Cool or critical? Trade Deadline urgency meter

July 20th, 2019

The Dodgers would absolutely love to trade for a reliever who would give manager Dave Roberts another option in those pesky late innings. As great as L.A. has been this season, the bullpen may be the only thing that keeps president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman awake at night.

Shoring up the relief corps would help Friedman to send a message to the players that the front office believes in this team and is doing its part to make it better.

But let’s not overstate things. The Dodgers have been baseball’s best team since Opening Day, and they will enter the postseason nicely positioned to win a third straight National League championship.

That puts L.A. in a unique position from the rest of the leading hopefuls, whose seasons potentially hang in the balance as the July 31 Trade Deadline approaches. With that in mind, let’s attempt to rank seven other contenders by the urgency of their trade needs:

1. Astros

Urgency meter: Hair on fire.

Biggest need: Starting pitching.

The A’s entered the weekend with a record of 19-6 since June 17, and are now within shouting distance of an Astros team that has lost 14 of 27, thanks in large part to a rotation that is pretty much holding open tryouts for the fourth and fifth spots. President of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow has been steadfast in holding onto his top prospects in previous trades, but that may change as he attempts to acquire at least one starter, and possibly two.

2. Twins

Urgency meter: It’s suddenly awfully warm in here.

Biggest need: Bullpen help.

Potential targets: , , Will Smith.

What the Twins could probably use most is a jolt of confidence, as they’ve seen their 11 1/2-game lead in the American League Central dwindle to just four games entering the weekend. Some of this tightening can be traced to what the Twins aren’t doing. has tailed off. is injured. The bullpen has had some missteps. But the Twins' biggest problem is that the Indians suddenly are nearly unbeatable, having entered the weekend 26-10 since June 4 and 10-2 this month. These two teams play each other 10 more times, and that’s where the division may be decided.

3. Brewers

Urgency meter: Desperation is too strong a word (probably).

Biggest need: Pitching.

Potential targets: Bumgarner, Smith, , .

As Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said recently, the answer for this team is to get more production from players already on its roster. Milwaukee entered the weekend having lost 18 of 30 because a little bit of everything had gone wrong. Its offense is producing a just-under-MLB-average 4.82 runs per game (16th in baseball), while its pitching staff has too many holes for a single trade to fill. It’ll be interesting to see what area Stearns addresses, but he has to do something, with a season potentially getting away from what was the NL’s winningest team in 2018.

4. Nationals

Urgency meter: What, us worry?

Biggest need: Bullpen help (lots).

Potential targets: Giles, Smith, Vazquez, Yates.

Nationals relievers had a 5.97 ERA entering play on Friday, and even with some recent improvement, general manager Mike Rizzo has work to do. His team has played its way back into contention. With a little bullpen help, the Nationals could be the NL team most capable of challenging the Dodgers in the postseason.

5. Phillies

Urgency meter: At least Philadelphians are patient.

Biggest need: Pitching.

Potential targets: Stroman, Giles, Yates.

Philadelphia pitchers have had such a tough time that almost no one has noticed the offensive problems. Phillies relievers posted a 6.86 ERA during an 12-17 slide entering the weekend, and the starters (5.48 ERA during that same time) have been only slightly better. Management is working furiously to find a deal that makes sense, but in the meantime, the team needs a positive couple of days to help turn things around.

6. Cardinals

Urgency meter: No higher than a certain arch.

Biggest need: Starting pitcher.

Potential targets: Bumgarner, Minor, Ray.

The Cardinals have some offensive needs as well, especially with third baseman back on the injured list. Ultimately, though, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak’s first priority will be to add some depth to the rotation and hope for internal improvement everywhere else.

7. Yankees

Urgency meter: Always the hunter, seldom the hunted.

Biggest need: Starting pitcher.

Potential targets: Ray, Stroman, Bumgarner, .

The Yankees might end up running away with the AL East, but the uncertainty surrounding ’s timetable for return leaves them short a high-end starting pitcher. General manager Brian Cashman’s top priority is to add to the rotation, and he has enough Minor League talent to get almost anyone who's available.