By showing its strength again by winning yet another All-Star game, the American League is gearing up for the second half of the 2019 MLB season, looking to make it three in a row for World Series championships. As it currently sits, there are eight teams that have an above .500 record, which is shaping up to be an interesting race down the stretch as the playoffs draw closer.
In the AL East, the New York Yankees have jumped out to a 6.5 game lead and the best record in the league, holding serve since the season began. Building off of what has been a really disappointing 2019 season for the Boston Red Sox, especially after their 2018 WS win, the Yankees look to be in solid control of the division.
Out West, the Houston Astros have the same amount of victories as the Yankees do so far, and their divisional lead is the largest of the three AL divisions, sitting 7.5 games ahead of the second-place Oakland Athletics. The lead that the Astros currently hold feels a whole lot like 17.5 games and not 7.5 games, a testament to how dominant this team truly has been through just a little over a half a season of baseball.
In the Central, the Minnesota Twins have shocked a lot of people with their 5.5 game lead over the struggling Cleveland Indians, and have put themselves in an envious position of being a full-on buyer at this year’s trade deadline. For the Indians, their offseason filled with cutting salary has put themselves in second in the Central, with plenty of time to catch the Twins and having a solid-enough footing to get to the Wild Card as well.
With that in mind, here are the expectations for the upcoming trade deadline for all of the contending teams in the AL. As a note, there is only one trade deadline this year, July 31st, and the waiver trade deadline has been eradicated from the league, so one deadline is in play for all the player movement that involves trades.
New York Yankees – Starting pitcher, reliever
Tampa Bay Rays – Bullpen, bullpen, outfield
Boston Red Sox – Starter/bullpen
Even with their commanding lead, anything can happen as the playoffs grow closer. Teams get more desperate, crazy things happen and teams who were solidly in the playoffs earlier in the year fall out of contention with one bad stretch of baseball games.
As is common with every season when they are contenders, the Yankees have been rumored to be interested in the big-ticket items, most notably Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner, among others. Making a trade with the Giants to get Bum into pinstripes is not hard to see, but having Thor take the subway to the Bronx and trade in his blue and orange for blue and white would be a very difficult move for Mets fans to swallow.
Any sort of big-time deal would most likely focus on Clint Frazier, as the Yankees prospect has no role in the majors, being blocked in the outfield by a plethora of players. With the offensive tools that Frazier has, making him the big fish in any prospect package seems likely.
For the Rays, losing Jose Alvarado for at least six weeks puts a real damper on their playoff hopes, but relying on Chaz Roe and other has proved inconsistent. Needing to add a bullpen arm or five, they will be high on any pieces that are available for the taking.
Built with one of the league’s best farm systems, they could reasonably go and get Brad Hand from the Indians, if they throw in the towel, or someone like Will Smith from the San Francisco Giants or Rasiel Iglesias from the Cincinnati Reds, if they bow out.
Boston needs a lot of help, but mostly in their pitching staff. Even with postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi slated to return after being out for three months, his addition to the bullpen will only strengthen their needs in the starting rotation.
Linked to Zach Wheeler already, the Red Sox could likely make two additions to their rotation, regardless of how large they are. Needing to give up a ton of prospects to be in on the Matthew Boyd sweepstakes, they are more likely to go for smaller fish, like Mike Minor from the Texas Rangers, if they fall out of contention, or a reclamation arm like Chris Archer from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Houston Astros – Rotation, infield depth
Oakland Athletics – Bullpen, rotation
The Astros, like their NL West counterparts, the Los Angeles Dodgers, seem to have their divisions all but wrapped up already, although their lead is much smaller than that of the Dodgers. Needing to add a few more pieces to the puzzle, Houston needs to add to their rotation and find the 2019 version of Charlie Morton.
Morton became the team’s postseason hero in 2017, even with having only pitched one game in the postseason prior to that year. An interesting name that the Astros would be smart to be kicking the tires on would be Sonny Gray of the Reds, who has turned in a fantastic comeback season after being paired with former Vanderbilt pitching coach Derrick Johnson.
Recently signed to an extension, trading Gray is unlikely, but including a top-tiered prospect may be enough to tempt the Reds to ship Gray back to the AL West.
For the Athletics, their postseason hopes are Wild Card or bust, as their divisional hopes are gone. Relying solely on All-Star Liam Hendricks to hold down their bullpen is not enough, and they need reinforcements here and fast.
Ken Giles has been biding his time up in Toronto as the Blue Jays closer, and he would be a nice coup for this team, who hopefully would not need to send back a large package of prospects to acquire him. Otherwise, Kyle Barraclough of the Miami Marlins or Mychal Givens of the Baltimore Orioles would be good, cheaper choices that could eat up some late-inning opportunities on their hunt back to the postseason.
Minnesota Twins – Bullpen
Cleveland Indians – Tweener
The Twins have gotten as far as they have so far in 2019 due to the continued emergence of ace Jose Berrios, who continues to shine in a great position. Berrios is the team’s best pitcher far and away and has pitched as such.
On the other hand, their bullpen has been ravaged with inconsistencies, to the point where they need to make moves that only focus on adding to the ‘pen. In a creative twist, they could add to both their rotation and their bullpen in one fell swoop of a trade.
Shooting for the moon with this one, but the Twins could link up with the Tigers on a mega-deal that would also stay within the same division, so it is hard to envision happening, but bear with me.
Shipping both Matthew Boyd and Nicholas Castellanos to the Twins, in exchange for Royce Lewis, Trevor Larnach, Jordan Balazovic, and other farm fillers, would represent a huge changing of the guard that the Twins may finally want to make to show that they are for real.
The Indians are in a very tough spot right now, as they are on the fence for buying or selling. Listed currently as a buying franchise for the sake of this article, it is very possible that they decide to become sellers, recoup some assets for players like Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber and maybe even Brad Hand, and then come back in 2020 and try and compete with a much younger team.
If not, they could expand upon their roster stalwarts by going out and getting more bullpen help, or splurging and bringing in Marcus Stroman from the Blue Jays to expedite their chase of the Twins for the division.
The best part of the MLB season is just getting started, hope you got your popcorn.