AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Get a top-shelf starter
Considering the offensive firepower on this team, and how invested the organization is in the 2021 season, making the playoffs would feel like a must. But they need more starting pitching. Every team wants that, of course. But the Blue Jays need it more than anyone.
Orioles: Give fans something to grow on for 2022
The Orioles have had some nice moments this year, but next year will be Year Four of the rebuild. Eventually, fans want to see concrete progress. Maybe it’s time to give them some. For example, top prospect Adley Rutschman has a .921 OPS at Double-A with more walks than strikeouts. A glimpse of him in Baltimore would be nice.
Rays: Another run up the flagpole
The Rays surprised a lot of people with their World Series run last year, though it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. Another shot at the big prize would prove once and for all, to all the skeptical, that it was no fluke.
Red Sox: The healthy return of Chris Sale
The Red Sox have been one of the happiest surprises of this season, and they’ve done it without their ace. If Sale can come back healthy, look out.
Yankees: The lineup to wake up
Sure, there have been injuries, but come on: In what universe did anyone imagine the Yankees' lineup ever hitting like this? They are 12th in the AL in runs scored! They better figure it out before heads start rolling. (Assuming these are still the Yankees, where heads once rolled.)
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Cleveland: To make the AL Central a race
A recent Indians losing skid has put the White Sox in a possible position of running away with the division. Cleveland may be the only possible contender left.
Royals: To show there’s reason to stick with this group
You had to love the Royals’ strategy this offseason of legitimately going for it, bringing in help, paying their stars. It just hasn’t worked. So if this doesn’t work … what do they do next year?
Tigers: Continue to set the stage
Don’t look now, but the Tigers have been a downright halfway decent team for a month or so. This is the next step for a team’s long-term contention window: Set up a ramp for, and toward, 2022. The Tigers are just getting warmed up.
Twins: Get the bad taste out of their mouths
The first half of the season was a nightmare for the Twins in nearly every possible way. This is still a talented team, and will be in 2022. But you’ve got to give yourself something to build on … a shrewd trade or two at the Deadline might help.
White Sox: Get everybody healthy
The White Sox have been missing players all year, and they still look like they might cruise to the division title. They’ll need all hands on deck in the playoffs, including Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert, who have been out for most (or all) of the season.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Get Mike Trout back and see what happens
The Angels, improbably, are 5 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race and hanging around without their star. (Well, their other star.) Can they take off when Trout returns? Can he pitch?
A’s: Get Trevor Story
The fit is so obvious it’s a wonder it hasn’t happened yet. It’s probably time to get moving, with the Astros starting to pull away.
Astros: Erase the memory of last year
It might feel strange to say that the Astros need to erase the memory of a season in which they went to the AL Championship Series, but they did have a losing record and very much had a target on their backs in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal. That target isn’t necessarily going away, but this season definitely has a different feel. Houston is very much not going to have a losing record in 2021. Maybe they can finish like the old Astros again.
Mariners: Don’t lose sight of the prize
The over-achievement this year can be a sign of a positive culture, one they’ll want to hang onto when more and more young players make the big club. Keep focused on that. (And getting Jarred Kelenic going at the Major League level wouldn’t hurt either.)
Rangers: Trade whatever is not nailed down
A rebuild seems a bit overdue in Arlington: There is plenty here to fill the coffers moving forward, including Kyle Gibson and Joey Gallo.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Just try to make it the rest of the way still standing
Every team has been pummeled with injuries this year, but safe to say, the Braves didn’t expect to have to try to make a run without Ronald Acuña Jr. They’re a little closer to first in the division than you might think (four games behind the Mets), but winning it is going to be a tall order without Acuña and Mike Soroka, who is also out for the year.
Marlins: Keep building
The Marlins have been smart not to overreact to last year’s success, and there are signs that this is a better team than their record, which is being held back by a startling 9-20 record in one-run games, despite an above-average bullpen in terms of ERA. This is the time for smart, tactical, long-term moves.
Mets: Keep deGrom healthy
Easier said than done, but Jacob deGrom is the best thing going on the mound right now, and the center of every one of the Mets’ hopes and dreams.
Nationals: Get Juan Soto going
The Nats got hot in June to keep hanging around, but if they’re going to make another move, having the next Ted Williams start hitting like the next Ted Williams again would be great.
Phillies: Go on a hot streak
Sure, I make it sound so easy, but the Phillies are the sort of team with talent that, if they could just put it all together for a couple of weeks, could start playing like the playoff team they so desperately want to be.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Keep tinkering at the edges
The Brewers, more than any other team in their division, look deeply invested in winning the division this year, making every move they can to shore up any weaknesses. A right-handed-hitting corner-infield guy or outfielder could make a big difference here.
Cardinals: Make definitive decisions on that lineup
The Cardinals’ offense has struggled for three consecutive seasons, for a variety of reasons, but no matter what happens this year, the Redbirds need to figure out if hitters like Paul DeJong, Edmundo Sosa, Harrison Bader, Matt Carpenter and Tommy Edman are a part of this team’s future.
Cubs: Stop pretending and start shipping out
You can understand why the solid May would have Cubs fans wanting to make one last run, but the awful June may have ended that once and for all. The Cubs could absolutely dominate the Trade Deadline if they make Craig Kimbrel and Kris Bryant available, as has been rumored.
Pirates: Take advantage of hot players’ career years
Adam Frazier and Bryan Reynolds -- who both started the All-Star Game -- are obvious trade candidates, and playing well enough right now that they could fetch considerable returns.
Reds: Figure out the left side of the infield
The Reds have a lot of good things going right now, but they have an issue at short, and even tried Eugenio Suárez out there (it didn’t work). Kyle Farmer is not the solution for a playoff team. Can they figure this out, internally or otherwise, in time to make a run?
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Try to forget this year ever happened
Sorry, but seriously, what a nightmare of a first half.
Dodgers: Get Cody Bellinger going
We all know what he’s capable of: If he gets hot, he can carry a team that doesn’t necessarily need carrying. This .593 OPS is not going to cut it.
Giants: Get some depth
The Giants have pulled off quite the magic trick with all their older players, but eventually, older players are going to get hurt. They already are, actually: The Giants need fill-ins, and fast, if they’re going to keep up with those southern California teams.
Padres: Lengthen that rotation
The Padres tried to stack up on pitchers this year and … they still might not have enough pitchers. If they’re all-in for this year, and they obviously are, they’ll need another guy or two, especially with Yu Darvish now on the IL.
Rockies: Trade Trevor Story
Been the same story for about a year now, all told … he might be the name at this year’s Deadline.