A Move For Every Team - NL East
Whether you’re the Philadelphia Phillies -- the remarkable division leaders who finished last in the division a year ago -- or the Miami Marlins, who are 15 games back and have the worst run differential in the National League, there’s a move your team can make, and I’m here to tell you what it is.
Starting off the NL, today we have the NL East.
Philadelphia Phillies (58-45, 1st NL East, 3rd NL)
The Phillies have been one of the biggest surprises of the MLB season, as they lead the division by 2.5 games over another upstart squad, the Atlanta Braves. Philly lost 96 games last season and there was no reason to think they would supplant the Nationals as the best team in the division. But when opportunity knocks, good teams answer, and the Phils have certainly done that so far this year.
The addition of Jake Arrieta in the off-season has proven effective, but it is youngster Aaron Nola who has had the biggest impact on the Phillies' staff. In his third full-season he’s taken a leap forward -- he’s third in the NL in ERA at 2.42 after dropping it by more than a full run this year.
Earlier in this "Move For Every Team" series, I wrote that there are a couple teams in the American League who are sellers and who should look to the Phillies as a trading partner for their middle infield. Those claims feel just as true now that I'm on the team in question. The Phillies need a middle infielder to add depth and take some of the pressure off rookie Scott Kingery with J.P Crawford on the DL.
Their Target: Adeiny Hechavarria, SS, Tampa Bay Rays, he’s a rental that the Rays will likely want to move if they decide to be sellers.
Atlanta Braves (54-46, 2nd NL East , 6th NL)
There isn’t as much surprise about the Braves success as there’s been about the Phillies, mostly because of the quality of their farm system. Atlanta had the best collection of prospects going into last season, and many of those players -- Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, and Ronald Acuna, to name a few -- have matured to the point of producing at a major league level.
Despite the influx of players making the jump to the Majors, the Braves still control 7 prospects in the MLB.com Top 100 list who haven’t stepped foot on an MLB field, giving them a system that's poised to produce talent for years to come.
While Atlanta has one of the best starting rotation ERA’s in baseball, the bullpen sits at 18th currently, and in the postseason bullpens become even more important.
With multiple relievers already moving -- Zach Britton to the Yankees, Brad Hand to the Indians and Joakim Soria to the Brewers -- the market may have started to dry up for the Braves.
Their Target: One team that still has a couple relievers to move and are big sellers, the Baltimore Orioles. Darren O’Day and Brad Brach are both still available and would be assets to Atlanta.
Washington Nationals (52-51, 3rd NL East, 9th NL)
The Nationals came into this season as the clear-cut favorites in the division. That hasn’t quite gone according to plan.
Washington sits just a game above .500 and 6 games back of the Phillies as their season has been dismantled by injuries and sub-par performances. The Nats have had 22 total DL stints this year including two for All-Star Stephen Strasburg, and a season-ending Achilles injury to starting second baseman Howie Kendrick, and haven’t had enough guys step up for them to keep pace with the Phillies and Braves. Bryce Harper has been all over the place in a contract year, and rumors have begun that he could move before the deadline.
However, the Nationals have a strong core in Strasburg, Scherzer, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon and rookie outfielder Juan Soto, that will prevent them from being big sellers this deadline. I think they’ll field offers for everyone, but likely won’t make a major move. One pitcher who could be moved is lefty Gio Gonzalez, who wouldn’t command as much trade value but would get a decent return for a team looking for starting pitching.
Their Target: Someone to overspend on Bryce, or trade Gonzalez to a contender like the Brewers, who still haven’t picked up a starter.
Miami Marlins (45-61, 4th NL East, 13th NL)
The Marlins made it clear they were going to be sellers for this entire season and may have made most of their potential deadline deals last off season when they dealt the reigning MVP Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees, and moved other everyday players like Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon.
Maimi has been worse than last year, but they haven't been cellar-dwellers -- partially because of pieces that could still be on the move. Their three top trade pieces are, not coincidentally, their top three players in WAR: JT Realmuto, Starlin Castro, and Brian Anderson.
Realmuto has played exceptionally well this year and played in the All-Star game two weeks ago, Castro would be a solid starting or backup middle infielder for most teams, and Anderson has had a strong first season in the big leagues. Any of these players could draw significant trade packages.
Their Target: I don't believe they'll move Anderson. But the Nationals or Red Sox make sense for Realmuto -- both are in bottom three teams in the MLB in catcher OPS -- as do the Brewers for Castro -- they are in the bottom-third of the league in shortstop and second base OPS.
New York Mets (43-58, 5th NL East, 14th NL)
Ah, the Mets.
It seems almost every year the Mets go into the season with high hopes and every year they are riddled with injuries and this season is no different. They had the highest “injury impact on roster” rating according to RosterResource.com last season and sit at number two this year. Several of their key contributors have gone to the DL multiple times including Noah Syndergaard, Yoenis Cespedes, and Todd Frazier. Additionally, third baseman David Wright has missed the entire season due to back and shoulder problems and it remains unclear when he’ll return to play.
Those injuries are going to make it difficult for the Mets to make trades, but one player who could be on the move is Wilmer Flores. He has played the majority of the season at first base for the Mets, but has played all across the infield throughout his career and would be able to slot in off the bench at multiple positions.
Their Target: A playoff contender who needs infield depth... Flores won't even have to find a new place to live, because he should be going just across town to the Yankees.