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July 31st is the date that many Major League Baseball teams are looking forward to: the trade deadline. This will be the last day teams can swap with one another to either bring in or get rid of some of their players in efforts to improve for the future. Depending on where some of these teams rank in the standings usually determines whether they will be shopping for players to bring in, or getting rid of them. Either way, the following teams are most definitely looking to make a big splash.
Buyers: The teams that just need one more piece to make that deep run in the fall.
Philadelphia Phillies: Already a World Series favorite, what more could the Phillies need? Well, since Brad Lidge went down, the closer role has been somewhat of a question mark. Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo did well as a stop gap, but they belong in the 7th and 8th inning. Heath Bell’s name has come up in rumors for Philly. Also, although their lineup is quite powerful already, they are looking to upgrade for the eventual replacement of Raul Ibanez in left field. Melky Cabrera, who is having a terrific year for Kansas City is a definite option for them.
New York Yankees: The Yankees have reportedly sent scouts out to many ballparks around the league throughout the past few weeks looking to find that one piece that can take them over the hump. They certainly will be in a tight race with Boston for the division lead come seasons end, and the roster they have now doesn’t really compare. Although Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have done a wonderful job for now, who knows how long the veterans can keep that up. The Yankees have apparently been in talks about Ubaldo Jimenez from Colorado, but if they can’t land him expect them to go after someone else of that calibur. Also, with the struggles of Jorge Posada at DH, don’t be surprised if they go after an extra bat to be the Austin Kearns of 2010.
Atlanta Braves: Atlanta is in a tough position. They are one of the best teams in the National League, and yet really don’t have much chance of surpassing Philadelphia to take the pennant. Regardless, this is a playoff team with a lot of young talent. They should be able to find themselves in the playoffs, but might have to race to get there, which is where the deadline may come into play. A lot of pieces could be added to this team since the bullpen is the only spot that is flawless on the roster. Don’t expect them to shake up their team chemistry too much, but someone like Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran could find himself in a rental situation for the Braves.
San Francisco Giants: The 2010 World Series champions have been somewhat forgotten around the league, and yet they still find themselves with a sizable lead in the NL West. San Fran has been getting by with outstanding pitching, but the lineup is lacking. Not only did Buster Posey leave them with a gap behind the plate, but he was quickly becoming a force with the bat in the middle of their lineup. They might be another suitor for Beltran, but if not, they will surely try to pickup some power wherever they can find it.
Milwaukee Brewers: This is probably the most interesting team in terms of buyers. They probably already have made their big splash by landing former Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez, but apparently they’re not done. Again, offense is of priority here, especially in the outfield. Carlos Gomez just went down with a broken clavicle so General Manager Doug Melvin may look to add some depth there. Milwaukee is finding themselves in one of the tightest races in baseball, so they’re probably just one of the teams in the NL Central looking to make a buy.
**BONUS** Pittsburgh Pirates: Now this team is interesting. Nobody expected Pittsburgh to be in contention in August, and if you say you did, we all know you’re lying. Pittsburgh has claimed that this could be their year, and they might be willing to make a big deal so long as it doesn’t compromise their long term goals. As I said, don’t be surprised if every team in the NL Central makes a move. People might just be waiting for this team to implode, or might have genuine interest, either way all eyes will be on these Pirates.
Sellers: These clubs are packing it in, get rid of all of your over-performing short-term assets for some young talent.
New York Mets: Oh, the Mets. What can I say about this team? Realistically they haven’t been too bad this season. They’ve been hovering around .500 much of the year, and if they were in the NL Central too, they might find themselves as buyers rather than sellers. Alas, they are not, and it’s time to start thinking about who to move. “K-Rod” is gone and so is his gigantic contract, and supposedly the next to go will be Beltran. At this point, you would think they would be fielding calls for just about anybody, and yet that apparently is not the case. First year General Manager, Sandy Alderson has publicly insisted that star shortstop Jose Reyes is not on the trading block in his contract year. This is a bit puzzling considering the value they would be able to get for him right now, but maybe he is just trying to instill confidence in his players and ball-club. Maybe they really do think they can sign Reyes long term at years end. Regardless of whether or not he goes, more players are definitely on the way out.
Houston Astros: The Astros are not good, and haven’t been so for a few years now. It’s time to start thinking about the future, and although many people thought that future began with outfielder Hunter Pence, the organization has struggled mightily to put anybody around him. His days in Houston are probably numbered since they should be able to get some decent prospects in exchange. Also, starter Wandy Rodriguez has generated a bit of interest from a few clubs, and at this point nobody on Houston is off limits. They’ll take whatever they can get, its rebuilding time.
Chicago Cubs: Year in and year out the cubs have found a way to disappoint the north side of Chicago. They are not in contention this year, but do have some pieces that could attract some of teams who are. Carlos Zambrano seemingly has been on the block for a decade, but in his last year as a Cub he could, at the very least be a nice rental for a playoff team. Aramis Ramirez has continued to put up good numbers all throughout his time in Chicago, and though he makes a nice tandem with Starlin Castro on the left side of that infield, he won’t be around forever. Alfonso Soriano has probably the most untouchable contract in baseball, so though they probably would love to move him for a prospect, they probably won’t even be able to do that. Wrigley Field will become somewhat of a Flea Market for the next week. Buy at your own risk.
Tampa Bay Rays: What happened to the Rays? The same thing that happens to them every year. It’s sad to see such a talented team go down the drain because of financial issues, but those are the woes of the small-market team these days. Before the season began they got rid of most of their star players and reloaded with young talent. Unfortunately it didn’t workout all that well and they now find themselves in an impossible chase of the Yankees and Red Sox. Apparently James Shields could be shopped, and as he is arguably a Cy Young candidate this season, that could make for the biggest blockbuster of the deadline. B.J. Upton also might be on the block, and more than a handful of teams would be interested in his talents. I feel bad for Joe Maddon, but the Rays will get back to contention sooner or later, we just might not recognize many of the names of the roster when they do.
San Diego Padres: Lastly, but surely not least, we find the Padres. The only competition they have is for last place in the NL West with the Dodgers. San Diego might possess the biggest pitching commodity on the market in Heath Bell. Should they choose to get rid of him, they will be able to get some serious prospects in return, and have a hand in swaying the balance of power in whatever league they decide to deal him to. The Phillies will undoubtedly have interest, and if they can land him, every other National League team may as well hit the golf course already. Power-packed outfielder Ryan Ludwick could also be packaged will Bell, or moved in his own trade before July 31st. No need for home runs when you’re 15 games out of the race.
The trade deadline is perennially one of the most fun times of the baseball season. Big time names should be on the move this season which surely will have serious implications come playoff time.