6 teams with the most to gain at Deadline

July 29th, 2021

It should go without saying that every team with a realistic possibility of reaching the postseason ought to be approaching Friday’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline with earnestness and urgency. Tomorrow is promised to none of us. You have to live each day as if it’s your last. You’ll only regret the chances you don’t take … and all that other stuff you’ve read on motivational daily flip calendars.

So, yes, the Blue Jays should be going for it as they finally return to Toronto. The Giants should be going for it as their season that has wildly exceeded expectations marches toward October. The Mariners, with a postseason drought that’s old enough to vote, should be adding, not subtracting.

But there’s going for it, and then there’s GOING FOR IT. Really, truly, reaching for the World Series.

The following six teams -- one from each division -- are in the latter category. This is a moment when they should step outside their comfort zones, throw caution to the wind and do something that’s going to win headlines … and maybe even some games!

1. Dodgers

The Dodgers ended their 32-year wait for a World Series title last fall. But the circumstances surrounding the pandemic-oriented postseason obviously weren’t ideal. Serious baseball observers understand that the 2020 season, short as it was, asked an awful lot of those involved, and so there was nothing cheap about the Dodgers’ championship. But they’d sure love to win one in a more traditional arrangement and take on a dynastic sheen after all those frustrating finishes of the recent past. The National League West has evolved in a hurry as the Giants awaken and the Padres leave no stone unturned, and the Dodgers want to prove that they still own this dynamic division.

Who they could land: Nationals ace , Twins ace and Cubs closer are all possibilities. It’s the Dodgers. Think blue, and think big.

Who they’d have to trade away: For a player like Berríos -- a high-impact addition who is not a rental (or perhaps even for Scherzer, if the bidding gets crazy enough) -- the Dodgers might have to consider parting with one of the two catchers among their top 10 prospects: Keibert Ruiz (No. 1 on the club’s list and No. 41 on MLB Pipeline’s top 100) or Diego Cartaya (No. 6 on the Dodgers’ list). Having one of the best young catchers in the game in Will Smith would give the Dodgers the luxury of making such a move.

2. White Sox

The South Siders have survived all kinds of injury hits atop the relatively weak AL Central this season, and now, with the recent return of Eloy Jiménez and the pending return of Luis Robert, they’re getting healthier in big spots in time for October. But the Sox need to recognize the special opportunity they have with the strength of the top end of their rotation and the complexion of the AL playoff picture. While it seems their run is just beginning, they might not have a better opportunity to win a pennant than they do right now. Second base has been an obvious need ever since Nick Madrigal was lost for the rest of the season, and the bullpen could use another effective option.

Who they could land: A crosstown move for Kimbrel is not out of the realm of possibility, but the Rangers’ and the Rockies’ are among the many other relief options that might work. As for second base, with Adam Frazier already sent to San Diego, Cleveland’s is probably the best option available. But if we can dare to dream bigger, adding and repositioning Story would certainly be bold.

UPDATE (7/29): White Sox traded for Cesar Hernandez on Thursday, and then struck a deal with the Cubs for right-handed reliever Ryan Tepera later in the day.

3. Astros

Silencing the critics and finally getting manager Dusty Baker to the promised land are incentive enough for the Astros to win their second title in five years. But the pending free agencies of Carlos Correa and Zack Greinke also create the possibility that this club, which already lost George Springer last winter, could soon look a lot different than it once did. The Astros have a lineup that can mash any kind of pitching, which means they are a serious threat to go the distance. If they hadn’t already acquired and , we’d perhaps put the Astros atop this list. But even after those additions, there is reason to add to a pitching staff that skews younger.

Who they could land: As with the Dodgers, the top end of the pitching spectrum -- Scherzer, Kimbrel and Berríos -- is in play.

Who they’d have to trade away: This is where it gets tricky, because the Astros’ system has really thinned out. But right-hander Hunter Brown, the club’s No. 3 prospect, would move the needle in trade talks for a big acquisition. Catching prospect Korey Lee (No. 5) is another guy you could build an impact deal around.

4. Brewers

Milwaukee rocketed to the top of the NL Central after trading for Willy Adames, and first baseman Rowdy Tellez has also played well since coming over from Toronto. So there is temptation to say the Brewers are good to go. Nobody will want to match up with the top end of their rotation and the back end of their bullpen in October. But as they carefully manage the innings and pitch counts of Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta, adding to the pitching staff (be it a starter or, perhaps more likely, another relief weapon) is a possibility. And a trade for a potent corner infielder -- particularly a right-handed-hitting one -- would take this team to another level. And after the Bucks won it all in the NBA, you know the Brewers want to maintain that Milwaukee momentum.

Who they could land: The Brewers have been linked to Rangers right-hander Kyle Gibson, and there are relief options aplenty. Maybe adding Scherzer, a la CC Sabathia in 2008, is too much to ask, but, boy, would that be fun.

Who they’d have to trade away: Again, focusing here on true impact acquisitions, shortstop/second baseman Brice Turang (the Brewers’ No. 2 prospect) is a really interesting trade piece, given that the big league club has acquired two shortstops with multiple years of control in Adames and Luis Urías.

5. Phillies

Oh, you thought we were going to put the Mets here, right? Well, sure, the Mets can and perhaps should do something significant (it wouldn’t surprise us). But if there’s an NL East team that truly should be going all-in here, it’s the Phillies. Why? Because in spending big on Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Zack Wheeler, they’ve already basically gone all-in, with no postseason appearances to show for it. They didn’t bring in president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to sit idly by in a moment like this, when the division's top spot is still in reach and the longest postseason drought in the NL is at stake. Luxury tax? Schmuxury tax!

Who they could land: The Phillies have need(s) in the rotation and bullpen and, if we’re being greedy, their defense could sure use an upgrade, too. With the trade for having fallen through, Berríos, Gibson and Michael Pineda are among the available starting options. Kimbrel of course heads the relief list, though Richard Rodríguez is another good possibility. And in the truly bold proposal realm: Harper is already using Kris Bryant’s bat, but how about adding Bryant’s bat?

Who they’d have to trade away: Another team with a thinned-out system that requires creativity. Right-hander is in the interesting position of either being a potential regular in the rotation in the last two months or being a trade chip. The club's long-term pact with Realmuto makes catcher Rafael Marchan (the club’s No. 4 prospect) expendable in a trade.

6. Rays

Yes, we know the Rays’ nature is to make the sort of wily moves that we push to the periphery now and then celebrate when random guys are getting big outs or huge hits for them in a postseason series. But this small-market, budget-conscious club already did some heavy lifting with the acquisition. And while making a similarly bold stroke for a pitching staff that doesn’t know when or if or at what level it will get Tyler Glasnow back from an elbow injury would take some creativity, the Rays do have more than enough talent in their system and incentive to make it happen, especially with Chris Sale nearing a return to the division-rival Red Sox.

Who they could land: If old friend is off the table (and he probably is), then it would sure be fun to see the Rays pull off a stunning swap for Scherzer. But they have also been linked to Gibson, and Berríos makes plenty of sense. And though this obviously doesn’t address the pitching pursuit at all, they’ve been linked to Bryant, too.

Who they’d have to trade away: Again, the Rays are perpetually well-equipped to make a dynamic deal, and, if need be, they have enough inventory to compel a selling club to take on salary, too. There are guys deep on Tampa Bay’s Top 30 prospects list who would be top 10 in some other systems. One example we’ve noted recently is third baseman/first baseman Kevin Padlo, who is No. 18 on the Rays’ list and is blocked at the big league level. But the Rays also have the most valuable commodity of all -- pitching depth.