the White Sox could find themselves needing production and depth to help replace Eloy Jimenez (pectoral), who's expected to miss the majority of the season. Look for Chicago to scour the market for more corner outfield types in the coming months.
Cincinnati Reds: Add Bullpen Depth
The Cincinnati Reds are off to a fast start thanks to a lineup that is pounding the ball out of the yard.
The rotation is also in a pretty good place with Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray—who is still dealing with a mid-back muscle strain—and Tyler Mahle at the top. However, the bullpen group could add another quality arm or two.
Michael Lorenzen is harboring a shoulder strain. Amir Garrett has had some rough showings, with Cam Bedrosian and Cionel Perez underwhelming in the middle innings.
Cincy figures to add relievers, especially since back-end rotation arms like Wade Miley do not project as innings-eaters. Acquiring bullpen guys could also allow Tejay Antone to shift into the rotation.
Cleveland: Acquire Outfield Production
Cleveland's need for an impact outfield bat has loomed large during the past few seasons. Nothing has changed.
Jordan Luplow has displayed good pop (1.048 OPS), and Eddie Rosario should still hit 20-plus homers. But Cleveland might consider pivoting by moving Josh Naylor to first base to replace a struggling Jake Bauers and accounting for such a move by adding a corner outfielder.
Cleveland could pursue the likes of 2019 AL home run leader Jorge Soler, as he's on an expiring contract and Kansas City could look to deal him. Someone like Miami's Starling Marte could be an option in center if Cleveland wanted to flip Amed Rosario, especially since Ben Gamel hasn't provided anything of substance in the outfield.
Colorado Rockies: Replenish Farm Talent
The Colorado Rockies figure to be bona fide sellers at the deadline. It's not the worst thing, considering the pressing need for young, impact talent in the pipeline.
Colorado could use help at most positions, though starting pitching might be a focus. The Rockies have just three pitchers among their top 10 prospects, per MLB.com.
Shortstop Trevor Story will obviously be the headliner in terms of trade assets, though the fact that he is on an expiring contract figures to lessen any potential return. Perhaps the Rockies will try to fetch a haul for starter German Marquez. Right-handed reliever Mychal Givens—who will be free agent this winter—is another to watch for any teams needing bullpen help.
Detroit Tigers: Nab Positional Youngsters
The Detroit Tigers are in a similar position to the Orioles.
Detroit's foundation rests on young starters Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning. Left-hander Joey Wentz could round out that group of arms primed to lead the Tigers rotation into the future.
However, Detroit would do well to add positional talent. Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene prompt quite a bit of excitement, though the Tigers might not be keen on fast-tracking them to the bigs. Regardless, this team could use more in the way of projectable hitting talent, especially in the outfield.
Maybe this is finally the season left-handed starter Matthew Boyd has more sustained success and makes himself an asset at the deadline. He could be a potential boon for the Tigers in terms of netting at least one interesting positional prospect.
Houston Astros: Fix Pressing Bullpen Needs
The Houston Astros' boppers all have things clicking to begin the season. Granted, the offense never truly seemed like an area of need.
Rather, the Astros seem likely to add to the pitching staff. Rotation needs could become prevalent, depending on how Jake Odorizzi fares after an elongated spring ramp-up. But bullpen holes could be more prevalent.
Houston might be inclined to add a lefty. Brooks Raley and Blake Taylor are off to very poor starts, and there aren't any options outside those two guys.
In any case, the Astros could stand to have a more defined picture at the back end of the bullpen, ideally with Ryan Pressly as the setup man and a more reliable closing option holding down the ninth.
Kansas City Royals: Acquire Starting Pitching
The Kansas City Royals could stand to add arm talent regardless of whether they buy or sell ahead of the deadline.
Brad Keller (19.29 ERA) has made a mess of things early. Brady Singer fared better in his second start Monday, though he still gave up seven hits in five innings. Mike Minor and Danny Duffy fill out the rotation, with Duffy (expiring contract) being a potential trade candidate.
The Royals have a pair of intriguing left-handers in Daniel Lynch and 2020 first-rounder Asa Lacy, both of whom could rise through the system in a hurry.
Perhaps Kansas City will look to add an impact righty considering the struggles of both Keller and Singer. The Royals could use more projectable, right-handed starting arms anyway.
Los Angeles Angels: Address Lack of Front-Line Starter
The Los Angeles Angels have made an early statement as playoff contenders in the American League West with a prolific lineup that has pounded out runs.
Los Angeles' bullpen-reclamation projects have also been encouraging. Newcomers Junior Guerra and Tony Watson have contributed, and youngster Chris Rodriguez has impressed early.
Much as was the case this past winter, the focus could be on the Halos' opportunity (or lack thereof) to add a front-line starting pitcher.
Shohei Ohtani dazzled in his first start. But a blister issue that impacted him during spring training is already causing trouble.
The Angels could use another rotation arm regardless of Ohtani's outlook, but they will really need an impact starter alongside Dylan Bundy if injuries prevent the two-way star from pitching.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Add Depth in the Middle Innings
The Los Angeles Dodgers looked like the most well-rounded team in baseball heading into 2021. They have played like it early.
The lineup is loaded with guys who can get on base and drive in runs. The rotation could be even more impressive if Julio Urias and Dustin May continue to ascend as two of the top young arms in the game.
One area the Dodgers will surely look to improve is the bullpen, especially the middle innings. Command issues have plagued Jimmy Nelson. Homers have beset David Price's return from last year's opt-out (three in 3.2 innings).
Luckily for president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, the guys in the rotation can consistently go deep into games. But things change in October, when bullpen depth can be crucial to making a lengthy run.
Miami Marlins: Bolster the Position Group
Once again we have a team anchored by its youthful crop of arms and needing more in the way of offensive-minded youngsters.
The Miami Marlins' rotation is in a terrific place with Sandy Alcantara, Sixto Sanchez, Trevor Rogers, Elieser Hernandez and Pablo Lopez. But the Marlins desperately need more positional talent.
Outfielder JJ Bleday could make his debut this season and figures to be a key cog in the team's future. Jazz Chisholm Jr. is showing signs of life early.
However, the Marlins might covet outfield talent or power at the corner infield spots, especially if they can find a power-hitting first base-type.
Those who still believe the Marlins can compete might point to bullpen moves. But this team is still years away and would do well to assemble all the positional talent it can muster.
Milwaukee Brewers: Bats Needed
There is not a whole lot of doubt regarding the Milwaukee Brewers' top flaw as a National League contender: offense.
Milwaukee ranks 13th in the NL in OPS in spite of fantastic starts from catcher Omar Narvaez and third baseman Travis Shaw. There is not a whole lot in the way of internal upgrades in the pipeline, either.
The Brewers have a strong rotation, with Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes serving as an excellent one-two punch and Freddy Peralta looking every bit like a guy who can be a rotation fixture. The bullpen is every bit as strong despite shaky starts from Devin Williams, Drew Rasmussen and Eric Yardley.
However, the Brewers need to find a way to get more offense and dynamism ahead of the deadline.
Minnesota Twins: Push for Front-Line Starter
The Minnesota Twins once again look like a scary offensive team, with Nelson Cruz mashing and Byron Buxton clobbering everything in sight. That also does not account for the fact that Josh Donaldson (hamstring) is still on the injured list.
Minnesota's bullpen has also looked mostly strong, save for some unsavory performances from Alex Colome and Randy Dobnak. Newcomer Hansel Robles has been quite good early.
With all that in mind, the Twins could vault themselves to a higher level of contender status by making a play for a top starting pitcher.
Jose Berrios has been excellent, and Kenta Maeda still looks like a front-line guy. Imagine if Minnesota were to acquire a top-end arm to back those two in the rotation. That could be scary for opponents in October, especially given the Twins' offensive potential.
New York Mets: Acquire Bullpen Reinforcements
The New York Mets' season is only just getting started after their opening series with the Washington Nationals was postponed because of the Nats' COVID-19 issues.
Yet, a familiar trend of bullpen woes has already emerged.
Dellin Betances (shoulder) is on the injured list. Trevor May has gotten rocked early (7.71 ERA). Edwin Diaz is a wild card as a guy prone to fits and starts of dominance. Jeurys Familia's lack of recent success and shaky start make him an unknown as well.
Supplementing the bullpen with more reliable options in the middle and late innings might be the route president of baseball operations Sandy Alderson chooses to go at the deadline.
New York Yankees: Address Rotation Demands…Again
Whereas the Mets might gear more toward addressing the bullpen, the New York Yankees could be after rotation upgrades.
Gerrit Cole has done ace things through his first few starts. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery could be a vital option after two solid outings. The rest of the group looks suspect.
Domingo German has already been sent to the alternate site. Corey Kluber is getting knocked around a bit, and his velocity is down. It's unclear how Jameson Taillon will hold up as he continues his return from Tommy John surgery.
The Yankees cannot afford to continue plodding along with these question marks. Sure, some internal options are available. But New York is probably better off making a play for an established starting pitcher.
Oakland Athletics: Fix an Underwhelming Starting Group
Just about everything had gone wrong for the Oakland Athletics through the first two series, as they lost seven of their first eight.
Oakland has righted the ship a bit, with the bats slowly coming alive. However, it still seems clear the A's need stronger rotation options.
Indeed, Oakland's starters rank 28th in fWAR. Frankie Montas (8.31 ERA) is still having a tough time establishing command and getting outs after a rough showing in 2020. Command has also been an issue for Jesus Luzardo, though he plays well as a strikeout guy with big upside.
Oakland has internal options in A.J. Puk and Daulton Jefferies. But, similarly to the Yankees, the A's might be better off pursuing more experienced starting pitching.
Philadelphia Phillies: Fix Center Field Situation
Center field has been a disaster for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Scott Kingery did not make the Opening Day roster. Roman Quinn (.273 OPS) and Adam Haseley (.474) OPS have split time in center and have both struggled to get things going at the plate.
It is more than likely the Phils eventually give Mickey Moniak a spin in center after he hit .273 with a 1.112 OPS in spring training. But is he ready to fill such a glaring hole?
Philadelphia president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has never shied from pursuing impact players. Maybe Starling Marte would pique his interest as a guy who could kick-start the lineup at the top of the order and play premium defense in center field.
The Phillies could also pursue back-end rotation arms or bullpen depth. For now, though, the center field spot is of more concern.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Get More Arm Talent
The Pittsburgh Pirates are still in the early stages of their rebuild, and nabbing young starting pitching should be a top priority.
GM Ben Cherington acquired a pair of pitching prospects in Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean as part of the Josh Bell trade in December. He should keep stockpiling arm talent.
The Pirates have just one pitcher in their top five prospects, per MLB.com, though they do have three more rounding out the top 10.
Pittsburgh, like other rebuilding clubs, could benefit from any sort of additions to the farm. But building a strong foundation of arms might be vital in getting things off the ground.
San Diego Padres: Add Back-End Rotation Depth
The San Diego Padres are in a fantastic spot. In fact, it's difficult to project just how the team will proceed in the coming months.
The lineup is scoring runs aplenty and has tremendous depth and versatility. Jake Cronenworth and Jurickson Profar have been especially valuable in their capacities for playing multiple positions, especially in light of Fernando Tatis Jr.'s shoulder injury.
The bullpen has been lights-out early, and in the rotation, Joe Musgrove is looking for a breakout campaign behind Yu Darvish and Blake Snell. Plus, Dinelson Lamet is nearing a return from a UCL strain.
San Diego is quite balanced. Still, adding a back-end starter could provide that much more flexibility.
Acquiring an arm could allow all of Adrian Morejon, MacKenzie Gore and perhaps even Chris Paddack to establish themselves as bullpen depth. That would be quite something.
Maybe the Friars will go after an elite closer. But adding a reputable, experienced No. 4 or No. 5 type would afford them all sorts of options.
San Francisco Giants: Put Arms in Front of Jake McGee
The San Francisco Giants are another in-between club in the NL West that could go a number of directions before the deadline.
Let's imagine they either add or do some repositioning. The Giants rotation has been terrific early. Although San Francisco has struggled to create offense, it has hit the ball out of the yard and could be dangerous if Mike Yastrzemski (.459) and Brandon Belt (.620 OPS) snap out of early-season funks.
Now, the bullpen hasn't been bad. But there is not exactly a ton of quality depth in front of closer Jake McGee. The Giants could stand to add to the relief corps even if it's just to soak up more innings.
Seattle Mariners: Add Middle Relievers
What the Seattle Mariners really need is more offense. But their positional group is pretty well set in stone, aside from top outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic's imminent arrival.
The same can be said in the rotation, as it seems unlikely Seattle will take opportunities from Justus Sheffield or Justin Dunn, though that could change if Dunn is converted to a reliever.
Alas, the M's and GM Jerry Dipoto could instead upgrade the bullpen.
Keynan Middleton, Drew Steckenrider and Nick Margevicius have all struggled to be effective. At least Steckenrider—much like Rafael Montero, Kendall Graveman and Casey Sadler—has strikeout stuff that projects well.
Seattle could just as easily sell in the months to come. However, the M's might be keener to add arms.
St. Louis Cardinals: Build Up Rotation
Pinpointing the St. Louis Cardinals' primary issue is tough.
The left-handed relief group consisting of Andrew Miller, Genesis Cabrera and Tyler Webb has struggled. St. Louis' outfield situation should be something to monitor. But the rotation still seems like the most immediate concern.
Granted, the Cardinals have been without Miles Mikolas (shoulder) and Kwang Hyun Kim (back). Still, the starters have been unimpressive. Carlos Martinez simply isn't the All-Star-caliber guy he was earlier in his career. Adam Wainwright is getting roughed up and could be nearing the finish line in terms of ability to remain effective. Daniel Ponce de Leon was shelled in his second start.
The Redbirds could move Johan Oviedo into the rotation. Still, St. Louis might be after a starter to round out the group. Remember, the Cards are without Dakota Hudson after he underwent Tommy John surgery.
Tampa Bay Rays: Address Immediate Bullpen Needs or Get New DH
Injuries have turned a strength to a weakness for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Closer Nick Anderson is out through the All-Star break with an elbow injury. Chaz Roe is out 12 weeks because of a shoulder injury, while Pete Fairbanks is on IL with a right rotator cuff strain.
The Rays still have a number of arms in the system who could make an impact. Brent Honeywell Jr. made his MLB debut Sunday, and Shane McClanahan was tremendously impressive in spring training (21 K/9). That said, immediate needs could demand some maneuvering if Tampa Bay prefers to add externally.
The Rays might also be in the market for a bat—possibly a DH type to replace Yoshi Tsutsugo and his .429 OPS. Ji-Man Choi (knee) figures to get at-bats there upon his return but could also play first base if Tampa Bay can find a power bat.
Texas Rangers: Acquire Young Starters
The Texas Rangers flipped Lance Lynn for former Chicago White Sox prospect Dane Dunning this offseason and could again make moves for young arms.
Texas has a shortage of quality arms in its top tier in the farm outside Dunning, Cole Winn and Hans Crouse. The Rangers mostly have to build their starting group from the ground up, but they can start on that process with in-season trades.
Joey Gallo is the most notable player who might be on the move. His extra year of club control in 2022 could be huge in getting a larger prospect haul.
Toronto Blue Jays: Go Hard After Front-Line Starter
The Toronto Blue Jays had a clear need for starting pitching this offseason but didn't do anything overly splashy. Will they be more aggressive down the road?
Left-hander Steven Matz has gotten off to a strong start. Robbie Ray had a decent season debut (5 IP, 2 ER) Monday. But Ross Stripling (7.56 ERA) has disappointed, and Tyler Chatwood—who began the season in the bullpen—is on IL with triceps inflammation.
The Blue Jays will likely hope top prospect Nate Pearson can be a contributor. Still, Matz, Ray and Tanner Roark all lend reasons for skepticism given results in past years.
If Toronto really wants to ascend to the ranks of the American League elite, it needs to explore avenues to acquire a top starter.
Washington Nationals: Upgrade Third Base
The Washington Nationals are another difficult club to decipher in light of their COVID-19 issues.
Washington could and likely will eventually be in the market for bullpen help. The Nats might also seek back-end rotation depth.
That said, this could be the summer to acquire a marquee third baseman.
Washington entered the season with Carter Kieboom projected to be the starter at the hot corner. He failed to make the Opening Day roster after a poor spring in which he showed little progression at the plate.
The Nats have some infield depth with Starlin Castro and Josh Harrison. But neither profiles as the kind of powerful, run-producing asset Washington could be after.
Kris Bryant could be an option here. Kyle Seager's left-handed bat might also appeal to the Nationals.