Over the course of the past two weeks, the Boston Red Sox have been very active in the trade market, first by acquiring Aaron Hill from the Milwaukee Brewers, then by adding Brad Ziegler in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Most recently, Dave Dombrowksi made a bold move to acquire lefty Drew Pomeranz from the San Diego Padres in exchange for highly-regarded pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza. With these additions, the Red Sox have improved all three major areas of need: bench depth, the bullpen, and the rotation. Dombrowski may or may not be done dealing, but regardless of what he does moving forward, the pressure has been put on the remaining teams in the AL East to make moves to improve their own rosters. The Orioles may have been leading the division entering play Sunday, but they have needs of their own, and both the Red Sox and Blue Jays are hot on their trail. The Yankees and Rays, on the other hand, may be falling out of the race, but still have reason to be active as the trade deadline nears.
Given the increase in trade market activity in recent weeks, I would like to look at which moves each remaining team in the AL East should make before the trade deadline, whether that means to improve their playoff chances, or to plan for 2017 and beyond. Below, you will find three tables showing both hitting and pitching statistics for each AL East team (numbers courtesy of FanGraphs). Notice which team ranks first in each table. Hint: the leaders for OPS, starting pitcher ERA, and bullpen ERA are each a different playoff contender.
*All records and stats as of the start of play on Sunday, July 17th.
Baltimore Orioles, 53-36, .596, 43 RDif, 1st in AL East
Trade for Oakland LHP Rich Hill
Don’t look too much into the fact that the Orioles are currently in first place in the standings. While Baltimore’s offense is legit, owning the highest isolated slugging number in the East with a .194 mark, they have some serious concerns in their starting rotation. Despite a very good first half from staff Ace Chris Tillman (13-2, 3.29 ERA) the O’s still rank last in the division with a 5.10 staff ERA. Behind Tillman, the rotation has not been so pretty for the Orioles, and even Tillman himself may be pitching above his capabilities, as he sports a 4.23 FIP.
The Athletics reportedly asked the Red Sox for Anderson Espinoza in exchange for Rich Hill, but Boston instead sent Espinoza to San Diego for Drew Pomeranz. Oakland’s asking price is certainly a steep one, but it makes sense that they would want so much for a starter who has accumulated a 2.25 ERA and 10.7 K/9 rate through 76 innings in 2016. Hill would be a welcome addition to the Baltimore rotation, but only if they can avoid parting with top prospect Hunter Harvey. A couple of next level prospects, however, may be enough to get a deal done, as Oakland knows that it needs to cash in on Hill before he becomes a free agent at season’s end. Max even covered a possible A’s-O’s trade match back in May.
Toronto Blue Jays, 51-42, .548, 73 RDif, 3rd in AL East
Add another starting pitcher
At a glance, it would make sense to think that the Blue Jays are most in need of some bullpen help. After all, they are 4th in the AL East with a 4.00 bullpen ERA and a record of 10-21 from that group. Adding a starter, however, would kill two birds with one stone. First, it would provide a rotation replacement for 24-year old Aaron Sanchez, who’s innings are to be managed down the stretch by moving him to a relief roll. Secondly, the Toronto bullpen will get a major boost when Sanchez is added to it, as he owns a career 1.67 ERA out of the bullpen, where he spent time in both 2014 and 2015.
As for specific names, Toronto could be interested in anybody from Rich Hill, to a back-of-the-rotation piece like Philadelphia’s Jeremy Hellickson. Other interesting names would include Andrew Cashner of San Diego, who has pitched like a number two or three starter in the past, as well as Pittsburgh’s Jon Niese. Ultimately, Toronto will probably end up making a few moves. In their starting pitching acquisition, I expect them to add a back-end rotation piece.
New York Yankees, 44-46, .489, -39 RDif, 4th in AL East
It is still possible that Yankees GM Brian Cashman will decide to try and add at the deadline rather than subtract, as I cannot remember the last time the Bronx Bombers were forced to sell. But, at this point in the season, with a 44-46 record and a -39 run differential, it seems like a long shot that the Yankees will be able to contend for even a wild card spot, let alone for a shot at a World Series championship. Should the Yankees make the wise decision to look towards 2017, they have two very good players in contract years who could net them a significant return.
Aroldis Chapman has not disappointed in his first season in New York, routinely topping 100 mph while maintaining a very high strikeout rate. In his career, Chapman boasts a 2.19 ERA, 15.27 K/9 rate, and has 163 saves in 182 chances. Numerous contenders have already been in talks with the Yankees about their closer, with the Giants being the team most commonly mentioned. If they play their cards right, the Yankees should be able to get a return of equal or greater value to the four prospects they gave up for Chapman back in the offseason.
In comparison, Carlos Beltran is putting together a fantastic season at the age of 39, batting .294 with 19 homeruns and 58 RBIs. Also in a contract year, there will be no better time for the Yankees to get something for the 9-time all-star than over the next couple of weeks. Beltran may no longer be the fielder he once was, but he would provide veteran leadership and playoff experience to an American league team that needs a part-time RF/DH. The return won’t be nearly as great for Beltran, but the Yankees could still fetch a prospect or two in exchange for his services.
Tampa Bay Rays, 34-56, .378, -76 RDif, 5th in AL East
Trade a starting pitcher not named Chris Archer
The Rays are the one team in the East that have already been labeled as sellers. While fans may not be filling the ballpark, scouts certainly have been. Starting pitchers are far and away the highest demand on this year’s trade market, and the Tampa Bay has a plethora them. In Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore, and Drew Smyly, the Rays have a plethora of controllable arms that would slot nicely into the middle of any rotation. The one name that should not be moved, however, is Chris Archer. Controllable through 2021 if both of his options are picked up, it would be unwise to sell-low on a 3.56 ERA career pitcher who is in the middle of a 4-13, 4.68 ERA campaign. Furthermore, Archer may be the starter that the Rays look to build around in the coming years, as they will surely become competitive again before Archer’s contract is up.
Odorizzi, who will be entering his first year of arbitration this offseason, may make the most sense as the one to be moved, as his salary will be increasing each of the next three seasons. Odorizzi has had some trouble in the homeruns department this season, but his peripherals are just about in line with his career numbers, so improvement should be expected. The Rays reportedly did not want to negotiate with the division-rival Red Sox in regards to starting pitching, but there are plenty of other teams out their looking for pitchers who could make nice trade partners. Theo Epstein and the Cubs are always looking to improve. The Dodgers could add to their injury-plagued rotation. The Rangers have already been in contact with the Rays about most of their starters and the list of interested organizations doesn’t end there. In such a strong seller’s market, the Rays would be wise to cash in on one (or a few)of their very-valuable trade chips.
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