Nobody's perfect: The early line on trade needs for the contenders
The White Sox, Brewers and Phillies are good bets to pursue a starting pitcher
The Red Sox, Mets, Braves, Giants and Cubs need to add offense
The Yankees, Rangers and Angels need help in the bullpen
No team looks perfect with nearly two months to go before the trade deadline ... well, no team except the Dodgers, that is. Whomever they use performs. At least that's the way it looks now. But even the Dodgers -- who are getting a .379 season out of Juan Pierre and have big performances out of Eric Stults, Jeff Weaver, Eric Milton and just about everyone else in blue -- still might need some help eventually.
Here is a rundown of what some of the contenders might seek as we get closer to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline ...
Looking for starters
White Sox: Their attempted trade for Jake Peavy made it clear that they're looking for an ace to swing the balance of power in a wide-open AL Central, which they've won two of the past four seasons. They recently scouted Roy Oswalt, but GM Ken Williams said publicly that they aren't in discussions regarding the Astros' ace. And one person familiar with their thinking explained that the White Sox weren't blown away by what they've seen from Oswalt recently. (That point may be moot since several reports suggest that Oswalt, who has a no-trade clause, wouldn't go to the South Side, anyway. While Oswalt's agent is in Chicago, the right-hander seems to prefer his hunting.) The guess is the Indians wouldn't trade the White Sox Cliff Lee, either, narrowing the field further.
Brewers: Their people are suggesting that they aren't sure which way they'll go -- hitter or pitcher. But their every day nucleus is excellent, plus rookie Matt Gamel brings another offensive option and they can cover second base from within with clutch hometowner Craig Counsell (.316) or Cubs import Casey McGehee. The rotation has been decent, but eventually they might need another big starter to pair with the impressive young Yovani Gallardo. They also have last year's winning mid-year gamble on CC Sabathia fairly fresh in their minds. They worked well with Cleveland last summer, so why not try for Lee?
Phillies: New GM Ruben Amaro was quoted in this space on Monday making clear that his intention is to play for a front-of-the-rotation starter, which would mean Peavy, Oswalt and perhaps Lee and Erik Bedard. Other possibilities could include Aaron Harang and Chris Young. Hard-throwing rookie Antonio Bastardo looked very good (94 mph) on Tuesday night, so they may not have to act immediately.
Dodgers: They thought they needed help in the rotation and bullpen this spring, but right now it looks like they don't need anything. Hiroki Kuroda just came back, and Manny Ramirez will return on July 3. Tough to top that. They've been very active at the deadline the past couple years, and if they do something this time it'll probably still be pitching-related. A veteran starter might be nice to place between Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw, someone like Harang, perhaps. Peavy would work great, of course, but there are those who believe the Padres want to do whatever's possible to avoid delivering him to their division rival. The Dodgers have the impression that they'd have to pay "insanely'' more than anyone else for Peavy, according to a person familiar with their dealings.
Looking for hitters
Red Sox: They are aggressively seeking hitting help, according to competitors, and the guess of other GMs is that they won't wait until the deadline to do something. There is no exact deadline on former superstar David Ortiz to start to hit, but every day that goes by appears to bring them a day closer to doing something. A .185 batting average just isn't cutting it. Hanley Ramirez would be Theo Epstein's ultimate (re-)acquisition, possibly followed by Adrian Gonzalez ... but now that we are out of the daydreaming part of our day, the best player they might have a realistic shot at might be Indians catcher Victor Martinez. Sabathia said he'd be surprised if the Indians would trade Martinez, a favorite of Indians people. But if they do, Boston has just the sort of young pitching package to make it work for Cleveland, including Clay Buchholz (possibly untouchable), Justin Masterson and Michael Bowden. Aubrey Huff and the Washington trio of Nick Johnson, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham are four more of many somewhat lesser possibilities in what looks like a fairly deep hitting market.
Mets: They'll look at starters and possibly relievers, too, especially if J.J. Putz doesn't begin to resemble himself (throwing 92 mph without control now). But right now they appear to be talking more about seeking outfield help, what with Angel Pagan, Jeremy Reed and Gary Sheffield getting a lot more time (and performing much better) than expected. Matt Holliday, who's off to a slow start with the A's, would make sense. But the Mets would not trade Fernando Martinez for him. First base is another possibility if Daniel Murphy doesn't pan out, though so far he looks good defensively at that position.
Braves: They have to be concerned about Jeff Francoeur's lack of production (he hit his first homer in a month on Tuesday night), not to mention comparably weak offensive numbers by most of their outfield, including Jordan Schafer (who's back in the minors) and Garret Anderson. A reacquisition of the versatile Mark DeRosa might help, but of course, Holliday would help more. (Note: The Braves acquired All-Star center fielder Nate McLouth from the Pirates for three minor leaguers on Wednesday)
Giants: They are dead last in home runs and runs, so it's obvious that they need offense. They have pitching depth, and two more good starters coming in Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson, so they are dangling young pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, and opposing GMs wonder whether they'd consider doing the same with star young starter Matt Cain. They could certainly improve their offense if they did that. But it looks like they might not be able to catch the Dodgers, anyway. So they could also do nothing.
Cubs: The Cubs expect Aramis Ramirez back in mid-July ("His absence is killing them,'' remarks one competing GM), but mainly they need a return to normalcy for most of their lineup. Their bullpen hasn't been great. But even without making a phone call to the Padres anytime recently they remain the favorites for Peavy, especially as long as there are no known other teams he'd approve that are 1) contenders, 2) rich enough, and 3) not the division-rival Dodgers.
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