Just over two weeks remain until MLB’s Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline, and a few contenders still have some glaring needs that can be addressed before a September playoff drive and October postseason run.
For some of those clubs, this is a second chance to make a deal that didn’t get done before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. For others, it’s an opportunity to add further depth or more help for problems that haven’t gone away.
It does need to be noted that we don’t know every player that’s been claimed on waivers, negating a possible deal or putting one in progress. We do know that the Phillies pulled pitcher Cole Hamels and outfielder Marlon Byrd off waivers after they were claimed, so neither of them will be involved in any waiver deadline trade.
With that disclaimer, here are six teams that still need some help before Aug. 31 and the players those clubs could pursue.
St. Louis Cardinals: Second or Third Baseman
The Cards were active before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, acquiring starting pitchers Justin Masterson and John Lackey. But the team’s real problem has been its struggling offense, which GM John Mozeliak hasn’t addressed.
St. Louis is collectively batting .251 with a .690 OPS. No one except Matt Adams has really stood out this season, but with Kolten Wong batting .251 and Matt Carpenter regressing in his second full season, second or third base are the best positions to add a bat.
The Mets’ Daniel Murphy and Ben Zobrist of the Rays would be ideal trade targets in what’s now a pretty thin market for infielders, and both are under club control for next season. The D-Backs’ Aaron Hill is having a rough season and is still owed $24 million through 2016, but that might him make less expensive in a deal. Murphy or Zobrist would be costly, but Mozeliak didn’t have to trade a top prospect for Masterson or Lackey, giving up expendable pieces in Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. He still has plenty of depth to work with.
Los Angeles Angels: Starting Pitcher
Angels GM Jerry Dipoto did a nice job shoring up his team’s bullpen before July 31, but didn’t strengthen the starting rotation. That might not have seemed like a pressing need two weeks ago. But with Tyler Skaggs needing Tommy John surgery, C.J. Wilson struggling and Garrett Richards possibly needing his workload monitored toward the end of the season, the Angels could use another starting pitcher.
Names like the Padres’ Ian Kennedy, Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee of the Mets and the Rockies’ Jorge De La Rosa are still available. Garrett Wilson mentioned a few more at Monkey With a Halo, such as the Phillies’ Kyle Kendrick, Jon Niese of the Mets and the Astros’ Scott Feldman.
The Angels don’t have many prospects to trade after the Huston Street deal and really have nothing to spare on the major league roster. But Dipoto does have a couple of pieces (C.J. Cron? Cam Bedrosian?) that could possibly yield a lower-tier starter, which is more in line with the Angels’ needs.
Detroit Tigers: Reliever
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. The Tigers have been in need of bullpen help going back to the 2012 postseason.
GM Dave Dombrowski appeared to have finally addressed that issue by getting Joakim Soria from the Rangers, but he’s now on the disabled list with an oblique injury. And those tend to have an indefinite recovery time. Joe Nathan has been unreliable all season and is now telling Detroit fans to do something private to themselves.
The Tigers signed Jim Johnson after the A’s designated him for assignment. But there’s a reason Oakland let him go, so how much can he really help? Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies and the Padres’ Joaquin Benoit were attached to Detroit in trade rumors before July 31, and both are still available. The Astros’ Chad Qualls and Neal Cotts of the Rangers are possibilities too. Dombrowski still has some notable prospects to trade, since he gave up two major leaguers (and a low-A prospect) to get David Price.
Kansas City Royals: Starting Pitcher
The Royals insist they won’t put Danny Duffy on an innings limit in his first full season following Tommy John surgery in 2012. But the left-hander is already at 115.2 innings, moving toward a possible 150- or 170-inning limit. With Duffy at the back-end of the K.C. rotation, his innings could be easier to manage by skipping a turn or two down the stretch.
Yordano Ventura has thrown 133 innings this season, and might have to be monitored as well. But the rookie can probably go to 180 or 200, since he threw 134.2 innings in the minors last year.
GM Dayton Moore made a “go for it” type of trade by adding Josh Willingham to the lineup. The rotation doesn’t need an arm as badly, but why not provide some insurance as the Royals pursue their first postseason bid since 1985?
Fewer options are available now, so a starting pitcher would be costly. Can Moore get one of those names without giving up a top prospect or major leaguer? That depends on whether or not he views getting more pitching as a necessity.
Toronto Blue Jays: Second or Third Baseman
It might already be too late for a trade to make a difference for the Blue Jays, as they’ve fallen 7.5 games behind the Orioles in the AL East and are three back in the wild-card race. Part of the reason for that slide could be GM Alex Anthopoulos’ failure to add starting pitching help or bring in a bat to help out at second or third base.
The pitching issue may have been taken care of with the call-up of Marcus Stroman, though Toronto really could use a middle-of-the-rotation arm and any of the starting pitchers listed above would be a good fit. Anthopoulos also has top minor league talent to exchange in a trade, unless he feels that none of the arms available are worth that price.
However, a far more pressing need is an infielder that provides an upgrade over Munenori Kawasaki (.635 OPS) at second or Juan Francisco (batting .221 overall, and .100 against left-handed pitching) at third base. Murphy or Hill could help at either position, while Zobrist would also be able to provide depth in the outfield. There’s still time to salvage a playoff run, if Anthopoulos makes the right move.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Shortstop
This might be a bit of a stretch, as Hanley Ramirez will probably return in September from an oblique injury. In the meantime, Miguel Rojas, Darwin Barney and Justin Turner can play capable defense at shortstop and perhaps provide just enough offense for a relatively strong Dodgers lineup.
But if there are concerns that Ramirez’s injury will linger and he’s not a sure thing to contribute in the postseason, what about taking a run at the Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins? Rollins has no-trade rights, so would have to approve a deal. But maybe the chance to play in California (though he’s a Northern California native) could sway him.
Rollins isn’t the hitter that Ramirez is, but can still hit for some power while bringing some additional speed to the lineup. He’ll also be under contract for next season with an option for 2015 that will trigger soon. That could give the Dodgers some insurance — and negotiating leverage — against Ramirez testing free agency after the season. If everyone comes back next year, then manager Don Mattingly has to do some juggling. But that’s a problem for 2015.