As MLB’s trade deadline draws near, the potential lingers for major shakeups that will have a lasting impact on what team thrives in October and wins the World Series.
This could be a special year when several marquee names move and the biggest impact could be seen on the pitching side. Because top contenders all have similar needs, it adds to the battle for supremacy between them to land the big arm. As a result, this year’s trade deadline will swing momentum for teams with trades deciding who could emerge victorious in October.
Here is one deal each contender needs to make to seriously compete for the World Series.
New York Yankees: Trade for Madison Bumgarner
There are few fits more perfect than the Yankees trading for Bumgarner. Luis Severino remains without a timetable to rejoin New York’s rotation, so this team needs an ace in the postseason and Bumgarner is precisely that.
- He owns a 1.55 ERA, 1.83 FIP and 10.55 K/9 across his past five starts and threw a nine-inning gem on Thursday against the New York Mets.
- Bumgarner dominates the postseason with a career 2.11 ERA in 102.1 innings and a 0.25 ERA over 36 innings in the World Series.
- Because he’s in the last year of his contract, New York might only have to trade one of its top-five prospects to land Bumgarner.
Tampa Bay Rays: Strike a deal for Domingo Santana, Roenis Elías
Tampa Bay is slipping quickly in the AL East, so competing for a wild-card spot is the most realistic shot at a playoff spot. Given the team’s needs in the bullpen and lineup, along with ownership’s aversion to spending money, one trade stands out.
- Elías, who is owed $900K this season and is under team control through 2021, is a southpaw who has held right-handed hitters to a .181/.244/..336 slash line this season.
- Santana is under team control through 2021 and owns a .277/.343/.484 slash line with 19 home runs and 64 RBI. He’d plug in perfectly as Tampa Bay’s designated hitter.
Both players would be excellent additions to a young team on the rise and their team-friendly deals fit perfectly into how Tampa Bay structures its payroll. This is exactly the kind of package the Rays need to look for at the trade deadline.
Minnesota Twins: Acquire Will Smith to strengthen the bullpen
While Minnesota could use a mid-rotation starter, bringing in an All-Star closer needs to be an even bigger priority for the front office.
- Smith is the top relief pitcher on the market and the southpaw’s 0.94 WHIP with 24 saves would fit perfectly into the closer role for a contender.
- Acquiring Smith would allow the Twins to use lefty Taylor Rogers in a multi-inning role with Blake Parker and Ryne Harper in situational spots.
- A deeper bullpen enables Minnesota to be more conservative with how deep starting pitchers work into games and that pays off with fresher arms in October.
A reliever of Smith’s caliber might cost them No. 5 prospect Jordan Balazovic, but it’s a move worth making if this team wants to win the division and compete in October.
Houston Astros: Land Matthew Boyd to solidify rotation
Houston is nearing a point of desperation with its rotation. Corbin Martin is out until 2021 with Tommy John surgery and Brad Peacock suffered a setback with his shoulder. This team needs another top starter for both this season and the future.
- Boyd is the perfect solution to Houston’s issues. The 28-year-old’s 160/24 K/BB ratio and 27.4 percent K-BB rate with a fastball-slider combo fits exactly what the coaching staff loves to work with.
- He’s arbitration-eligible for the next three seasons, which gives the Astros an affordable front-line starting pitcher and more financial flexibility to re-sign Gerrit Cole.
It might ultimately cost the Astros a deal centered around Kyle Tucker, who remains one of the game’s elite prospects. The potential for a Cole-Verlander-Boyd trio, which would be the best postseason rotation in years, is easily worth the cost.
Oakland Athletics: Trade for Marcus Stroman
The acquisition of Homer Bailey will help the back of Oakland’s rotation, but it needs to make a move to make up for the loss of Frankie Montas. While it might prove costly to the farm system, Stroman would be a very beneficial addition for Oakland.
- Stroman brings an electric personality that fans and teammates will gravitate towards quickly and rally around.
- He’ll generate a lot of ground balls for a team with one of the best defensive infields in the game.
- Stroman can start for the Athletics in a wild-card game and help mentor some of the team’s younger arms as well.
Atlanta Braves: Solidify the rotation with Mike Minor reunion
Atlanta would love to acquire Cleveland Indians ace Trevor Bauer, it just seems unlikely that he’ll ultimately be moved. That shouldn’t stop the Braves from acquiring another top starter with a team-friendly deal.
- Minor’s career got off to a rough start in Atlanta with injuries derailing his success.
- The 31-year-old southpaw has discovered new life in Texas with a 2.73 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a 24.5 percent strikeout rate this season.
- Minor is owed just $9.5 million in 2020, would strengthen Atlanta’s rotation for the postseason and allow it to monitor the innings of its young starters.
A switch from Bauer to Minor would allow the Braves to keep No. 1 prospect Cristian Pache and instead build a prospect package around pitching prospect Kyle Muller or Bryse Wilson.
Chicago Cubs: Fix the hole at second base with Dee Gordon
There is plenty of All-Star talent in Chicago’s lineup. The front office now needs to make the deals that move the needle on the scoreboard in October. That means giving Addison Russell’s playing time to a better player.
- Gordon remains an elite threat on the base paths and his ability to steal bases and put himself in scoring position is a huge advantage.
- Before getting drilled in the wrist by a pitch on May 9, which still seems to be impacting him at the plate, Gordon posted a .304/.336/.406 slash line.
While Gordon will be owed $13.5 million in 2020, the Mariners are reportedly willing to eat much of his contract and that makes the fit even better for Chicago.
Washington Nationals: Address bullpen with Tony Watson, Sam Dyson
Just when it seemed a certainty that the Nationals would be sellers, this team is now racking up wins and back in the picture for contention. If they want to maintain this run with aspirations of October, the bullpen needs to be upgraded.
- The left-handed Watson is dominating in San Francisco’s bullpen this year with a 2.95 ERA and a .220 batting average allowed to right-handed hitters.
- Dyson would provide a complementary right-handed arm with great success this season behind a 2.74 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 46 innings.
- Dyson and Watson could help form a bridge with Fernando Rodney (2.84 ERA) to star closer Sean Doolittle.
One trade strengthens a pressing need and puts Washington back into the spotlight as a contender behind its great rotation and improving the lineup.
Milwaukee Brewers: Take a risk on Zack Wheeler
If Milwaukee is going to take advantage of another MVP-caliber season from Christian Yelich, then it must address its woeful rotation. The Brewers don’t have the farm system to land an ace, but Wheeler could be right in their price range.
- While Wheeler’s 4.69 ERA is alarmingly high, his 3.66 FIP, 1.28 WHIP and 25.6 percent strikeout rate show he is far better than his ERA indicates.
- Wheeler does come with durability concerns as he’s currently on the 10-day injured list with shoulder fatigue.
The injury risk for a rental pitcher will help drive down the price and it’s already a guarantee the Mets will trade him. This is a bet Milwaukee must make because a healthy Wheeler could make this team relevant once again in the NL.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Lockdown the eighth inning with Felipe Vásquez
Los Angeles finds itself at the point where any addition it makes is a move for luxury rather than overwhelming need. The pitching staff is in great shape and the lineup is outstanding, however, a shutdown reliever to pair with Kenley Jansen would be the icing on the cake.
- Vazquez is one of the best relievers in the game and he is demonstrating it this season with a 2.01 ERA, 2.10 FIP and a stunning 14.06 K/9.
- He is under contract through 2021 with additional club options for 2022 and ’23 at $10 million per season.
Convincing Pittsburgh to part with its All-Star closer will require the Dodgers to move a top prospect. Fortunately for Los Angeles, a deep farm system makes that an expense it can easily afford and the reward could be a World Series ring.