MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

5 teams that need a move before Trade Deadline

What trade could take these contenders over the top in October?

5 teams that need a move before Trade Deadline

With the non-waiver Trade Deadline now just two weeks away, these are tense times around Major League front offices. Not just for the contenders, either, even though that's where everything starts.

While some teams are looking for immediate help, others are seeking to acquire talent -- and hope -- for 2017. The Red Sox were thrilled to pull off the trade for left-hander Drew Pomeranz on Friday. But in San Diego, Padres general manager A.J. Preller was happy to add 18-year-old right-hander Anderson Espinoza to his impressive supply of pitching depth in the lower Minors.

Some teams will wrestle whether to add talent or begin planning for 2017. As in recent years, the standings do not offer clarity. Not with 19 teams within six games of a playoff berth.

In the National League, eight are bunched mere 2 1/2 games from one of five postseason berths. Meanwhile, in the American League, 11 teams -- that's 11 of 15 -- are within six games of a playoff berth.

Pressure is ratcheted up for some because of the deals that have already been made. The Red Sox have added a starter (Pomeranz), reliever (Brad Ziegler) and utility infielder (Aaron Hill).

The Marlins have gotten reliever Fernando Rodney, the Dodgers starter Bud Norris, and on Friday, the Astros believed they made an addition that will upgrade their lineup this season by signing 32-year-old Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel to a five-year deal worth $47.5 million.

Some teams believe they're good enough to get to the playoffs without making a trade. Others have decided a postseason berth may hinge on their ability to shore up an area of their team.

Here are five clubs that may not be good enough to get to October without doing something significant:

1. Rangers
Until Cole Hamels defeated the Cubs on Sunday, the Rangers had gone 14 games without getting a victory from a starting pitcher. In those 14 contests, Texas' rotation was 0-9 with a 7.71 ERA. And a 10-game lead in the AL West has melted to 4 1/2.

Here's the good news: the Rangers have a deep farm system. If general manager Jon Daniels decides to go for it, he has players -- especially Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo -- who can land any of the available pitchers.

Texas has engaged Tampa Bay in talks about Jake Odorizzi, probably Matt Moore and Chris Archer as well. Oakland's Rich Hill and Sonny Gray and San Diego's Andrew Cashner offer more possibilities.

Daniels surely will check with the Braves about 25-year-old right-hander Julio Teheran and his 2.79 ERA. Atlanta has indicated Teheran is close to untouchable, but the Rangers have enough talent to at least tempt the Braves.

2. Orioles
The Orioles are one of this season's amazing stories, spending 89 days atop the AL East despite a rotation that has the third-worst ERA (5.14) in the Majors. What the O's do they do better than almost anyone. Their bullpen and offense are outstanding. Their manager, Buck Showalter, is one of the best ever. In that way, it would be fascinating to see if a team with great strengths and one great weakness could still get to October.

But executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette would like to add a starter. Whether he has a strong enough farm system to land a Cashner or a Hill is doubtful. But Duquette's history is that he's better than almost anyone at turning over every rock to find talent.

3. Royals
That the Royals remain in contention despite being hit hard by injuries and poor performances in the pitching staff speaks volumes about their tenacity. But tenacity alone may not be enough as 11 AL teams go for five postseason spots.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore added Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto at the Trade Deadline a year ago, and both of them helped bring that World Series trophy to Missouri.

In a perfect world, Moore would pry outfielder Jay Bruce from the Reds. That's the team he got Cueto from last season, so there appears to be a comfortable working relationship there.

If Moore could do that, he'd probably try to add a mid-level starter, say, Cashner or perhaps Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson. He may not have the pieces to make two impact acquisitions, but he has made enough significant deals not to be counted out.

4. Pirates
The Pirates have a very deep, very talented farm system. The Bucs would like to add a starting pitcher to a rotation that has been one of the most disappointing in baseball.

The Pirates have some of the most gifted young arms in the game in Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow, but general manager Neal Huntington apparently would like to add a veteran starter for the stretch run.

Archer is one name on the Bucs' shopping list. They've also done their homework on Gray, Hill and Moore. To trade one of their top prospects -- say, first baseman Josh Bell or outfielder Austin Meadows -- Huntington would have to get back a top-of-the-rotation starter. Archer would fit that description.

Huntington has been cautious in trading prospects, but with Andrew McCutchen in his prime years and having made three straight postseason appearances, the Pirates are fully in a win-now mode. Great organizations accumulate talent for moments like this.

5. Cardinals
The Cardinals don't absolutely need to make a trade the way some other teams do. But they may just be the most aggressive in attempting to do something.

For one thing, they're the Cards. They've set the bar in a different place with 12 postseason appearances and four NL pennants in 16 seasons. For another thing, the Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday window won't be open forever.

Some days, they look as good as ever, a team plenty good enough to play deep into October. But they're eight games out of first place in the NL Central and two out in the NL Wild Card race.

General manager John Mozeliak has an assortment of options from using some of his younger players to give the club a different look to the more cautious route of upgrading the back end of the bullpen. Among the names to watch: Philadelphia's Jeanmar Gomez, San Diego's Brad Hand, Oakland's Ryan Dull and a pair of Yankees, Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.