By: Chris Larson
Urgency, it's a word that is often exercised throughout the sport of baseball, or any professional sport for that matter, but it's not necessarily always exercised in the right way. Every team around baseball continually preaches the idea of urgency - urgency to make a move if their respective team loses a key player to the Injured List, urgency to act during those stretches of the season where things get extremely rough, and urgency to make a trade to better their team.
Despite hearing that word consistently around the game, it seems as though very few General Managers actually exercise that unless they are put under pressure by their respective ownership group and fan base to do so. Over the past couple of months, many teams have had urgent needs that have had to be addressed, but those teams have done nothing to address those needs besides relying on internal options and hoping for the best. For example, the Milwaukee Brewers continue to lose their starting pitchers to the Injured List and while the front office says there is urgency to get a deal done with another team for a starting pitcher, that theory has yet to come to fruition. The same can be said for the Atlanta Braves and how they have preached the idea of urgency to find a back end of the bullpen reliever. Here we are on July 27th and the Braves still have Luke Jackson closing out games for them and while Jackson is certainly talented in his own regard, everyone knows that he's not the guy that is going to lead the next Atlanta Braves team to a World Series Championship.
Urgency, it's a commonplace theme throughout the game of baseball that few know how to exercise properly. Although that is the case, there are still a number of contending teams that have urgent needs that must be addressed over the next five days, leading up to the July 31st Trade Deadline at 4 o'clock Eastern Standard Time. Here are five of those teams and the most urgent need for each one.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Most Pressing Need: Setup Man/Backup Closer
Potential Fits: Shane Greene of the Detroit Tigers, Ken Giles of the Toronto Blue Jays, Jose Leclerc of the Texas Rangers, Jake Diekman of the Kansas City Royals
Best Fit: Felipe Vazquez of the Pittsburgh Pirates
The Los Angeles Dodgers are one powerhouse of a team and have certainly played that way all season long. They have a tremendous amount of talent around the diamond, a starting rotation with pitchers that either act as a starter or a reliever, and the National League MVP on their team in outfielder, Cody Bellinger. Any fan would want that on their team and while it might appear as though there isn't a glaring need, despite the team going into play today with a 14 and 1/2 game lead in the National League West, the biggest need is going to be for the Dodgers front office to find a setup man/backup closer before next Wednesday. The Dodgers have been connected to almost every available reliever on the market, but Felipe Vazquez of the Pittsburgh Pirates would be the ideal target. According to various reports, the Pirates are said to want two of the Dodgers four top prospects (2B/SS Gavin Lux, RHP Dustin May, C Keibert Ruiz, C Will Smith), but if it means enhancing the Dodgers chance of finally getting over the hump and winning a World Series Championship, then it will be worth it in the end. Kenly Jansen has done a fine job over the years at the back end, but if the Dodgers could find someone that could compliment him, then they would only be addressing a strength of their ball club.
2. Houston Astros
Most Pressing Need: Number 3 Starting Pitcher
Potential Fits: Matthew Boyd of the Detroit Tigers, Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays, Danny Duffy of the Kansas City Royals, Caleb Smith of the Miami Marlins
Best Fit: Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets
Here is yet another team that has recently played and won a World Series Championship and is still one of the cream of the crop teams within the American League. Despite being a talented team especially from an offensive prospective, the Houston Astros still need a number 3 starting pitcher to help them come October and preferably someone that is controlled past this season to give them assurance in the event that pending free agent starting pitcher, Gerrit Cole, decides to leave. There are several good fits on the market currently, but the best one is Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets, who might end up heading to a new environment, and taking off in the way that Justin Verlander did almost two seasons ago. With the Astros analytical processes and their ability to tap into the mechanic side of a pitchers pitch repertoire, Syndergaard could easily regain his old form and would provide a potent punch alongside Verlander and Cole. However, don't sleep on the fact that Jeff Luhnow & Company might have their eyes on a starting pitcher that none of us are talking about either.
3. Atlanta Braves
Most Pressing Need: Closer
Potential Fits: Roenis Elias of the Seattle Mariners, Raisel Iglesias of the Cincinnati Reds, Alex Colome of the Chicago White Sox, Jose Leclerc of the Texas Rangers, Kirby Yates of the San Diego Padres
Best Fit: Shane Greene of the Detroit Tigers
The Atlanta Braves are in a critical spot despite the fact that they head into play today leading the National League East by 5 and 1/2 games. Although the team won the National League East last season too, they ended up getting knocked out of the playoffs during the NLDS against the aforementioned, Los Angeles Dodgers, and this is the year where the Braves goal should be to play as deep into October as possible. When you survey the National League, the Braves have enough talent on their 25-man roster to be up there with the Dodgers as the two best teams in the league and with the right move prior to next Wednesday, the Braves could even solidify their chance of making it to the World Series. While Alex Anthopoulos & Company have been scouring the market for relief help, the best option for them can be found in the Motor City with the Detroit Tigers in closer, Shane Greene. Greene is going to cost a premium and likely one of the Braves Top 3 prospects (OF Cristian Pache, OF Drew Waters, RHP Ian Anderson) along with two other pieces, but it will be worth it in the end if they have a shot of making it to the World Series. Plus, Shane Greene is under control for all of next season too meaning that he helps solidify that spot of the bullpen next year as well.
4. New York Yankees
Most Pressing Need: Starting Pitcher
Potential Fits: Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets, Mike Minor of the Texas Rangers, Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays, Mike Leake of the Seattle Mariners
Best Fit: Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks
Although the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays play in the same division (the American League East), this is one deal that makes too much sense for both parties not to complete. The Yankees have a pressing need to add a starting pitcher to their rotation for October baseball and would like it to be someone that is controlled past this season. There are several good fits on the list above including Noah Syndergaard, who plays for the cross-town New York Mets and while he could be a potential target, it's extremely unlikely that the Mets are going to trade him to the Yankees because of the bad PR hit that would endure following that trade. Therefore, Brian Cashman & his staff should be focused on trying to obtain left-hander, Robbie Ray from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ray is a guy who walks a lot of batters and isn't always perfect, but he does get himself out of trouble when he needs to and is a high strikeout guy. That's exactly what the Yankees need to add to their starting rotation and it sure would add some nice depth for October.
5. Milwaukee Brewers
Most Pressing Need: 2 Starting Pitchers
Potential Fits: Mike Leake of the Seattle Mariners, Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Mike Minor of the Texas Rangers, Danny Duffy of the Kansas City Royals, Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets, Caleb Smith of the Miami Marlins, Tanner Roark of the Cincinnati Reds
Best Fits: Matthew Boyd of the Detroit Tigers and Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays
If the Milwaukee Brewers are serious about continuing to stay in the thick of the race in the National League Central and want to be a postseason bound team this year, then they need to step it up and find themselves two legitimate starting pitchers before next Wednesday. Milwaukee has had a wrath of injuries lately to their starting rotation with the latest being Gio Gonzalez leaving the game last night with an injury and failed to address their need for starting pitching at last year's July 31st Trade Deadline and over the course of the past offseason. Therefore, the Brewers need to be serious and be willing to trade any of their prospects in order to not only capitalize on this window that is currently open, but to capitalize on the prime years of team MVP Christian Yelich as well. As such, the best fits would be Matthew Boyd of the Detroit Tigers and Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays. David Stearns & Company are going to have to pay a hefty price for both guys, but it would significantly lengthen out their starting rotation, allow the bullpen some extra rest, and preserve extremely valuable reliever, Josh Hader, for down the stretch.