We’re about two weeks away from the trade deadline. Now that the waiver trade deadline is dead, we should see a flurry of activity through the end of July as teams gather reinforcements for their playoff runs or sell off their impending free agents.
For the most part, we know who will be buying and who will be selling, but there are a few teams who are caught in the middle. Maybe they still have a reasonable shot at the postseason but maybe they’ve been lucky to get this close. These teams will have to decide whether they can make a run now or if they should think about next year.
Before the season began, there was no team more assured of winning their division than Cleveland. The promise of a divisional title was so strong that Cleveland was considering trading Trevor Bauer or Corey Kluber because they’d be fine without them. Fast forward to July 17 and Cleveland has just a 13.6 percent chance of winning the AL Central.
Their chances of winning a Wild Card spot is still roughly a coin flip though. Since June 1, Cleveland is 25-11, and they’ve outscored their opponents 192-143. José Ramírez is finally starting to turn things around as he is hitting .292/.342/.528 over the last 30 days. Mike Clevinger has returned from the injured list, and Shane Bieber has done a fine job of anchoring the rotation. Oscar Mercado, Tyler Naquin, and Jordan Luplow have helped to salvage the wreckage of the outfield.
Things are looking up, but is it too little too late? If Cleveland buys at the deadline they still might not do much better than the second Wild Card. Is it worth it for them to forego the prospects they could get for Trevor Bauer and Brad Hand just for a shot at a one-game playoff? It’s just as likely they miss out on the playoffs altogether.
Before play on Wednesday, the Cardinals were just three games behind the Cubs for the NL Central and a game back of the Phillies for the second Wild Card. They’re well within striking distance of the playoffs. The problem is that there are more teams between them. The Brewers sit between them and the Cubs, and it’s easier to list the teams that aren’t within five games of the NL Wild Card (the Mets and Marlins).
The Cardinals find themselves without Marcell Ozuna or Matt Carpenter at the moment, and the rest of their outfield has been underwhelming. They haven’t done anything thus far to separate themselves from the pack, and they are currently projected for an 82-80 finish.
There have been reports that the Cardinals are open to dealing away Carlos Martinez or some of their young outfielders including Lane Thomas or Tyler O’Neill. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re punting the 2019 season. They could make a need-for-need style trade and get some major league ready players in return.
The Phillies have linked some of the best starting pitchers on the trade market including Robbie Ray, Zack Greinke, Marcus Stroman, and *deep sigh* Madison Bumgarner. They’re currently in the second Wild Card spot, but how much longer can they hold on?
It’s not so much a question of whether the Phillies will buy or sell. It’s if they will buy or stand pat. They don’t have to give back the wins they’ve gotten so far, but they’ll have to take a realistic look at what they expect to do over the rest of the year.
Even after adding Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, and Andrew McCutchen, the Phillies haven’t played well this season. Their base runs record puts them 11 games under .500 at 42-53. They’ll need more than a starter to fix their pitching staff. Their whole squad ranks 28th in the majors in fWAR.
They’ve had some bad luck in terms of injury. Andrew McCutchen is out for the year with a torn ACL. He was replaced with Jay Bruce, but Bruce just went on the injured list with an oblique strain. On the other side of the ball, Jake Arrieta is pitching through bone spurs and Seranthony Dominguez and Pat Neshek are on the shelf.
Trading for someone like Stroman or Ray who are still under control through 2020 could make sense. One of those pitchers could help them hang on for the rest of the year while sticking around for next season. Going after a rental seems like a bad idea, though.