There are no teams that are 100% happy with where they stand right now and everyone can improve. And while some teams on the margins of the playoff race may need the most improvement, the following five teams are the ones who could and should do something to preserve their playoff hopes and dreams between now and the trading deadline tomorrow afternoon:
1. Atlanta Braves: They just watched the Phillies add an ace pitcher and call up a young stud prospect. In a few weeks they’ll get their all-world second baseman back. Meanwhile, the Braves have been struggling and continue to run out an outfield consisting of Jason Heyward, a can of sliced pears and belly button lint. If they want to stand pat, great, stand pat. Just don’t expect to win the NL East doing it. Josh Willingham would be a great pickup for them, but it’s doubtful the Nats would deal in the division. Luke Scott? Jim Edmonds? Cody Ross?
2. St. Louis Cardinals: They may have a nice big three in Carpenter, Wainwright and Garcia, but you need a competent four or five to make the playoffs if you’re in a tight race. Their interest in Oswalt was not just a ploy for postseason dominance: things fall off precipitously after those three. They could use a starter. Jake Westbrook anyone?
3. Chicago White Sox: The stuff this morning about the Chisox wanting to trade Edwin Jackson and actually keep him makes no sense to me. They want — and need — a big bopper like Adam Dunn, and the White Sox should flip Jackson for him if the deal with Arizona goes down. I’m inclined to believe that’s their real plan anyway, and the talk of keeping Jackson is designed to make the Nationals feel like they have less leverage than they really do.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers: Like the Cardinals, the Dodgers have a couple of good starters at the front end of the rotation and a black hole at the back end. Can they take on any payroll at all? Can they pry Ted Lilly away from the Cubs? They should certainly try.
5. New York Yankees: Surprising? Sure, because they’re the best team in baseball. But the Yankees’ have two big enemies, and I’m not talking about the Red Sox and the Rays: complacency and injuries. They could insure against both of those with a deal right now. The Bombers are talking big about wanting to use the DH slot to rest Old Men Posada, Rodriguez and Jeter down the stretch, but maybe they should get in on the Adam Dunn thing between now and tomorrow, no? Also, while I think Joba Chamberlain will be fine over the long term, it may not be the worst plan in the world for them to pick up a reliever like Scott Downs (at least if his price comes down).
Will any of these teams make a move? I’d say only two probably will, with my guess being the White Sox and the Yankees. But rust never sleeps, my friends, and any team that thinks the status quo is just dandy right now risks watching the playoffs from their rumpus room come October.