5 teams that need to make a move at the MLB trade deadline: It's time for the Orioles to go for it

The MLB trade deadline is just over seven weeks away, and as we get closer to the halfway point of the season, teams’ strengths and weaknesses are starting to become apparent. While we know that the White Sox, Marlins, Mets and A’s will be sellers this year, the market of buyers could be robust, especially with the National League looking weak overall and the American League having lots of firepower near the top.

Here are five teams that need to make a move at the deadline.

There might not be a team that should “go for it” more than the Baltimore Orioles. Two years ago, the O’s showed that their rebuild was over, as with the arrival of catcher Adley Rutschman, they looked like a team that was going to be a force to be reckoned with. Last season, the O’s took an even bigger step forward, asserting themselves as the best team in the American League. They won 101 games and were in great position to add at the deadline, but despite their involvement in some rumors, no big splash ever materialized. Then they were swept by the eventual World Series champion Rangers.

This year, the Orioles are back in prime position. They sit 2.5 games behind the Yankees in the AL East and have an MVP candidate in shortstop Gunnar Henderson, who has been one of the best players in the game. Baltimore’s starting pitching has also risen to the occasion, with new ace Corbin Burnes fitting right in and right-hander Kyle Bradish looking masterful in his return from a UCL sprain.

After standing pat at the deadline two years in a row, the Orioles have to make some noise this year. And unlike some other contending teams, they have the resources to do so. Even after graduating productive players from their system, including Rutschman, outfielder Colton Cowser and infielder Jordan Westburg , the O’s have the best farm system in baseball.

The O's have done exceptionally well at drafting and developing high-end talent. While MLB’s No. 1 prospect, Jackson Holliday, didn’t stick after his first call-up, he’ll be part of the Orioles’ future for years to come. Beyond him, the talent pipeline has been so rich, with top prospects such as former first-round pick Heston Kjerstad, first baseman Coby Mayo and infielder Connor Norby all crushing at Triple-A Norfolk.

Yet only nine players can be on the field at a time, and no matter how good a team’s farm system, not every prospect will be a big-leaguer with his original club. The Orioles have a real chance this year to reach their first World Series since 1983, and if it means trading some really good prospects, now is the time to do so. As many examples across baseball have shown, teams aren’t guaranteed a window, so if there’s an opportunity to get better, you have to take it.

The move? The Orioles have been looking for a shutdown closer since they lost All-Star Felix Bautista to Tommy John surgery late last year, and current closer Craig Kimbrel has been inconsistent to say the least. If there’s one move that could help take Baltimore over the top, it’s finding a closer who can be trusted in October. One intriguing option for them is Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley. If the Cardinals fall out of postseason contention, Helsley, who leads baseball in saves, could be the difference-maker Baltimore needs.

The Guardians have been a model of consistency and success over the past decade, but after the retirement of longtime manager Terry Francona, a retool felt imminent in Cleveland. And yet, after the hiring of Stephen Vogt, the Guardians got off to a strong start to the season and have led the American League Central for most of the first half.

Unlike years past, when the Guardians had to be carried by their elite starting pitching, the team’s offense has been one of the best in baseball, ranking sixth in runs scored this season. Led by the contributions of stalwarts Jose Ramírez and Josh Naylor, they’ve also gotten plenty of production from Tyler Freeman and newcomer David Fry.

This time around, the Guardians’ starting pitching has been the area of concern, and similar to the Texas Rangers, it comes from a lack of health. The team lost ace Shane Bieber to Tommy John surgery early in the year and has been without right-hander Gavin Willians since spring training after he experienced right shoulder soreness. Triston McKenzie has also had a tough season so far, leading MLB in walks and homers allowed.

The move? Acquire playoff-caliber starting pitching. With the way their offense has been rolling, Cleveland has an opportunity to keep a hold of the AL Central. But adding another arm that can take the ball in October should be at the top of their list of priorities. Two players who could fit their needs are Mets right-hander Luis Severino and Angels lefty Tyler Anderson. Severino has had a resurgence this season and looks like one of the best starters in baseball, while Anderson is having one of the best seasons of his career. Both could give the Guardians a huge boost in the second half.

It’s time for the Chicago Cubs to make a splashy move. They didn’t make a big move in free agency and chose to keep the majority of their team from last season intact. While their starting pitching has been a strength, thanks to a big first half from rookie sensation Shota Imanaga, the Cubs’ offense has been anemic. In their past 30 games, they rank 25th in MLB in runs scored and have struggled to find consistency in the lineup.

It seems like nearly every Cubs hitter has gone through a slump, many of them at the same time. Seiya Suzuki is the team’s best hitter, but he has struggled to stay on the field long enough to produce at the level he did in the second half last season.

The Cubs have restocked their farm system since turning over their 2016 World Series core and going through a rebuild. But if they expect to seriously begin their window of contention, similar to the Orioles, turning those prospects into major-league talent has to be part of the plan.

The move? The Cubs need an injection of power in the middle of their lineup if they want to make a serious run at the NL Central or a wild card. If the Mets decide to move Pete Alonso, he could be the right fit for a lineup desperate for power. Alonso, who will be a free agent this offseason, likely wouldn’t cost Chicago significant prospect capital, and acquiring him this summer could give them a shot to re-sign the slugger over the winter.

For these five teams, the time to go for it is now. (Bruno Rouby/Yahoo Sports)
For these five teams, the time to go for it is now. (Bruno Rouby/Yahoo Sports) (Bruno Rouby/Yahoo Sports)

The rebuild in Kansas City appears to be over, as the Royals have been one of the biggest surprises in baseball in the first half. Not only is K.C. near the top of the AL Central, but the Royals are also 10 games above .500 with the sixth-best run differential in baseball. Their strong first half has been backed by elite starting pitching. The team’s 3.50 starter ERA ranks fifth in MLB, led by Seth Lugo, Cole Ragans and Brady Singer.

Offensively, the Royals’ offense starts and ends with shortstop and budding superstar Bobby Witt Jr., who currently leads Kansas City in almost every major offensive category. Witt has gotten incredible support from veteran backstop Salvador Perez, who continues to produce at a high level.

The downside of the Royals’ first half is that their offense outside of Witt and Perez has been close to nonexistent. No player outside that duo has an OPS above .800. While first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino has shown flashes of being an offensive force, it has taken him some time to really get going.

The move? Supplement the offense. The middle of the Royals’ order is strong with Witt and Perez doing the heavy lifting, but they lack balance and depth. The Mets could be the perfect trade partners for the Royals at the deadline, as J.D. Martinez and Starling Marte could both be upgrades for an offense looking for depth. Or, if the Royals want to go the younger route, Mark Vientos has come on strong this year and looks like the player the Mets always dreamed he would be. If he is to get a fresh start and the chance to play every day, Kansas City could be the place.

The reigning World Series champions haven’t exactly gotten off to a red-hot start. In fact, they’ve had their fair share of issues to start the season. Most of those have come from injuries to several key members of their lineup, including Corey Seager, Evan Carter, Wyatt Langford and Nathaniel Lowe.

But the bigger problem with health has come in their rotation, which has been without Max Scherzer, who is currently on a rehab assignment after recovering from a herniated disk and right thumb soreness. Right-hander Jacob deGrom is 12 months into his 14-month timeline rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and right-hander Tyler Mahle is also recovering from Tommy John surgery last season.

Is it possible that all three starters come back at some point this season and pitch for the Rangers? Sure, but it feels awfully unrealistic to rely on two pitchers who haven’t thrown in the big leagues in more than a year and Scherzer, who turns 40 years old next month.

The move? Acquire starting pitching. Because of injuries, the Rangers added Jordan Montgomery at the 2023 trade deadline, and he was pivotal in their quest to win their first World Series in franchise history. It wouldn’t hurt to add another arm to the rotation and allow Scherzer, deGrom and Mahle to really get healthy, rather than having to rush them back. A deadline arm would also take some pressure off Michael Lorenzen, Nathan Eovaldi and Jon Gray, who have all been great for Texas so far.

The Rangers don’t have to acquire an ace, like they did when they traded for Scherzer from the Mets at the deadline last season. But another reliable arm to fill out the rotation would make a lot of sense. Someone such as Jose Quintana (Mets), Ross Stripling (A's) or Alex Wood (A's) could fill that need.