2013 Trade Deadline Primer: AL East

The American League East has been a meat grinder this season. The Blue Jays are in last place, but are just one game under .500 and are coming off of a June where they went a division best 17-9. You could make the argument that all five teams are buyers, but I'm not sure that's the line of thinking I'm going to take.

Baltimore Orioles, 47-36. Second in division, leaders for second wild card.
Baltimore showed that 2012 was no fluke, but they're doing it this season in a clearly different way than last year. The Orioles' rotation has seen their ERA rise from 4.42 last year to 4.79 this season, while their bullpen's ERA has jumped from 3.00 to 3.81. Meanwhile, it's the offense that is carrying Baltimore this season. The Orioles lead baseball with 115 homers, and their .334 wOBA is third in baseball behind just the Red Sox and Tigers.

So where do the Orioles need help? in the rotation, of course. Freddy Garcia was terrible over ten starts in the majors, and accepted a demotion to AAA. Jason Hammel has taken a massive step back after a breakout 2012. Wei-Yin Chen followed up his awesome 2012 with a solid start to 2013, but hasn't pitched in a month and a half thanks to a strained oblique. I'd expect the Orioles to be involved in talks for all of the sexy starting pitchers on the market, including Ricky Nolasco, Yovani Gallardo, Jake Peavy, Matt Garza, and Bud Norris, but they might have to settle for a lesser option, like they did last year with Joe Saunders. Perhaps a name like Shaun Marcum (if healthy), Aaron Harang, or Lucas Harrell will wind up with the team.

As for the bullpen, I'm not sure they need too much of an infusion of new faces. Their pen's 3.93 FIP this year isn't too far off from last year's 3.68 mark, and a lot of that ERA is getting skewed by a dreadful year from Pedro Strop. I don't think Baltimore would consider getting involved in talks for one of the more coveted relievers that could potentially be available like Glen Perkins, Jesse Crain, or Jonathan Papelbon, but Francisco Rodriguez or Jose Veras could be a fit.

Boston Red Sox, 50-34. First in division.
The Red Sox are on a roll this year, having a season that is a complete contrast to their disastrous 2012. Boston did much of their tweaking in the offseason, and most of their fixes have held up thusfar. Yet, there still might be some holes that Ben Cherington is looking to fill. The most obvious hole is third base, where Will Middlebrooks fell off a cliff in his sophomore season in the league. He was so terrible over the season's first three months that he was actually demoted to AAA last week. Middlebrooks might not even be Boston's third baseman of the future with the presence of top prospect Xander Bogaerts (who might stick at shortstop, and might not). But I don't think the Red Sox are fully going to cut bait with Middlebrooks quite yet, and would instead look for a temporary stopgap for the season. Someone like Michael Young would work (in theory), as could Jeff Keppinger (despite his awful first half for the White Sox). Aramis Ramirez of the Brewers is probably a little too pricey for the Red Sox, and with his contract running through next season, it probably wouldn't be an ideal solution for them.

Boston's pitching staff has been pretty good. Their rotation will be getting a boost when Clay Buchholz returns from a strained neck, and they've got some decent minor league depth with Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa both nearly major league ready (despite Webster's ugly line in the majors so far). As for the bullpen, Joel Hanrahan's Tommy John surgery is a major demerit, as is Andrew Bailey's consistent and never ending injury train. Despite that however, Koji Uehara has done a great job as closer, and I don't think Boston will be looking for bullpen help.

New York Yankees, 42-39. Fourth place in division, four back of second wild card.
The Yankees are the most interesting team in the division heading into the trade deadline, in my opinion. The team has lost five in a row, were a division-worst 11-16 in June, and is just not playing good baseball right now while all of their competitors are. Furthermore, things seem to be spiraling down the drain with the questions surrounding the rehab and return of both Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez as well as the season-ending wrist surgery for Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis' possible season-ending back surgery.

So are the Yankees buyers, or are they (gasp) sellers? Selling at the deadline is something that is foreign to the Yankees, as they've at least been in the playoff hunt for each of the last 20 seasons. Despite their ugly 4.11 ERA, New York's rotation has been pretty good (as the 3.88 FIP will attest to), and their Mariano Rivera led bullpen has been dominant. However, it's the offense that's been a mess, with just Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner, and Travis Hafner performing at an above average level among all regulars.

Where exactly do the Yankees go from here? I don't think GM Brian Cashman would sell, based solely on his pride. The Yankees are in a position a lot like the Phillies last year, a team with an aging core that is getting vastly outperformed. However, unlike that Phillies team, this Yankees team doesn't really have many pieces that would be attractive to a lot of teams due to their contracts. Cano would be the most popular name on the trade market if he got there, but Hiroki Kuroda would likely command a lot of interest as well. But past those two…who else would you want your team to trade for? Would a team want to pull the trigger on the perennially disappointing Phil Hughes for a back-end rotation job? It's a very interesting time in the Bronx right now, that's for sure.

Tampa Bay Rays, 43-39. Third place in division, 3.5 back of second wild card.
The Rays got their big midseason acquisition earlier in June when they called up stud prospect Wil Myers to help solidify the offense. And sure enough, Myers has three homers and a .790 OPS in 13 games in the majors. For once, Tampa Bay's offense isn't the issue, as nearly all of their regulars are hitting at an above average clip, leading to the Rays having a legitimately good offense.

Instead, it's been the Rays' normally solid rotation that isn't doing their job. 2012 Cy Young winner David Price has made just nine starts while dealing with a strained triceps muscle, but is rehabbing and should be back in the majors shortly. I don't think the Rays are going to back any rotation moves, struggles and injuries aside, because of the depth of their minor league system, with prospects Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome, and Chris Archer all logging time in the majors this season. Tampa Bay's bullpen has struggled at times, but Jake McGee isn't nearly as bad as his ERA may suggest, and the Rays have plenty of in-house candidates (most notably Alex Torres) for the ninth inning if Fernando Rodney continues to struggle.

Toronto Blue Jays, 40-41. Fifth place in division, 6 back of second wild card.
The Blue Jays looked like they'd be sellers at the beginning of June. Then, the team caught fire, and they're right in the thick of things with Jose Reyes back in their lineup every day. Toronto's rotation has struggled this year, and they've already used 12 starting pitchers, but Josh Johnson is healthy and back in the fold, and Brandon Morrow may not be far behind. Despite JA Happ's likely season-ending head injury, the Blue Jays have gotten an admirable performance from Esmil Rogers, and a starting five of Rogers, Johnson, Morrow, Mark Buerhle, and RA Dickey should be good enough to contend. The bullpen has been lights out this year (even without much of Sergio Santos), and the offense is starting to click.

Speaking of the Blue Jays offense, there are a couple of places where they could seek an upgrade. Emilio Bonifacio has been awful at second base, and Maicer Izturis has been a disaster wherever he's played. But where Toronto really needs an upgrade is behind the plate. Blue Jays catchers are cumulatively hitting (and I'm not making this up) ..216/.248/.410, and if it weren't for JP Arencibia's 15 homers, they'd be the worst set of backstops in baseball. It's going to be really tough to find a suitable catcher on the trade market though, and the best options might be Nick Hundley or current free agent Kelly Shoppach if the Phillies are hesitant to move Carlos Ruiz and the Brewers don't want to move Jonathan Lucroy and his extremely friendly contract.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.