It’s just under two weeks until the Trade Deadline (note the absence of that old “non-waiver” descriptor), and virtually the entire National League is in position at least to dream about a playoff bid.
That makes for an interesting Deadline, especially in the absence of August trades. The busy standings mix, combined with the change to a single, July 31 Deadline, have added uncertainty for most teams even in the second half of July.
Here’s a look at where each of the five teams in the NL East stand as we approach the Deadline.
Braves: Full buy
Atlanta knows what it has: a ferocious offense, a ton of young pitching talent, questions in the bullpen and the back of the rotation … and a 6 1/2-game lead in the division. That’s as clear a buyer as you’ll be able to find.
The question is, what to buy exactly? Atlanta has been mentioned with most of the top names on the starting pitching market, including Madison Bumgarner and Marcus Stroman. And that’s certainly a viable option, especially if such a move would allow the Braves to move a starter, such as Mike Foltynewicz, to the bullpen.
Miami no longer has any big pieces that are likely to be dealt. Caleb Smith and Pablo López would be among the more attractive starters on the market if they were made available (assuming Lopez’s good health, which is no sure thing), but that seems unlikely. Beyond them, it’s more spare parts than central pieces.
Still, there are players of potential interest. Sergio Romo will almost certainly draw attention. Neil Walker has hit like Neil Walker and could be an appealing bench bat for plenty of teams. Curtis Granderson and Starlin Castro are having rough seasons but might be tactical upgrades for the right team’s bench.
Mets: Sell, but don’t tear it down
The Mets’ situation has gotten more complicated in a couple of ways in recent days. For one thing, they’ve won four straight to bring themselves to the fringes of contention. Still, they’re far enough out that they’re likely sellers. The bigger issue is Zack Wheeler’s trip to the injured list.
Wheeler is the Mets’ most attractive trade chip that they’re willing to move. If they were to listen on someone like Noah Syndergaard, it could be a game-changer, but they’ve given no indication that they’re interested in moving players who are signed or under team control beyond this year.
Phillies: Buy, but…
A month ago, the Phillies looked like a strong buy, the kind of team that would be in play for names like Bumgarner and Stroman. Now, maybe not so much.
Things have turned sour for Philadelphia in recent weeks, and it would be hard to justify giving up too much for a rental. However, the Phils still like their core, so if they could add a player who might be around for a while, that would be a different matter.
That’s where someone like, say, Robbie Ray comes in. MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reported that Ray intrigues the Phillies. The left-hander with overwhelming stuff is not eligible for free agency until after 2020, so he could help next year’s Phillies as well as ‘19.
A move like that, or a small move to shore up the bullpen, is most likely for the Phils.
Nationals: Buy, unless…
A year ago, the Nats reportedly seriously considered moving Bryce Harper before the Deadline, but such a move was nixed. They did part with some relievers. If they were to fall off drastically in the next 10 days, they might start thinking similarly -- move some fringe pieces and at least listen on Anthony Rendon.
But as of now, that looks unlikely. The surging Nationals have played themselves solidly into a Wild Card spot, and it’s not ridiculous to think they could at least put some pressure on Atlanta with a strong showing starting this weekend. Most likely, they’ll look to add relief help.
But if things turn south, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them change course and look to bolster what should be another strong core in 2020.