Playing Trade-Deadline Buyer or Seller with All 30 MLB Teams
Whereas it was seemingly always somewhere off in the far distance, Major League Baseball's trade deadline is now mere days away.
So, here's hoping that every team in the league has a clear plan for buying or selling by now.
Just in case, we've sorted all 30 teams into which of those two camps they likely will be in before the deadline passes at 4 p.m. ET on Friday. We based our decisions on where they are in the standings, what they have to offer and anything that might be spinning around the trade rumor mill.
We'll go division by division, starting in the American League East and ending in the National League West. All playoff chances are courtesy of FanGraphs.
American League East
1. Boston Red Sox (61-39): Buyer
After starting out at 9 percent, the Red Sox's chances of winning the AL East title are now over 60 percent as they've risen to first in the division. So even though Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom says the team's long-term plan is "still the same," he also acknowledged the need to consider trade possibilities.
There's nonetheless a question of how aggressive Boston will be, especially with ace Chris Sale nearing his long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery in August. The Red Sox may be content to shop in the bargain bin, most likely for back-end starting pitchers and middle relievers.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (60-40): Buyer
The Rays did both a little bit of buying and a little bit of selling in the last week before the deadline, acquiring slugger Nelson Cruz from the Minnesota Twins on Thursday and then flipping veteran southpaw Rich Hill to the New York Mets on Friday.
Though the Rays might continue mixing additions with subtractions, they're surely more buyer than seller as they battle the Red Sox for first place. Though they satisfied their need for power with Cruz, the Hill trade opened up a rotation hole that GM Erik Neander hinted could be filled via another trade.
3. New York Yankees (51-47): Buyer
The Yankees' fortunes throughout 2021, meanwhile, have basically been the inverse of Boston's. Their chances of winning the division have plummeted from over 70 percent to under 4 percent. Coupled with the team's losing records against the Red Sox (3-10) and Rays (5-8), and a selloff is possible in theory.
In reality, though, the Yankees seem poised to do the opposite. They're reportedly in on Trevor Story as well as Starling Marte, Joey Gallo and Max Kepler. The latter two would be harder to get, but they make the most sense for the Yankees on account of their left-handed bats and controllability beyond 2021.
4. Toronto Blue Jays (49-47): Buyer
The Blue Jays haven't ranked higher than third place in the AL East since May 18, and their chances of winning the division are now roughly 2 percent. Nevertheless, GM Ross Atkins said at a recent press conference that the team has "shifted toward the winning cycle."
There's a juicy report out that the Texas Rangers are eyeing the Jays as a potential fit for Gallo. But Toronto, which already leads the majors in home runs, certainly needs arms more than bats. Especially in the bullpen, where there's no greater possible upgrade than Chicago Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel.
5. Baltimore Orioles (34-64): Seller
The Orioles find themselves not only at the bottom of the AL East but also the bottom of the entire American League. A team in that position obviously has no excuses not to sell.
Among the players the Orioles have on expiring contracts, shortstop Freddy Galvis is the only one with any real value. So if the Birds really want to grow their farm system, they'll dangle controllable left-handed relievers Tanner Scott and Paul Fry and maybe even All-Star hitters Trey Mancini and Cedric Mullins.
American League Central
1. Chicago White Sox (59-41): Buyer
In light of both their record and their nine-game lead over Cleveland, the White Sox understandably have nearly a 100 percent chance of winning the AL Central. What's more, slugger Eloy Jimenez (pectoral tendon) is back off the injured list and Luis Robert (hip) doesn't seem to be far behind.
Still, the White Sox can and should solidify their roster for October. They've been reported to have "serious interest" in Story, who could possibly fill the hole at second base left by Nick Madrigal's season-ending hamstring injury. They might also circle back to Arizona Diamondbacks All-Star Eduardo Escobar.
2. Cleveland (49-48): Seller
Though Cleveland has done well to salvage a winning record, the club's minus-31 run differential underscores its hugely diminished odds of making the playoffs. The team had about a 25 percent chance of playing in October back on Opening Day. But now? About 3 percent.
For what it's worth, Zack Meisel of The Athletic might not be wrong in thinking that Cleveland could buy and sell or perhaps do nothing. Yet the team does fit relatively neatly in the "seller" box, and there's no possibility more intriguing than a blockbuster deal involving third baseman Jose Ramirez.
3. Detroit Tigers (47-55): Seller
The Tigers aren't good yet, but this is at least the most watchable they've been in years. Accordingly, GM Al Avila is so optimistic that he insisted in a recent interview that he doesn't feel like he has to make any more trades in order to further the team's rebuild.
It's nonetheless hard to imagine that Avila will hang up on any teams that call about Detroit's most valuable trade chips. Among those is slugging second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who's quietly having a fine season on a one-year deal that's paying him only $4.5 million.
4. Kansas City Royals (43-55): Seller
The Royals are yet another rebuilder in the AL Central, yet it hasn't been their M.O. in recent years to sell off players that they like having around. They didn't trade Eric Hosmer or Lorenzo Cain, and Whit Merrifield and Danny Duffy are still around despite being the subjects of frequent rumors in recent years.
Yet times may be a-changin'. The Royals are reportedly more open to dealing Merrifield this summer, and all three contenders in the NL West are eyeing Duffy. There's also a ticking clock element at play, as it's not a good look that Kansas City only has MLB's No. 19 farm system after years of rebuilding.
5. Minnesota Twins (43-58): Seller
There was at least a shred of uncertainty regarding the Twins' plans for the deadline this time last week, but not so much now. With Cruz gone, it's simply a question as to who else will be spared from a season that shockingly has the team in last place in the AL Central.
With extension talks now dead, dynamic center fielder Byron Buxton is a name to watch in this regard. Another is All-Star lefty Taylor Rogers, who's reportedly "very popular" on the market. Ace right-hander Jose Berrios might also be there for the taking, perhaps even in a package deal with Rogers.
American League West
1. Houston Astros (61-40): Buyer
There might have been some uncertainty as to whether the Astros were the favorites to win the AL West in 2021 but not anymore. Their chances of capturing the division title are just about 90 percent.
Still, the Astros need upgrades if they want to play deep into October for the fifth time in as many years. They rightfully want help in center field and in their bullpen, the latter of which is dangerously thin underneath All-Star closer Ryan Pressly. And from the sound of things, they're willing to spare no expense.
2. Oakland Athletics (56-45): Buyer
The Athletics have had more downs than ups of late, going 8-11 in July to drive their chances of winning the division down to just about 8 percent. The trade of Cruz was also a gut punch for them, as they had considered him for their gaping hole at designated hitter.
All the same, the A's aren't in any kind of position to give up. Even if Story is out of the question for the team's need at shortstop, GM David Forst indicated earlier this month that bullpen reinforcements will be a priority. Andrew Chafin is a start in this regard, but there are better arms still available.
3. Seattle Mariners (55-46): Buyer
The Mariners have allowed 49 more runs than they've scored, so it's not the biggest surprise that their playoff chances are still only in the 6 percent range in spite of their winning record. So, don't expect GM Jerry Dipoto to start emptying a farm system that checks in at No. 2 in the majors.
Then again, the Mariners might not need to send any blue chips to Kansas City in order to fulfill their interest in Merrifield. They could similarly shop in the bargain bin for starting pitchers. Should they get the depth they need, they may yet shock everyone by earning a wild-card berth.
4. Los Angeles Angels (50-49): Seller
The Angels actually have better odds of making the playoffs than the Mariners, which only seems nuts until you consider that a) their minus-25 run differential isn't as bad as Seattle's and b) super-duper-star Mike Trout (calf) will be back in action eventually.
But even if first-year GM Perry Minasian isn't a believer in the "whole buyer or seller thing," the Angels have more incentive to be cautious than to be bold. Which is to say that if and when teams call about starter Alex Cobb and closer Raisel Iglesias, both of whom are pending free agents, Minasian must listen.
5. Texas Rangers (35-65): Seller
After finishing in last place in 2020, the Rangers never had much likelihood of being a contender in the AL West this season. They unsurprisingly haven't been, so there isn't much question that they're open for business ahead of Friday.
Yet there is a question of how far the Rangers will go. Because while they could cash in All-Stars Kyle Gibson and Joey Gallo, both are controlled through 2022 and the latter might even stick around for longer if the Rangers can nail down an extension with him. In other words, a fire sale isn't a fait accompli.
National League East
1. New York Mets (53-45): Buyer
The Mets only have a plus-11 run differential, and their injured list extends far beyond ace Jacob deGrom (forearm) and shortstop Francisco Lindor (oblique). They've nonetheless had first place to themselves since May 9 and they now have about a 75 percent chance of finishing there.
The Mets could take such things as an excuse to stand pat and wait on their injured players, but the Hill trade is a clear indication that they want to add. More starting pitching might be in order, and the team has likewise been linked to heavy hitters like Josh Donaldson (here) and Kris Bryant (here).
2. Philadelphia Phillies (50-49): Buyer
Another year, another case of the Phillies struggling to escape the .500 purgatory that's held them captive in recent years. Yet they still have about a 20 percent chance of making the playoffs, which is decent enough justification for them to add.
Besides, this is a Dave Dombrowski team. True to form, the club's president of baseball operations plans on being "aggressive" on the market. He has no area of need more obvious than a bullpen that has easily the lowest win probability added among contenders. Maybe Dombrowski will trade for Kimbrel...again.
3. Atlanta (49-51): Buyer
Atlanta was having a disappointing season even before superstar right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. tore his ACL before the All-Star break. With him gone and the club's playoff chances now in the single digits, Atlanta might at least dangle pending free agents like starters Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly.
Two things, though: Atlanta is still only five games out of first and it hasn't even been two weeks since the team made a Band-Aid trade for Joc Pederson. It also has the prospect depth to consider deals for controllable stars who could help both this year and in 2022, up to and possibly including Gallo.
4. Washington Nationals (45-54): Seller
When Nationals GM Mike Rizzo spoke to reporters on July 20, he suggested that he would be in a buying mood if his team played well in the lead-up to the deadline. Instead, the Nats are riding a five-game losing streak and now have barely a 1 percent chance of making the playoffs.
According to one report, the Nats are open to move "anyone not named Juan Soto." That notably includes ace Max Scherzer, who's in the last year of his contract, and shortstop Trea Turner, who's due for the open market after 2022. So barring a win streak over the next few days, a fire sale may be on in D.C.
5. Miami Marlins (43-57): Seller
Though the Marlins were a surprise playoff team in 2020, there was always a sense that they were just lucky to be there and that 2021 would promptly bring them back to earth. Even though they actually have a positive run differential, that's turned out to be the case.
As for how far the Marlins will go with their deadline selling, outfielders Starling Marte and Adam Duvall seem as good as gone. But since Miami is otherwise short on attractive rentals and already in possession of a top-five farm system, that might be as interesting as their deadline gets.
National League Central
1. Milwaukee Brewers (58-42): Buyer
It took a while for the Brewers to really break through, but a 37-19 run since May 22 has put them firmly in first place and elevated their chances of winning the division to over 90 percent. So if anything, the question now is how they might steel themselves for a World Series run.
To this end, they're one of very few teams in MLB that doesn't necessarily need more arms. Yet it seems like they're taking an "overkill is underrated" approach to their moundstaff. And since Christian Yelich's MVP-winning form of 2018 and 2019 is still missing, a bit bat should also be on the club's radar.
2. Cincinnati Reds (51-49): Buyer
With nine wins in 11 games between July 1 and 11, the Reds were looking like an obvious buyer for a second there. Yet they've since dropped even of 10 and lost All-Star Nick Castellanos to a wrist injury, so go figure that some think they ought to sell at the deadline.
But with a not-insurmountable 7-game deficit between them and Milwaukee, our guess is that any selling the Reds do won't involve, say, controllable aces Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. Our proverbial money is on them mostly staying pat, save for a low-risk trade or two to help out the team's lousy bullpen.
3. St. Louis Cardinals (50-50): Buyer
The Cardinals began the season very much in the running for the NL Central title. But they've now been out of first place since May 31, and their chances of winning the division have suffered accordingly in falling to just 2 percent.
Short of lefty reliever Andrew Miller, however, the Cardinals don't really have rentals to cash in. There's also hope on the horizon with starters Jack Flaherty (oblique) and Miles Mikolas (forearm) on the comeback trail, and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak has even signaled a willingness to also add arms from outside the organization.
4. Chicago Cubs (50-51): Seller
The Cubs held a share of first place in the NL Central as recently as June 24. But losses in 18 of 26 games will change a team, and the Cubs all but committed to selling when they dealt Pederson to Atlanta.
Now it's just a matter of which stars will still be on the North Side on Friday. Bryant and Kimbrel seem to be the most likely goners, yet there might also be markets for first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Javier Baez. If all four go, Chicago's already improving farm system will shoot up the ranks.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (38-61): Seller
As if it wasn't already obvious that the Pirates would be sellers at the deadline, they tipped their hand when they dealt All-Star Adam Frazier to the San Diego Padres on Sunday.
As for who'll be next, closer Richard Rodriguez and starter Tyler Anderson are both sell-high candidates for Pittsburgh. So is All-Star outfielder Bryan Reynolds, but don't hold your breath there. He's controlled through 2025, so Pittsburgh understandably means to build around him.
National League West
1. San Francisco Giants (62-37): Buyer
Even though they currently boast baseball's best record and a 94 percent chance of playing in October, the Giants still don't even have a 19 percent chance of winning the NL West title. To that extent, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has at least one justification to not blow up his long-term plans.
Even still, this is a "life + lemons = lemonade" situation. Zaidi has expressed a desire to add starting pitching, and he could also potentially look for relievers and another bat or two. If it's true that top prospect Joey Bart could be available, the Giants might have at least one blockbuster in them.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (61-40): Buyer
Why do the Dodgers still have a better chance of winning the NL West? Well, a superior plus-146 run differential, for one. And in spite of losing three out of four to the Giants last week, it doesn't hurt that the Dodgers are still 7-6 against them in head-to-head matchups this season.
At any rate, there isn't much doubt that Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman is looking to buy. His team especially needs starting pitching. So much so, in fact, that the club's reported pursuit of Berrios should be taken as seriously as its pursuits for lesser targets, such as Duffy.
3. San Diego Padres (58-44): Buyer
Even though the Padres are only in third place in the NL West, they hold a 6-game lead over the Reds for the National League's second wild-card spot. And by trading for Frazier on Sunday, they effectively signaled that they haven't yet given up on winning the division.
The catch now should be that the Padres are less than $7 million in average annual value from triggering the $210 million luxury-tax threshold. But they're reportedly willing to go over it, or perhaps willing to offload Eric Hosmer's contract so they don't have to. Though Berrios is also on their radar, Gallo might be the guy they want most.
4. Colorado Rockies (43-57): Seller
After trading Nolan Arenado to St. Louis in February, the Rockies only entered 2021 with a 0.1 percent chance of playing in October. It's hard go down from there, and yet the Rockies have actually done so in pushing their odds to zero (yes, literally zero) percent.
As for who will be spared from seeing the end of the Rockies' dismal season, three key pending free agents—shortstop Trevor Story, starter Jon Gray and reliever Mychal Givens—are there for the taking. But don't bother asking about ace German Marquez, and even Story might stick around on account of his fallen value and seemingly uncertain market.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks (31-70): Seller
Since MLB expanded to 30 teams in 1998, only three clubs have finished with a worse winning percentage than the Diamondbacks have right now. That leaves little question that they'll be selling, but how much they can sell is a matter of some intrigue.
After all, Arizona can't exactly cash in center fielder Ketel Marte (hamstring) while he's on the injured list for the second time this season. So unless the Snakes want to stop at trading Escobar, their best chances of adding substantial depth to their system might lie in fielding offers for controllable ace Zac Gallen.