Yes, 20 teams are leading or within 4 1/2 games of first place in their division. With nearly a third of the regular season in the books, all these clubs see a reasonable path to the postseason.All of them have work to do, and that's where it gets interesting. Every
Yes, 20 teams are leading or within 4 1/2 games of first place in their division. With nearly a third of the regular season in the books, all these clubs see a reasonable path to the postseason.
All of them have work to do, and that's where it gets interesting. Every year around this time, we run down a list of at least a dozen teams seeking rotation help.
But only a handful of impact starting pitchers -- maybe three or fewer -- are likely to switch teams, and the contenders will have to decide if it's worth overpaying. For now, let's look at 10 teams that absolutely have areas that must be addressed:
Yankees: Starting pitching
Since a 17-1 stretch, Yankees pitchers have allowed more than five runs per game. Their starters have the second-highest ERA in the Majors during that time, as left-hander Carsten Sabathia, right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and rookie righty Domingo German have been ineffective. On the positive side, the Yankees have enough farm-system depth to acquire, say, Cole Hamels from the Rangers or righty Michael Fulmer from the Tigers.
D-backs: A potent bat
Arizona has scored the fewest runs in the Majors this month amid injuries to A.J. Pollock, Steven Souza Jr. and Jake Lamb -- coupled with Paul Goldschmidt's struggles. General manager Mike Hazen had trade discussions involving Manny Machado this past offseason. Those surely will heat up again if the Orioles make him available.
Dodgers: Second base or outfield
The Dodgers have gotten back into contention with what may be the game's best pitching staff, even before Clayton Kershaw is back in the rotation in a few days. Since Justin Turner's return, Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson and Chris Taylor have all gotten hot. But the Dodgers still need another bat to position themselves for another deep October run. Machado would be a nice fit here, too. But let's face it, he's unlikely to play for three teams at once. Twins second baseman James Dozier and A's outfielder Khris Davis also make sense if their teams fall out of their respective races.
Red Sox: Starting pitching
OK, so they're on a pace to win 100 games and have spent most of this season with baseball's best record. What's the problem? There's way too much inconsistency in the starting rotation -- and there may not be much they can do about it, given that trades have weakened the Minor League system. If David Price and Rick Porcello get on a roll behind Chris Sale, the Red Sox will be a tough October draw. It seems like a long shot that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will make a run at a high-profile starter, so guys like Hamels and Fulmer could be in the conversation here. But if Dombrowski wants to get creative, maybe lefty Caleb Smith from the Marlins, who is off to a nice start.
The Tribe hoped Andrew Miller's recent return fix would fix a bullpen that has been baseball's worst this month. He looked like his old self in getting five outs to help preserve a 1-0 victory at Wrigley Field on Wednesday. But after allowing three runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Astros on Friday, Miller landed back on the DL on Saturday with right knee inflammation. With Miller around to help get the ball into the hands of closer Cody Allen, the Indians look a lot more like the 95-win team they were projected to be. Without him, they are vulnerable. One name to watch is Mets closer Jeurys Familia, who could be dealt as he approaches free agency, if the Mets fall out of the playoff race.
Here's the good news: There will be relievers available this summer. Not just big name guys like Zach Britton and Brad Hand, but lots of lesser-known, quality arms that can make a huge impact in a close race. The Angels have a solid rotation and offense. But if they're unable to land an arm or two, it's going to be a challenging fight for a postseason spot. If the Padres decide to move Hand, the Angels may be first in line.
All things considered, the Cardinals have had a remarkable to start to a season in which they've been hit hard by injuries and have concerns about the offense and bullpen. Can a strength in one area overcome problems in two others? The Cardinals hope so. The signing of closer Greg Holland hasn't worked out, so they may be shopping for a reliever in the coming weeks. Royals closer Kelvin Herrera -- an impending free agent -- could be a fit.
• Cardinals place Holland on DL
Mets: A big bat
Only the D-backs have scored fewer runs than the Mets this month. And while the bullpen has been shaky at times, GM Sandy Alderson's first, second and third concerns are the offense. Will it be enough with the injured Todd Frazier and Yoenis Cespedes back in the lineup? Does newly signed Jose Bautista have anything left in the tank? Or does Alderson do something outside his comfort zone? Making a run at free-agent-to-be Josh Donaldson -- and maybe shifting Frazier from third to first out of deference -- would fit that description.
One of baseball's most surprising teams needs another bat, and Machado is the guy they should try hardest to get. The Phillies are also one of the teams that might just be able to strike a long-term deal with Machado, as they have been a rumored suitor of his when he hits the market this winter. For now, he might be the difference between making and missing the postseason.
Giants: Starting pitching
If the Giants get Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto back and performing at a high level, they've got a shot to get back to the postseason. But there's uncertainty about when, or if, Cueto's arm will allow him to pitch again. So the Giants will be shopping for a starter, with Padres righty Tyson Ross a possibility.
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.