Trade Deadline outlook for bubble teams
Today I figure I revisit a classic, by which I mean an idea I’ve already used once before. As we enter the second half of baseball (kicked off by the Cubs’ 9-6 win over the Cardinals last night), I think it apt to look at the ‘bubble’ teams in the MLB this year and what their Trade Deadline strategies should be. Why don’t we start with the American League, as the top-heaviness of this 15-team cohort makes Deadline strategies much clearer for many organizations. Oh and for the record, ‘bubble’ teams are those that are, at the most, five games under .500. Any more than that and your team is probably already selling, given the ultra-competitive nature of this years’ MLB. Sorry. Teams that are ABSOLUTELY CLEARLY contenders, i.e the Red Sox or even the Mariners, will not be included, as we know they will add.
Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays have significantly outperformed their preseason projections so far, as they sit at a respectable 49-47. Manager Kevin Cash has done a great job raising the team’s young prospects and has kept their fighting spirit intact despite the dealing of All-Star closer Alex Colome and Kevin Kiermaier’s early season thumb injury. Unfortunately for the Rays, they play not only in the AL East (meaning they have a -15 percent chance of winning the division), but they reside in the greater American League, where a team that’s 13 games over .500 is still on the outside looking in when it comes to the Postseason. They did lose Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly this offseason, but the first two have been horrific and the third has yet to throw a pitch. Add in the fact that their newfangled rotation has produced the best ERA in the Majors since it was implemented on May 19th and you still have a bright future in Tampa.
Strategy: Besides unloading Nathan Eovaldi for a decent haul, stay put and continue to let the young kids play
Oakland A’s: They went from “projected to win 70 games” to “maybe they can sniff .500” to “this team can make the Postseason!” largely due to their MLB-best 21-6 record since June 16th. Guys like Jed Lowrie and Blake Treinen have become untouchable, and with a huge hole at starting pitcher (the A’s have used 12 of them so far this season and have a 4.36 starters’ ERA) it seems an almost certainty that Oakland will shop around for mid-level (in terms of price) pitchers such as the aforementioned Eovaldi, J.A Happ, or a member of the Minnesota Twins’ rotation.
Strategy: Add starting pitching but don’t give up the farm, this isn’t your year (yet)
Los Angeles Angeles: Shohei Ohtani plus Mike Trout, with help from Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart and the re-signed Justin Upton?! This team is going to challenge the Astros! This is what many were thinking when the season started, but injuries to Ohtani, Kinsler, and Cozart plus another subpar year from the rotation have left the Angels mired in mediocrity once again. Trout is one pace for possibly the best season in MLB history, but he is also on pace to be the most wasted talent ever. The Angels have continuously failed to build around him, and it looks like they’re heading for another year without Postseason baseball. We know Billy Eppler likes to be active, but injuries have really sunk this squad.
Strategy: Stay put and hope for a healthy 2019
Washington Nationals: Let’s just cut right to it.
Strategy: Re-sign Bryce Harper for ∞ yrs/$∞
St. Louis Cardinals: Another team that made a splash this offseason only to find themselves sitting at .500. They fired manager Mike Matheny in a move certain to sink the team, and their inter-division woes continue to haunt them. They are a solid team with most groups performing well, it just hasn’t been enough this year. I would think they should add but the Cardinals normally don’t, and finding a long-term manager is honestly more important at this point.
Strategy: Try to re-open Josh Donaldson trade talks, hope Tommy Pham delivers on his promise of a .300 30-30 season?
Pittsburgh Pirates: You just never know what to do with the Pirates. Every year they are projected to finish a bit under .500, then they win 80 games. They’re never really in it, but they’re never out of it either. The trading away of ace Gerrit Cole this offseason was a sign they were heading towards a rebuild, but they have yet to fully commit. Trading the versatile Josh Harrison and a few pieces of their surprisingly good bullpen could help get them started.
Strategy: Unload a few veterans and really get into a rebuild. You have good enough young players to bridge the gap
Colorado Rockies: Manager Bud Black stated that the NL West race was going to come down to who pitches the best in the “dog days of baseball” which is unfortunate for his team, as we all know they play at Coors Field (and sport a 4.68 team ERA, good for 13th in the NL). Their $80 million investment in the bullpen this offseason has been a flop, but their torrid offense of late has them in a prime position to make a push for the Wild Card.
Strategy: Find someone who can pitch at Coors Field
San Francisco Giants: They added a lot of old talent, and it hasn’t quite come to fruition as we might have expected. A slow start (due to immense injuries to the pitching staff) had them playing from behind for awhile, but with a return in health and some good offense the Giants have climbed back into the conversation. They still have a shaky bullpen and rotation, however, and their team defense combined with a patchwork outfield continues to hold them back.
Strategy: Find pitching, ANY pitching on the market, add some glue guys (like a quality fourth OF)
This is completely off topic but did you know the Miami Marlins aren’t even the worst team in their division? World Series 2022, calling it right now.