Time for the second piece in our trade deadlline primer, this time exploring the AL East.
42-26, second place, six games out of first, second wild card leader
The Orioles have been a huge surprise this season, and have already made a move, picking up Jim Thome from the Phillies to solidify a DH position that has lacked a consistent force at the position all year. With Thome in the fold, the Orioles can now play Chris Davis every day at first base and Wilson Betemit every day at third, leaving Mark Reynolds…positionless. Baltimore could look to move the ineffective Reynolds, who has a club option for next year that likely won't be picked up. The Orioles could use an outfielder to help Adam Jones in center. Right fielder Nick Markakis hasn't played since the end of May with a wrist injury, and the cast of characters Baltimore has been rolling out in the corners has been pretty awful. Baltimore's pitching staff has been better than expected, with Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, and Jake Arrieta (great peripherals despite a terrible ERA) holding strong at the top of the rotation, and the bullpen being in lockdown mode. The Orioles could use a back-end starter, because Tommy Hunter and his new replacement Dana Eveland are….not good.
Boston Red Sox
42-37, third place, 6.5 games out of first, 0.5 games out of the wild card
Boston's year started terribly, but they've rebounded quite well, and are now in full-on contention mode. The Red Sox don't need to do much at the deadline. They've already dealt Kevin Youkilis to make room for Will Middlebrooks to play every day at third base, and they're going to get a boost from the disabled list this month with Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury being activated. When those two come back, it'll allow guys like Daniel Nava and Ryan Sweeney to be part of a fantastic bench. You could make a case for the Red Sox needing an upgrade at short because of Mike Aviles's .285 OBP, but he's providing some pop and good defense, and it might be difficult to improve upon what Aviles is providing them this year. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Felix Doubront have been fine in the rotation, and Franklin Morales has been great since being thrust into a starting job. Daisuke Matsuzaka hasn't been bad, but the disabled Clay Buchholz has been. Boston's bullpen has been solid, and I don't think they're going to make a move aside from gaining injured players back from the DL.
New York Yankees
48-30, first place, six games up
The Yankees are rolling along just fine right now, but things might get ugly soon. Andy Pettitte is out with a broken ankle, and CC Sabathia is on the DL with a groin strain. Freddy Garcia will take Sabathia's turn in the rotation tonight, and Pettitte's replacement last week (Adam Warren) was terrible. If Sabathia will miss any significant amount of time or Garcia is terrible in his two starts prior to the break, the Yankees might need to go shopping for a starter. I think they would go for a lower scale starter like Jason Vargas or maybe even Jeremy Guthrie as opposed to Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke. New York's bullpen has survived (and perhaps, even thrived) without Mariano Rivera, and their offense has been humming along like a machine. The Yankees might stand pat at this year's deadline, which seems a little odd for them.
Tampa Bay Rays
41-38, fourth place, 7.5 games out of first place, 1.5 games out of the wild card
It's been a trying few weeks for the Rays, who have been scuffling without their star third baseman Evan Longoria. They've gotten nothing from DHs Hideki Matsui and Luke Scott, and need to upgrade there. They've also gotten nothing offensively from Jose Lobaton, Chris Gimenez, and Jose Molina behind the plate. It's not in the Rays style to sell, but they could at least shop soon-to-be free agent BJ Upton around to see if any team is interested, even if Upton is struggling this year. The Rays could also look to shop closer Fernando Rodney. They're the masters of the patchwork bullpen, and trading Rodney in the midst of his best year would be a total Rays move that could result in them getting something of value for a guy who was on the scrap heap this past winter. The Rays won't give up any young talent for an upgrade, but they could easy sell off some veteran pieces to add to their prospect stockpile.
Toronto Blue Jays
40-39, fifth place, 8.5 games out of first place, 2.5 games out of the wild card
Toronto needs starting pitching after losing both Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison to Tommy John surgery. They're also without their ace, Brandon Morrow, due to a strained oblique. Toronto's rotation is sloppy and patched up right now, and yet, the team is still above .500. This team isn't positioned to be blown up right now, but at the same time, they're going to need a substantial step up to contend this year. Veteran bullpen arms Francisco Cordero, Darren Oliver, Carlos Villanueva, and Jason Frasor could all be moved. GM Alex Anthopolous is smart enough to realize that solid relief arms could be of more use to other teams than his own, and he could get some nice pieces in return. Toronto's offense has been outstanding, and some pieces that can be moved include Edwin Encarnacion (free agent after this year), Kelly Johnson (ditto), and Yunel Escobar (affordable contract, but prospect Adeiny Hechavarria is waiting int he wings). Don't expect to see guys like Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, or Colby Rasmus go anywhere, though.