The 2017 trade deadline, typically the last chance teams have to make one final addition before the postseason, is just a week away. If you’re sitting atop your division, chances are you’re already pretty good, but it doesn’t mean you’re a legitimate title contender, especially in a year when each league has a super team, with the Astros and Dodgers completely dominating the landscape. What each team tries to accomplish will be indicative of two things: how much each team has to spend, and how seriously each front office takes its chances. Franchises of more modest means will do little more than make a move just big enough to keep fans interested; other teams, however, need to make a big splash.
Boston Red Sox (lead AL East by 2.5 games)
Good lord do these guys need a third baseman. They finally DFA’ed Pablo Sandoval after three utterly fruitless seasons of what will go down as one of the worst contracts in the team’s history. And the assortment of guys who’ve tried to plug the Panda-sized hole at third haven’t been much better, as Sox 3B’s this season have a .600 OPS. They’re about to call up Rafael Devers, who tore up double AA (.944 OPS, 18 HR in 320 PA) before spending two weeks in triple-A doing even better (.992, 2 HR, 34 PA). He’s only got a week to prove he belongs. There’s talk of the Sox going after the Orioles’ Manny Machado, which would be Earth-shaking. Machado’s signed through 2018, and the Orioles are terrible this year, but the Sox’ prospect cupboard is bare after two years of GM Dave Dombrowski’s wheeling and dealing. Why not look into bringing back old friend Adrian Beltre, who’s got an .862 OPS and one of the best gloves in the game? The Rangers stink, Beltre is only signed through 2018, and Sox fans still regret letting him walk — it’d be a great fit.
Cleveland Indians (lead AL Central by 1.5 games)
What the Indians need more than anything is a good doctor. This is not to impugn what is no doubt a fine medical staff, but these guys have been getting killed left and right by injuries, including to manager Terry Francona, and have been hampered by disappointing first halves from Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnacion. They already have the best team ERA in the AL, but their lineup could use some help behind the plate, where Yan Gomes appears to have run out of steam, with an OPS of .624 in 889 plate appearance since winning a Silver Slugger in 2014. How committed are the Tigers to Alex Avila? Yes, teams don’t like trade within in their division, but Detroit’s 6 ½ games back, Avila is in the midst of his best season ever and he’s a free agent at the end of the year — why hang on? Do they want to overpay for him this fall? And if so, couldn’t they do so after he plays out the string with the Tribe?
Houston Astros (lead AL West by 17 games)
What do you get the man who has everything? The ‘Stros have easily the best lineup in the Majors, and a Cy Young candidate at the front of a rotation with the best ERA (3.89) in the AL, and the fifth-best bullpen by OPS. Ken Giles is their closer, so maybe they could use some help out there; maybe the Pirates would listen about young fireballer Felipe Rivero, he of the 0.70 ERA and 5.00 SO/BB ratio.
Washington Nationals (lead NL East by 12 games)
The Nats players were on the brink of open revolt if the front office hadn’t gotten them some bullpen help in the form of ex-A’s Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. By OPS, the Nats have the worst bullpen in baseball at .818, and ERA at 5.24, and this despite facing the fewest batters. Things have been so bad that Matt Albers has been their ace out of the pen (no offense, Matt). Just to be safe, they should just grab one more arm before Bryce Harper kicks in their door bearing pitchforks and torches.
Milwaukee Brewers/Chicago Cubs (tied atop NL Central)
As the Brewers slowly turn back into a pumpkin, they may consider an act of desperation to hold the inevitable at bay. A year after enjoying a breakout season, second baseman Jonathan Villar has plummeted back to Earth, with a .223 batting average dragged down by a .67-point drop in BABIP. Bad luck is no reason to bail on a guy, and the rest of the lineup is respectable. If the Brewers’ front office really thinks they’ve got a shot at a title, they’ll try to pry a starting pitcher away from someone — Jason Verlander can be had for a king’s ransom, but he’s probably not worth it, even if they could afford it. Yu Darvish is a free agent at the end of the season, and the Rangers aren’t going anywhere… Just sayin’. More realistically, the Brewers will realize they just need a bullpen arm to try to stay afloat. The Cubs, meanwhile, are finally pulling it together, after making a big splash by trading for White Sox starter Jose Quintana. At this point they have enough talent to defend their title, but they also have the third-worst outfield OPS, .752, in the NL. How hard would it be to get an upgrade out there? Yeah, it’s too early to give up on Kyle Schwarber, but the fact is that he 88th in WAR among all outfielders with at least 200 PA.
Los Angeles Dodgers (lead NL West by 10 ½ games)
The Dodgers have won 33 of their last 39 games — let that sink in. Over the course of a full season, that translates to a record of 137-25. They’re going to be without the services of ace Clayton Kershaw for the near future, as he’s hitting the DL with back tightness. This development has stoked rumors that the Dodgers will try to land either Yu Darvish or Sonny Gray. Man, if they get Darvish and Kershaw comes back healthy in the next month or so, they will be downright scary.
Colorado Rockies at St. Louis Cardinals
8pm ET on ESPN
Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox
8pm ET on ESPN
San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers
4pm ET on FS1
Cincinnati Reds at Miami Marlins
7pm ET on FS1
Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers
2pm ET on TBS
San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers
8pm on ESPN