The days leading up to the trade deadline provide some of the most pressure-packed moments in baseball.
For some general managers, the moves they make or don’t will determine how long they have the most coveted jobs in sports. While every general manager is under the microscope, a select few face even more attention and scrutiny.
Fans of contenders want to see their team make a blockbuster deal to put themselves in position to win the World Series. Meanwhile, the fans of sub-.500 teams are hopeful their team builds for the future and improves the farm system with prospects.
It can add for intense moments in the front office, especially when you add the scrutiny that comes from the media and players in the clubhouse. Put it all together and it’s easy to see why the next week will be critical for many teams.
Here are the 10 teams under the most pressure to make a move at the MLB trade deadline.
10. New York Yankees
The Yankees took some of the pressure off when they acquired All-Star reliever Zach Britton on Tuesday. Now with his addition, the Yankees have a loaded bullpen they can use to cover the sixth through ninth innings in a potential postseason run.
While the bullpen will help alleviate some of the pressure on the rotation, New York still needs to do more. If the Yankees lock up a spot in the wild-card game and win it with Luis Severino on the mound, it will present them with some problems in the ALDS.
New York needs another starting pitcher it can rely on in that situation. CC Sabathia and Sonny Gray are risks, while Masahiro Tanaka is also a volatile starting pitcher. If the Yankees can add a mid-rotation starter before the deadline, it could go a long way in determining how far they go in the postseason.
9. Los Angeles Dodgers
Similar to New York, the Dodgers took significant pressure off themselves when they acquired All-Star Manny Machado. The 26-year-old provided Los Angeles with an immediate upgrade at shortstop and an MVP-caliber bat in their lineup.
There is still a significant hole on the roster and it’s one Los Angeles must address to put themselves in the best position to win in the postseason. Entering Wednesday, the Dodgers’ bullpen ranked 12th in ERAA (3.76).
This is a critical year for Los Angeles. While the future remains bright, several key starters from this season will be free agents when the offseason rolls around. If it falls short of a World Series title again, the calls for change in Los Angeles will grow louder.
8. San Francisco Giants
San Francisco would love to make the necessary moves to be considered a contender again. Unfortunately, the Giants sit very close to the luxury tax and are trying to trade Hunter Pence to create some distance with the payroll and luxury tax.
They currently sit just 4.5 games back of Los Angeles in the N.L. West but are only two games over a .500 record. The front office still seems to be deciding whether they buy this year or sell off pieces like Andrew McCutchen.
It adds pressure for a team that wants to heavily pursue Bryce Harper in free agency this offseason. Winning now could help them sell Harper on San Francisco being a contender, but they also can’t risk their future on slim odds at the World Series. For Bobby Evans, the pressure over the next week will help dictate the short and long-term future of this team.
7. Toronto Blue Jays
As Toronto continues to skid toward the bottom of the standings, it is faced with a grim possibility. With numerous key contributors on the final year of their deals, the Blue Jays are at risk of losing them for nothing in return.
Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, Curtis Granderson and several relievers are all bound for free agency this offseason. Given only Donaldson is likely to receive a qualifying offer, it makes the need to move these players as a pressing need.
The Blue Jays are pushing hard to move Happ and their relievers. If they can get decent returns for a majority of their pending free agents, then they will be a ‘winner’ of the trade deadline. If they fail to move the players, this front office will face significant questions going forward.
6. Los Angeles Angels
The loss of Garrett Richards was another blow for Los Angeles. While it was followed by a slight glimmer of hope when Shohei Ohtani was cleared to begin a throwing program, it still may leave the Angels realizing this just isn’t their year.
Ian Kinsler, Jim Johnson and Martin Maldonado are all free agents after the offseason. Meanwhile, Los Angeles has outfielders and relievers it could shop to contenders to strengthen its farm system. It’s the right direction for the Angels to go in, but selling could also send the wrong signal to Mike Trout.
The 26-year-old will become a free agent in 2021 and another season without the playoffs would work against their favor when trying to re-sign him. Los Angeles has had the best player in baseball for years, at some point they need to put the talent around him to make the postseason or he will leave.
5. Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee’s need for another starting pitcher intensified after it lost Brent Suter to Tommy John surgery. As the Brewers slip out of first in the N.L. Central and further behind the Chicago Cubs, adding at the deadline becomes even more important.
The Brewers have been linked to Yankees’ pitcher Sonny Gray, who could use a change of scenery to turn things around. Meanwhile, Milwaukee has reportedly also targeted Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier as a potential upgrade for them.
Both second base and starting pitcher are major needs for the Brewers and if they want to avoid tanking in the second half, it’s very possible both areas will need to be addressed at the deadline. If they fail to do so, Brewers fans will be none too pleased with another strong start that only leads to a late collapse and leaves them just short of the postseason.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
In the coming offseason, Arizona is at real risk of seeing center fielder A.J. Pollock and starting pitcher Patrick Corbin leave in free agency. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt could follow a year later, which makes this season critical for Arizona.
Arizona is close to the Dodgers in the N.L. West, but they now need to play catch up after Machado landed in Los Angeles. The Diamondbacks could look to improve along the middle infield and a once strong foundation is now shaky with Robbie Ray and Zack Godley’s struggles.
It’s not as if the Diamondbacks have a loaded farm system that offers an exciting future either. This is a team that has to be in win-now mode but as of now, hasn’t made a move that reflects it. That needs to change before the trade deadline or things could get ugly in Arizona in a short amount of time.
3. Washington Nationals
The 2018 season has been a nightmare for fans in Washington D.C. Many expected the Nationals to be a contender for the World Series. Instead, they are two games under .500. Even more concerning, Washington is both seven games back of first place in the N.L. East and seven back of last place.
Max Scherzer is getting older and Bryce Harper is probably headed out the door in free agency. Realistically, this is a team that should sell off pieces and focus on a future beyond Harper. Unfortunately, Mike Rizzo is under pressure to deliver upon expectations and that will require big actions at the deadline.
There is still some reason for hope in Washington. Stephen Strasburg is healthy and if Harper can turn his season around, this team becomes a threat every night. There are just too many holes at catcher and the end of Washington’s rotation that are even more exposed given the struggles of several stars.
2. Seattle Mariners
While Seattle’s general manager Jerry Dipoto signing an extensions buys him time, it also adds significant pressure. He assembled a team that many expected to break the longest postseason drought in sports given the great first half they had, but the Mariners have started to collapse as of late.
Any chance of catching the Houston Astros in the A.L. West is an unrealistic dream. The real fight will come down to the Mariners and Oakland Athletics for a wild-card spot and a matchup against the New York Yankees.
If Seattle fails to address the rotation and is unable to add a mid-rotation starter who it can rely on in the second half, the postseason drought may stretch to 17 seasons. After getting the hopes up of so many in Seattle, an epic collapse that left them out of the playoffs might do lasting damage to the fan base’s trust in the organization.
1. New York Mets
As the Yankees return to relevance as one of MLB’s best teams, the Mets fall into the dark abyss. Seemingly everything has gone wrong this season for the Metropolitans.
Whether it was Noah Syndergaard getting hand, foot and mouth disease or star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes needing season-ending surgery a game after he returned from the disabled list, the bad luck is everywhere. Even Tim Tebow couldn’t escape it this week when he suffered a season-ending injury.
While the Mets may not want to trade star pitchers Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, they almost have to. The trade of Jeurys Familia brought an underwhelming return and this is a farm system that needs major improvements.
Trading both pitchers would mean hitting the reset button, but no organization needs it more than the Mets. In a market with no star pitchers available, now is the perfect time for the Mets to sell off all of their assets.