At the MLB trade deadline, some teams will choose to add players in the hopes of bettering their playoff chances. On the other hand others will sell off their best assets to try and add some young prospects who can help them return to the postseason down the track.
It’s always big news that a team has started buying or selling because it shows they have chosen a clear direction for not just the rest of their current season, but also the years ahead. A team that is buying may be doing so for a number of reasons: because they believe the current season is their last hope of contending for a World Series, or because they are nearing the start of what they hope to be years of postseason success.
Here’s three teams that are on the verge of a postseason appearance and may be just one move away from success.
Prior to this season, the Marlins have endured some tough times after moving to Miami. In three of the four years they’ve finished below .500 and have failed to reach the playoffs on all four occasions. In fact, Miami have the second-longest postseason drought of any major league organisation, better only than the Seattle Mariners. Now may be their opportunity to break that.
Entering Monday’s action, the Marlins were sitting six games back in the NL East but more importantly they’d maintained a tie with the New York Mets for the second NL Wild Card spot. Though they have losing records against all four of their division rivals, Miami are right in the hunt as we head deeper into the second half of the season.
They’ve already made one move to bolster their bullpen with the addition of Fernando Rodney, a man who’d allowed only one earned run in 28.2 innings with the San Diego Padres.
Miami might have a number of individuals hitting well at the plate, but that has not come together as a team offence yet. Five players have an average above .300 and three have at least 15 doubles, but they sit 19th in runs scored.
You get the feeling that these individual performances are going to start gelling at some point and there really isn’t a lot of areas they can make an upgrade because Miami are set all across the infield, outfield and even behind the plate.
With that being the case, pitching may be the best area to make a difference in Miami. They’ve already added to their bullpen, but the starting rotation has a combined 4.07 ERA, best for 12th in the big leagues. Only Jose Fernandez (2.52) and Adam Conley (3.62) have an ERA lower than 4.00, while the Marlins have never had a reliable fifth starter all year.
Bringing in a pitcher to add to their rotation may go a long way to helping all those issues and provide the necessary depth. The Marlins don’t even have to bring in a front of the rotation starter. Instead a guy who can pitch at the back-end of their rotation may be good enough.
According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Marlins have interest in Rays starters Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi, as well as right-hander Matt Moore who is also being heavily scouted by the Texas Rangers.
Miami aren’t in a position to sit around and do nothing at the trade deadline this year, and so making just one addition to their starting rotation could prove to be the difference between whether they play in October or whether they finished the regular season and head home.
The Baltimore Orioles currently have control of the AL East that have been in an extensive battle with the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays for much of the season. If the O’s are to hang on and win the division, they’ll need to make a move soon.
Orioles starters have been disastrous so far in 2016. They have the third worst ERA in the majors, better only than the Twins and Reds. Chris Tillman is 13-2 with a 3.29 ERA but he hasn’t had help from anyone in the rotation. He is the only one to throw more than 100 innings and the only one to have an ERA below 4.00.
As good as their offence has been, there’s no way that Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo and others can continue to carry the team as they have done for the majority of the first half.
The upcoming free agent market won’t feature many available starters, and so it’s important to the Orioles had someone here at the deadline. Padres All-Star Drew Pomeranz was already dealt to the Boston Red Sox earlier this month, but Baltimore still have a number of options available on the trade market.
Two underrated starters the team may consider are Rich Hill (Athletics) and Jeremy Hellickson (Phillies). Both could come at quite a low cost, but they could be very useful back-end starters down the stretch.
Hill, signed to a one year $6 million deal during the offseason by the Athletics, has proven that his four great starts with the Red Sox at the end of last season were no fluke. In 2016 the left-hander has a 9-3 record and 2.25 ERA across across 76 innings, while having an above-average strikeout rate. With Oakland 14.5 games back and well out of contention in the AL West, they’re certainly in a position to deal Hill.
Meanwhile 29-year-old Hellickson has bounced around a little bit after beginning his career in 2010 with the Rays. This season he’s 6-7 with a 4.03 ERA in 19 starts with Philadelphia. Though he’s never been great at preventing runs, Hellickson can could become a workhorse with the Orioles should he remain injury-free.
Baltimore last made the postseason only two years ago and may be about to do so again but they must buy off the trade market if they want to make the dream become reality.
It’s been quite a long time between drinks for the Mariners, who have the longest postseason drought of all major league teams having last played beyond the regular season in 2001 – 14 years ago.
After spending big to add second baseman Robinson Cano a few years ago, Seattle have been slowing building towards this point where they now realistically dream about reaching the postseason.
They built their offence two years ago with the arrival of Nelson Cruz via free agency, and prior to this season the Mariners bolstered their pitching stocks with the re-signing of Hisashi Iwakuma as well as the additions of Wade Miley and Nate Karns.
As we approach the August 1st trade deadline, there are certainly a few areas of the roster that they could probably afford to upgrade. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman noted earlier this month that the signings of both Joaquin Benoit and Joel Peralta haven’t worked out, so GM Jerry Dipoto may look to add an extra arm to the bullpen.
The Angels’ Joe Smith and Huston Street have naturally been thrown into the mix given Dipoto was formally the GM in LA. Neither have pitched very well in 2016, combining for a 4.90 ERA in 47.2 innings. They also have a combined 13 saves, ensuring the Angels rank as the second-worst team in the AL.
That said, both have very good track records over their 10 and 12-year careers with ERA’s below 3.00 and are very experienced at shutting a game down in the late innings.
One of the other areas that Seattle could theoretically upgrade is behind the plate where Chris Iannetta is hitting just .215 this season. It would probably take a significant injury for the Mariners to start looking for catching help, but it’s worth their while to at least consider making a change.
Iannetta was signed to a one-year, $4.25 million deal in the offseason and could be released at a minimal cost. The problem is there aren’t a lot of offensive-first catchers on the market so Iannetta might be better than anything Seattle could acquire.
One option they may look at is Kurt Suzuki, who is hitting .284 with 13 doubles and 32 RBIs this year. At 32, he is a very experienced major league catcher and is quite familiar with the AL West having spent a total of seven years with Oakland.
An All-Star in 2014, Suzuki is in the final few months of a two year deal but does have a vesting option for 2017 should he have 485 plate appearances this season. For the record, he’s currently at 220 and likely won’t hit that vesting mark unless he plays most of the second half.
The Mariners are right in contention for a playoff spot and could be only a few moves away from making that final push that gets them over the line and into October action.
Be sure to check back in the coming days for three teams who I believe must be sellers at the deadline.