Trades are bound to happen soon, though, as standings in both the American League and National League are as tight as can be. Below, I will be discussing possible trade scenarios for all the teams in Major League Baseball that would be making the playoffs if the season were to end today.
AL East Champ: New York Yankees
The Yankees are always making headlines during trade season, and 2015 seems like a logical year for the Yankees to make some moves. The AL East is truly up for grabs, as not one team has emerged from the pack yet. Many are shocked that the Yankees are in first place, but it could not hold for long if they are unable to make some major upgrades to their roster over the next few weeks. Pitching is always a question mark for the Yankees. Usually, it’s the bullpen, but the Yankees have one of the most formidable 8th-9th inning combo relievers in Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. Instead, I expect the Yankees to look for an upgrade or two in their starting rotation. Outside of Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, along with Nathan Eovaldi, the Yankees lack consistency in their rotation, along with few pitchers with postseason experience. Additionally, the Yankees infield faces many question marks. Outside of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, who’s been mainly relegated to DH duty all season long, the Yankees have received very little offensive production from their infield, particularly middle infielders. The second base position has lacked manpower ever since the Yankees lost Robinson Cano to free agency a couple offseasons ago, and the Yankees will never be able to replace Derek Jeter at shortstop.
Possible trade targets: SP Johnny Cueto, SP Scott Kazmir, SP Jeff Samardzija, 2B Ben Zobrist
AL Central Champ: Kansas City Royals
The Royals are my mid-season pick to win the World Series, but they could still use many upgrades to their already strong roster. This past week, they lost All-Star outfielder Alex Gordon for two months due to a groin strain. With the absence of Gordon’s bat, the Royals could really use another outfielder, and especially an outfielder that can hit for power. Gordon plays left field, but the Royals could also look to obtain a bat that can play right field, since they’re getting very limited production from Alex Rios. The Royals will also be on a prowl for pitching, and particularly a pitcher with ace potential. After losing James Shields to free agency this past offseason, the Royals have spent all season long with a rotation filled with MLB journeymen, such as Chris Young, Edinson Volquez, and Jeremy Guthrie. While Young and Volquez have put up solid seasons, youngsters Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy have struggled. I expect the Royals to add at least one starting pitcher, and perhaps two.
Possible Trade Targets: SP Cole Hamels, SP Johnny Cueto, SP Scott Kazmir, IF/OF Ben Zobrist, OF Gerardo Parra
AL West Champ: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels will certainly be looking to add another bat toward the end of the month, as their lineup faces many question marks throughout the rest of the season. Outside of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Kole Calhoun, the Angels have not been getting a lot of production out of their lineup. They could look to add another outfielder or a designated hitter to fill a hole in the middle of their order. Additionally, the Angels may look for an upgrade to their bullpen, specifically options for the middle innings. The rotation has been fine, to date, and Jered Weaver and Matt Shoemaker should only improve as the season progresses. They could still be on the lookout for one more starting pitcher, especially since starting pitching will be crucial as they aim to dismantle the Astros from the top spot in the division.
Possible Trade Targets: SP Clay Buchholz, 1B/DH Adam Lind, OF Gerardo Parra, OF Ben Revere, OF Josh Reddick, IF/OF Ben Zobrist
AL Wild Card #1: Houston Astros
The Houston Astros have been, perhaps, Major League Baseball’s most surprising team in the first half of the season. While they lead the AL West, the Astros are more intent on building their roster for the future, and not for the present. With that being said, it seems highly unlikely that the Astros would trade any of their prized prospects for a short-term rental. However, if the price is right, I’d expect the Astros to make some appropriate upgrades. The Astros have one of the most underrated bullpens in all of baseball, as they have gotten tremendous production this season out of veterans Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson, along with Will Harris. Their starting pitching has been concerning. Dallas Keuchel is putting together a Cy Young-caliber season, and rookie Lance McCullers has impressed in his first 10 big league starts, but there is still some room for improvement. The Astros could also look to add a power bat to their lineup, especially after losing outfielder George Springer due to injury for an extended period of time.
Possible Trade Targets: SP Cole Hamels, SP Scott Kazmir, SP Ian Kennedy, SP Dan Haren, SP Mike Leake
AL Wild Card #2: Minnesota Twins
Outside of the Astros, the Twins may be the most surprising team in all of Major Baseball, as manager Paul Molitor has really started to utilize the abundance of the Twins farm system. Top prospect Byron Buxton was promoted a few weeks ago, but has since hit the disabled list. Another top prospect, third baseman Miguel Sano, has also now reached the Big Leagues, and he has been far from disappointing, adding major power to a lineup in drastic need of it. The Twins have been rumored over the past few weeks to be interested in former Twin Carlos Gomez. Gomez could fill in at center field this season while Buxton gets his first taste of the big leagues, and then move to a corner spot in 2016. However, this seems like a longshot. Instead, I expect the Twins to look for upgrades both in their starting rotation and their bullpen. The Twins just got offseason signee Ervin Santana back from suspension, so he’ll be an added bonus to their rotation. The bullpen, however, has really struggled outside of closer Glen Perkins, Blaine Boyer, and Ryan Pressly. I expect the Twins to be aggressive in acquiring late inning reliever options.
Possible Trade Targets: CF Carlos Gomez, RP Joaquin Benoit, RP Steve Cishek, RP Jonathan Papelbon, RP Neal Cotts, RP Tyler Clippard
NL East Champ: Washington Nationals
The Nationals have been led all season long by their starting rotation, consisting of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann. Without their rotation, the Nationals would be toward the bottom of their division. Pitching wins championships, and that’s what the Nationals are banking on. However, you must be able to score runs to keep your team in games. To begin the season, the Nationals’ lineup looked great on paper. However, injuries have really taken a toll this season, as they’ve seen Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, and Denard Span all miss varying periods of time due to injury. As a result, I am expecting the Nationals to add a minimum of one or two bats, especially players that are extremely versatile. Ben Zobrist, who has the ability to play both infield and outfielder, is one player that would be a perfect fit in D.C. The Nationals could also be on the lookout for one more power arm for the back end of their bullpen.
Possible Trade Targets: IF/OF Ben Zobrist, 1B/OF Michael Morse, 1B Adam Lind, OF Gerardo Parra, IF Aaron Hill, RP Tyler Clippard, RP Aroldis Chapman
NL Central Champ: St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals find a way to get it done every single year, and it usually involves at least one or two trades in July and August. In 2014, they acquired both John Lackey and Justin Masterson to boost their starting rotation. This season, I expect the Cardinals to be very active as well, but this time, they could focus more on offense. The loss of first baseman Matt Adams has really taken its toll in the middle of the Cardinals order. They’ve tried Mark Reynolds, Xavier Scruggs, and Dan Johnson, but they’re in clear need of an upgrade. The Cardinals are also without Matt Holiday for an extended period of time, as well. If the Cardinals were to set their focus on pitching, I expect them to target middle and late inning bullpen arms. Their starting rotation seems set with Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, and Lackey.
Possible Trade Targets: 1B Ryan Howard, 1B Adam Lind, 1B Adam LaRoche, 1B Justin Morneau
NL West Champ: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are another team that seem to make a flurry of trades every July, since they’re always in the running for a championship year in and year out. This season, the focus will be on pitching. Outside of their aces, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the Dodgers lack reliable starting pitching to make a deep run into October. Brandon McCarthy went down early in the season with an elbow injury, which has led to the Dodgers trying out Brett Anderson, Mike Bolsinger, Carlos Frias, Scott Baker, and Brandon Beachy. The Dodgers should be in the market for two middle-of-the rotation, veteran pitchers. Additionally, the Dodgers could be in the market for another hitter. While it appears as if the Dodgers are set in the outfield, Yasiel Puig has struggled, Joc Pederson is only a rookie, and they are rotating players in left field, such as Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke, Alex Guerrero, and Kike Hernandez. They could be looking for a power bat in their lineup to complement Adrian Gonzalez and Puig.
Possible Trade Targets: SP Cole Hamels, SP Johnny Cueto, SP Jeff Samardzija, SP Scott Kazmir, SP Dan Haren, SP Hisashi Iwakuma, OF Gerardo Parra
NL Wild Card #1: Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates, yet again, are putting together a strong season behind their young, talented roster. Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Neil Walker are not disappointing at the plate, and Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett, and Francisco Liriano are anchoring a very strong rotation. The Pirates do have some question marks, however. Josh Harrison, their leadoff hitter and frequent third baseman, second baseman, and outfielder, is out up to two months due to injury. The Pirates may be interested in adding a top-of-the-order type of hitter. Jung Ho Kang will be pressed into full-time duty at third base, now, which will leave the Pirates in need of more bench production. They could look at for a right-handed platoon at first base to spell Pedro Alvarez against left-handed pitching. They will also look into adding another starter, as their rotation will need to be at full health in August and September when stacking up against the strong starting rotations throughout the NL Central division.
Possible Trade Targets: OF Ben Revere, OF Gerardo Parra, IF/OF Ben Zobrist, OF Jeff Francoeur, 1B/OF Michael Morse, 3B/1B Chris Johnson, SP Dan Haren, SP Clay Buchholz
Like the Astros, the Cubs are built for the future, so I do not expect them to trade key prospects for short-term rental pieces. The Cubs lineup has been anchored by youngsters all season long, such as 1B Anthony Rizzo, 3B Kris Bryant, and OF Jorge Soler. They have no shortage of offense, both in the short term and long-term. Instead, I expect the focus to be on pitching upgrades. Thus far, Jon Lester’s Cubs career has been far from stellar. Both Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel have been putting together fine seasons, but they could really use one more starting pitcher if they are serious about making a run into postseason play. In regards to the bullpen, mid-season free agent signee Rafael Soriano should fortify their late inning relief corps, but they could still figure to add another middle-inning option.
Possible Trade Targets: SP Johnny Cueto, SP James Shields, SP Jonathan Niese, RP Jonathan Papelbon