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The 3 teams that need to be active at the MLB trade deadline

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All three of these teams had quiet offseasons, and they might have to make up for that by July 31.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Other headlines were considered. There was "3 Teams That NEED to be Active at the Deadline," with "need" in all-caps to really get the emphasis across. There was "3 Teams Whose Fans Should Commit Arson if They Don't Make Big Trades in July," but the lawyers saw it. And I'll always be fond of "These Teams Should Make Big Trades, and I'm Not Eating Until They Do," but I have a bag of SunChips in the house, and I'm not setting myself up for failure.

Really, though, the conceit is a sham. These teams don't need to do anything splashy. They all have the talent to contend without the help -- hey, look, they're doing it right now -- and they could hope for internal improvements and keep their best prospects at the same time. The Giants would have shown up in a list like this last year because they had obvious, glaring needs. The only thing they did was pick up Jake Peavy at the outlet store, and somehow it worked. "Need" is a word for hack writers to use to make their thesis seem artificially compelling.

So here are three teams that need to be active at the trade deadline.

Orioles

Since signing Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz in one very busy week before the 2014 season, the Orioles have been quite busy. No, it's true, they've made a flurry of transactions over the last year. They've signed or traded for guys like Preston Guilmet, Cesar Cabral, and Joe Gunkel, along with veterans like Mark Hendrickson, Chris Parmelee, and Paul Janish. If you're ranking the five biggest acquisitions since Cruz signed, No. 5 would be a toss-up between Joe Saunders and Kelly Johnson, with Alejandro De Aza coming shortly after. Everth Cabrera is probably third, with Travis Snider the second-most exciting acquisition of the last year.

It's possible that the list of acquisitions has been a touch underwhelming, though.

And yet they're here, still within a few feathers of first place in a division without a clear favorite. Their biggest offseason acquisition ended up being the real Ubaldo Jimenez, or at least the version that made people want to give him millions in the first place. Manny Machado is finally the star he was supposed to be, even though we had to wait around until he was 22, the slacker. They're close to first, even though J.J. Hardy and Steve Pearce went from lineup mainstays to total drags. Even though not everything has gone right for the Orioles, they're still contending, and that's the recurring motif of their last few seasons. So they're right on track.

Up there, though, is a list of names designed to underwhelm. It's missing their best and most exciting acquisition of the last year, Andrew Miller, who became something of a postseason superstar when the Orioles needed him to be. A reliever can't power his entire team through the ALCS, but for a while, he seemed to be the perfect pitcher at the perfect time for a team that needed the reinforcements.

They could use that again. The rotation is a mess at the bottom, and Delmon Young and Chris Parmelee is a thought experiment in right field -- "What if instead of focusing on hitting or fielding in right, we got two players who could help us with neither?" And for all of their weird offseasons, I still have faith that this is the deadline where they cannonball into the trade pool.

Of course, this was a passage written in December:

Bringing Delmon back and waiting for March wouldn't be much of an offseason plan. That isn't what the Orioles are going to do, right?

Right?

And that's exactly what they did. Maybe their relative inactivity isn't a fluke. Maybe the Orioles are the five-card draw of the American League, and they're just fine with that. If there were ever a season for the team not to wait for good fortune to come to it, though, this would be the one. All three of the other contending teams in the East aren't going to follow that strategy, which means the Orioles would be at even more of a disadvantage.

Mets

The Mets' position-by-position OPS, via Baseball-Reference.com:

Split BA OBP SLG OPS
as 1B .269 .368 .469 .838
as RF .241 .326 .404 .729
as SS .251 .290 .421 .711
as LF .250 .308 .401 .709
as 3B .260 .326 .363 .689
as 2B .227 .303 .345 .648
as CF .262 .289 .344 .633
as C .213 .281 .348 .630


Lucas Duda is doing well at first, but the rest of the Mets are trending downward. Eric Campbell is overmatched as David Wright's replacement, at least two of the middling hitters up there are usually lousy in the field, too, and Daniel Murphy is hurt. It's not like the rotation is transcendent, either -- 60 percent of the rotation are performing below the league average, at least when it comes to how many runs they're allowing. The fielding-independent stats suggest that better days are coming for Noah Syndergaard and even Bartolo Colon, though, which makes the lineup the center of deadline attention.

But where in the lineup? Wilmer Flores is doing just well enough to keep the Mets happy, and it's not like they're going to undo their bizarre Michael Cuddyer signing this quickly. It has to be third base, which leads us to an interesting list of third basemen on possibly rebuilding/reloading teams.

  • Aramis Ramirez
  • Martin Prado
  • Pablo Sandoval
  • Kyle Seager
  • Nolan Arenado
  • Brett Lawrie
  • Maikel Franco

The problem with that list: Those are all are young cornerstones, aging players not playing that well, or Pablo Sandoval's suddenly disastrous contract. You can concoct a scenario that gets Prado on the Mets, surely, but it's harder to contact a scenario where he saves them.

  • Todd Frazier

The Mets can use a minor upgrade over Campbell, and we shouldn't fault them if that's all they do. Maybe there's enough dinger-powder left in Ramirez, after all, and at the very least, he should be better than what the Mets have on hand. Sure, they could use a cleanup-hitting slugger to pair with Duda, but it's not like teams are going to give those away.

  • Todd Frazier

I mean, if the Mets really, really wanted to make a blockbuster for just the right guy, they have the young pitching to do it. If there's a team in baseball that can rappel through the window and yell "BLOCKBUSTER" while everyone else scatters, it's the Mets.

  • Todd Frazier

Seems unlikely, though, and I don't even know whom the Mets would target in a scenario like that. If there were someone who was a) low-cost enough, b) around for three or four years, and c) could be the middle-of-the-order slugger they desperately need with Wright's career in jeopardy, then it might make perfect sense to trade one of their brightest young pitchers, like Syndergaard or Steven Matz.

  • Todd Frazier

What are the chances of a guy like that being potentially available, though? Pretty slim. Aramis Ramirez it is, then.

Giants

The Giants have a looming rotation problem. They're getting Matt Cain and Jake Peavy back within the month, which means they'll have to ditch players from the rotation, and there isn't an easy solution. With those two, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Hudson, Chris Heston, and Tim Lincecum, there are seven pitchers for five spots. It seems a little late to make Hudson a middle reliever, so it's probably Vogelsong and Lincecum who will have to transition. The former did it earlier this year (with horrific results) and the latter did it through the 2012 postseason run (with terrific results).

Yep, seven starting pitchers for five spots. What a mess. And here's the Giants' list of biggest needs, in order:

  1. Starting pitching
  2. Starting pitching
  3. Starting pitching
  4. Starting pitching prospects
  5. Starting pitching

Nothing else comes close. With the semi-emergence of Matt Duffy and the continued success of Joe Panik, the lineup is surprisingly deep, especially when Hunter Pence is healthy. The bullpen has had more ups than downs, and former punchline Hunter Strickland is back in the majors and living up to his potential. It's the rotation after Bumgarner and Heston that's the real area of concern, which is a reminder that if you have 12 Willies Bloomquist on the roster, you don't have a surplus of infielders, you have a deficit of players who aren't Willie Bloomquist.

And most of the Giants' rotation right now is pitching like the Willie Bloomquist of pitchers -- you know they've had their moments in the past, but you can't shake the feeling that there's something better out there. Peavy and Cain coming back healthy would be a fine start, but there's still room for an upgrade, big or small. The trick is to make a move big enough, though, that would justify the cost in prospects and adding to the overstuffed rotation.

That's all why former GM, new super-scout Brian Sabean was checking out Johnny Cueto, even as the Giants were internally trying to figure out what to do with all the starting pitchers they had already. They could have used something similar last year, but Peavy ended up being just enough, so they're also looking at Mike Leake, who would be a very, very Giants pitcher.

Now that the Casey McGehee conundrum was solved internally, there's just one obvious move for the Giants to make. Unless the other teams don't really care for the young players the Giants can offer, it's hard to see how they don't make it.

★★★

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