MLB Trade Deadline Primer: Buyers and Sellers

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The special day is finally upon us. With the MLB Trade Deadline fast approaching, some deals are already coming across the wires. As we find out which teams think they’ve got what it takes to win it all and which teams are phoning in the last few months with hopes of a better shot in the future, allow me to sort through the contenders and pretenders. Let’s take a look at the potential buyers and sellers on Monday.

Sellers

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We start with those who don’t quite have what it takes to contend for the World Series this year. Obviously, with only 10 teams out of 30 making the cut to play in October, we can expect about two-thirds of the league to look at deals to release some potential deadweight or wasted talent. Some easy picks to be sellers are those in the cellar.

Exhibit A: The Phillies. Just two days ago Philly sent their lone All-star Pat Neshek to Colorado in exchange for three Top 100 prospects. If that’s not a steal for a rental relief pitcher, I don’t know what is. Meanwhile, the Rockies’ biggest struggle has been their bullpen. So, if Neshek remains ‘rock solid’ in Colorado, that will be a huge boost as they fight for a WIld Card spot.

Exhibit B: The Giants. Ironically, despite owning the worst record in the MLB, there were questions as to whether or not the injury-laden Giants would be sellers, or if they’d hold on to what they have and hope for better luck next year. Again, two days ago, the Giants chose the former by shipping utility man Eduardo Nunez up to Boston. This is a priceless pick up for the Red Sox, as Nunez can finally fill the void at third base and then some. Furthermore, his contract leaves plenty of space to trade for some more pitching help. Now the question is, who else are the Giants willing to part with?

Here’s where it gets tricky. The Padres and Tigers are two more teams with little hope of success in the next few years. Yet, they possess some really nice late inning help in the form of Brad Hand and Justin Wilson respectively. With most contenders seeking relievers, the price on these left-handers is astronomical. While I definitely expect these guys to be moved, I’m really interested to see who the better negotiators are. Contenders tend to be desperate and over-buy here, so the Padres and Tigers can really position themselves for a run down the road (like the Phillies).

Then there are teams like the Cardinals who are sitting close to .500 with scores of talent. Without the glue to put it all together, they face a tough decision to part with some dispensable pending free agents. With a nice balance across the board of various skill levels, the Cardinals’ front office faces tough decisions on which prospect additions can continue to build chemistry in St. Louis and which would be detrimental in the long run.

Other teams with the toughest decisions this year are the Orioles, Rays, and Rangers. With the AL Wild Card pretty wide open, an easy choice would be to go for it and press your luck in the single elimination game. But that would be stupid. Why go all out just to play game 163 and either win and face the 1 seed, or lose and be behind the 8-ball for the next few years?

The Rangers are the most well-documented team in this predicament because of all of their veterans… specifically Yu Darvish. It’s definitely now or never in Texas, and unfortunately they have said that they are open to trade talks before the deadline on Monday. This is a smart move for the Rangers because they can’t afford to miss out on the opportunity to get something in return for their aging roster that can be much more well-suited on a contending team.

But who could these sellers talk with?

 

Buyers

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By my count, there are 12 buyers in the market this year… 6 contenders, 3 challengers, and 3 mistakes. The 6 contenders, for argument’s sake, are the division leaders, most of which need to shore up their pitching to go along with their hot bats. There are plenty of quality starting pitchers in the market like Sonny Gray, who has long-term contract control, and Yu Darvish who would be a rental. Either way, Gray and Darvish provide a significant boost to a team’s 2017 World Series hopes, and the Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, and Yankees are prime contenders to use their talents.

Speaking of the Yankees, while not a division leader, they are looked upon as having the best outside chance to compete deep into the postseason. With an enormous farm system full of top-rated prospects, as well as cap space, they can go out and grab whoever they want… and you better believe they will. With an embarrassment of riches at the plate, I except a starter or two to find a new home in New York. The Yankees will definitely be the team to make headlines on July 31st, but will it be enough to stretch late into October? I’m not so sure… worst case scenario, they’re a top contender in 2018.

So that leaves five buyers left…and only the Rockies and Dbacks have a right to be. If not for the Dodgers and Nationals, Colorado and Arizona would hold the best records in the National League. Unfortunately they’re trapped in the N.L. West with L.A., so a division title might be a stretch. Nonetheless, they have a lot of tools around them to potentially surprise the 1 seed. If it’s the Dodgers, they have the benefit of being very familiar with what L.A. can do, and if it’s the Nationals, well… D.C.’s bullpen might gift the victory to the Rockies or Dbacks. Long story short: buy, gather some momentum, and survive as long as possible.

That model doesn’t work for everybody. The Brewers, Royals, and Twins have shown their cards- and they made a huge mistake. While they’ve put together a surprise run at potentially sneaking into the playoffs, there is no way they can win a World Series with their current lineup. A slugger or ace is great and all but no one can be the difference between missing the playoffs and becoming World Champions. It’s always tough to come to the realization that one’s team can’t contend, but they need to be honest with themselves (like the Cardinals).

The best case scenario is that one of these teams squeaks into the playoffs, MAYBE wins the Wild Card game, and then gets swept by the best team in the league in the next round. What a great way to throw away your prospects on a veteran rental. I guess it’s too late to say now, but they should’ve recognized that there was a reason they are surprised to be in playoff contention. Regardless, soon they’ll realize there’s a large gap between playoff contention and World Series contention.

 

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