Pablo Sandoval was one of the game's biggest feel-good stories this spring, but his season has turned into a horror tale for the Red Sox, who are now in the market for a third baseman between now and the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Boston surged to the top of the American League East this week thanks in part to the Yankees' lengthy losing streak, but according to a source, the Red Sox are looking to make some major upgrades over the next six weeks, starting first and foremost with the hot corner.
Sandoval -- who is in the third year of a five-year, $95 million deal and is still owed more than $42 million beyond 2017 -- has a .622 OPS this season, playing only 32 games thanks to a knee injury that shelved him for five weeks and now an ear infection, which landed him on the disabled list this week.
Even when he's played, his defense has been below average, according to scouts who have seen him, while his bat appears to be a tick slow.
"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," the source said. "They need to make a move there."
It looked like the Yankees might be battling their rivals for a third baseman, but Chase Headley has posted respectable numbers in June (.755 OPS) following a horrid May (.446 OPS).
Mike Moustakas is having a career year, but the Royals have played very well of late, likely delaying any potential deals for another month. Todd Frazier has eight homers and an .817 OPS over the past month, boosting his trade value in the process. The White Sox are only six games out of first, but they've been quite public about their rebuilding process and are likely to deal Frazier, who will be a free agent after the season.
Another thought: try to overwhelm the Blue Jays with an offer for Josh Donaldson, who has one more year on his contract. It seems unlikely that Toronto would deal its best player (especially to a division foe) after climbing back into the race (more on that later), but if the Blue Jays don't think they'll be able to re-sign Donaldson, and Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off, might it be something to consider?
Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen. The relief unit has been terrific, posting the second-best ERA (2.99) in the AL this season. But Tyler Thornburg is out for the season and Carson Smith's return from elbow surgery has been delayed by a shoulder issue, leaving setup duties to Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly and Robby Scott.
"The Thornburg injury was huge for Boston," the source said. "They were expecting big things from him."
The Red Sox won't be alone in their pursuit of pitching. According to one general manager, there are "a glut of teams" seeking bullpen parts, while several teams, including the Astros and Cubs, are looking to improve their rotations -- something unlikely to happen for several weeks.
"No one is going to offer up a starting pitcher right now without a massive premium to be paid," the GM said.
Back in business
The Blue Jays were 11 games under .500 on April 28, their 6-17 start seemingly dooming them to a lost season before it ever really got started.
"We can overcome it," GM Ross Atkins told me at the time.
Atkins' words proved prophetic, as the Blue Jays won 21 of 32 games from April 29 through June 2. They haven't gotten back to .500 -- they've climbed to one game under seven times during this run -- but they find themselves in the mix in both the AL East and AL Wild Card races, overcoming their dismal start.
"Obviously we're not pleased with our record, but we're pleased with the fact that our team was able to dig out of a significant hole," Atkins said Wednesday. "Now we're very much in it. We can't climb back into one of those holes, because there's not as much time left. We need to play at a better-than-.500 clip, but we're glad that we're in a situation to even talk about that, given our start."
Toronto's biggest need between now and the deadline appears to be at second base, where Devon Travis' knee injury will keep him on the DL for most of the season. Ian Kinsler could be the answer if the Tigers make him available, while Jed Lowrie, Brad Miller or Kolten Wong could also be on the block.
Waiting in the wings
The Angels have been lingering around the .500 mark all season, and having gone 11-11 in their first 22 games without Michael Trout, Los Angeles finds itself in the thick of the AL Wild Card picture despite the sizeable spread between them and the first-place Astros in the AL West.
General manager Billy Eppler is surely scouring rosters around the league to see if there are upgrades available for his club, but his best source for improvements will be the DL.
In addition to Trout, the Angels currently have starters Tyler Skaggs and Matthew Shoemaker and reliever Bud Norris on the shelf, meaning significant additions are on their way in the coming weeks. Consider this: Will any team add a player better than Trout before the deadline? Of course not.
Norris and Shoemaker could be back before the end of June, while Skaggs and Trout are expected back in mid-July. Then there's Garrett Richards, who isn't expected to return from his right biceps strain until sometime in August.
"We're going to add significant impact," Eppler said.
With nearly six weeks to go before the deadline, GMs are beginning to make calls to get a feel for other teams' needs and depth. But with 24 of the 30 teams within 7 1/2 games of a postseason spot, the trade market could be slow until the final days of July.
"I think it makes teams drag their feet a little bit more," one GM said of the second Wild Card spot. "To make a club do something now on June 20, you have to incentivize it."
Several small deals took place last June, but the first major trade of the summer didn't take place until July 25, when the Yankees sent Albertin Chapman to the Cubs for four players. That doesn't mean GMs around the league aren't beginning to exchange ideas of potential matches.
"You don't make a lot of progress in any of those conversations," one GM said. "But often times it can foster creativity or redirect you in an efficient way."
Taking their time
The Braves are among the teams with a multitude of veterans headed for free agency this fall, and given Atlanta's sub-.500 record and double-digit deficit in both the NL East and NL Wild Card races, several of their players should be on the move in the coming weeks.
According to a source, teams have already reached out to the Braves about left-hander Jaime Garcia, second baseman Brandon Phillips and right-hander Jason Motte, but GM John Coppolella is likely to wait a while to drum up interest from more clubs.