With the trade deadline a little more than a month away, many teams remain in a holding pattern to decide how they'll approach the frenzy. Surprising teams like the White Sox, Padres, Rangers and others remain on the periphery (or right in the thick) of the playoff race as we near the midseason point. So what are they to do? Our staff picked out the fringe contenders who should aggressively trade for October right now.
Still under .500, the Washington Nationals really need to address their bullpen, and no, I'm not convinced that Fernando Rodney is enough. It makes little sense to have $93 million going to three starting pitchers this year when you can't hold a lead. Only the Mariners have allowed more runs in innings 7-9 than the Nationals. This is a talented team but with one huge, obvious hole.
Every NL East team north of Miami would be crazy not to go for it. Yes, even the Mets. That division is wide open, and each team has between eight and 12 series left against the others, meaning they will likely all control their own fate into September. Plus they all get to play the Marlins!
The A's, largely because there are just so many practical reasons to believe that a push might have a good chance of paying off. Oakland has underperformed so far in 2019, but in a way that's unlikely to hold steady; by pythagorean record, the team "should" have won four more games than it has, which represents the difference between its current spot in the middle of the frenzy for a wild-card and one at the top.
If this bad-luck sequencing starts to break, then, a few small upgrades could go a long way here. The A's biggest need is pitching—which was already true before Blake Treinen's injury and Frankie Montas' suspension—but as always, this should be the easiest spot to upgrade at the deadline, and so even on a budget, they should be able to find what they need.
The Max Scherzer-Stephen Strasburg window in Washington is closing. Anthony Rendon is eligible for free agency after this season. No team has more consistently built up, and then dashed, legitimate World Series aspirations than the Nationals over the last decade. Why not go for it with a roster that remains one of the most talented in the NL?
Unless the Nationals, currently 3 1/2 games behind the Rockies for the second wild card spot, completely fall apart over the next few weeks, they should be trying to add to, not take away from, a team that would be as dangerous as any should it get to the postseason.
Let's get weird in the second half of 2019 and watch the Rangers make a postseason push. The team has been one of baseball's biggest surprises in 2019. Why might the Rangers be inclined to be aggressive? Yes, the organization hasn't won a playoff game since 2015, but more importantly it's looking to build some buzz before opening a new ballpark in 2020. So instead of leveraging a (surprising) trade chip like Mike Minor, why not double down and shore up the pitching staff to see if the team can sneak into October?
As I explained in a column earlier this week, the Angels have a ton of incentive to be aggressive at the trade deadline. One, they extended Mike Trout's contract before the season began and jumping at the chance to get better for a possible playoff run shows they aren't going to put the greatest player on the planet to waste. Two, they know their area of weakness: starting pitching. The path to buy is there. Now it's time to do it.
Cleveland should push its chips to the middle of the table for one last October ride. The Tribe have won eight of their last ten and sit second in the AL Wild Card, 7.5 back of Minnesota in the AL Central. The Twins have seized a sizable division lead, but are they invincible? Let’s not crown Rocco Baldelli and Co. just yet.
The Indians should get Mike Clevinger back next week and Corey Kluber should be on the mound by September. With such a dominant rotation in tow, Cleveland would be well served to chase a veteran bat, likely one who can add some punch to their tepid outfield. Maybe Nick Castellanos will get moved within the division. Ditto for Alex Gordon. The trade candidates will become clearer in July, but 2019 is no time for the Indians to be sellers. A fourth straight playoff appearance is still in play.