On this first day of June, at least 20 teams are either nicely positioned to make the playoffs or one hot streak away from being so. Optimism is a beautiful thing.In 2005, the Houston Astros' baseball operations staff was trying to convince then-owner Drayton McLane to let it reassemble a
On this first day of June, at least 20 teams are either nicely positioned to make the playoffs or one hot streak away from being so. Optimism is a beautiful thing.
In 2005, the Houston Astros' baseball operations staff was trying to convince then-owner Drayton McLane to let it reassemble a 15-30 team and start planning for the next season.
"Wait," McLane said. "Two months ago, you guys were telling me this team could win the World Series."
Well, uh, yeah, boss, but…
McLane told them that he believed in the team they'd assembled, and that he wasn't about to give up. They'd better not give up, either.
The Astros went 74-43 the rest of the way, got past the Braves and Cardinals in the National League playoffs and played in their first World Series, during which they were swept by the White Sox.
Examples like that give pause to every owner and general manager as they approach the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Baseball people will tell you that nothing is more difficult than scouting your own team, and that's what those in charge of a handful of teams are beginning the process of doing.
While there are large groups of teams at the top and the bottom of the standings with obvious answers, others are in a gray area.
Let's check in on five teams approaching difficult buy-or-sell decisions.
1. Rays (28-27)
Deficit: Ten games back in American League East, 5 1/2 games back of second AL Wild Card
Potential trade chips: Right-handed pitcher Chris Archer, catcher Wilson Ramos, designated hitter C.J. Cron
The Rays have had a great run since a 4-13 start, but in trading closer Alex Colome and outfielder Denard Span to the Mariners last week, they showed they're far from satisfied with their club -- and that they'll listen to anything, especially trades that add youth and more years of control. If the deal adds to the long-term talent base of the organization, the Rays will listen. Their phone lines are open. Give 'em a ring.
2. Pirates (29-27)
Deficit: 6 1/2 games back in National League Central, three games back of second NL Wild Card
Potential trade chips: Catcher Francisco Cervelli, left fielder Corey Dickerson, center fielder Starling Marte, closer Felipe Vazquez
General manager Neal Huntington will consider virtually anything, but he seems likely to stand pat. Not only has he gotten the Pirates back into contention this season, but the current club is already competitive and so young that the core could stay in place for at least another season. The Bucs have a surplus of young outfielders, and Cervelli is a year from free agency, but the prices won't be cheap.
3. Blue Jays (25-31)
Deficit: 13 1/2 games back in AL East, nine games back of second AL Wild Card
Potential trade chips: Third baseman Josh Donaldson, left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ, right-handed pitcher Marco Estrada, catcher Russell Martin
President & CEO Mark Shapiro kept the club together for a 2018 run, and so far, it hasn't worked out due to injuries, slumps, etc. Now it's time to clear room for the waves of Minor League talent on the way. Regardless of how this season plays out, the Blue Jays are going to be one of baseball's most interesting teams by Opening Day next year.
4. Giants (26-30)
Deficit: Four games back in NL West, six games back of second NL Wild Card
Potential trade chips: right fielder Andrew McCutchen, left-handed pitcher Tony Watson, right-handed pitcher Hunter Strickland
No team will have tougher decisions as the non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches than the Giants. They have long been committed to a win-now mode as long as Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner were in their primes. Having not won a playoff series since 2014, will the Giants consider a major reshaping of the team -- say, trading first baseman Brandon Belt or perhaps even Bumgarner? While that seems unlikely, these next few weeks could be a gauge as to what the club is capable of, and what the plan will be.
5. Mets (27-27)
Deficit: Five games back in NL East, four games back of second NL Wild Card
Potential trade chips: second baseman/shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, closer Jeurys Familia, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez
This isn't difficult: The Mets will stay the course. If they could just have a little luck with injuries, they're probably good enough to fight for an NL Wild Card berth into September. GM Sandy Alderson will try to shore up a bullpen that has had a difficult time of it. If right-handed pitcher Noah Syndergaard returns from the disabled list next week and strings together a couple of months of quality starts, the Mets will still be very much in the mix at the Deadline.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.