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MLB Trade Deadline – Which teams are on the bubble between buying and selling?

Major League Baseball has one firm trade deadline this season, July 31.

There are a few teams that have to decide whether to buy or sell at the Major League Baseball deadline. The new rules in MLB now state there will be one firm trade deadline, no longer allowing teams to complete waiver trades later in the season. July 31 will be the final day for teams to complete trades unil the offseason.

Some teams are on the bubble of either being buyers to find that player or two to take them over the hump and into the playoffs, or selling off valuable pieces and getting a good return for the future. Let’s take a look at some of those teams.

San Francisco Giants: An absolutely torrid 16-3 stretch has propelled the Giants to second place in the NL West and within two games of a wild card spot. Now, a team that was expected to sell is seriously considering adding pieces to sneak into the playoffs.

In my opinion, they do not have the talent to make a run. Yes, Madison Bumgarner has had a career resurgence and the bullpen is fantastic, but the offense just isn’t there. The Giants have just two everyday players producing at even a league-average level. They are 22nd in the majors in runs, 28th in average, and 26th in a home run. It’s a problem that can’t be fixed with one addition, and even if it was, there is no game-changing offensive talent on the market.

If I was the GM, I would sell of every piece of value, including Bumgarner and elite relievers Tony Watson and Will Smith, and try to rebuild one of the worst farm systems in the game. It’s likely that nostalgia will get in the way for new Giants GM Farhan Zaidi and prevent him from moving Bumgarner, but a smart baseball man like himself should realize that the Giants have no chance to win a WS. However, I predict he will move both Smith and Watson.

Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox are in the same exact position as the Giants, two games back of a wildcard, but are the completely opposite team. The Red Sox have the best offense in baseball but have had inconsistent starting pitching and a shaky (and that’s putting it nicely) bullpen. While the Giants should be selling off the pieces, the Red Sox have to be buyers.

The talent of the Red Sox is too hard to ignore, and it’s easier to imagine them to go on a run than the Giants. The core is all there for the Red Sox, led by breakout seasons from Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers. It’s the supporting roles, namely the bullpen, the fifth spot in the rotation, and a right-handed bat off the bench. Even with a meh farm system, this is achievable for the Red Sox. There’s a number of players the Red Sox could add, but I see both Kirby Yates and Hunter Pence coming to Boston.

Philadephia Phillies: After an offseason in which they acquired four former all-stars, the Phillies started strong before falling back down to earth. Now they find themselves in third place in the NL East, but just half a game out of the wild card. The back of the rotation has been shaky as expected, but what’s more surprising is the struggles of the offense. Due to underwhelming performances from star acquisitions J.T Realmuto and Bryce Harper and a season-ending injury to Andrew McCutchen, the Phillies are below average in terms of runs scored, average, and home runs.

Becoming sellers would mean reversing their all-in offseason strategy after just four months, so I don’t expect them to blow it up. I am sure that they will get a starting pitcher, whether it be a low-risk, controllable guy like Mike Minor or Matthew Boyd or a bigger name like Madison Bumgarner or Zack Grienke. It’s also possible they add a bat, preferably an outfielder like Nicholas Castellanos.

Colorado Rockies: The Rockies have completely self-destructed, losing 12 out of 14 and falling five games under .50. Even though they are just five games out of playoff spot, the question really isn’t if the Rockies would sell, but who. Veterans Daniel Murphy, Ian Desmond, and Scott Oberg are all candidates to be moved, but the real question is whether they would move All-Star Charlie Blackmon. Even at age 32, Blackmon is still one of the best hitters in baseball. He has a .319 average, is slugging .602, and has hit 21 home runs.

The problem with moving him, however, is that he has a large contract after an extension last season and the fact that big-time hitters like Blackmon usually don’t get traded midseason. Though the Rockies say they will listen to offers for Blackmon, I think it’s highly unlikely that he gets moved.

San Diego Padres: The Padres, expected to be non-competitive this year, are way ahead of schedule. The emergence of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack have the Padres just five games out of a playoff spot, albeit in last place in the NL West. The Padres should not sacrifice their future in hopes for the possibility of a playoff spot. That means trading Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen, Wil Myers or even Hunter Renfroe in order to solidify their future teams that will be fighting for pennants.

Cleveland Indians: The Indians are leading the wild card race by two games and have cut the Twins once huge AL Central lead down to just three games. They will obviously be buyers and will be looking to improve an offense that is just 20th in the majors in runs. The question is whether they will dip into their deep pitching staff to acquire offensive firepower. The big-name they could trade is Trevor Bauer, whose name was floated in trade rumors last winter and again this summer. Bauer is having a good, not great season (3.67 ERA, 10.6 K/9), but memories of his top 5 AL Cy Young finish last year still gives him a lot of value.

It’s very rare that a contender attempts to add by subtracting (Red Sox trading Nomar Garciaparra in 2004 is one of the few that comes to mind), so I don’t expect Bauer to be on the move. Still, the Indians need a bat, and somebody like the resurgent Yasiel Puig or Whit Merrifield would be a good fit.

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