Major League Baseball is back tonight, and these next few weeks will be huge for teams on the fringe of contention. With one July 31 trade deadline after the elimination of waiver-wire trades that allowed teams to make big moves until August 31, decisions must be made with less uncertainty in terms of likelihood of contention in September. Things will change, but right now, these teams should be the biggest buyers and sellers at the deadline.
There’s talk that the Phillies might not be interested in buying at the deadline if they aren’t within reasonable striking distance of the Braves in the National League East, as a wild card berth would likely mean a matchup with the Dodgers in the NLDS if they advance. However, the inconsistent starting pitching must be improved, especially with Jake Arrieta at less than 100% with a bone spur in his elbow. Madison Bumgarner seems like an ideal option as a left-hander (the Phillies have no lefties in their rotation) with amazing postseason success.
A late first-half surge pushed the Indians from looking like they’d be sellers to now potential buyers ahead of July 31. Cleveland’s lineup is loaded with lefties, so they could use a right-handed bat to stick into the lineup. Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger could be a good fit as someone on pace for over 30 homers this season, and Seattle might be the MLB team most likely to make more trades before the deadline. If the Indians cool off and drop further in the standings, they could become quick sellers, and Trevor Bauer is among those that could be on the move.
I don’t see the Cubs actually becoming sellers like some are speculating, but either way the Brewers should become buyers as they look to compete in the National League in general as well as their division. Milwaukee’s pitching overall could use more arms, as neither the starting staff nor the bullpen has been as good as last season. With every team within 4.5 games in the NL Central, we could see a few teams from that division become buyers if things remain tight in a few weeks.
This start by the Rangers has been a surprise, but it feels like the perfect chance for Houston to make moves to improve their farm system and build for the future. The most obvious trade candidate is Hunter Pence, who is enjoying a resurgent season in which he was named the designated hitter for the AL All-Star team (though he couldn’t play because of a groin injury). Pence is the type of experienced veteran that teams looking to make a postseason run would love to add to the clubhouse.
New York Mets
There’s still a lot of time left in the season, but the attempt by the Mets to retool and put out a roster that could compete in 2019 has not worked out to this point. At ten games below .500, arms like Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler will be enticing trade targets for contenders, and the Mets can probably start a bidding war and get a huge return in a big trade or two.
The Diamondbacks could go in either direction, as they held on to Zack Greinke this offseason despite trading Paul Goldschmidt, and the team has surprised with their 46-45 record and +53 run differential (fourth-best in the National League). One issue with becoming buyers is that it’d be for a wild-card berth, as catching the Dodgers in the division is nearly impossible. Greinke could fetch a haul in a trade, while Robbie Ray and David Peralta also have nice value on the market.