OK, who wants to make a trade? Sure, everyone does. No, I mean, what teams believe they have to make one to stay afloat or to be a legitimate chance to get to the World Series?The Astros were not in danger of missing the playoffs when they pulled off that
OK, who wants to make a trade? Sure, everyone does. No, I mean, what teams believe they have to make one to stay afloat or to be a legitimate chance to get to the World Series?
The Astros were not in danger of missing the playoffs when they pulled off that trade for Justin Verlander moments before the Aug. 31st deadline for a player to be postseason eligible.
What they saw was a team that needed a jolt, a team that needed something more for a legitimate chance to win a World Series. That's a different motivation than the team hanging on the fringes of contention.
If you're the Boston Red Sox, the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline surely seems a lot less urgent than it did a month or so. You might need an atomic microscope to find a really pressing need.
On the other hand, the Yankees do not want to be the team that wins 100 games, finishes second in the AL East and puts everything on the line in a winner-take-all Wild Card Game.
That's why the Yankees surely are feeling some urgency to upgrade their starting rotation to give themselves a better chance to make a run at finishing in front of Boston.
So, let's line up 16 contenders -- that is, the teams entering the weekend within five games of a postseason berth -- and rate their sense of urgency:
Hair-on-fire meter: Does anyone have a fire extinguisher?
Yes, there's a case to be made for acquiring more offense. With a rotation this good, the Indians have a shot at winning a championship. But even if Andrew Miller is healthy, the Indians need at least one more reliable bullpen arm and maybe two. Opportunities like this don't come along every year.
Potential targets:Zach Duke, Raisel Iglesias, Joakim Soria, Craig Stammen
Hair-on-fire meter: Not yet, but it's suddenly getting warm in here.
Some will argue a team on its way to winning 100 games can't be so high on this list. That might be true for any other franchise. Suddenly, the Red Sox can't lose, and the Yankees suddenly don't have a single starter they're completely confident in.
Potential targets: Unfortunately, Angels ace Garrett Richards (Tommy John surgery) is off the board, so that leaves the Yankees to make a 100 mph run at Chris Archer. After that, it's J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels and Dan Straily, in some order.
Hair-on-fire meter: 9-1-1!
Stephen Strasburg is expected back in the rotation shortly after the All-Star break, which could potentially allow GM Mike Rizzo to focus on other areas. Given that the NL East is now legitimately a three-team race with the Nationals, Braves and Phillies, Rizzo will have to slug it out with a half-dozen other contenders for a thin rotation market.
Potential targets:Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi
Hair-on-fire meter: Women and children first!
The Giants have to hope 3B Evan Longoria comes back and provides an offensive spark, thus allowing them to focus on a starting pitcher. On the other hand, there have been stretches when that looked plenty good, too. It's complicated.
Potential targets: Archer, Minor
Hair-on-fire meter: Thank goodness the A's left town.
As good as their record is, the Astros haven't had everything clicking at any point this season. Their bullpen began the weekend with the second-lowest bullpen ERA in the game, and if Hector Rondon continues to perform well as the new closer and manager AJ Hinch works his postseason magic again, the Astros could make do with what they have. But for the second straight July, they're making a hard run at Baltimore's Zach Britton while keeping tabs on Iglesias, Hand and others.
Potential target: Britton
Hair-on-fire meter: If we don't look, will it get better?
The Braves have come too far to turn back now. GM Alex Anthopoulos is shopping for whatever pitching help he can find. He has enough prospects to acquire almost anyone, so balancing the long view vs. this season is his challenge.
Potential targets: Minor, Straily, Brad Brach, Marco Estrada
Hair-on-fire meter: Not yet.
The Phillies began the weekend with the second-lowest ERA in the Majors this month, ramping up the pressure to add some offense to help them finish the deal. Manny Machado is a perfect fit. Whit Merrifield would be as well. Nicholas Castellanos is another name of keep an eye on.
Potential targets: Machado, Castellanos, Merrifield
Hair-on-fire meter: No one is screaming. Yet.
Forget the talk about Arizona making a run at Machado or another offensive player. Until the D-backs get the rotation repaired, none of the other stuff is going to matter.
Potential targets: Hamels, Minor, Happ
Hair-on-fire meter: Jerry Dipoto is baseball's most aggressive general manager. His hair is always on fire.
Dipoto has already added Alex Colome to the bullpen and Denard Span to the lineup. He's almost certain to make a run at a reliever and another starting pitcher.
Potential target: Hand, Happ
Need: How much time do you have?
Hair-on-fire meter: Break glass in case of emergency.
The Cardinals need a jolt. Period. Whether that's shaking up the roster or acquiring a star-caliber player, they need something. At a time when so much is going wrong, that's probably the best hope for a turnaround.
Potential target: Machado, Mike Moustakas, Britton, Archer
Hair-on-fire meter: We're fine. No, really, we're fine.
The Cubs are that sleeping giant that has looked unbeatable in stretches and seriously flawed in other stretches. If Anthony Rizzo and Kristopher Bryant get going, the Cubs are capable of raising another flag.
Potential target: Merrifield
Hair-on-fire meter: Yes, it's burning brightly.
When Billy Beane sees an opportunity, he grabs it. So if the A's are still hot at the July 31st non-waiver Trade Deadline, look for him to go full speed ahead for at least one and possibly two pitchers. He will not think small.
Potential target: Britton, Odorizzi
Need: Very little.
Hair-on-fire meter: There's a nice, summer breeze in the Rockies.
This team is playing at its best, with a pitching staff that is about as good as the franchise has ever had and an offense that's finally clicking. No NL West team looks better.
Potential target: Stammen, Brach
Hair-on-fire meter: Simmering.
The Brewers probably will go to the playoffs without doing a single thing to their roster. On the other hand, this season suddenly has presented them with an opportunity to do something special in October.
Potential target: Archer, Machado, Britton
Hair-on-fire meter: All is well.
The Dodgers are doing a good imitation of the National League's best team, with the squad finally as close to whole as it's going to get this season. They'll explore a dramatic upgrade (Machado), but probably settle for some tweaking and hope for good health down the stretch.
Potential target: Machado, Archer
16. Red Sox
Need: Let us get back to you on this one.
Hair-on-fire meter: Thanks for playing, don't forget to tip your waiter.
This is the best team in baseball at the moment, and if the Red Sox get to October with Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and David Price pitching well, they'll join the Dodgers as World Series favorites. They'll try to add a bullpen piece, but that's far from urgent.
Potential target: Iglesias, Hand, Britton
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.