One difference-making trade for each of NL's 10 teams in wild-card race, from Braves to Giants (2024)

The National League’s three division leaders — the Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers — have comfortable leads and look destined to make the playoffs as either division winners or wild-card entries. Meanwhile, at this point, only two NL teams are definite trade deadline “sellers,” the Miami Marlins and Colorado Rockies.

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Although the division races could tighten, that leaves the remaining 10 NL teams competing for three wild-card spots. The Atlanta Braves sit atop the wild-card standings and currently have a 95.4 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to FanGraphs. But the rest of those teams are packed together, with the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Diego Padres right now occupying playoff positions and the remaining clubs anywhere from a half game to three games out of a wild-card spot. It’s unlikely any of the 10 teams drop out of the race between now and the trade deadline, which could mean every NL team but the Rockies and Marlins will be looking to make moves to enhance their postseason chances.

The American League has only three teams that are definite “sellers” — the Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Angels. Therefore, with only five MLB teams wanting to sell at this stage, the asking price for their best major-league players will be sky high, as supply and demand always dictates the prospect returns sellers seek during trade season.

In this type of trade environment, more teams will need to find common ground on “buyer-to-buyer” trades, in addition to deals with sellers. Teams that are looking to improve their offense — clubs like the Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds — will need to consider trading from their pitching riches, making deals with organizations that need pitching and are willing to part with bats. To be clear, buyer-to-buyer trades are now just as likely as buyers and sellers making swaps.

Just for the fun of it, let’s look at those 10 NL teams locked in the wild-card race and consider one move each could make between now and the July 30 deadline to fortify their rosters and improve their chances of being playoff participants. For this exercise, I stuck with buyer-seller deals. In the comments section, let me know what you think of these proposed swaps and please feel free to share some trade ideas of your own.

1. Atlanta Braves (43-32)

Biggest need: A right fielder

The proposed move: Braves trade RHP Cade Kuehler and OF Luis Guanipa to Los Angeles Angels for OF Taylor Ward and LHP Patrick Sandoval.

Editor’s note: On Monday, after this story was published, the Angels announced Sandoval will have Tommy John surgery, so he is no longer a trade candidate.

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The Braves have lost Ronald Acuña Jr. and Spencer Strider to season-ending injuries, leaving them with holes in right field and in the starting rotation. They could really use another outfield corner bat, and Ward, who’s batting .240/.324/.421 with 12 home runs and 38 RBIs, is one of the best who could be available. The Braves are hoping one of their young pitchers steps up and takes the fifth spot in their rotation, but why not add another veteran starter to improve depth and protect against second-half injuries in the rotation? If healthy, Sandoval could be a good fit.Sandoval, 27, last year logged a 4.11 ERA over 28 starts and this year has a 5.08 ERA in 15 starts, although he left his last outing in the third inning and landed on the injured list with an elbow strain (so Atlanta would need to be satisfied with his health before making this deal). A change of scenery should help both Ward and Sandoval, who are under team control through 2026.

In return, the Angels would get Kuehler, a second-round pick last year, who has posted a 2.52 ERA in 11 starts for Low-A Augusta. In addition, they’d land Guanipa, 18, who profiles as an everyday center fielder with blazing speed, and has the potential to become a legitimate leadoff hitter.

One difference-making trade for each of NL's 10 teams in wild-card race, from Braves to Giants (1)

Tyler Anderson leads all major-league pitchers with 3.9 bWAR. (D. Ross Cameron / USA Today)

2. St. Louis Cardinals (39-37)

Biggest need: A veteran starting pitcher

The proposed move: Cardinals trade OF Dylan Carlson and RHP Gordon Graceffo to Angels for LHP Tyler Anderson.

The Cardinals added three veteran starting pitchers in the offseason when they signed Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson. They’re now focused on adding yet another veteran and targeting the Angels lefty seems like a logical fit. Anderson, 34, is having a strong season, posting a 2.48 ERA over 15 starts, which is reminiscent of his 2022 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers when he went 15-5 with a 2.57 ERA. Anderson has one more year remaining on the three-year, $39 million contract he signed with the Angels in 2023.

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In return, the Angels would receive Carlson, a 25-year-old who has never lived up to his promise, but a change of scenery might help him as it did for former Cardinals outfielders such as Adolis García and Randy Arozarena. Carlson is batting under .200 with a .509 OPS but the Angels would control him through 2026. They’d also land Graceffo, 24, who profiles as a solid mid-rotation starter.

3. San Diego Padres (41-41)

Biggest need: An impact starting pitcher

The proposed move: Padres trade LHP Robby Snelling, LHP Austin Krob and SS Leodalis De Vries to White Sox for LHP Garrett Crochet.

The Padres don’t like to make a habit of trading from their top-five prospect shelf but they’re going to have to if they want to land Crochet, who is controllable through the 2026 season. The 24-year-old leads the American League in strikeouts with 124 in 88 2/3 innings and has posted a 3.25 ERA and 2.59 FIP over 16 starts. He’s tied for sixth in the majors among all pitchers with 3.2 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. The Padres and White Sox got together on the Dylan Cease deal in March — could they link up on another big starting pitcher trade a few months later? Adding a starter of Crochet’s caliber would really improve San Diego’s chances of landing a playoff spot. In return, the White Sox would gain three of the Padres’ top 10 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, in Snelling (No. 2), De Vries (No. 4) and Krob (No. 9).

GO DEEPERPadres, in search of more starting pitching, pursuing White Sox’s Garrett Crochet

One difference-making trade for each of NL's 10 teams in wild-card race, from Braves to Giants (3)

Brent Rooker watches one of his 13 homers this season. Last year he had 30 long balls. He is under team control through 2027. (Darren Yamash*ta / USA Today)

4. Washington Nationals (38-39)

Biggest need: A middle-of-the-order bat

The proposed move: Nationals promote OF James Wood and trade SS Armando Cruz and SS Kevin Made to Oakland A’s for DH/OF Brent Rooker.

The Nationals have taken their time in promoting top prospects, but there isn’t a trade they could make right now that would be any better than just promoting their own standouts, starting with Wood. The 21-year-old slugger is slashing .348/.463/.590 at Triple-A Rochester with 13 doubles, 10 home runs, 10 steals and 33 RBIs. Wood was reinstated from the minor-league IL last Tuesday after suffering a hamstring injury but is ready for his first major-league call-up. He’s just waiting for the phone to ring.

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In the meantime, one trade the Nationals could try to make would be landing Rooker, who would boost the middle of their lineup. Rooker has slashed .256/.333/.496 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs. His .829 OPS ranks 16th in the AL. In return, the A’s would receive two minor-league shortstops in Cruz, 20, and Made, 21. Both play plus defense. Neither has hit at a significant level, but both have potential to develop into major leaguers. The A’s have made it be known to opposing teams that shortstop is one of the top positional needs for their organization.

5. Arizona Diamondbacks (38-40)

Biggest need: Starting pitching depth

The proposed move: Diamondbacks trade RHP CristianMena to A’s for RHP Paul Blackburn.

Blackburn is on the 60-day IL and working his way back from a right foot stress reaction. He threw off of the mound Thursday and isn’t expected to return from the IL until right after the All-Star break. However, he began the season with four scoreless starts of six innings or more; overall, he posted a 4.11 ERA over eight outings before landing on the IL. Zac Gallen is nearing a return and the Diamondbacks are hoping to get Merrill Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez back from the IL by the trade deadline, but that hasn’t stopped them from looking for more veteran starting pitching depth and Blackburn, 30, would provide that if healthy. He has a solid array of off-speed pitches and an above-average ground-ball rate.

In return, the A’s would get Mena, a 21-year-old flamethrower who has pitched to a 4.75 ERA this season at Triple A, striking out 81 batters in 77 2/3 innings. Mena needs to improve his control and command as he’s issuing 4.2 walks per nine innings, but he has more upside than Blackburn if he continues to develop. Blackburn is under team control through 2025 and the Diamondbacks could dangle him in the offseason for a similar type return if the rest of their starters return to good health and form. Building as much starting depth as possible makes sense with so many teams stacked together in the NL and waiver trades no longer allowed in August, when clubs will need to deal with injuries.

6. New York Mets (37-39)

Biggest need: A starting pitcher

The proposed move: Mets trade C Kevin Parada to Detroit Tigers forRHP Jack Flaherty.

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The Mets could use another proven veteran starter if they want to make the playoffs, and acquiring Flaherty could improve their chances dramatically. Flaherty is having an impressive comeback season as he’s logged a 2.92 ERA over 14 starts with 108 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 83 1/3 innings. Entering Sunday, he was third in the majors in strikeouts per nine innings (11.7) and fourth in walks per nine (1.4). Opposing batters are hitting .234 against his four-seamer, .207 against his slider, .192 against his knuckle curve and .250 against his changeup. The price is going to be steep, but the Mets could part with Parada, a 2022 first-round pick, because he’s blocked behind Francisco Alvarez, who is their long-term catcher. The Tigers desperately need to improve their position player pool with power hitters. Parada, 22, is hitting just .209 but has nine doubles, seven home runs and 29 RBIs this season at Double-A Binghamton. Last year he hit .248 with 14 home runs, 54 RBIs and a .752 OPS across three minor-league levels. Most evaluators see him as a .260-type hitter with 20 home runs when fully developed. Flaherty will be eligible for free agency again this offseason.

GO DEEPERThree Tigers takeaways: How does the qualifying offer impact the Jack Flaherty trade discussion?

7. Pittsburgh Pirates (37-40)

Biggest need: Offense

The proposed move: Pirates trade RHP Braxton Ashcraft, SS Mitch Jebb, and 3B Jack Brannigan to Marlins for 1B/DH Josh Bell and LF/DH Bryan De La Cruz.

The Pirates would reunite with Bell, who had his best season with Pittsburgh in 2019, when he hit .277 with 37 home runs and 116 RBIs. Bell has hit 20 or more homers four times in his nine-year career. This year he’s batting .246/.309/.381 with eight home runs. The Pirates would also land the Marlins’ leader in home runs, De La Cruz, who has 14 long balls and a .732 OPS in 302 at-bats. The additions of Bell and De La Cruz might not improve their offense by yards, but it would move the meter enough to make a difference in a pennant race, considering their top three starting pitchers — Paul Skenes, Jared Jones and Mitch Keller — will keep them in most games they start. Bell, 31, is a rental, but De La Cruz, 27, is under team control through 2027. In this deal, the Marlins would add three decent prospects to their system — Ashcraft, Jebb and Brannigan all rank in the Pirates organization’s top 10, according to MLB Pipeline — while Pittsburgh would avoid trading away its best prospects.

One difference-making trade for each of NL's 10 teams in wild-card race, from Braves to Giants (5)

Elias Díaz has five home runs and 28 RBIs in 55 games. (D. Ross Cameron / USA Today)

8. Chicago Cubs (37-41)

Biggest need: An everyday catcher

The proposed move: Cubs trade RHP Brandon Birdsell and RHP Will Sanders to Rockies for catcher Elias Díaz.

Last year, Díaz batted .267 with 14 home runs, 72 RBIs and a .752 OPS, and he was the All-Star Game MVP. This year, he’s batting .303 with a .352 on-base percentage and a .791 OPS, all three of which would be career-highs. Díaz would be a huge offensive upgrade at catcher for the Cubs. He will be a free agent after this season. In return, the Rockies would improve their long-term outlook by adding two mid-level starting pitching prospects to their strong farm system.

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9. Cincinnati Reds (36-41)

Biggest need: Offense

The proposed move: Reds trade 3B Cam Collier, RHP Lyon Richardson, RHP Chase Petty and OF Will Benson to White Sox for CF Luis Robert Jr.

The Reds need to improve their offense and could receive a boost on that front when Noelvi Marte returns from his 80-game PED suspension; the 22-year-old will be eligible to rejoin the big-league club later this week. However, that addition probably won’t be enough considering second baseman Matt McLain and first baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand remain on the IL. Therefore, entering the trade market makes sense for the Reds and landing a power bat like Robert from Chicago makes sense too, since he also brings base-stealing speed and above-average defense to fortify their center field position. Robert, 26, belted 38 home runs last year and stole 20 bases in 24 attempts. This year, he’s been limited to just 24 games due to injury and has struggled, slashing .191/.265/.472 with seven home runs and 36 strikeouts in 89 at-bats. He’s under team control through 2027 with salaries of $12.5 million this year, $15 million next year and club options at $20 million a year for 2026 and 2027.

In return, the White Sox would receive two former Reds first-round picks, Collier and Petty, who are ranked fourth and sixth, respectively, among their top prospects by MLB Pipeline, along with Richardson, who ranks 14th and is pitching at Triple A, and Benson, who has struggled this year but last year had an .863 OPS in 287 at-bats.

GO DEEPERMLB trade deadline watch: The industry’s read on Luis Robert Jr., the crowded NL and more

10. San Francisco Giants (36-42)

Biggest need: Speed and power

The proposed move: Giants trade LHP Carson Whisenhunt, SS Marco Luciano and OF Luis Matos to Marlins for INF/OF Jazz Chisholm Jr.

Chisholm is slashing .267/.332/.445 with 10 home runs, 13 stolen bases and a 115 OPS+. He can play second base, shortstop and center field. The 26-year-old provides a rare combination of speed and power and has the potential to someday hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in a season. His positional flexibility would give the Giants several options for how to use him. A 2022 All-Star, Chisholm is eligible for arbitration next year and under team control through 2026.

In return, the Marlins would get a young, controllable starter with upside (Whisenhunt) and two non-arbitration-eligible prospects in Luciano and Matos, both of whom are major-league-ready but come with some risk because neither has had sustained success in MLB to date.

GO DEEPERMLB trade targets for each contender, plus deadline priorities for all 30 teams

(Top image: Jack Flaherty: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images; Jazz Chisholm Jr.: Megan Briggs / Getty Images)

One difference-making trade for each of NL's 10 teams in wild-card race, from Braves to Giants (2024)
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