Whether you like the new format of baseball’s playoffs or not, you have to admit that it certainly has made things interesting as we approach the trade deadline. Based on my post this past Tuesday, you can see that as many as 18 teams have a reasonable shot at making the playoffs, if they either maintain their level of play, or make the right moves. So, let’s take a moment to look at a few teams that might should be buying or selling this year.
Baltimore – they’ve managed to hang on to a playoff spot this long, but they really are overachieving. Their starters have the 3rd worst ERA in the AL, so their primary goal should be a solid starting pitcher. And while they hit a lot of home runs (4th in the league), they’re batting just .244 as a team. So, they could use another bat, most likely at the top of the order where they need someone that’s going to get on base and be more of a spark for a powerful lineup.
Cleveland – their hitting isn’t terrible, as they’re basically in the middle of the pack in most categories, and are playing in a poor division. But, they really could use a power bat, as they’re near the bottom of the league in slugging and home runs. They also need to decide what they want to do this year – are they happy making the playoffs, or are they wanting to make a deep run in the postseason? If they want more than just an appearance in the playoffs, they need help with their pitching staff. They have the worst bullpen ERA in the league, and are also near the bottom of the league in starter’s ERA.
Boston – their offense is actually playing fairly well, and Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury are working their way back. Pitching, however, has been an issue. Their bullpen has one of the best ERA’s in the league. But, starting pitching has kept them out of too many games. They need a top-of-the-rotation guy in a bad way.
Detroit – another team whose offense is going to be very good, but needs help in the starting rotation. Beyond Verlander, they don’t really have anyone they can rely on consistently.
Toronto – I listed them as a team that might could turn things around in the second half of the season, but realistically, they just don’t have the pitching to keep up in the AL East. They would need to pick up a couple high-end starters to compete, and that’s not likely to happen. So, why not make the most of what you have? Edwin Encarnacion is having a career year, and they only have him signed through the end of this season. Kelly Johnson is a left-handed bat that some teams might be interested in. Toronto should pick up something reasonable in trade, and try to sign some free agent pitching in the offseason.
Seattle – they certainly aren’t competing this season, and they have a couple pieces that might be intriguing to the right team. Kevin Millwood‘s stats aren’t quite as good as they were a year ago, but he’s pitching against Texas and LA instead of San Diego and last year’s Giants. An NL team might be interested. Jason Vargas might also be the left-handed starter someone’s looking for – if they can overlook the league-leading home runs allowed (22).
New York – they’re scoring a lot of runs, but they still need that big bat in the middle of the lineup. They don’t have a lot of power that’s going to make opposing pitchers nervous.
Atlanta – their batting is playing fairly well – upper half of the league in OPS and runs scored. But, their starting pitching ERA is closer to the bottom of the league. Adding a quality #2 or #3 starter would go a long ways toward making this a serious playoff (and possibly more) contender.
St. Louis – their team batting is one of the best in the league. Starting pitching is in the upper-half of the league. But, their bullpen could use some help. One of the worst bullpen ERA’s in the league, and that will come to haunt you if nothing is done about it.
Los Angeles – it’s no surprise that they are tied for the fewest home runs in the league, since their two biggest home-run hitters are out with injuries. Regardless of the timetable for Ethier and/or Kemp to return, they need some help in the middle of that lineup to keep them in the race.
Philadelphia – World Series champs in 2008 . . . trade deadline sellers just 4 years later. They’re getting old, and they need to be looking to the future. Carlos Ruiz is 33 and only signed through the end of this season. Meanwhile, he’s batting .356 with an OPS of 1.000! Shane Victorino is also just signed through this year, and is 31. How many teams could use a switch-hitting center-fielder that plays hard every day at the top of their lineup? Orioles? White Sox? Dodgers? And, what about Cole Hamels? His contract is up this year, and the Phillies better get something for him now, in case they can’t re-sign him in the offseason. Especially since he would most likely be the most sought-after pitcher on the trading block.
San Diego – they obviously aren’t going anywhere this season, so why hang on to Chase Headley? He’s a switch-hitter whose OPS is .789 … at Petco! Imagine if he was playing his home games in Cleveland, or Cincinnati.
Chicago – it’s no secret they have some contracts they’d like to get rid of. The question might be – how much are they willing to eat in order to get a deal done? Alfonso Soriano is playing well, and there are several teams that would like another bat in the middle of their lineup. Ryan Dempster‘s contract ends after this season, and he currently has the 2nd best ERA and 5th best WHIP in the league – though, his injury likely would push any deal back a couple weeks until he returns. Even Matt Garza‘s numbers are good enough to get attention from teams wanting help in the middle of their rotation (Atlanta? Boston? Detroit?).
Milwaukee – this one might depend on how they perform in the first week or two after the break. If they fall further behind, then it’s time to start talking to teams about Shaun Marcum. His numbers are solid, though not flashy.
Miami – another team that might have to wait until closer to the deadline to decide, but if they aren’t in contention, there’s no reason to hang onto Anibal Sanchez, who could be very helpful to some teams’ rotation.