Which Teams Should Be Buyers, Sellers, At The MLB Trade Deadline?

Ryan Mayer

We’re into the second half of the MLB season now and the trade deadline is just over a week away. With a blockbuster deal between the Cubs and White Sox already in the books, trade season has officially begun. As the deadline approaches, fan bases around the country will be faced with the same question about their teams. Should they be buyers? Or should they sell and build for the future? Well, I’ll give you my thoughts on each of the 30 MLB teams and where they stand as the deadline approaches, along with what the rumors currently indicate about what the team may be thinking. As always, if we disagree, it’s clearly because I have a problem with you specifically and not at all based on interpretation of underlying statistics.

American League East

Baltimore Orioles- Sellers

The Orioles own the league’s second-worst rotation ERA at 5.96 (only the Reds are worst w/ 6.12) and have been outscored by 92 runs so far this season. So far, they’ve actually outperformed their Pythagorean expectations by five wins. The most recent rumor out of Baltimore has both star third baseman Manny Machado and closer Zach Britton as the subject of trade rumors.

Boston Red Sox- Buyers

The Red Sox haven’t come out of the break on fire losing three of five so far, but, they have a +68 run differential, they lead the Rays by two games in the AL East and they are in the Top 10 in both starters’ ERA (4.09; 9th) and reliever ERA (3.03; 3rd). Their biggest problem has been inconsistency on offense and getting nothing out of the third base spot. So far, they’ve been linked to White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier, and could have a couple other options.

New York Yankees- Buyers

GM Brian Cashman has already stated the team will be “careful buyers” at the deadline, so yeah, this is a no-brainer. Plus, the Yankees have a plethora of prospects to attempt to improve their team and they’re still in the division (3.5 GB) and wild card (0.5 games up on MIN for 2nd) races. They’ve been connected to Mets first baseman Lucas Duda and White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier and closer David Robertson.

Tampa Bay Rays- Buyers

The Rays are the surprise team of the AL East this season and sit just two games back of the Red Sox in the division race, while leading the wild card race. The +20 run differential indicates they are for real, with the starting staff (3.93 ERA, 6th) being the strength of the team with the bullpen (4.40 ERA, 21st) being the relative weakness. They’ve reportedly got interest in Tigers reliever Justin Wilson.

Toronto Blue Jays- Sellers

The Jays dug themselves a hole early with a 7-16 start and despite climbing back towards .500 at 34-35 on June 19th. Since then, they’ve gone 9-14. With a -69 run differential they don’t look primed for recovery. Like the Orioles, based on the stats, they’ve actually overperformed their Pythagorean expectations by four wins thus far. That doesn’t bode well for their hopes of catching the Yanks in the Wild Card race (4.5 GB). There’s not much in the way of rumors out of Toronto thus far.

National League East

Atlanta Braves- Stand Pat/Cautious Buy

The Braves aren’t likely to make the playoffs. They’re 10.5 games behind the Nationals in the division and seven games back of the second wild card. But, rumors have stated that the Braves made a “strong offer” to the White Sox for Jose Quintana prior to the Cubs snapping him up, so at 43-45 the Braves appear to be looking to use their wealth of prospects to get cost-controlled big league starting pitching.

Miami Marlins- Sellers

The Marlins are further back in the division (13.5) and wild card (10) than the Braves. They’re also in the midst of looking for a new owner and have some onerous contracts on the books (hello Giancarlo Stanton). President David Samson denied reports that the team was looking to unload some of those contracts to make the team more enticing to buyers, but recent reports out of Philly say that the Phillies are “likely to go after Christian Yelich” at the deadline. Something to keep an eye on here.

New York Mets- Sellers

The injury bug has once again derailed what looked to be, on paper, a potentially special season. 14 games back in the division and 10.5 back in the wild card with a -43 run differential, it’s time to start identifying pieces they’d be willing to part with. As mentioned earlier, the Yankees have reportedly scouted Lucas Duda, and he’s just one of multiple names who could be moved.

Philadelphia Phillies- Sellers

The Phillies have been awful this year with the worst record (30-61) in the league, though they do have a better run differential than both the Padres (-124) and Giants (-108). They should be sellers, and teams reportedly have interest in reliever Pat Neshek, but as mentioned in the Marlins graph, they may make a big deal for Yelich as well.

American League Central

Chicago White Sox- Sellers

This one’s easy. Rick Hahn got a boatload of prospects for their two most valuable assets, Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana, and will look to continue improving a farm system that is climbing the ranks as one of the league’s best. The players seem to know that the team isn’t done making moves.

Cleveland Indians- Buyers

The Indians lead the Central but just 1.5 games, but they have a +65 run differential and are just starting to get healthy this season. Their rotation hasn’t been as good as last year, sitting middle of the pack with a 4.37 ERA (13th) and they could make a move to go after a starter at the deadline like the A’s Sonny Gray.

Detroit Tigers- Sellers

The Tigers should sell because they’re six back in the division and five back in the wild card. Also, because they have a depleted farm system (27th according to Bleacher Report) and an aging core of veterans that are entering their decline phase. Problem is, a lot of those veterans have huge contracts and the Tigers would likely need to eat a lot of money to move them. They’re reportedly uninterested in trading young ace Michael Fulmer (understandable), but there’s been some interest in JD Martinez.

Kansas City Royals- Sellers

The Royals have come on strong since struggling out of the gates at 7-16. A 17-9 month of June really helped and they’re just 3.5 out in the Central and two games out of the wild card. But, this is where the decision comes. Try and push for one final run with this core group that has multiple free agents after this season, or sell those guys now in hopes of a quick rebuild. That said, people in the league believe unless the team collapses and falls out of the race, the Royals won’t have a big sell-off.

Minnesota Twins- Buyers

This is one where I’m going to stray from looking at the peripherals. Their -63 run differential and over-performing play from Ervin Santana (2.99 ERA vs. 4.03 career ERA), along with out-performing their Pythagorean expectations by 17(!) games would indicate that their performance thus far isn’t necessarily likely to continue. But, they’re exploring “controllable” pitching options and that I would agree with. Outside of Jose Berrios, their rotation consists mostly of retreads, so getting a cost-effective pitcher (like the aforementioned Gray) could help them not only this year, but beyond.

National League Central

Chicago Cubs- Buyers

It’s been obvious since they acquired Jose Quintana, the Cubs are stocking up. They’ve got a +17 run differential and have come out of the break hot with four straight wins. The team is reportedly looking into adding a veteran arm to the bullpen and staying involved in potential talks for Sonny Gray.

Cincinnati Reds- Sellers

Worst starting rotation ERA (6.12), 11.5 games back in the Central and 13.5 back in the wild card, and a -62 run differential, the Reds should sell any pieces they can afford to part with. They face a dilemma with Zack Cozart, who’s having a career year, but is going to be a free agent after the season at age 31.

Milwaukee Brewers- Buyers

The Brewers are the surprise team of baseball in my opinion this year. They’re legit too with a +44 run differential and are performing right in line with expectations at 52-43. They’ve been reported to be in on Pat Neshek as mentioned above, but could also be in on the A’s Sonny Gray.

Pittsburgh Pirates- Sellers

The Pirates are six back in the division, eight back in the wild card, and are pretty much performing to expectations based on the Pythagorean formula with a 45-48 record. They just got Starling Marte back, but he’s not enough to drag them back into the playoff race. There’s reportedly been interest in reliever Tony Watson on the part of the Rays, so that’s one move that could be made.

St. Louis Cardinals- Stand Pat/Buyers

The Cardinals are 5.5 back in the division which is likely their only shot at the playoffs as neither the Diamondbacks or Rockies have shown signs of slowing down. Things have been quiet so far in St. Louis, so it’ll be interesting to see how they approach the deadline.

American League West

Houston Astros- Buyers

The Astros have the second best record in the league at 62-31 despite their ace, Dallas Keuchel being injured and Collin McHugh not having appeared this season yet. That leads us to the rumors, which focus largely on the team adding a starter. Could be Jeff Samardzjia, could be Sonny Gray. We’ll see.

Los Angeles Angels- Should be Sellers, may be Buyers

I have no idea how the Angels are just three games back in the wild card with Mike Trout missing basically the past two months of play. They are in a similar situation to the Tigers, with little in the way of prospects, and a mediocre big league roster (outside of Trout). But, reports have had them inquiring on the Marlins’ Dee Gordon to upgrade the second base spot.

Oakland Athletics- Sellers

The A’s already traded a pair of relievers to the Nationals. We’ve been over the Sonny Gray rumors. At 42-51 with a -78 run differential, it’s selling time again for the A’s, which has been the trend the past few seasons now.

Seattle Mariners- Buyers

The Mariners have the league’s longest playoff drought at 15 seasons since the 2001 team. At 47-47 with a positive run differential (barely at +2), and just 1.5 out of the second wild card spot, it’s a “might as well go for it” situation for me. Jon Morosi reports that the Mariners are looking in controllable starting pitching.

Texas Rangers- Buyers/Sellers

The Rangers have two options. They’re close enough (2.5 GB of Wild Card) with a +29 run differential to justify going for it. They also have a couple of upcoming free agents (Yu Darvish, Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez) that they may want to move to get something for them rather than nothing. They’re reportedly open to moving Lucroy, but I’m not sure how much interest there will be.

National League West

Arizona Diamondbacks- Buyers

The Diamondbacks have bounced back nicely after last year’s trainwreck of a season. Zack Greinke has seemingly reverted to form, their rotation ERA is second to only the Dodgers (3.48) and they own a +92 run differential while sitting a half-game up on the Rockies for the top Wild Card spot and 5.5 clear of everybody else in terms of either spot. They have reportedly had talks with the Tigers about J.D. Martinez.

Colorado Rockies- Buyers

The Rockies, like the Diamondbacks, have surprised most people this season with their ride to the top of the standings. They’ve done it on the back of good performances from some young pitchers, great years from Mark Reynolds, DJ Lemahieu, Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon. A +36 run differential is a good sign, though they are slightly out-performing Pythagorean expectations so far. Reportedly also in on J.D. Martinez, they could use some bullpen help too as that unit ranks just 22nd in ERA (4.40).

Los Angeles Dodgers- Buyers

The Dodgers have the best record in baseball (64-29) and a ridiculous run differential (+172). The Dodgers could have interest in Zach Britton if made available and are another of the teams reportedly in on Martinez.

San Diego Padres- Sellers

This should be obvious. The Padres weren’t expected to contend, and they haven’t. But, they do have a guy who’s reportedly gotten a lot of interest in lefty reliever Brad Hand.

San Francisco Giants- Sellers

A lost season for the Giants, who were expected by many to make a push for the division crown. Instead, they’re 35-59 with one of the worst differentials in the league (-108). Madison Bumgarner just came back, so that’s nice. I mentioned the interest from the Astros in Jeff Samardzjia above, and there a multiple other guys that could draw interest as Matt Snyder from CBS Sports detailed.

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