Every year teams face decisions on how to finish out their season. Do they go all in or cash in their chips and start over?
The longest day of the year has come and gone. Officially, we have now entered the dog days of summer. It won’t be long before teams begin making decisions based on current standings and future hopes. From now to August 2nd, several teams will see their immediate future secure their playoff run. Still others will bid farewell to veterans and pending free agents in hopes of building towards the future. Yes, trade season is here and chaos is about to ensue. Before the chaos starts, here is a short list of three teams that should be buying and three that should be selling as the deadline approaches.
Buy: San Francisco – Bullpen Help Needed
The San Francisco Giant’s fortunes of 2021 haven’t parlayed into another surprise run to the top of the NL West. Sitting just outside the playoff window puts the Giants in a great spot to be buyers come the trade deadline. Focusing on acquiring a bullpen arm or two should be at the top of the wish list. Claiming they have a top 10 bullpen ERA is true, but it is also misleading. A 4.11 bullpen ERA isn’t horrible until you dig deeper. Sure, giving up the 4th fewest walks is great; giving up the 7th most HRs in relief of your starters isn’t great. Neither is giving up the most runs by playoff-contending teams. The only teams that have given up more runs out of the bullpen are teams far removed from playoff contention. Getting additional relief assistance could put the Giants in the driver’s seat for one of the three Wild Card positions.
Buy: Cleveland Guardians – Power Surge
It wasn’t long ago when the Cleveland Guardians made the playoffs. After a mediocre 2021 season in what appeared to be a move towards youth, here we are talking playoffs again. This team looks to take advantage of the additional playoff spot, but why stop at a wild card birth? A little push before the trade deadline could see them surpass the Minnesota Twins for the top spot in the AL Central. An AL top 10 team in batting average, runs, RBI and hits seems like a recipe for success offensively. That success especially helps when their pitching staff is top 10 in ERA and giving up the 4th fewest runs in the AL. However, acquiring a big hitter would help fuel the offense into a top 5 team. Just two teams have hit fewer home runs than the Guardians. All this offense needs is a veteran with a little more power as Jose Ramirez can’t be the only big hitter on the team.
Buy: Baltimore Orioles – Not Stranger Than Fiction, Reality
In a world where the Baltimore Orioles play in perhaps the toughest division in baseball, adding them to the list of teams hoping to make the playoffs seems laughable. But we are living in some very strange times, so why not add them here. Sure, they have a less than 1% chance of making the playoffs (per FanGraphs). Despite being one of the worst hitting teams in the AL (by AVG), they have collected almost as many hits as the New York Yankees. With Ryan Mountcastle and Trey Mancini providing offensive leadership, this isn’t a horrible recommendation. Where things fall apart for the Orioles is their starting pitching. Their starters have the 2nd highest ERA while giving up the 2nd most runs in the AL. Jordan Lyles, Kyle Bradish, and Bruce Zimmerman won’t get you to the playoffs. Maybe that random deal for a low-cost aging veteran needing a change of scenery could be enough to make this fantasy dream a reality.
The Baltimore Orioles haven't lost a series since May 5th (21-0-3) pic.twitter.com/BQPavATfqo
— Statfax (@statfax) June 27, 2022
Sell: Detroit Tigers – Where Hope Once Lived
Remember when A.J.Hinch was supposed to move the Detroit Tigers past mediocre and closer to the top of the AL Central? After a 3rd place finish in 2021, at just 4 games under .500, things looked good. When Al Avila added Javier Baez, things looked really good. Akil Baddoo and Derek Hill were to be the future of the Tigers arriving now. However, Hill and Baddoo are both back in Toledo. Baez can’t buy a hit yet leads the team with 7 HRs. The lone bright spot at the plate has been the always reliable Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera’s slash line of .296/.335/.367 is slightly below his career average but is the best on the team. All this to say, it’s time to blow up the offense and possibly part with veterans nearing the end of their contracts. Guys like Michael Pineda, Jeimer Candelario, or even the lifelong Tiger, Cabrera, could well be tradable options. Something needs to give, especially if they want to avoid the 100 loss mark in 2023.
Sell: Chicago Cubs – Goodbye Wrigley…Again
Just one year after the Chicago Cubs jettisoned Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez away from Wrigley, it seems impossible to believe they’d be sellers again. Yet, here we are where another trade deadline seems impossible to avoid more farewells. The only pitcher on the staff that has been mostly reliable has been swing pitcher Keegan Thompson. In 16 games (8 starts) he holds a 3.10 ERA while striking out 55 hitters in his 61 innings of work – good for 8K per 9 innings. Marcus Stroman was supposed to be a huge boost to the team, but even he has struggled when not on the IL where he resides. The team’s offense isn’t spectacular while being just good enough to be average. Ian Happ rarely takes a day off and leads the team with 68 hits and 16 doubles. Nico Hoerner hasn’t been flashy, but he has been consistent as he has the best AVG on the team at .295.
None of this matters when they are sitting in 4th place in the division with 2 fewer losses than the Reds. Look for more veterans to be sent to contenders. Will the Cubs finally move on from Jason Heyward? Could it be possible to see Kyle Hendricks and Wade Miley wearing new uniforms? Dare we see the club avoid arbitration and deal the best catcher in Chicago, Willson Contreras? Whatever the Cubs do, they need to find a way to return to the playoffs in 2023 and that improvement should start now.
Sell: Arizona Diamondbacks – How To Win the West – Soon
Winning the NL West for a team that has had just 3 winning seasons since 2010 seems impossible. Of those three seasons, just once did they actually win the division (2011). The core of the Arizona Diamondbacks is fairly young yet scattered with several veterans. Yet, in order to continue striving to move back into playoff contention, there should be activity come August 2nd.
Teams looking to solidify their playoff run should look at prying Mark Melancon or Ian Kennedy away from the desert sun. Neither of these guys are flashy names and can be obtained without teams mortgaging their futures. Melancon is the reigning saves leader in all of baseball. Kennedy is the type of pitcher that can start or finish a game. Both are well-traveled and versed in changing teams in the middle of the season. Most importantly for the Diamondbacks is the return while avoiding losing either of them with nothing in return compensation. Kennedy will be a free agent at the end of the year and Melancon at the end of 2023 (if options not exercised). Sure there are other players that will draw interest from other teams, but these two guys seem to be the logical fit for the D-Backs to move and get slightly younger.
We'll take it? All tied up! pic.twitter.com/0ycP56zETX
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) June 29, 2022