Match game: Each contender's best trade fit

July 19th, 2023

Some front offices around the league are working around the clock to bolster their rosters for the stretch run, while others are looking for the best potential deals to help build for the future.

But less than two weeks from the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline, a number of clubs are still trying to figure out whether they’re buyers or sellers. The expanded postseason has left 20 teams within seven games of a playoff spot entering play on Tuesday, so the next 7-10 days could determine which executives get aggressive as the Deadline approaches.

Some clubs will have more than one hole to fill, but here’s a look at the most glaring need for each of those teams within seven games of a spot.

(Note: Although multiple teams are likely to pursue some of the same players, each player listed as a potential fit was used only once.)

AL East

Blue Jays: Starting pitching

Even with the return of Alek Manoah and Hyun-Jin Ryu on his way back from Tommy John surgery, Toronto’s rotation depth is far from ideal. Adding a starter would help Toronto in its quest to return to the postseason.

Potential fit:

Orioles: Relief pitching

Baltimore might seek rotation help as well, but Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer and Kyle Gibson have been pitching well, and the Orioles are hopeful that Grayson Rodriguez can contribute this season. Relievers Félix Bautista and Yennier Cano both made the All-Star team, but the Orioles could use another solid arm or two to help bridge the gap from the starters to that 1-2 back-end punch.

Potential fit:

Rays: Pitching depth

The Rays have plenty of top-end talent in their rotation and bullpen. As long as they stay healthy, Shane McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow and Zach Eflin would match up well against any trio in the Majors in a postseason series. Pete Fairbanks and Jason Adam have shown nasty stuff at the back end of the bullpen, and rookie Kevin Kelly has emerged as another high-leverage option. But Tampa Bay doesn't possess quite as much depth in either the rotation or bullpen as it has grown accustomed to having.

Potential fit:

Red Sox: Starting pitching

Boston’s rotation has been battered by injuries, leaving James Paxton, Brayan Bello and Kutter Crawford as its only healthy starters. Chris Sale, Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock could return at some point, though timetables are iffy.

Potential fit:

Yankees: Corner outfield

Left field has been a black hole for much of the year in the Bronx: The Yankees have used nine players at the position already this season. New York needs some of its veterans to start hitting again if the postseason is in the cards, but adding a bat in left field would certainly help the cause.

Potential fit:

AL Central

Guardians: Impact bat

Cleveland ranks 27th in the Majors in runs scored and 26th in OPS, numbers that underscore the need for another big bat, specifically in the outfield. The Guardians could opt to deal Amed Rosario rather than giving up young, controllable talent.

Potential fit:

Tigers: Young hitters

Detroit remains in the postseason race thanks to a middling AL Central, but with a record nowhere close to .500, it seems unlikely that president of baseball operations Scott Harris will be a buyer. Trading Eduardo Rodriguez and possibly Michael Lorenzen for young hitting prospects makes the most sense.

Potential fit:

Twins: Right-handed bat

Minnesota ranks last in the Majors with a .664 OPS against left-handed pitching, making the addition of a righty bat a priority. Finding a righty-hitting corner outfielder would make the most sense, though the Twins have enough defensive versatility to move things around if they add at another position.

Potential fit:

AL West

Angels: Starting pitching

Most consider the Angels to be more likely to sell than to buy, but if they can somehow creep closer to a Wild Card spot by the end of the month, it might prompt GM Perry Minasian to add to the rotation. The Angels’ 4.70 rotation ERA ranks 24th in the Majors.

Potential fit:

Astros: Starting pitching

Having lost both Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia to season-ending injuries earlier in the season, it’s no surprise the Astros will look to supplement the rotation before the Trade Deadline. Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier are experienced arms, but with Hunter Brown, J.P. France and Brandon Bielak making up the rest of the starting five, another veteran arm would help come October.

Potential fit:

Mariners: Second baseman

Seattle ranks in the lower half of the league in runs scored, home runs and OPS, so adding a bat figures to be GM Jerry Dipoto’s focus this month. Second base would be a good place to start, because Kolten Wong has been a huge disappointment in his first season with the Mariners. Seattle has young pitching to trade, so perhaps a deal with the Cardinals to land both an infielder and outfielder would make sense.

Potential fit:

Rangers: Relief pitching

The Rangers already began addressing the bullpen with last month’s trade for Aroldis Chapman, but Texas needs more relief help as it attempts to hold off the Astros in the AL West. The rotation might also need a lift, but the bullpen should be the priority between now and Aug. 1.

Potential fit:

NL East

Braves: Starting pitching

It’s hard to say Atlanta has any glaring need as the Braves cruise toward another division title, but the back end of the rotation behind Spencer Strider, Bryce Elder and Charlie Morton is thin. Even when Max Fried gets healthy, innings limits could come into play for Elder, making the addition of rotation depth important.

Potential fit:

Marlins: Impact bat

Miami entered play Tuesday in the top Wild Card spot in the NL despite a -12 run differential, and while a 96-game sample size is hardly small, the Marlins would benefit from the addition of a big bat into their lineup. That could come in a corner infield or corner outfield spot, but if GM Kim Ng wants to take a big swing, she has plenty of young talent to get a deal done.

Potential fit:

Phillies: Left field

Bryce Harper’s expected move to first base should shift Kyle Schwarber to a full-time designated hitter role, opening a spot in left field. With a number of appealing options available on the trade market, the Phillies could likely upgrade that spot at a reasonable cost.

Potential fit:

NL Central

Brewers: First base

The Brewers’ .644 OPS at first base ranks 14th in the NL, and with Rowdy Tellez set to miss at least the next month following finger surgery, Milwaukee could use some help at the position. Right field is also a spot the Brewers could look to upgrade.

Potential fit:

Reds: Starting pitching

Cincinnati’s rotation ranks 28th in the Majors with a 5.53 ERA, making this the obvious priority for GM Nick Krall leading up to Aug. 1. Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo could return next month, but if the Reds have the postseason in their sights, a deal for a starting pitcher seems like a must.

Potential fit:

NL West

D-backs: Relief pitching

Arizona’s bullpen has been effective for most of the season, using a closer-by-committee approach that has served it well. Adding a veteran reliever with postseason experience would help this group as the D-backs look to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

Potential fit:

Dodgers: Starting pitching

The Dodgers’ 4.46 rotation ERA ranks in the middle of MLB, using 13 pitchers for at least one start this season. Clayton Kershaw’s latest injury threw another wrench into the equation, putting Los Angeles in position to acquire at least one (if not two) starters by the Trade Deadline.

Potential fit:

Giants: Starting pitching

The Giants’ rotation has been solid this season, thanks in large part to Logan Webb and Alex Cobb, who have carried most of the load. Anthony DeSclafani has struggled since late May and the back end of the rotation has been inconsistent, making a starting pitcher the obvious need.

Potential fit: