Baseball is a funny sport in that at any given time, someone like Clayton Kershaw or Matt Harvey or Yan Gomes can go down with injury and change the entire complexion of the season. For teams trying to decipher what the goal will be by October, they have until August 1st. Some teams won’t do much of anything, electing to see where the cards fall. Most teams will either buy or sell depending on their record with about 65 games remaining in the season.
This year, there is a sub category of teams who will “go for it” and those are the teams with elite records (at least 10 games above .500 as of this writing) who need a lot of help. This could be because of fantastic starts to the year or recent struggles or injuries, but the following teams will need to be most active at the deadline in order to compete despite sitting pretty in the standings right now:
1. Cleveland Indians – Cleveland has a comfortable 7.5 game lead in the American League Central sitting 18 games above .500, good for the best record in the league. Most critics would feel they were in an envious spot, especially given the most formidable rotation in the league with Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer all healthy and throwing well. And while starting pitching shouldn’t be a problem, offensive output might. Jason Kipnis is having a rebound year and players like Francisco Lindor, Tyler Naquin and Carlos Santana have taken steps forward, but Michael Brantley‘s season may be in doubt and Yan Gomes will miss most of the rest of the season.
Cleveland is essentially without its starting catcher and best hitter, possibly for the long run. The Indians are in desperate need of a middle of the order bat, an outfielder and a catcher and could use an improvement on a good, not great, bullpen. Checking in with the Yankees on Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, Brian McCann and Aroldis Chapman would be a good start, should New York decide to sell at the deadline. A package with the Brewers including Jonathan Lucroy and Will Smith would be a solid choice as well.
2. Texas Rangers – Texas is currently holding onto a 3.5 game lead in the AL West and the league’s second best record. Yu Darvish has returned to help the Rangers’ pitching depth and the offense seemingly never ends with prospects ready to fill in. At a glance, the Rangers could seem like the most dangerous team in the AL, but Houston has come on strong and Seattle may decide to “go for it” currently sitting 6.5 games out of first place. If that’s the case the safety net in the wildcard is not very big, with Detroit, Toronto Baltimore and possibly Kansas City, New York and Seattle all in the mix.
With Prince Fielder likely out for the season and Shin Soo Choo back on the DL for the third time this season, Texas is currently relying on Ryan Rua and Mitch Moreland to play everyday, which may work given the strength of the rest of the lineup, especially given another prospect in Joey Gallo waiting in the wings. It’s the bullpen Texas will need to rehaul for the second summer in a row, currently boasting an ERA over five and good for second worst in the league. Bullpen may be the only issue for Texas likely needs two solid relievers which will be tough in this market and possibly a starter depending on if the team thinks Yu Darvish can hold up and Kyle Lohse can handle the fifth spot. Expect Texas to be heavy bidders on Chapman and Miller and possibly look into other reliever options should they open up the next week or so.
3. Baltimore Orioles – Baltimore just dropped out of first place in the American League East thanks to three straight losses at the hands of the resurgent New York Yankees. It’s vaunted offense has stopped hitting, its rotation has serious flaws (currently 14th in the league in ERA) and its vaunted bullpen is being overlooked because it can’t get leads late in games recently. The Orioles still sit 13 games above .500 and firmly cemented in a playoff spot for now, just half a game behind the Red Sox in the division, but they will need to address the rotation in a hurry.
Dylan Bundy is currently the team’s fifth starter but faces an innings limit and has not demonstrated success as a starter yet. Chris Tillman has pitched admirably but has not received much front of the rotation support. The Orioles are a team essentially with no viable, long-term fifth starter, a minimal farm system and no ace. At a minimum they will have to trade for a starter, but more than likely will need to try to get one more ace caliber than innings’ eater. Joey Rickard can probably be improved upon in left field as well but the first and second priority is pitching.