MLB.com Columnist

Dan O'Dowd

5 teams under most pressure to trade

5 teams under most pressure to trade

Might be best to take a break from blinking during the next week-plus. Because in this 24/7 Trade Deadline news-and-rumors cycle, you don't want to miss a beat.

Thanks to the unprecedented parity in today's game, contenders abound. Greeting said buyers are the sellers, franchises down on their 2015 luck but a shrewd move or two away from a brighter day in 2016 and beyond.

Each of the following five teams has its own unique questions to answer before month's end. But those differences aside, they have one thing in common: The opportunity to inject hope into their fan bases, both for now and years to come.

As a result of this opportunity, they are under the most pressure to deal before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Blue Jays

Where they stand: Without a doubt, the Jays are built to win now. And with baseball's highest-scoring offense by a wide margin, they possess the pieces to do so.

But even with a championship-caliber lineup, Toronto sits several games back in the American League East and Wild Card races. Pitching has been the main culprit, as the club has never found a way to replace the value lost when young stud Marcus Stroman sustained a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left leg during Spring Training.

To compensate, the Jays were forced to shift potential 2015 closer Aaron Sanchez into the rotation and promote prospect Daniel Norris earlier than expected.

Sanchez is currently on the disabled list, but he could be back quite soon. And upon his activation, he will return to the relief role in which he thrived down the stretch last season.

Ross strikes out six

Deadline possibilities: To increase their chances of a postseason return for the first time since 1993, the Jays should look to boost a starting staff that ranks in the bottom third in baseball in metrics such as ERA.

Though far from cheap trade targets, San Diego's Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy could really bolster that Blue Jays starting staff through season's end. And while Kennedy's free-agent clock is ticking loudly, Ross can be under team control through 2017.

Dodgers

Where they stand: The current National League West leaders rank among the best in nearly every meaningful offensive category and have a rotation fronted by the reigning NL MVP Award winner (Clayton Kershaw) and a former Cy Young Award winner with a 1.30 ERA (Zack Greinke).

In all likelihood, the Dodgers will be playing in October. Yet the team in Chavez Ravine was designed with World Series expectations. But as we know, postseason ball -- small sample size and all -- often has as much to do with luck as skill. How can you roster construct against that? By adding heaps of skill, of course.

Deadline possibilities: Los Angeles' NL club has done a good job patchworking a back end of a rotation that was obliterated by the losses of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, both out for the year. And as we were just recently reminded, Brett Anderson is no stranger to injury himself.

With these facts in mind, the franchise should leverage its stockpile of money and prospects to acquire a top-notch rotation arm.

Hamels' seven scoreless frames

As far as trade options go, the Phillies' Cole Hamels could look good in Dodgers blue. With ace ability and postseason experience, the southpaw would slot in well behind Kershaw and Greinke. Beyond this season, Hamels could serve as protection in the likely event Greinke opts out of his current contract following the Fall Classic. Hamels wouldn't come cheap, but the Dodgers have the resources to make a deal happen.

Royals

Where they stand: The reigning AL pennant winners are playing even better ball this year and are a virtual lock for a postseason spot. So why the pressure to add? Well, Kansas City must remember why it lost the 2014 Fall Classic in seven games. Two words: Madison Bumgarner.

The Royals don't have an ace for an October run. Not even close, and the club is reeling in the rotation given the loss of Jason Vargas to Tommy John surgery and the struggles of Yordano Ventura.

Deadline possibilities: The back end of the Kansas City bullpen is arguably unrivaled, and the club's offense ranks eighth in baseball with 410 runs scored. But these nice things aside, the rotation has not looked championship-caliber. With a 4.32 ERA, the K.C. starting staff ranks 23rd in the game. And that's even with the benefit of playing in pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium.

Cueto's dominant two-hit shutout

That is why you've heard plenty of rumors tying the Royals to Johnny Cueto. The Reds right-hander is the type of arm that could lead a postseason run. Also, don't be shocked if the Royals also look to Cincy for some offensive help. Alex Gordon will be sidelined for a while and Alex Rios -- his recent success aside -- is not the game's most consistent player.

A move for Jay Bruce could make sense, although unlike Cueto, he would be more than a midseason rental. Hitting .251/.338/.471 on the year, Bruce is set to make $12.5 million in 2016 and $13 million if his club option for '17 is picked up.

Angels

Where they stand: With Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago, C.J. Wilson and the emerging Andrew Heaney in the rotation, plus the prolific one-two offensive punch of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, the win-now Angels have the talent to take the AL West. But to boost their chances of a deep October run, they could add another bat.

The Halos are not married to the idea of making one specific type of move, though reports have indicated their preference for a left-handed bat who can play left field. The near-term loss of third baseman David Freese -- who fractured a finger on Wednesday -- could raise the sense of urgency for something to happen, the club's recent coup on the AL West standings notwithstanding.

CarGo's two-run home run

Deadline possibilities: If dealt by the Rockies, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez would have the ability to make a positive impact -- on offense and defense -- for a squad such as the Angels.

After starting the season in sluggish fashion, the slugger owns a 1.016 OPS in July. As a middle-of-the-order bat in the Halos' order, CarGo could serve as an excellent sidekick to the Trout and Pujols Show.

Padres

Where they stand: At the other end of the decision-making spectrum sit the Padres, who were expected to contend in 2015 following a headline-grabbing offseason roster reconstruction.

In the process of trading for big bats to help in the present, the Friars dealt away a great deal of young, cost-controllable talent. Now seemingly out of the postseason race, the club may begin to shift its efforts toward protecting its future health and financial flexibility.

Deadline possibilities: Due to its current situation in the standings, San Diego is again at the forefront of the transaction rumor mills. Though a handful of Padres are candidates to change teams by Aug. 1, outfielder Justin Upton and Kennedy seem to be among the most likely to go. Both are months away from free agency, so they would likely be rentals only. Of the two, Upton would seem to be the more attractive option. In this seller's market, he might just be the best available bat.

Dan O'Dowd is an MLB Network analyst and MLB.com columnist who served as general manager of the Rockies for 15 years, building a National League pennant winner in 2007. Prior to his time with Colorado, he worked in the front offices of the Orioles and Indians. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.