One of the most exciting baseball times of the year is officially underway. Trade deadline season! I'm still trying to get over the fact that it's already the end of the All-Star break, and all of a sudden we have a blockbuster trade on our hands (and between crosstown rivals)! For the Cubs, acquiring Jose Quintana shows the rebuild is officially over. For the first time since 1990 the Cubbies do not have a Baseball America Top 100 prospect, which means there isn't any more help coming through that farm system. For the North Side to be delivered another championship in the next few years it'll have to come from the core group of guys already in place, and maybe some free agent additions down the road. I'll have to admit I'm a little surprised Theo did this since his whole thing is sustained success. But I also don't think he wants to be in Chicago forever, so he's taking his shot now at another championship with this group.
As for the White Sox they now have 7 of the top 83 mid season Baseball America Top 100 guys PLUS they still have David Robertson and Todd Frazier to deal. I wrote about Quintana the other week here and I recommended trading him because playing the prospect game is all about the mentality of it. Prospects are lottery tickets (with some having better chances to hit than others) and the goal of a rebuild should be to acquire as many as possible then see what sticks. The White Sox now have A LOT of lottery tickets, and likely the best farm system in baseball right now. Their window to win will be starting just as the Cubs' will likely be ending, making this trade all the more fascinating.
In addition to Thursday's blockbuster we had plenty of names mentioned as possible trade candidates moving forward. The biggest rumor was the possibility of the Dodgers acquiring Zach Britton to form "perhaps the most dominant 8th/9th inning ever". The way the playoffs went last season, with relievers playing such a huge role, I would definitely be all in on a Britton trade as a Dodgers fan. They need to do everything possible to capitalize on Kershaw's prime. Other names mentioned in possible deals over the next couple of weeks include Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, Gerrit Cole, Sonny Gray, Jason Vargas, Justin Verlander, Christian Yelich, AJ Ramos, David Phelps, Pat Neshek, Brad Hand, Felipe Rivero, Michael Fulmer, JD Martinez, and more. Now let's get into what some of the more high profile contenders need by the end of the month (in order of record entering Sunday):
1. Dodgers (63-29)
The Dodgers are near perfect, which isn't saying anything new about the team with the best record in baseball, but it's true. The rotation is stacked, they have two elite position players, and Kenley Jansen is the best closer in baseball. I think LA could use another right handed power bat considering Justin Turner is their best option right now, but the move that could put the Dodgers over the top come October would be acquiring another shutdown reliever. Hence the Britton rumors already discussed.
2. Astros (61-30)
Similar to the Dodgers the Astros are obviously also in a great spot. Any addition they make right now is a move for October, not for August and September. Houston currently has a stacked line up and two lights out bullpen arms (Chris Devenski and Ken Giles), so the move they should make is acquiring a legitimate number three starter. Due to injuries suffered last season the Astros won't be able to abuse either Dallas Keuchel or Lance McCullers this post-season, which means they are going to have to go with a four man rotation in each series. Houston has great starting pitch depth, which is useful for the regular season, but not so much in the playoffs. Right now their number three and four starters for a playoff series are probably Brad Peacock and Charlie Morton. The front office should be able to upgrade one of those spots without sacrificing too much of the farm system. Should the Rangers become sellers then renting Yu Darvish for two months would be have to be a tempting move.
3. Nationals (54-36)
During this recent, half-decade run of Washington baseball success (so since Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper arrived) the Nationals have yet to make it out of the first round of the playoffs. Unfortunately I don't love their chances for this year either and the reason for that is simple: the bullpen. Washington needs more than just a closer. Realistically they need two good relievers to compete. The Nats could make a big time move for a closer like Britton or Rivero, and I think they should. Harper could leave in a year and a half but even if he stays his contract is going to be so big that it's going to get tougher and tougher to add payroll to this team. The time to strike is now.
EDIT: Washington literally just traded for two relievers from the A's. Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. This helps...but they should still try and get more.
4. Diamondbacks (53-38)
Unbelievable to think it's July 16th and Arizona has the fourth best record in baseball. Due to the Dodgers dominance the D'Backs are going to have to settle for a wild card spot and I'm sorry but I do not trust Fernando Rodney to potentially close out that game. Arizona has been linked to "both AJ Ramos and David Phelps" of the Marlins and I would love that move for this team. They don't have the pressure to win now like Washington so they don't have to go all in for a guy like Britton, but it would be a disappointment to see Arizona do nothing at the deadline. 2017 has been a huge success and they should try to add to this group.
5. Red Sox (51-40)
I'm going to do everyone a favor and contain myself from making a Travis Shaw joke. Good lord though can you imagine this team with him? He fills the exact void we have, which is a power hitting third baseman. Over the weekend there's been a lot of talk that the Sox are close to trading for Todd Frazier, which is a smart move. Yes his batting average blows but so does the batting average of all our current options, and Frazier would add power, good defense, and a good clubhouse presence. It makes too much sense not to happen. Additionally Boston needs an eighth inning guy to bridge the gap to Craig Kimbrel. Pat Neshek would be a perfect fit.
6. Rockies (52-41)
Following Nolan Arenado's walk off homer back on Father's Day the Rockies were set for a huge week with games against the Diamondbacks and Dodgers. They beat Arizona in the first game. I was a fan of the way Colorado was playing, and I hyped them up as legit. Incredibly, they would then go on to lose fucking eight in a row. They're now 5-15 in their past 20 games. However, because of how well they played up until this recent downturn, they still have a 5 1/2 game lead in the second wild card spot, and are just two games behind Arizona still. It's no secret what the Rockies need, and that's starting pitching. Should they beat the Diamondbacks in that one game playoff I just can't see them getting very far with a rotation led by Jon Gray.
7. Brewers (52-41)
About a week ago I posted on the Baseball Reddit page asking what was every contender's biggest need, and I listed my thoughts for every team. I hilariously didn't include the Brewers, which really angered their fans. This was a mistake. As recently as this time last week I didn't really think they were an actual contender, but then I looked into it more and it turns out they are. My guess is that from this point forward the Cubs will have a better record than them, but Milwaukee has the cushion of a 5 1/2 game lead in the NL Central. Now they Cubs have Quintana and the Brewers are almost forced to make a counter move. The Brew Crew need starting pitching (since Chase Anderson would be pitching game 1 of the NLDS right now) and since their window to win isn't too tight they will likely be seeking a starter with multiple years of control. Sonny Gray makes a lot sense if Milwaukee is comfortable moving the prospects it would take to acquire him.
8. Rays (49-43)
Yes you're reading this correctly. The Rays have quietly set themselves up to host the AL Wild Card if the season were ending today. In the beginning of the season there was a lot of talk that they could trade Chris Archer but now there's no way they're sellers. The problem is I'm not exactly sure if they're buyers. Ever Since Joe Maddon left Tampa has been kind of stuck. They're too good to completely tank and at the same time have yet to make the playoffs since 2013. However, Tampa can simply not afford to mortgage any significant piece of their future for a run at the wild card right now. They're the likeliest contender to stay put I'd say.
9. Indians (47-42)
It's pretty surprising to see Cleveland this far down the list, but they've had a lot of problems this season. Corey Kluber has been great lately but outside of him the starting pitching hasn't been there. Franky Lindor has slumped badly since beginning the season on a tear. Edwin Encarnacion has been inconsistent. Still, this is a first place team that's returning a ton of players from a team that went all the way to Game 7 of the World Series last year. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are all they need in the bullpen but the Tribe could definitely use another starter. It would be convenient if they didn't have to pitch Kluber three times in a seven game series. Any starting pitching help makes sense here, particularly Gray.
10. Yankees (46-42)
Entering this weekend the Yankees had not won any of their previous eight series, going 0-7-1 during this stretch. The "rebuild" has obviously gone much quicker than expected and the club now has an interesting decision to make. Should they trade off some of their beloved young studs for proven starting pitching? Or should they continue to ride this out and add that pitching via free agency in a year or two. They probably won't add nothing so the question becomes whether they trade for a rental (Darvish) or someone who is cost controlled (Gray). The team could also use an upgrade at both corner infield positions.