(CBS Minnesota/CBS Local) — As summer heats up, so too does the MLB trade market. The official trade deadline is July 31. And in the next couple weeks, contenders will look to sure up rosters, while laggards try to offload expiring contracts and add assets. The goal, in either situation, is playoff contention, either this season or in seasons to come.
Playoff races will also be heating up, as the All-Star break fades in the rear-view mirror. Most division titles remain in play, and more than half the teams still have a theoretical shot.
The Baltimore Orioles find themselves among the few teams that decidedly do not have a shot. The Tampa Bay Rays threatened to add insult to injury, taking a combined perfect game into the ninth inning Sunday.
This week’s Baseball Report reveals some of the likely buyers and sellers at the upcoming trade deadline, highlights the various division races and breaks down the Rays’ almost-perfect game
MLB Trade Deadline Buyers and Sellers
Teams eyeing the playoffs are hoping to bolster lineups, with quality pitching in particular demand. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees, all division leaders, fall into the buyer category.
On the other hand, teams that have been fading since April are aiming to offload veterans in exchange for promising young players. The Miami Marlins, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants are sellers. And each team has talent it’s willing to part with for the right price.
Let’s look at the buyers first…
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have been baseball’s best team for much of the season. They control the National League West, with a 14.5-game lead on the Rockies as of Monday. And they just took two of three games from the Red Sox. Even with their stellar roster, they could use another arm in the bullpen.
Possible Targets: Ken Giles, Nick Anderson, Austin Brice
The Twins may be this season’s surprise team, with a 6.5-game lead over the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central. But are they really a legitimate contender? Better pitching could certainly improve their standing among the elites. And their farm system includes enough coveted talent to bolster their staff.
Possible Targets: Madison Bumgarner, Marcus Stroman, Ken Giles
New York Yankees
The Yankees have also surprised in the first half of the season. Decimated by injuries, the spring training favorite persevered with fill-ins who succeeded beyond all expectations. They still need starting pitching to make a World Series run, since the return of Luis Severino, now slated for August, won’t be enough.
Possible Targets: Madison Bumgarner, Marcus Stroman, Zack Wheeler, Matthew Boyd
What about the sellers?
The Marlins came into the 2019 season as the only National League East team not likely to contend. Fulfilling expectations, they’re 21.5 games back as of Monday, having lost eight of their last 10.
Possible Assets: Caleb Smith (pitcher), Trevor Richards (pitcher)
New York Mets
Season after season, the Mets find new and exciting ways to self-destruct. And now they have promising rookie Pete Alonso to somehow ruin in future seasons. New York’s other team, at 42-51, is technically still in the NL East hunt. But a 14.5-game margin is a lot to overcome down the stretch
Possible Assets: Zack Wheeler (pitcher), Jason Vargas (pitcher), Todd Frazier (third base)
San Francisco Giants
The Giants sit only six games under .500 in the National League West. They’ve won eight of their last 10 games, stretching back before the break. Yet they have among the worst records in the National League, with little hope of climbing into the wild card race.
Possible Assets: Madison Bumgarner (pitcher), Will Smith (pitcher)
Every division race, with the exception of the NL West, is still sort of close. And the National League Central is shaping up to be a barn-burner. Let’s take them in order…
With Yankees healing and looking to be active before the trade deadline, the AL East seems to be theirs to lose. The Rays have one of the Majors’ best pitching staffs, with a team ERA of 3.30 and a batting average against of just .223. They may not have enough hitting to catch the front-runners, however. The World Series champion Boston Red Sox continue to disappoint.
The Cleveland Indians were expected to cruise to another title in the dismal AL Central. But it hasn’t worked out that way, at least not yet. The surprising Twins continue to be among the best-hitting teams in baseball, leading the majors in home runs (171) and team average (.271). Can they hold their lead in what’s already a two-team race?
The Houston Astros lead the AL West, as predicted. The Oakland A’s lurk just six games back, though, and they tend to come on in the second half of the season. Even the Texas Rangers continue to stick around. This order will likely persist, with the Astros taking the division again and the A’s competing for a wild card spot.
The NL East could get interesting. While the Braves lead by a healthy seven games, they will face the second-place Nationals 14 times and the third-place Phillies 10 times before the end of the season. With the Nats surging, and the Phillies hanging around, this race is far from over.
The NL Central continues to be MLB’s closest race, with the entire division separated by only 6.5 games. The Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, the division’s top two teams, have two three-game series in the next few weeks, which could provide some clarity. Then again, the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds are all capable of making a run. So who knows?
The NL West belongs to the Dodgers, the best team in baseball. And the Diamondbacks and Rockies, both 14.5 games back, won’t catch them. They won’t even figure into the wild card conversation. The Dodgers, meanwhile, look destined for another World Series appearance in a National League ill-equipped to stop them.
Rays’ Almost-Perfect Game
Shutting out the Orioles is no great accomplishment this season. But the Tampa Bay Rays almost accomplished an MLB first: a combined perfect game. Ryne Stanek and Ryan Yarbrough threw eight perfect innings, getting outs on all 24 batters they faced. Stanek pitched the first two innings and Yarbrough the next six, before allowing two hits in the ninth. Oriole Hanser Alberto ruined the combined perfect game with his lead-off single in the ninth inning. The Orioles added two more hits and a run in the ninth, eventually losing 4-1, but saving themselves from further embarrassment.