For some teams, the goal before the July 31 trade deadline will be to acquire players to help them win in October. They are already pretty confident of making the playoffs, and anything other than a World Series title will be disappointing.
Those teams are looking for high-impact players, like Max Scherzer, and they can wait for the right player to become available. No hurry.
But for other teams? Winning in October is still the goal, but without a little help, or a lot of help, reaching the postseason will be a challenge. These are the teams that would benefit greatly from trades before July rolls around, to get an additional five or six starts from a new rotation addition, or another 100 plate appearances from a position player.
Let’s look at five of those teams today.
Why they need help sooner rather than later: Look, all teams have ups and downs throughout a season. The Cardinals, however, seem to have mastered the entire all-or-nothing approach better than any other team in the majors, and that’s not a compliment. At one point, the Cardinals were 22-14 and tied for the best record in baseball; since then, they are 14-22 years old; That .500 overall record has them tied for third in the NL Central, four games behind the Cubs and Brewers.
“We’re in a bit of a stressful spot right now,” the Cardinals president of baseball operations said. John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
So what do they need? Let’s start with the help of rotation. At least one other non-No. 5 starter. Adam Wainwright has been the only reliable and completely healthy pitcher this season. Ace Jack Flaherty was excellent in his 11 starts, but he’s on the disabled list with an oblique injury and his return will likely be measured in weeks, not days. Carlos Martinez had a hot streak in late April / early May, but lately it has been a disaster. Let’s put it this way: Even if he dismisses his disastrous start against the Dodgers (10 earned runs in 2/3 of an inning), his June ERA is still 9.64. Oh! John Gant’s ERA is solid (3.50), but he averages just 14.2 outs per start, just under five innings and has nearly as many walks (44) as he has strikeouts (46). That is not what you want. The same basic problem for Kwang Hyun Kim, who has a 3.64 ERA but only 13.6 outs per start (50 innings in 11 starts). Johan Oviedo has legitimate things, but he is still young and in the process.
And the offense has been disappointing, to say the least. Maybe it’s time to stop waiting for outfielder Harrison Bader, who is 27 years old and has a .211 average and 90 OPS + in his last 200 MLB games, dating back to the start of the 2019 season, to become a force. The Cardinals are financially committed to Paul DeJong at shortstop, but he’s hitting just .160 with a .585 OPS in 45 games this year, after hitting just three home runs in 45 games last year.
Why they need help sooner rather than later: The Yankees entered the year expecting to challenge for 100 wins and the best record in the American League. That, well, it hasn’t happened. At the moment, they’re looking for an uphill climb just to get to the postseason, and it looks like they won’t throw in the towel in 2021 without at least putting in an effort. They’re third in the AL East, a handful of games behind a Rays team that just drew up super prospect Wander Franco and a Red Sox team that could win Chris Sale back at some point.
They are also 4 1/2 behind the Rays in the race for the second wild card.
They could use much more consistency in a full lineup, when healthy, of home run hitters, which is why Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier (.322 average, .388 obp, 23 NL-best doubles) is the popular name in the commercial rumor market right now in New York. And because it’s the Yankees and winning a World Series is pretty much the only goal, trading for an elite pitcher (think Max Scherzer or one notch below) should be on your to-do list soon too.
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Why they need help sooner rather than later: There is so much talent on this roster, led by MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. And they had that stretch where almost everything fell into place, hitting a 23-17 record, just half a game in the AL East. But since then? It’s been a lot of “meh” with the Dunedin / Buffalo Jays, a 12-18 record that ranks 13th out of 15 AL teams in that stretch. That is simply unacceptable. The talent exists to not only rally for a playoff spot, they’re 7 in the East, 6.5 out of second wild-card spot, but even to advance in October. But if making the postseason is the goal for this year, the Blue Jays can’t wait for the trade deadline, or even the All-Star break, to make a move.
Getting George Springer, his top offseason acquisition, back into the lineup on a regular basis should be a huge boost for the offense. Which means trading in for an impact pitcher, not a No. 5 guy, to add to the rotation should be the priority, sooner rather than later. The problem is, there aren’t many healthy options available right now. Oh, and the bullpen, because all contenders need help from the bullpen (although the Blue Jays more than most).
“The opportunity to add to our bullpen and complement our bullpen is what we are focused on right now,” GM Ross Atkins told reporters recently. “We will continue working on that. When it comes to urgency, we were thinking about that and working on it when our bullpen was pitching better. “
Why they need help sooner rather than later: Atlanta needs more offense from its outfielders. Ronald Acuña has been playing at an MVP level, but with Marcel Ozuna struggling, then injured, and then arrested, on assault and hitting charges that are horrible, the Braves haven’t gotten enough production from those other two spots.
Atlanta came very close to the World Series last year and envisioned itself as the favorite to win the NL East this season. But almost everything has gone wrong. The Braves are three games under .500 (33-36), five in the division and 6 1/2 out of second wild card spot. That’s a huge deficit, but far from impossible to make up with with more than three months left in the season. If they don’t make a move, and those deficits spike to, say, eight behind and 11 behind, by the All-Star break, that’s a much bigger problem.
“We have the resources to add payroll to the club”, GM Alex Anthopoulos told Athletic. “The outlook is very different from the offseason when there was a lot of uncertainty. We started the year, I think, at 25 percent capacity and gradually worked our way up to 100 percent. So we are absolutely in a position and I have also been told that we can add the payroll at the trade deadline. “
Or, you know, maybe long before the trade deadline.
Why they need help sooner rather than later: Yes, the Cubs are tied for first at Central, but the rotation doesn’t feel like a division title rotation right now, does it? In his last nine starts, Jake Arrieta’s ERA is 7.58 and he has pitched more than five innings just once. Kyle Hendricks is having the worst season of his career so far, but that’s mainly because he’s set the bar too high; he’s still a constant source of reliable starts (4.13 ERA in 14 starts). Last year, Zack Davies had 63 strikeouts against 19 walks for the Padres; he has 36 walks and 45 strikeouts for the Cubs this year, with a 4.66 ERA. If they’re going to keep up with the Brewers in the NL Central, they feel like they need help with pitchers.
However, will that happen? Remember, the Cubs basically spent the offseason acting like a former contender, letting Kyle Schwarber walk and trading Yu Darvish, among other moves. So maybe it would make sense to try to make an addition early, and then if things don’t go well for the next month, still go ahead and trade players like Kris Bryant, Javier Báez or Anthony Rizzo; all are potential free agents after the year – before July 31.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.