The July 31st trade deadline is coming up and I’m going to play general manager for a few teams in contention. Baseball has been one of those games where a trade can absolutely swing a teams fortunes on a dime. Some of the notables were:
- McGriff to the Braves in 1993 (the last great pennant race) when he hit .310 with 19 home runs and 34 RBI’s (.392 OBP) and launched the Braves to a 60-24 finish to catch the San Francisco Giants on the final day of the season for first place in the old National League West.
- Doyle Alexander to the Tigers in 1987 when he went 9-0 and helped them clinch the American League East
- Cliff Lee to the Phillies in 2009 when he helped buoy them to the National League East crown and a second consecutive World Series Apperance with a 7-4, 3.39 ERA to finish the season followed by a 4-0, 1.57 ERA performance in the postseason.
- Carlos Beltran to the Astros in 2004 went on to hit 23 home runs with 53 RBI’s and a .368 OBP (including 28 steals without getting caught) and followed that up with a .435 BA, 8 home runs and 14 RBI’s in the postseason to lead the Astros to their first NLCS in 28-years.
Here are a few moves I think could help some teams down the stretch in 2013.
- Atlanta Braves
Need: left-handed relief
Position of Strength: Starting Rotation, Catcher
The Braves currently sit seven games ahead of the Phillies, eight in front of the Nationals in the East, their bullpen is tops in the majors, and they are doing it without Eric O’Flaherty and Johnny Venters. They need to bring in another arm to spell some of the increasing game totals of their top relievers. Jordan Walden (4-1, 2.53 ERA, 37 K’s/32 IP) has recovered nicely, and 2013 All-Star Craig Kimbrel has continued his ascent as the next best reliever in the game. In a division that has shown “no lead is safe”, the Braves play 22 of their remaining 63 games against the Phillies and Nationals and the left-handed thumpers Chase Utley, Dominic Brown, (switch hitter) Jimmy Rollins, Bryce Harper, and Adam LaRoche. To counter the Braves would be wise to pursue a reliever such as the Angels Scott Downs or the Cubs James Russell. Both come at a steep price (Downs at $5 million; Russell, because of age, will no doubt cost prospects), but the Braves could deal Laird or Gattis and also hold Maholm as a trade chip.
- Tampa Bay Rays
Position of Strength: Outfield
The hard-charging Rays finished the first-half 12-2, then exploded out of the break at 4-0 sweeping the Blue Jays and taking game one in their series against the Red Sox. Tampa Bay now sits just a half game behind the Red Sox in the American League East with a chance to leave Boston as leaders of the division. While they are playing their best baseball of the season, Fernando Rodney can’t be trusted as their closer despite his great 2012 and recent results. The Rays have an abundance of outfield pieces with Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings entrenched as the future of the Rays outfield they have the option of trading from their pick of Kelly Johnson, Luke Scott, Sean Rodriguez, and Matt Joyce. They would need to add a prospect to sweeten the deal, but if I were the Giants not only would I look at signing former Giants closer Brian Wilson, but also cast a line to the Chicago Cubs about the availability of Kevin Gregg (19 saves, 2.80 ERA) to fortify the back-end of that bullpen.
- Pittsburgh Pirates
Need: Outfield, Bat off the bench
Strength: Bullpen, Farm System, Rotation
The Pirates first-half proved they have the capability to contend for a Wild Card spot as well as the division title. So far in the second-half they’ve lost two-of-three against the Reds and sit a game and-a-half behind the Cardinals for the division lead. Neal Huntington is in a delicate spot before the deadline: what do I give up to get this team to .500 and possibly its first playoff appearance since 1992? The outfield market for the Pirates has options as the aforementioned Rays have a glut of outfielders they can negotiate for (Kelly Johnson comes to mind here), and the Miami Marlins have always been good for a deal (Logan Morrison could use a change of scenery). Giancarlo Stanton was rumored, but the price for him could be more than the Pirates are willing to pay for a guy heading into arbitration. A left-handed bat to balance the lineup everyday and move Tabata to the bench would do wonders for this team down the stretch. Whatever the case, right now Travis Snider is a liability and an upgrade is necessary.
- Cincinnati Reds
Need: Third base, Shortstop
Strength: Pitching, Farm System
The Reds were expected to contend for the World Series this season but their offense didn’t get that memo. Ranking middle of the road in key offensive categories has left the Reds desperate to find production at shortstop and third base. If they are patient, they might be able to swing a deal for current Phillies third basement Michael Young, who would do wonders for the Reds and their issue of putting together quality at-bats consistently. They could also monitor the progress of Brewers third basemen Aramis Ramirez as he tries to make his way back from an injury and could prove a cheaper trade option.
- Cleveland Indians
Need: Bullpen, Starting Pitching
The Indians are another team putting together a special season, but Terry Francona knows that they need pitching help if they are going to contend at all with Detroit in the Central. Some of the targets that the Indians could look to deal for are Paul Maholm in Atlanta (currently injured), and an interesting name that could be available should the Phillies not be able to turn it around is Cliff Lee, a former 22-game winner for the Indians. It isn’t likely the Phillies deal him, but crazier things have happened.