Roughly three-quarters of the teams in the Majors remain within reach of a postseason spot, but even for those preparing to sell, the goal for all 30 clubs remains the same: make the overall roster better.
That could mean strengthening the rotation or the bullpen for the stretch run, or addressing a key position that has been an issue all season. It could also mean bolstering the farm system with an eye on 2023 and beyond.
Whether you’re a buyer, a seller or somewhere in between, the next few weeks ahead of Aug. 2 Trade Deadline figure to be busy for executives everywhere. With that in mind, here’s a look at one possible upgrade for each club, with all numbers updated through Sunday’s games.
Blue Jays: Bullpen
Toronto’s 4.30 bullpen ERA ranks next-to-last in the AL, and given the competitive nature of the AL East, the Blue Jays will be battling the rest of their division foes in an effort to add relief help. Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards provided a boost after being acquired last summer, so GM Ross Atkins might try to repeat that success by bringing in another new arm or two.
Orioles: Third base
Don’t look now, but the Orioles are hanging around in the AL Wild Card race. It will take a surprising run for Baltimore to overtake the Rays, Red Sox or Blue Jays, and most industry types believe the O’s will ultimately sell off some pieces including Trey Mancini, Jorge López and possibly Anthony Santander. If GM Mike Elias decides to become a buyer, third base is an obvious area to upgrade; Baltimore’s .594 OPS there ranks 28th in the Majors.
Brandon Lowe will return soon from the injured list, and the Rays hope new acquisition Christian Bethancourt turns his expected numbers into actual production. But the Rays are still tied for 21st in homers with 80 — they were sixth last season — with Isaac Paredes and Randy Arozarena the only two in double digits. The Rays have the flexibility to make room in right field or at DH — or just about anywhere on the field — allowing them to focus primarily on adding thump to support their pitching staff.
Red Sox: Bullpen
Boston’s relief corps ranks in the middle of the AL with a 3.63 ERA, but the bullpen already has 18 blown saves, the second most in the Majors. Adding a late-inning reliever who could handle the closer’s role would strengthen one of the club’s weakest areas.
Clay Holmes continues to dominate as the league’s best reliever, while Michael King is also enjoying a breakout season. The Yankees’ bullpen is deep, but there are questions about Aroldis Chapman’s dependability, so adding another high-leverage arm would be good insurance for a team with championship aspirations.
Cleveland’s .503 OPS from the catcher position ranks as the worst in the AL and second worst in all of baseball, so adding a competent bat behind the plate would seem to be an obvious move. With a crowded 40-man roster and more talent coming up through the system, the Guardians have plenty to trade for a player like Willson Contreras if they decide to go big.
Royals: Third base
Kansas City is among the teams whose selling fate has already seemingly been decided, giving the Royals an opportunity to move some players — Andrew Benintendi being the most notable — to bring in young talent. The Royals have some superb prospects who should impact the club sooner than later, but third base is a hole in the system, one the front office might try to address prior to the Trade Deadline.
Tigers: Young hitter
Detroit’s offense has been terrible for most of the year, and while a nucleus including Javier Báez, Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene gives the Tigers something to build around, they need more. There are a number of impending free agents who could be on the move, but the Tigers might consider dealing reliever Gregory Soto, whose value to a contender might be enough to land a prime prospect in Detroit.
Minnesota’s rotation ranks sixth in the AL in ERA, but its bullpen falls within the lower half of the league and has suffered 17 blown saves this season. The Twins have some talented arms in the ‘pen, but they lack the experience that can often be valuable come October. Adding a veteran reliever or two with a track record would round out the group nicely.
White Sox: Left-handed bat
Chicago’s first half has been a disappointment, and with their next 12 games coming against the Twins and Guardians, the White Sox could find themselves selling if these two weeks go poorly. Should the Sox rebound, however, finding a productive left-handed bat at either second base or left field should be a priority, as their .663 OPS against right-handers ranks 28th in the Majors.
Angels: Lineup depth
The Angels have Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Taylor Ward and Jared Walsh in the top half of the lineup, all of whom are having solid — spectacular, in some cases — seasons. After that, it’s a problem. Anthony Rendon’s injury was a big blow, as was Joe Adell’s ineffectiveness. If Los Angeles decides to take a run at a Wild Card spot, adding a productive hitter or two to the lower half of the lineup would be a good start.
Astros: Left-handed reliever
As good as Houston’s bullpen has been — it entered Monday first in the AL with a 2.63 ERA — the lack of a reliable left-hander could come back to bite them at some point. Several southpaws should become available this month, giving GM James Click a chance to fill one of the few holes on the Astros’ roster.
Athletics: First base
Having traded Matt Olson to the Braves before the season, Oakland is still searching for his replacement. Although the club’s top five prospects are all hitters, none play first base, a position of need within the system. The Athletics have some players expected to move including Frankie Montas and possibly Ramón Laureano or Sean Murphy.
Mariners: Second base
Adam Frazier has been a disappointment this season, a major part of the reason the Mariners rank 28th with a .568 OPS at the position. Frazier will be a free agent at the end of the season, so it wouldn’t be difficult for Seattle to move him to the bench as the club tries to end its 21-year postseason drought.
Despite their sub-.500 record, the Rangers sit just a few games out of a Wild Card spot, giving the front office something to think about as the Deadline approaches. If Texas hopes to make some noise down the stretch, it will need to upgrade the rotation, which ranks in the bottom five in the AL with a 4.53 ERA.
Spencer Strider’s potential innings limit will be something to watch in the second half, while Ian Anderson has not shown enough consistency this year to give Atlanta confidence that he’ll turn things around for the remainder of the season. We’re not talking Luis Castillo or Frankie Montas here, but a short-term rental such as Tyler Mahle or Zach Davies to provide rotation depth.
Marlins: Right-handed bat
Miami has struggled against left-handed pitching this season, posting a .622 OPS that ranks ahead of only Cleveland in the Majors. Despite a desire to capture a postseason berth, the Marlins are likely to look for players with control beyond 2022.
Mets: Designated hitter
The Mets lineup has scuffled of late, and a lack of consistency from the DH spot — which has a .634 OPS this season — is part of the reason. Top prospect Francisco Álvarez could be one answer, although it seems more likely that GM Billy Eppler will pursue a trade for a bat to improve the lineup.
The top of the rotation is set with Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, but with the uncertainty surrounding Zach Eflin and Ranger Suárez (both on the injured list) and Kyle Gibson’s inconsistency, the Phillies would benefit from the addition of another starter. Don’t be surprised to see Philadelphia looking to add an arm or two in the bullpen, as well.
Nationals: First base
It seems odd to list first base as a need when Josh Bell is having a very good season there for the Nationals, but the impending free agent figures to be traded prior to Aug. 2, leaving the position open. Washington’s top first-base prospect is 22-year-old Branden Boissiere, the club’s No. 16 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, and he’s playing in Class A. Landing a first baseman who could replace Bell — or at least beat Boissiere to the Majors — should be on GM Mike Rizzo’s list of things to do.
Brewers: Center field
Milwaukee is still searching for its replacement for Lorenzo Cain, who was designated for assignment last month. The Brewers’ top three prospects are all outfielders, but they’re not close to the Majors just yet. Brice Turang, the team’s No. 5 prospect, could be used to add an outfielder, as the Brewers have depth at shortstop with Willy Adames and Luis Urías.
Steven Matz has been a disappointment and Jack Flaherty has made just three starts, leaving some holes in the rotation behind Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright and Dakota Hudson. St. Louis is deep in the outfield and could use some of those chips to bolster his pitching staff as they take aim at the NL Central title.
Chicago will likely finish off the fire sale it started last summer, when Chris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Báez were among those traded. Willson Contreras and Ian Happ figure to be available, while David Robertson should bring back a nice return. The farm system is loaded with hitters — the entire top 5 is comprised of position players — so look for the Cubs to try adding some young pitching to the organization.
Pirates: Young pitching
The Pirates’ farm system was ranked No. 7 by MLB Pipeline, but the top of their prospect list is hitter-heavy with five of the top six represented by position players. The current pitching staff has plenty of room for improvement, so Pittsburgh might use trade chips David Bednar, José Quintana and even Bryan Reynolds to bolster its pitching depth at the higher levels of the system.
Reds: Young pitching
Cincinnati has one of the biggest trade pieces in the game in Luis Castillo, and the Reds could try to attach the rest of Mike Moustakas’ contract in a trade with the starter. Trading Castillo alone might net the Reds a higher-end prospect package, and now that Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo have graduated to the Majors, the system — which ranked 15th prior to the season — could use some more arms.
D-backs: Young right-handed bats
Arizona’s lineup is very lefty-heavy, and top prospect Corbin Carroll also hits from the left side. Balancing out the lineup figures to be a goal for the front office, whether it’s with Major League-ready bats or prospects knocking on the door. Six of the club’s top nine prospects are pitchers, so it won’t be a surprise to see the D-backs look for some young hitters.
The Dodgers’ bullpen ranks second in the NL with a 3.31 ERA, but injuries to Blake Treinen, Tommy Kahnle and Daniel Hudson have thinned out the group. Craig Kimbrel has also had his struggles in the closer role, so Los Angeles will likely look to supplement the bullpen before the deadline.
San Francisco had been using Curt Casali and Austin Wynns behind the plate after Joey Bart’s slow start, but Casali landed on the injured list with an oblique strain, forcing Bart back to the Majors. Willson Contreras will likely be pursued by a number of teams, but other catchers — such as Oakland’s Sean Murphy — could fit the bill for the Giants.
San Diego’s .649 OPS in the outfield ranks 27th in the Majors, making this an obvious spot for GM AJ Preller to upgrade. The Padres have been an aggressive team when it comes to the trade market, so almost every available outfielder should be in play for San Diego.
Rockies: Young pitching
Colorado entered the season with the No. 24 ranked system according to MLB Pipeline, featuring just one player — OF Zac Veen — in the Top 100. Of the club’s top 10 prospects, only one is a pitcher, giving the Rockies something to look for during the trade season.