Four Teams Who Could Be Buyers or Sellers at the Deadline

The New York Mets, Houston Astros, Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays could all be either buyers or sellers at the deadline.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 02: Francisco Lindor #12 of the New York Mets celebrates his 11th inning walk off double with Pete Alonso #20, and DJ Stewart #29 to win the game against the Chicago Cubs 7-6 during their game at Citi Field on May 02, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

With the 2024 MLB season just about three months old, we are a month away from the trading deadline. This year’s deadline poses a different aspect as past years given the number of teams that are still in playoff hunt.

In the American League, six teams are either in Wild Card spots or within four games, while in the National League a whopping 10 teams are in similar spots. Among these teams, there are some who are clearly set to be buyers, and others who are a bit caught in the middle.

In particular there are four teams that most stand out, as they could both take advantage of the opportunity to be buyers if they are in the race, or could go the other direction and be valued sellers at the trade deadline.

All stats and standings were taken prior to play on June 28th.

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Washington Nationals

The Nationals have surprised many. Before the season, Fangraphs gave them just a 0.2% chance to make the postseason and while they haven’t blown anyone away, they have put themselves right in the thick of the NL Wild Card Race.

As of June 28th, Washington is 38-42 and just three games out of the last postseason spot with Baseball Reference giving them an 11.2% shot to crack the fall tournament. 

On Friday, the team announced that top prospect James Wood will be called up on July 1st, indicating that the club may make a push for October baseball. Wood is the top prospect in all of baseball, and could provide an immediate jolt to their lineup.

If they decide to buy at the deadline, improving the offense would be the first step. The Nats rank 24th in baseball with a .671 OPS and have lacked consistent offense from anybody but left fielder Jesse Winker and shortstop C.J. Abrams. 

Conversely, if the front office decides to once again sell off pieces, they will have no shortage of suitors. Winker, along with fellow outfielders Eddie Rosario and Joey Gallo would figure to be the first ones moved as all three are on expiring contracts.

A team in need of a power hitting left-handed bat would certainly seem to fit what the Nationals are selling. On the pitching side, Trevor Williams was enjoying a career year before going down with an injury, but will still likely be a named move come the end of July.

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They can also deal any of their relief pitchers who are having a particularly strong season, namely, closer Kyle Finnegan.

Only time will tell how the Nats act. Despite lacking high-end major league talent, they are still just one hot streak from inserting themselves into a postseason spot.

Tampa Bay Rays

For the first time in recent years, the Rays do not have a stranglehold on either the American League East or the Wild Card picture. Before the season, Fangraphs had them at a 59.6% odds to make the postseason, but they have gone just 40-41 over the first three months. 

Tampa Bay is notorious for selling off big ticket pieces, most recently sending starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow to the Dodgers this past offseason. With star outfielder Randy Arozarena and last-years AL batting champion Yandy Diaz both struggling, trade rumors have begun to circulate.

Despite their individual struggles, both players would come with a large price tag for prospective teams to meet. Additionally, second baseman Brandon Lowe, utility player Amed Rosario and relief pitcher Phil Maton are all free agents at the end of the season, meaning they are candidates to be moved.

Now for the other viewpoint. The Rays are only four games behind Kansas City for the third AL Wild Card spot, meaning they could just as easily buy. Offense would likely be the place to start as they rank 20th in batting average (.236) and 23rd in OPS (.676). They also sit 23rd in ERA (4.35) so there are definitely numerous spots where Tampa could bolster their roster. 

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New York Mets

The Mets have been a tale of two teams. There was the team in late April and May that outplayed only Colorado and Miami in the National League and looked doomed for another lost season. However, June has been kind to the orange and blue as they have won 15 of their last 19 contests, climbing back to .500 and sitting just a single game out of the final NL Wild Card spot. 

New York is a team built to sell as center fielder Harrison Bader, designated hitter J.D. Martinez, starting pitchers Luis Severino and Sean Manaea are all set to hit the open market by year’s end but their recent hot stretch has complicated things.

Owner Steve Cohen has made it clear that he is willing to do anything to see his team win, leading many to believe that the Metropolitans will be bringing pieces in at the deadline. 

Through three months, the Mets rank top-10 in MLB in average (.250), home runs (97), runs (375) and OPS (.738) so it is obvious that the bats aren’t the problem. During their hot streak, they have been the hottest team in baseball.

After Edwin Diaz’ recent suspension for getting ejected for a sticky substance and Drew Smith facing Tommy John surgery, the biggest spot for the Mets to beef up on their team is the bullpen. 

The Mets have a favorable schedule coming up as they host Houston for three before two series’ against the Nationals bookending a set with the Pirates. They wrap up the first half at home against Colorado, meaning if they take care of business as they should, the Mets will be well-positioned to make some big plays at the trading deadline. 

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Houston Astros

The Astros season has transpired in similar fashion to the Mets as they got off to a catastrophic start in April. They turned it around in May and have rode that heat wave into June, now sitting at 40-40 and 3.5 out of a Wild Card. Additionally, Houston is just 4.5 games behind Seattle for the division lead, making it increasingly possible that they buy. 

As with the Mets, the problem is not the offense. The Astros boast the highest batting average in MLB at .263 and a top-10 OPS at .742. The pitching leaves something to be desired as they have been riddled with the injury bug.

Starters Justin Verlander and Christian Javier along with reliever Kendall Graveman have missed parts of, if not all of, the season which has hindered the team to a mediocre 4.06 ERA (17th). 

If Houston can replicate their success from May and June into July, there is no doubt that they will be making a heavy push to make the playoffs and even win the division. With star right fielder Kyle Tucker hurt however, there is the possibility of all going horribly wrong, in which case Verlander among others could be on the move. Along with Verlander, third baseman Alex Bregman could also find himself finishing the 2024 season elsewhere as his contract is up at the end of the season. 

As is the case with all four of these clubs, the next month will prove to be the deciding factor in what transpires at the July 30th deadline. A good month and we may be looking at the next 2023 Diamondbacks. A bad month and it will be a lost season capped off by losing major pieces to trades or free agency.