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Trade drama ... pressure's on these clubs

@RichardJustice
July 2, 2019

Some teams want to make a trade. That list includes about 20 teams. Others need to make one. Hey, there are no perfect teams at this point. Still others really need to make one. Let’s focus on that last category. These are the teams that may not make the playoffs

Some teams want to make a trade. That list includes about 20 teams. Others need to make one. Hey, there are no perfect teams at this point. Still others really need to make one.

Let’s focus on that last category. These are the teams that may not make the playoffs without a significant addition or two. These could also be the teams, like the Dodgers and the Astros, who probably can’t win a World Series without shoring up their rosters.

As we begin the countdown to the July 31 Trade Deadline -- the only Trade Deadline there’s going to be this season -- here are seven contenders that need to do business, in order of urgency:

1) Cardinals

President of baseball operations John Mozeliak wondered aloud recently whether he’d made some trades in recent seasons for the sake of making trades. This time, it’s different. Despite a series of seemingly smart additions, the Cardinals are in danger of missing the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season, unless Mozeliak can do something to awaken an offense that is in a six-week funk. With Jordan Hicks out for the season (and possibly next), they could make a deal for a reliever. Additionally, with Marcell Ozuna -- their best hitter this year -- on the injured list with small fractures in his right hand and Harrison Bader taking a step back with the bat, we could also see them target an outfielder.

2) Phillies

This season began with a lot of optimism on the heels of signing Bryce Harper, but the Braves could be on the verge of running away with the NL East, leaving Philly to fight for a Wild Card spot. First, there’s the bullpen. If David Robertson returns from the injured list by the Trade Deadline, that could alleviate one issue. The problem is, the Phillies need more than one arm. With Andrew McCutchen out for the year and Odubel Herrera on the restricted list, they need outfield help, too. And they need that rotation to perform the way it was projected to perform.

3) Nationals

One of MLB’s worst bullpens has impacted every other area of the team, including manager Davey Martinez being compelled to risk overworking his starters and closer Sean Doolittle. This team is plenty good enough in every other area and just got back above .500 (42-41), but general manager Mike Rizzo is under more pressure to do something to avoid missing the playoffs again.

4) Red Sox

Maybe that whole “closer by committee” thing doesn’t work. The Red Sox are up against the second luxury tax threshold, which led to not re-signing Joe Kelly or Craig Kimbrel in the first place. There are plenty of other underperforming areas, but it’s the bullpen that must be fixed, and the luxury tax issue will force team president Dave Dombrowski to get creative.

5) Brewers

General manager David Stearns is looking to upgrade a rotation that was one of baseball’s worst in June. He has some holes in the lineup, too, though the Brewers recently called up No. 1 prospect Keston Hiura to help fix that. The most important thing that can happen to the Brewers is for some of the players already on the roster to begin playing better, starting with Lorenzo Cain, who had a .664 OPS entering Monday night. Regardless, a year after getting within one victory of the World Series, the Brewers are going to be active.

6) Yankees

It’s hard to know it by looking at the standings, but the Yankees feel a fairly high sense of urgency to add a starting pitcher, even though the club has run up a seven-game lead in the AL East. But Luis Severino’s recent setback makes this even more important for the Yankees. And when general manager Brian Cashman looks around, he’ll see that the Red Sox have bigger needs. He’s also in charge of a franchise that considers winning the World Series the standard of expectation every season.

7) Astros

This club is built for October with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole at the front of the rotation. Lefty Wade Miley has done a solid job as the No. 3 starter. But there’s uncertainty after those top three, and the youngsters the Astros expected to pitch important innings are either injured or not performing at a championship level. There has been reported interest in Tigers lefty Matthew Boyd, who is under club control through 2022, but Houston’s unwillingness to part with outfield prospect Kyle Tucker might prevent that.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.