As players look to get back in the groove coming out of the MLB All-Star break, executives from every team in the Majors will be working the phones to try to get their roster just right prior to the July 31 Trade Deadline.
In the American League East, this means three teams (Yankees, Rays and Red Sox) will be doing everything they can to pave the way for a deep October run. And it leaves two (Blue Jays and Orioles) that need to do what is best for the future.
It makes for some interesting scenarios. Whether they’re focusing on today or tomorrow, all five teams have one key player to watch over the next couple of weeks.
Player to watch: Marcus Stroman
The 28-year-old right-hander has been the most consistent member of Toronto’s rotation this season and was named the club’s lone All-Star after a first half that saw him post a 3.18 ERA over 18 starts and 104 2/3 innings with 81 strikeouts. Stroman skipped his last start before the break as he works through a left shoulder and pectoral cramp, but he and the club insist it’s nothing to worry about. The homegrown product of the Blue Jays has been with the organization since he was picked in the 2012 MLB Draft out of Duke University, but he is now in a situation where he could end up in new surroundings, with Toronto gaining a chip in return that could help it in the future.
“Marcus has put himself in an incredible position, throughout his career, not just over the last four months,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. “He has been durable, he has performed at an exceptionally high rate, he’s been one of the better pitchers in baseball over the last three years and because of that, he’s in a great position for his future.”
Player to watch: Trey Mancini
The resurrection of Mancini has been a rare bright spot in another difficult season for the Orioles. More important, the right-handed hitter has turned himself into an attractive piece for contenders. Mancini is hitting for average (.291) and production (17 homers, .868 OPS). He also has some versatility on defense, as he can be plugged in at first base or in the outfield. Mancini isn’t eligible for free agency until 2023, which means the O’s won’t feel compelled to deal him unless they get the right offer. Baltimore has some leverage here, so it will only move Mancini in a deal that lands a legitimate prospect or two.
Player to watch: Chaz Roe
With the Rays possibly exploring the trade market for bullpen help, the bulk of the attention now falls on Roe and what he’ll be able to show the rest of the month. Powered by his signature slider, Roe hasn’t had nearly the same amount of success that he did a year ago, where he posted a 3.58 ERA in 61 appearances. This season, Roe has a 5.27 ERA in 39 appearances, and his lack of control has been evident throughout the season.
Roe doesn’t have any options left, so the Rays will continue to be patient with the right-hander. But if the struggles continue for Roe, he could end up being the odd man out if the Rays add one or two bullpen arms.
Player to watch: Nathan Eovaldi
The loss of Eovaldi since April 18 has had a big impact on the Red Sox, who have wrestled with depth issues in both the rotation and the bullpen. Due to Eovaldi’s bout with right biceps tendinitis that prolonged his return from right elbow surgery, Boston has made the decision to use the flamethrower in the bullpen when he comes back within the next week or so. All eyes will be on Eovaldi, and how well he can adapt to life as a reliever. Eovaldi was obviously magnificent in that role last October in the Red Sox’s championship run, but doing it day after day and week after week in the regular season is a different calling.
If Eovaldi doesn’t look comfortable as a reliever, the Sox might have to move him back into the rotation, which could affect the moves president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski makes in the days leading up to the Deadline. The hope is that Eovaldi can emerge as the closer Boston so desperately needs coming down the stretch.
Player to watch: Luis Severino
The fact that the Yankees have the best record in the AL (57-31) without their projected staff ace having thrown a single pitch is impressive. However, life without the 19-game winner from last season might not be sustainable for very much longer. Within the next week or so, Severino is expected to start a throwing program. The Yanks will be watching closely, because their championship hopes look far better with Severino as a contributor down the stretch. But no matter what Severino does, you can expect that general manager Brian Cashman will be on the hunt for a starting pitcher.