Today, with the help of my SweetSpot colleagues, we're taking a look at each team's priorities as we head toward the July 31 trade deadline, and beyond. First, the American League:
Angels: One gets the sense that the Angels are content to sit back and wait for the WOW to happen. After all, they win almost every year and the Rangers are going to fade and Mike Scioscia's the best manager in the majors and one of these days Brandon Wood's power will finally show up, right? Or not. With Kendry Morales out of action, Torii Hunter is the only Angels who has any real chance of carrying the lineup for more than a few days. Jered Weaver's the only Cy Young candidate, and it's still not obvious how or why he's pitching so well this season. The real problem is that even if the Angels trade for a big bat, they're still probably not good enough to catch the Lee-fortified Rangers down the stretch. Unless there's some minor miracle between now and July 31, management should probably just admit (to themselves, anyway) that this just isn't their year. It happens to the best of 'em.
Athletics: Would it interest you to know the A's have a better run differential than the Angels? I'll bet it interests Billy Beane, who must harbor faint hopes that his club might still make a run at relevancy this summer. Maybe, with Coco Crisp and Jack Cust ensconced in the lineup, the A's can boost their run production a little. Maybe Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson will both get healthy, and the A's will finally feature the young and talented rotation that Beane envisioned a couple of years ago. You never know. In the short term, though, with a chasm in the standings between the first-place Rangers and third-place Athletics, the single best thing that could happen to the A's would be for Ben Sheets to pitch brilliantly in his next couple of starts, which might allow Beane to unload Sheets for an interesting young hitter. Because until the A's come up with a few of those, the rest is mostly moot.
Blue Jays: With contention now just a fading memory -- remember those glory days of April? -- the front office can get down to the real business of building a roster that might, if a few dozen things work out just right, actually contend at some point in the next few years. Trading for Yunel Escobar, whatever his flaws, was a pretty good first step. For some non-contenders, that single move alone might be considered sufficient progress for one summer. But the Jays also need to get Travis Snider back on track, and sort out their young starters. Fortunately, they've already got a great head starter on the latter, with Ricky Romero and Shaun Marcum establishing themselves and both Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil perhaps on the cusp. This team isn't far from an 85-win season. Now, if they could just convince the commissioner to create a Canadian Division ...
Indians: The focus at this point is development, development, development. Until David Huff was sent down for “Inflammation of the Suck” on June 21, the same five starters made every start, and it’s worth giving Justin Masterson, Fausto Carmona, and Mitch Talbot the reps to see what they have and shore up their weaknesses. Masterson has potentially dominating high-K stuff, but needs to figure out how to approach lefties. Carmona has potentially dominating groundball stuff, but needs some Ks and can always work on command. Talbot is a guy.
-- Steve Buffum, B-List Indians Blog 2010 Trade Deadline Primer
Mariners: They'll still do their best to compete. But with the playoffs out of reach and Cliff Lee pitching for Texas, the focus shifts to next year and beyond. Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley and Jack Wilson need to show that they're capable of playing to their career norms, if only to provide peace of mind going into next season. Rookies Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders will continue to try to prove they can contribute to a winner in 2011. Other youngsters will make their way up from the minors between now and September, most notably Michael Pineda and Dustin Ackley.
-- Jon Shields, Pro Ball NW
Orioles: The Baltimore Orioles are 14 ½ games out of fourth place and will spend the remainder of their season preparing for 2011. They should start by hiring a permanent manager with an established track record. Buck Showalter is the front-runner and he fits the bill. Next, the Orioles need to trade veterans for prospects. They will be shopping Will Ohman, Luke Scott, and All-Star Ty Wigginton. Finally, they need to see what the kids can do. Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman, and Brad Bergesen should be in the rotation for the rest of the year. What’s the worst that could happen? The O’s lose a few more games?
-- David McNeill, Weaver's Tantrum
Rangers: As the de facto favorites to win the AL West, the Rangers have as much to lose as any team, particularly after chipping in big talent for Cliff Lee. With one of baseball’s toughest second-half schedules, the Rangers need Lee to keep pitching like an ace (or close to it) and the rest of the starting rotation needs to remain reasonably healthy. Actually, pitching health may be the single biggest key for Texas going forward, but the loss of a starting infielder or outfielder for an extended period of time would push Andres Blanco or David Murphy into the limelight, a significant downgrade.
-- Joey Matschulat, Baseball Time in Arlington
Rays: The Rays have a surprising number of issues for a team that is, by nearly any objective measure, the second-best in the majors. Their first baseman has barely cleared the Mendoza line, and they're still searching for a designated hitter who can out-hit their disappointing first baseman. They're not getting much production from two of the three outfield spots. They've got two starting pitchers with ERAs below 3, but two others with ERAs approaching 5. And of course their financial situation doesn't allow them to take on a great deal of salary. So most of what the Rays do in their pursuit of a postseason berth will probably be internal. Maybe more of Carlos Pena's line drives will start falling in for hits. Maybe Matt Joyce will remember what got him to the majors. And maybe the Rays will find a place in the rotation for Triple-A sensation Jeremy Hellickson.
Red Sox: The Red Sox should focus on shoring up their bullpen, getting Josh Beckett healthy and trying to figure out who is for real on offense. The bullpen can be fixed by bringing in current pitchers stashed at Triple-A and giving shots to other pitchers who are currently in other organizations. While it’s possible the Red Sox could strike for a reliever at the deadline, it would not be surprising if general manager Theo Epstein instead opted to acquire one through waivers in August, similar to the Billy Wagner deal. Epstein will not make a deal just to make one -- the quality of the pitcher will matter more than the calendar.
-- Evan Brunell, Fire Brand's 2010 Trade Deadline Primer
Royals: The Royals will hang on to their most valuable trade commodities (Zack Greinke, Joakim Soria, Billy Butler) and bide their time, hoping that younger players in the system progress (Mike Moustakas was just promoted to Triple-A this week). GM Dayton Moore always says he’s open to offers, but he rarely pulls the trigger on deals involving players who aren’t spare parts. Part of that is lack of quality to deal. Another part is the Royals tend to overvalue their players and ask for too much in return. If the Royals add a player, a corner outfielder with some power will be a priority. They don’t have the chips to net a major league outfielder, so they’ll be looking at prospects.
-- Craig Brown, Royals Authority 2010 Trade Deadline Primer
Tigers: If the Tigers plan on remaining near the top of the A.L. Central they need to figure out two things in a hurry: who to slot in the rotation behind Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Jeremy Bonderman, and how to beat weaker divisional foes. They can get started on the latter this weekend when they travel to Cleveland for a four-game series. This is crucial because they're just 17-16 against the Central and will face Texas, Toronto, Tampa Bay and Boston in succession immediately thereafter. As for the rotation, Rick Porcello will return from the minors to face the Indians on Saturday night; his performance over the next two weeks will likely determine how aggressively the Tigers pursue a front-line starter at the trade deadline.
-- Mike McClary, The Daily Fungo
Twins: The Twins could really use one more top-end starting pitcher. Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey look more like middle-of-the- rotation guys than front-line starters, and the Twins would love one more guy to round out their postseason rotation. Someone like Dan Haren or Roy Oswalt would certainly fit that bill, though such a move would require the Twins to part with at least one of their most coveted prospects, with catcher Wilson Ramos and outfielder Ben Revere appearing to be the most likely candidates.
-- Nick Nelson, TwinsCentric's 2010 Trade Deadline Primer
White Sox: The Sox finished the first half winning every game they played. That seems like a sound strategy, and if they once again choose to not lose, I think they'll be fine. Seriously, their rejuvenation hinged on otherworldly starting pitching, which is difficult to duplicate after losing Jake Peavy for the season. Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Mark Buehrle can't let up, and Freddy Garcia can't get hurt. That's a lot of stress on four pitchers, but they have the talent. So does Daniel Hudson, but I like his chances better as a reliable fifth starter than a true Peavy replacement this year.
-- Jim Margalus, Sox Machine
Yankees: It’s hard to know what to expect from the 2010 version of the New York Yankees. Should we focus on the great starting pitching, and the hitting of Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher? Or should we worry about A-Rod’s nagging injuries and the shaky bullpen? True enough, the Yankees are on a pace to win more than 100 games. But they are 16-3 against the weakest teams on their schedule (Baltimore, Houston, Cleveland) and just 25-22 against everyone else. So far, the Yankees have won eight and lost eight against division rivals Boston, Tampa Bay and Toronto. We cannot pronounce these Yankees a championship-caliber team. Not yet.
-- Will Moller and Larry Behrendt, It's About the Money's 2010 Trade Deadline Primer