The July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline is less than 10 days away, but some teams have yet to make up their minds as to whether they’re buying, selling or simply sitting this one out. What follows is a quick rundown of where things stand among American League teams. I’ll also identify the top needs among contenders and the top candidates to be dealt among non-contenders.
As a reality check, I’m using the Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds report to provide a snapshot of each team’s chances at reaching the postseason. The report uses a Monte Carlo simulation to account for run differential, strength of schedule, expected distribution of playing time and performance (via PECOTA projections), and it suggests that the teams on the fence are in danger of making suckers’ bets whose chances of paying off with a playoff berth are 10 percent or less. Within each group, the teams are ranked by their cumulative odds (chance of winning the division plus chance of winning a wild-card spot).
Boston Red Sox (60-40, 59.1/32.4/91.5)
With Jon Lester yet to return to form and Clay Buchholz not only out since June 8 but now heading to see Dr. James Andrews, bolstering the rotation is a top priority. To that end Boston has shown interest in the White Sox' Jake Peavy. As far as bullpen help goes, the Red Sox have been scouting the Brewers' Francisco Rodriguez. They've expressed interest in the Phillies' Michael Young as an option to shore up third base on the off chance that Jose Iglesias can't maintain a .406 batting average on balls in play.
Detroit Tigers (53-44, 82.6/5.5/88.1)
The bullpen, which has a 4.04 ERA (11th in the league) remains the bane of manager Jim Leyland's existence, so it makes sense that the team is scouting the Brewers, who have experienced closers in Francisco Rodriguez, John Axford and Mike Gonzalez available. Detroit has been connected to the Padres' Huston Street and Luke Gregerson in talks and have expressed interest in Tim Lincecum as a reliever but dealing the latter doesn't appear to be a scenario that appeals to the Giants.
Oakland A's (57-41, 65/17.4/82.4)
Second base is an area of need, though Oakland recently recalled 2009 first round pick Grant Green for a look, possibly as much to showcase him for a deal as to pair him with Eric Sogard. With Bartolo Colon currently functioning as staff ace but among those named in Biogenesis -- and, as a potential repeat offender, not entitled to the same benefit-of-the-doubt appeals process that could push a suspension into next year -- the team may be in the market for rotation help, particularly given how far away Brett Anderson is from returning from a stress fracture in his right foot.
Texas Rangers (54-44, 33.4/25.1/58.5)
Yu Darvish will come off the disabled list to start against the Yankees on Monday night, but with Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando and Nick Tepesch still on the DL, fortifying the rotation remained the Rangers' top priority. On Monday afternoon they did just that, acquiring Matt Garza from the Cubs for a package of players that includes former top prospect Mike Olt. A corner outfield/DH bat is another need because Lance Berkman is on the disabled list, David Murphy is hitting just .228/.285/.378 and Nelson Cruz is among the players who could be suspended in the Biogenesis case. The White Sox' Alex Rios and the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano have been mentioned as possibilities.
Baltimore Orioles (56-43, 7.4/33.9/41.3)
Though they have no shortage of back-rotation arms to shuttle in and out of their starting five, the Orioles could use a frontline starter. They had been mentioned as a sleeper team for Garza but that won't happen now. With their designated hitters batting a combined .193/.255/.371 and prime culprit Nolan Reimold likely out for the remainder of the year, they've turned to Cuban defector Henry Urrutia as a potential replacement, but they could seek a more substantial solution such as the Twins' Justin Morneau. Second base, where they've gotten just a .237/.292/.362 showing thus far, is another area of need given the likelihood that Brian Roberts can't stay healthy for longer than 10 minutes.
Cleveland Indians (52-46, 16.8/13.1/30.0)
With rotation help a priority, the Indians would likely prefer to focus on pitchers under club control as they adhere to a longer-term plan. They may also try to bolster the bullpen.
New York Yankees (52-46, 1.8/15.2/17.1)
With Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez both falling victim to the quadripocalypse over the past 10 days, help for the left side of the infield remains a priority, with Michael Young an obvious target. He could also help out at first base, where the loss of Mark Teixeira has made an upgrade over Lyle Overbay a must. Alfonso Soriano and Nate Schierholtz have been mentioned as corner outfield/DH possibilities, particularly with Curtis Granderson not due back until mid-August. Meanwhile, there have been rumblings that New York would consider trading pending free agent Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, but it's not clear the team can survive such a hit to its pitching depth, particularly given the recent struggles of Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia.
ON THE FENCE
Tampa Bay Rays (58-41, 31.6/53.2/84.9)
Thanks to their current 17-2 surge, the Rays aren't about to consider trading David Price, who's helped them climb to 1 1/2 games out of first place with a 1.97 ERA in four starts this month. They sound content to stand pat, though even with James Loney (.314/.365/.463) and Luke Scott (.274/.361/.488) both exceeding expectations, they're said to be checking out first base and DH options such as Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez.
Los Angeles Angels (46-50, 1.4/2.7/4.1)
Four games under .500 and 10 games out of first place in the AL West, the Angels should be selling, but they have yet to concede. If they do, lefty Scott Downs (a pending free agent) and shortstop Erick Aybar (signed through 2016) are two possible trade chips, and injured southpaws Jason Vargas and Sean Burnett could be dealt during the August waiver period once they prove to be healthy.
Toronto Blue Jays (45-52, 0/0.8/0.9)
The Blue Jays have lost 16 of their last 23 and are back in the AL East basement, and they now have a double-digit deficit to surmount in the wild-card race as well, so it made little sense to hear that they pursued Garza. They don't intend to trade pending free agent pitcher Josh Johnson, which suggests they'll make a qualifying offer to him after the season. If Toronto does deal, spare parts such as Rajai Davis and Emilio Bonifacio may appeal to other teams, though it remains to be seen if the Jays have the appetite to move more substantial pieces.
Kansas City Royals (45-50, 0.5/0.3/0.8)
Fixing the rotation via offseason trades for James Shields and Ervin Santana hasn't been enough because the core of young hitters just isn't producing up to par; Kansas City ranks 13th in the league in scoring at 3.93 runs per game. Still, general manager Dayton Moore is reluctant to pull the plug. Santana, a pending free agent, would net a significant return, but Moore's not listening to offers.
Seattle Mariners (46-52, 0.2/0.3/0.5)
They've got no shot at the playoffs but have several parts who could appeal to others, including hitters Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez, glove man Brendan Ryan, starter Joe Saunders and lefty reliever Oliver Perez. Still, general manager Jack Zduriencik doesn't appear inclined to clean house.
Chicago White Sox (39-56, 0.0/0.0/0.1)
The White Sox have no shortage of tradeable commodities, though the easiest to move, reliever Jesse Crain -- who owns a stellar 0.74 ERA while striking out 11.3 per nine -- is on the disabled list with shoulder soreness. Most of the other names to surface here have significant money remaining on their deals. Alex Rios. who's signed through 2014, has considerable appeal for teams such as the Rangers and Pirates who are in the market for an outfield bat. Alexei Ramirez, who's signed through 2015, still has significant defensive value even if his offense has waned. Gordon Beckham (.325/.347/.428 in 46 games) has value for the first time in years. Jake Peavy, who's signed through next year, just returned from a six-week absence due to a broken rib and is drawing interest from the Red Sox, Cardinals and possibly
the Orioles among others.
Minnesota Twins (41-54, 0.0/0.0/0.0)
Though he's no longer the hitter he once was, Justin Morneau (.273/.331/.405) is an obvious candidate to be dealt. He could be a fit for the Yankees, Rangers, Pirates or Orioles, though with about $6 million remaining on his contract and a partial no-trade clause, he won't be particularly easy to move. Glen Perkins is drawing heavy interest but may not be going anywhere. Josh Willingham, who recently underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus, won't be traded.
Houston Astros (33-64, 0.0/0.0/0.0)
Bud Norris, a 28-year-old righty with a career 4.33 ERA (3.91 this year), is no ace, but with two more years of club control after this, he's a hot commodity who appeals to many teams, including the Rangers and Red Sox; the Astros are said to be seeking two top prospects in a trade. Lucas Harrell could also be moved, but he has a 5.06 ERA and ugly peripherals, and his value has taken a hit after last year's breakout. Lefty reliever Wesley Wright has been mentioned in connection with the Braves. Veterans Carlos Pena (.209/.324/.350) and Ronny Cedeno (220/.260/.298) were designated for assignment this weekend and are likely to be dealt, though at this stage, they're bench pieces who won't bring back much in trade.