Five teams that need to make a deal

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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. 

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.

Josh Hamilton leaves camp with a tweaked knee

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers poses during a spring training photo shoot on February 28, 2016 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Josh Hamilton was already a long shot to make the Texas Rangers roster, but his shot got even longer today, as he left camp to have his reconstructed left knee examined after experiencing pain.

As Jeff Wilson reports, Hamilton felt discomfort in the knee during the Rangers’ first full-squad spring training workout yesterday. Hamilton has had 10 knee operations in career. Which is a lot of knee operations in case you were unaware.

You have to wish good luck to Hamilton, but at the same time you have to be realistic. The guy has not played in the major leagues since 2015 and even then he didn’t play well, hitting .253 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 50 games. He appeared in one game last year for Double-A Frisco, on April 30. He’ll be paid $24 million this year, mostly by the Angels. One suspects that this will likewise be his last spring training.