MLB Trade Deadline: Every Playoff Contender’s Biggest Need

The 2018 Major League Baseball season is past the midway point, and it’s become clear which teams are poised to be playing, or competing to play in October. At the same time, those teams have holes on their roster that will need to be addressed at some point between now and the postseason. Here is every contender’s biggest need as the MLB trade deadline approaches.

Boston Red Sox: Backend Starter

The Boston Red Sox have the best record in baseball, but their starting rotation presents questions marks in potential postseason play. Chris Sale has faded late in seasons in years past, Rick Porcello has been unreliable in October (Porcello owns a career 5.47 postseason ERA), and David Price has become an utter enigma. The Red Sox need those three to show up in the postseason, but chances are only two of the three will do as such; president Dave Dombrowksi needs to insure that the Red Sox have other options to start in a five or seven-game series.

Potential Targets: Michael Fulmer, Matt Harvey, Nathan Eovaldi

New York Yankees: Top-Of-The-Rotation-Starter

The New York Yankees have one of the best starting pitchers in the game in Luis Severino, but outside of the 24-year-old righty, manager Aaron Boone‘s rotation is worrisome. Masahiro Tanaka is on the disabled list, Sonny Gray has been getting rocked (Gray owns a 5.85 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in 2018), C.C. Sabathia is 37, and the Yankees have shuffled a number of arms throughout the backend of their rotation. There will be very few, if any, surefire aces available via trade, but general manager Brian Cashman must acquire a top-of-the-rotation starter to help the Yankees match up with other AL powerhouses.

Potential Targets: Cole Hamels, Chris Archer, Michael Fulmer

Cleveland Indians: Backend Reliever

The Cleveland Indians have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, and their lineup is beginning to wake up, but their bullpen has been unreliable so far this season. The tag team of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen (who are both unrestricted free agents after this season) has been shaky and injury prone, while highly regarded lefty Tyler Olson owns an abysmal 7.27 ERA. What was once their greatest asset has become the Indians’ Achilles heel, and if they don’t make any moves to address it, the pen will come back to haunt manager Terry Francona and the Indians.

Potential Targets: Brad Hand, Fernando Rodney, Kyle Barraclough

Houston Astros: Closer

The Houston Astros haven’t skipped a beat since winning the 2017 World Series, but to repeat as champs, or, at the very least, get back to the Fall Classic, they will need to upgrade at closer. Ken Giles continues to be shaky in the late innings and inserted fear into manager A.J. Hinch throughout the 2017 postseason too. He can man a late-inning role, but locking down the ninth inning has proved to be a daunting task for Giles in recent memory and this season, as he currently owns a 4.11 ERA; the Astros need a top-flight closer.

Potential Targets: Brad Hand, Zach Britton, Raisel Iglesias

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Seattle Mariners: Center Fielder

The Seattle Mariners are en route to breaking the biggest playoff drought in North American sports, but a collapse is not out of the picture, nor are they guaranteed to be in the AL Wild Card Game — meaning Seattle has to upgrade their biggest weakness: center field. With Robinson Cano suspended, Dee Gordon is playing second base, leaving the Mariners with a bit of a hole in center. Adding a fourth outfielder, or a starting center fielder, would help complete their lineup and defensive depth chart.

Potential Targets: Carlos Gomez, Cameron Maybin, Leonys Martin

Oakland Athletics: Middle-Of-The-Rotation Starter

The Oakland Athletics have been one of the more captivating storylines of the 2018 season. They’re 10 games above .500 and are beating some of the best teams in the game. But the A’s are still in third place in the American League West and are 6.5 games behind the Mariners for the second AL Wild Card. At the same time, if they can acquire a middle of the rotation arm, the A’s could potentially give the Mariners a run for their money. Sure, they’ve received some successful outings from their starters, but the A’s haven’t had a consistent five players starting this season. By adding a proven arm, they can seriously get into the mix to play in the win-or-go-home playoff.

Potential Targets: Chris Archer, Steven Matz, J.A. Happ

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Philadelphia Phillies: Backend Reliever

The Philadelphia Phillies have a great starting rotation and an improving lineup, but their bullpen has been subpar, at best. They’ve struggled to close out games, whether it be with Hector Neris, or simply getting into the ninth inning with a lead. And considering that they’re right in the thick of playoff contention, there’s nothing more frustrating for a team than enduring struggles in the backend of their pen. The Phillies must shore up that facet of their ballclub, or it could haunt them when it matters most.

Potential Targets: Zach Britton, Raisel Iglesias, Adam Conley

Atlanta Braves: Middle Reliever

The Atlanta Braves have begone with the rebuild and are a legitimate National League playoff threat. Their young lineup is firing on all cylinders, and their starting rotation is coming into its own, but the Braves were 20th in bullpen ERA going into Sunday afternoon (4.17). Arodys Vizcaino has been reliable as the team’s closer, but the Braves pen, as a whole, has been an area of concern. To make themselves a more well-rounded force, the Braves need to add depth to their bullpen.

Potential Targets: Craig Stammen, Brad Hand, Brad Brach

Washington Nationals: Middle-Of-The-Rotation Starter

Outside of Max Scherzer, the Washington Nationals rotation has been inconsistent this season. Tanner Roark has been hit hard, Gio Gonzalez isn’t pitching deep into games, Stephen Strasburg is on the disabled list, and the luster has worn off for Jeremy Hellickson. Washington is five games back of the Phillies for first place, and they have the talent to make a run for the division, but their starting rotation is becoming an area of concern. Besides Scherzer and a healthy Strasburg, the Nats don’t have anyone they can trust in a postseason outing; they need to add a veteran arm.

Potential Targets: Chris Archer, Jordan Zimmermann, J. A. Happ

Milwaukee Brewers: Top-Of-The-Rotation-Starter

The Milwaukee Brewers are hungry to win the National League Central, but even if they do, they don’t have a bonafide ace, so to speak, in their rotation. And while there may not be such an arm available on the trade market, the Brewers must, at the very least, deepen their rotation. Luckily for the Brewers, they have arguably the best bullpen in the game and a lineup that is firing on all cylinders to make up for their rotation’s mediocrity. Milwaukee cannot afford to collapse for a second consecutive season. Acquiring a respectable starter helps them avoid that abyss and improves their chances in potential October play.

Potential Targets: Cole Hamels, Chris Archer, Steven Matz

Chicago Cubs: Flex Pitcher

The Chicago Cubs don’t have the best roster in baseball, but they don’t necessarily have a glaring weakness. At the same time, if there’s one area of concern for manager Joe Maddon and friends, it’s Yu Darvish — who owns a 4.95 ERA. The right-hander has struggled to stay healthy, been shaky in the starts he’s made, and given his current status, the Cubs could feel uncomfortable starting him in a playoff game. They already have one of the game’s best rotations, but it would pay dividends for president Theo Epstein to acquire a flex pitcher who can spot start and serve as a long reliever.

Potential Targets: Zack Wheeler, Craig Stammen, Matt Harvey

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St. Louis Cardinals: Fourth Outfielder

The St. Louis Cardinals have been one of the more streaky teams in baseball this season, but nevertheless, they are in the Wild Card mix. And to bolster their chances of making a playoff push, they need a fourth outfielder. Dexter Fowler has been hitting beneath .200 for the majority of the year, Tommy Pham has cooled off at the plate, and the Cardinals went into Sunday afternoon 20th in runs scored (382). They have some proven bats, but the Cardinals offense and outfield production will need improvement if they aspire to make the National League pennant race more competitive.

Potential Targets: Avisail Garcia, Carlos Gomez, Adam Duvall

Arizona Diamondbacks: Middle Infielder

The Arizona Diamondbacks starting rotation, when at full strength, is one of the best in the game with Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin, Zack Godley, and Robbie Ray. Plus, their bullpen is amongst baseball’s elite. However, the D-Backs went into Sunday afternoon 28th in batting average (.232) and aren’t getting an overwhelming amount of production at the plate from middle infielders Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte. The D-Backs are currently in first place in the National League West, but if they stand pat, the competition around them could grow tighter, and they could be playing in the NL Wild Card game for a second consecutive season — which they’d like to avoid.

Potential Targets: Whit Merrifield, Elvis Andrus, Scooter Gennett

Los Angeles Dodgers: Second Baseman

The Los Angeles Dodgers are playing like the team baseball has become accustomed to in recent memory. Their rotation is one of the best in the game with Clayton Kershaw now healthy, and their lineup is made up of proven commodities. But the Dodgers continue to receive below-average production at the plate from their middle infielders. Logan Forsythe is hitting just .202, and while he is a power threat, Enrique Hernandez is also not hitting for average. The Dodgers are getting back on track, but they need a middle infield upgrade — at second, in particular.

Potential Targets: Whit Merrifield, Starlin Castro, Scooter Gennett 

Colorado Rockies: Starting Pitching

Coors Field is the last place any pitcher wants to take the hill, but the Colorado Rockies need to stop having a defeated attitude when it comes to adding starting pitching. They have one of the most feared offenses in the game, headlined by Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and DJ LeMahieu. Jon Gray was recently sent down to Triple-A, and the Rockies went into Sunday afternoon 26th in team ERA (4.77). The NL is no sure thing this year, and Colorado is by no means out of the playoff picture, but if they don’t address their starting rotation at the deadline, their playoff chances will diminish.

Potential Targets: Chris Archer, Matt Harvey, Nathan Eovaldi

San Francisco Giants: Fourth Outfielder

The San Francisco Giants have some proven commodities in their outfield such as Andrew McCutchen and Hunter Pence, but they need another body. Outside of Gorkys Hernandez, the Giants outfield has been underwhelming at the plate. And with little to no room to upgrade in their infield, and one of the better rotations in the game — when healthy — the Giants are limited in what they can do. But what they can do is add depth to their outfield.

Potential Targets: Avisail Garcia, Carlos Gomez, Adam Duvall

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