What every MLB contender needs to do before trade deadline
Contenders are defined as teams with at least a 20% chance of making the playoffs, according to FanGraphs projections. With six teams per league now making the postseason, this allows for nine teams in the AL and eight in the NL to be considered.
New York Yankees
Playoff odds: 100%
Biggest needs: Reliever, starting pitcher
Despite boasting baseball's best record, the Yankees have a few glaring areas of need, and GM Brian Cashman already got down to business to address one. The mystifying struggles of former All-Star Joey Gallo made acquiring outfielder Andrew Benintendi from the Royals a necessity. Michael King's season-ending injury combined with the unreliability of former bullpen stalwarts Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Loaisiga highlights how crucial bullpen reinforcements are. The rotation looked like baseball's best for the first few months of the season but cracks are beginning to show. Luis Severino is on the shelf while Jameson Taillon and Jordan Montgomery have seen their performances dip. And just as a reminder, the Yankees haven't played in the World Series since 2009.
Potential targets: Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas, David Robertson, Daniel Bard
Toronto Blue Jays
Playoff odds: 96.2%
Biggest needs: Reliever, starting pitcher, left-handed bat
The Blue Jays have sent the front office a loud message with their play of late. The club is expected to aggressively look to improve and their focus should center around infusing the bullpen with more strikeouts. There are also question marks at the back of the rotation; Yusei Kikuchi is recovering from a neck strain and struggled mightily before being placed on the injured list. Toronto needs to find an option to cover some innings as they continue their push to secure a playoff spot. The lineup has started mashing but is still right-hand dominant.
Potential targets: Joe Jimenez, Joe Mantiply, Gregory Soto, David Bednar, Michael Fulmer, David Robertson, Daniel Bard, Jose Quintana, Noah Syndergaard, Luis Castillo, Chad Kuhl, Ian Happ, Josh Bell, Kole Calhoun
Tampa Bay Rays
Playoff odds: 63.4%
Biggest needs: Outfield, reliever, starting pitcher, infielder
The Rays have been devastated by injuries but are still firmly in the mix for a playoff spot. Predicting what the front office will do always seems like a fool's errand as they are consistently zagging when people expect them to zig. Tampa Bay was connected to Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel at last year's deadline and could look to make a surprising splash. The Rays could use more offensive firepower but must find a way to improve their pitching in the wake of so many injuries to key contributors.
Potential targets: Ian Happ, Kole Calhoun, Josh Bell, Brandon Drury, Frankie Montas, Tyler Mahle, Noah Syndergaard, Jose Quintana, Alex Colome, Daniel Bard, Andrew Chafin, Michael Fulmer
Boston Red Sox
Playoff odds: 21.2%
Biggest needs: First base, starting pitcher, late-inning reliever
Despite a dreadful month of July, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom appears committed to chasing down a playoff spot. Boston could look to trade stalwarts Xander Bogaerts, Nathan Eovaldi, and J.D. Martinez, but those moves would likely serve to upset Red Sox nation. If the club does add at the deadline, there is no shortage of areas to address and it might behoove them to prioritize players with control instead of strict rentals. The games leading up to the deadline will likely make the decision whether the Red Sox buy or sell.
Potential targets: C.J. Cron, Ian Happ, Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas, David Robertson
Playoff odds: 48.3%
Biggest needs: Left-handed reliever, right-handed reliever, starting pitcher, first base, outfield
The Twins have been dominant at the plate, ranking in the top half of the league in every offensive position, according to FanGraphs WAR. By wRC+, they're the fifth-best offense in baseball. All around the diamond, they have good hitters - even if some positions leave something to be desired defensively. They could address that need prior to the deadline; defensive specialists are usually pretty cheap to acquire this time of year. However, Derek Falvey and Co. should pursue relief help - particularly a left-hander - to ensure they win the division. Adding one or two starters wouldn't hurt either, with Bailey Ober, Randy Dobnak, Kenta Maeda, and Chris Paddack all on the shelf. They might not be one of the bigger buyers - they don't want to hurt their chances of being the powerhouse of the division for years to come - but they can certainly supplement the roster for a chance to win a playoff round or two until they're inevitably bounced by the Yankees.
Potential targets: Joe Mantiply, David Bednar, Marcus Stroman, Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Josh Bell, C.J. Cron, Trey Mancini, Jose Iglesias
Chicago White Sox
Playoff odds: 53.8%
Biggest needs: Outfield, starting pitcher, second base, left-handed starting pitcher/reliever
The White Sox find themselves in a precarious place thanks largely to an inactive winter where one or two big moves could've turned them from contender into a potential juggernaut. Instead, they entered 2022 with Josh Harrison and AJ Pollock as their biggest additions. Now, the White Sox have to show some urgency, as missing the postseason would be unforgivable to fans. They likely don't have enough prospect wealth to enter the Soto sweepstakes, but he'd certainly look good in a future outfield comprised of Luis Robert and one of Andrew Vaughn or Eloy Jimenez. It might be better to go the more cost-effective route while saving the bigger chips for help in the rotation, which has regressed substantially due to Lance Lynn and the now departed Dallas Keuchel. The top end of Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito, and Michael Kopech looks fine, but landing at least one key starter feels necessary. Dare we suggest the return of Jose Quintana?
Potential targets: Martin Perez, Jose Quintana, Ramon Laureano, Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas, Paul Blackburn, Marcus Stroman, Tyler Mahle, Michael Wacha, Bryan Reynolds, Ian Happ, Nathan Eovaldi, Joe Mantiply, Joey Gallo, Tyler Naquin
Playoff odds: 37.4%
Biggest needs: Catcher, first base, designated hitter, outfield, starting pitcher
The Guardians are kind of playing with house money right now. No one expected them to be in this position at the beginning of the season, but here they are, ahead of the White Sox in the standings and with a very healthy lead in run differential. What makes them even more interesting this trade season is that they don't necessarily need top-end pitching. Shane Bieber is still great and Zach Plesac, Cal Quantrill, and Triston McKenzie are good enough to keep it close most nights and turn it over to a very strong bullpen. So, while everyone is in bidding wars to get a new ace, Cleveland can focus on its most dire need - a catcher who can hit and a slugger to put at either first or DH. Franmil Reyes was fun for a while, but the holes in his swing have been exposed and he can't be trusted with the amount of at-bats he's being given anymore.
Potential targets: Willson Contreras, Sean Murphy, Christian Vazquez, Josh Bell, C.J. Cron, Nelson Cruz, Ramon Laureano, Trey Mancini, Jose Quintana, Jordan Lyles, Michael Wacha
Playoff odds: 100%
Biggest needs: Catcher, first base, left-handed reliever, outfield
Given how many players have recently parted ways with the Astros, it's staggering how complete they are from top to bottom. That being said, Martin Maldonado just isn't cutting it behind the plate anymore. His defensive acumen and game-calling is one thing, but the bat is simply too bad to carry. Further, 38-year-old Yuli Gurriel might be reaching his expiration date, and Kyle Tucker could use some help in the outfield with Michael Brantley currently shelved. If they address none of these concerns, they are still arguably the best team in the Junior Circuit, but adding one more bat and a lefty reliever would make them as dangerous as anyone
Potential targets: Willson Contreras, Sean Murphy, Trey Mancini, Ian Happ, C.J. Cron, Josh Bell, Juan Soto, Andrew Chafin, Joe Mantiply
Playoff odds: 76.3%
Biggest needs: Left-handed reliever, starting pitcher, second base, outfield, backup shortstop
The Mariners are in a unique position on this list. They're itching to end their two-decade-long postseason drought, but they're also in the process of building something special headlined by budding superstar Julio Rodriguez. So, chasing aging veterans on expiring deals might not be wise. Instead, they should be looking to supplement a strong core with pieces that could stick around - either already on a long-term contract or via an extension after acquisition - in order to build a perennial powerhouse. If they're not landing one of the top names floating around the rumor mill, some level of patience might be warranted instead. But patience has never particularly been in Jerry Dipoto's vocabulary and there are a couple of lower-cost players on the market this summer that might help fill a glaring hole or two.
Potential targets: Juan Soto, Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas, Xander Bogaerts, Bryan Reynolds, Tyler Mahle, Noah Syndergaard, Brandon Drury, Joe Mantiply, Andrew Chafin
New York Mets
Playoff odds: 99.9%
Biggest needs: Catcher, reliever, first base, outfield
The Mets have posted an above .500 record in every month so far this season. However, the surging Braves have cut the deficit in the NL East, increasing the need for GM Billy Eppler to act swiftly to improve his club. New York has realistic World Series aspirations, and the right moves combined with getting and staying healthy could put them in the same conversation as the Dodgers for favorites in the NL.
Potential targets: Juan Soto, Willson Contreras, David Robertson, Michael Fulmer, Trey Mancini, Josh Bell, J.D. Martinez
Playoff odds: 98.8%
Biggest needs: Starting pitcher, infielder, outfield
The defending World Series champions have found their stride and appear poised to make a lot of noise in October yet again. There aren't that many glaring holes for GM Alex Anthopoulos to address. Atlanta could benefit from more experience and depth off the bench in both the infield and outfield. With the season-ending injury to Adam Duvall and continued struggles of Eddie Rosario, another option to patrol left field might make some sense. The inconsistent performances from Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson should make adding another back-end rotation arm something for Anthopoulos to strongly consider.
Potential targets: Jose Quintana, Tyler Mahle, Noah Syndergaard, Ian Happ, David Peralta, Whit Merrifield, Brandon Drury
Playoff odds: 49%
Biggest needs: Starting pitcher, reliever, outfield
The biggest acquisition the Phillies can make as they push for the postseason will be a healthy and returning Bryce Harper. Dave Dombrowski is never shy when it comes to improving a team he believes has a chance to win. The Phillies' bullpen has been better of late but could still use a boost. The one-two punch of Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola atop the rotation is terrific but there are a lot of question marks beyond that. A center fielder might be the biggest area of weakness for Dombrowski to address.
Potential targets: Bryan Reynolds, Ramon Laureano, Frankie Montas, Jose Quintana, Tyler Mahle, Noah Syndergaard, Andrew Chafin, Michael Fulmer, Daniel Bard, Matt Moore
Playoff odds: 90.2%
Biggest needs: Outfield, designated hitter, starting pitcher
The Brewers sit inside the top half of the league in wRC+ but could still benefit from more offensive talent. With the uncertainty surrounding Christian Yelich's back and some question marks in center field, adding an outfielder seems like a prudent course of action. Freddy Peralta is closing in on a return from a shoulder injury. However, the Brewers should still look at acquiring a depth arm for the rotation.
Potential targets: Josh Bell, Ramon Laureano, Jose Quintana, Martin Perez, Nathan Eovaldi, Trey Mancini
St. Louis Cardinals
Playoff odds: 51.3%
Biggest needs: Starting pitcher, reliever, outfield
The Cardinals appear to be a serious contender in the Juan Soto sweepstakes. The red birds could benefit from adding an outfielder, but their most glaring need is in the starting rotation. With injuries to Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, and Steven Matz, St. Louis is perilously short on quality arms. The Cardinals are strong at the back end of the bullpen with Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos but could still benefit from adding another proven commodity. They are loaded with young talent and prospect capital to pull off almost any move.
Potential targets: Juan Soto, Frankie Montas, Jose Quintana, Martin Perez, Paul Blackburn, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Fulmer, Andrew Chafin, David Robertson, Joe Mantiply
Los Angeles Dodgers
Playoff odds: 100%
Biggest needs: Outfield, second base, starting pitcher, reliever
The Dodgers have multiple needs for the first time in a while, which might be a weird thing to say for a team that's memorably added Manny Machado, Max Scherzer, and Yu Darvish at recent deadlines. So, no stranger to big-game hunting, this could be a very busy one for Andrew Friedman. Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger have both taken rather troubling steps back, Walker Buehler is hurt, and Craig Kimbrel has been shaky at times. Of course, they are still cruising toward yet another inevitable postseason berth, so perhaps this only results in one big splash and a couple of other smaller moves.
Potential targets: Juan Soto, Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas, Tarik Skubal, David Bednar, Brandon Drury, J.D. Martinez, Ian Happ, Whit Merrifield, Xander Bogaerts
San Diego Padres
Playoff odds: 85.1%
Biggest needs: Outfield, reliever, catcher
The biggest deadline reinforcement the Padres will be getting is Fernando Tatis Jr. back from the injured list. But, still, there's substantial pressure to make a second big addition. The starting rotation, though it's dealt with some surprising adversity, is stable enough to go without a major facelift. Instead, the front office's most important task is addressing the outfield, where Trent Grisham is struggling and Nomar Mazara is (successfully, mind you) being asked to shoulder a substantial load. They're a good team playing beneath their capabilities and the internal personnel is likely capable of getting this done. Don't be surprised if A.J. Preller uses some of his substantial prospect capital to pull off the biggest blockbuster of the deadline.
Potential targets: Juan Soto, Shohei Ohtani, J.D. Martinez, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Ramon Laureano, Joey Gallo, Trey Mancini, Whit Merrifield, David Bednar, Joe Mantiply, Alex Colome
San Francisco Giants
Playoff odds: 22.9%
Biggest need: Catcher, shortstop, starting pitcher
It might be surprising to read this, but the Giants currently possess the top-ranked starting rotation in all of baseball, according to FanGraphs WAR. They also have the 10th-best offense by wRC+, but plummet to 19th by WAR due to frustrating defensive inefficiency. So, while some people saw this fall in the standings coming, the club actually has had some horrendously bad luck making them play like a .500 team. Farhan Zaidi probably won't invest a lot into this current group due to their current struggles. However, if the Giants can make a move to help their long-term outlook, this team might stay alive in the wild-card hunt. Adding starting pitching might be part of that as well, since Carlos Rodon could depart via free agency this winter.
Potential targets: Juan Soto, Shohei Ohtani, Sean Murphy, Willson Contreras, Christian Vazquez, Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas, Tyler Mahle, Tarik Skubal
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