Sport: Buyers or sellers? How Guardians, Red Sox, other fringe teams should approach 2022 MLB trade deadline

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Some MLB teams have the luxury of heading into the trade deadline with a clear plan for what to do. The Yankees? They're going to be buyers. The Reds? They're going to be sellers.

Then, there are a few teams that fall in the middle. Teams that could justifiably go in either direction, both directions, or neither. Ones that could be a move or two away from reaching the playoffs, or a move or two away from ending their run at contention and dropping firmly into the bottom half of the league.

With the expanded playoffs in 2022, there are more teams than ever in the playoff hunt as the Aug. 2 trade deadline nears.

Which teams are on the fringe of being buyers or sellers? The Sporting News makes the case for both buying and selling for five teams in baseball, and gives a verdict on which path they should follow.

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MLB trade deadline fringe teams

Giants

Buy: The idea that the Giants are talked about on the fringe after they were the best team in baseball in 2021 speaks to the major pieces they lost, Buster Posey and Kevin Gausman. San Francisco could use a catcher, most likely a stopgap like Willson Contreras, to give Joey Bart more time to develop. It could also use some bullpen help, as the gap between Camilo Doval and the next-best reliever is a sizable gap. The Giants could also benefit from another starter to build on the rotation of Carlos Rodon and Logan Webb.

Sell: Maybe it's not there for the Giants this year. The NL West is loaded with the Dodgers running away and the Padres looking like an easy wild-card team even without Fernando Tatis Jr. If the Giants think competing the rest of the season isn't in the cards, Rodon, who can opt out after the 2022 season, seems the most likely player to trade, as he would net them a decent package as one of the top pitchers on the market. Jakob Junis and Joc Pederson have had huge seasons on one-year deals, and could help a contender.

MLB Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

  MLB Trade Deadline Winners and Losers After a whirlwind of deals unfolded over the last couple of days, let’s review the good, bad and ugly from trade deadline season. Well, that was a wild one. Congratulations on making it to the other side of the trade deadline—after the biggest deal in recent memory plus a whole bunch of others. Here’s a rundown of who won, who lost, and who fell somewhere in the middle:WINNERSSan Diego PadresThey added a generational talent in his prime (Juan Soto), a serious rental bat (Josh Bell), an elite closer (Josh Hader) and a quality utilityman (Brandon Drury).

Verdict: If it were not for a recent losing streak, this might not be a question. The Giants are now only a few games out of the wild card, and still boast a dynamic one-two punch in Rodon and Webb. But San Francisco has to commit to going all in or all out with Rodon likely to leave. They have the prospects to go out and acquire an arm like Luis Castillo or, potentially, make a run at Juan Soto. This is a veteran team, with older bats like Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria nearing free agency status. They should buy in an NL wild-card hunt that is more open than its American League counterpart.

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Guardians

Buy: The Guardians find themselves in a narrow second place in the AL Central with a legitimate MVP candidate in Jose Ramirez, a true ace in Shane Bieber and a shutdown closer in Emmanuel Clase. That sounds like a contender. Should Cleveland decide to become a buyer at the deadline, it could use pitching depth both in the rotation and bullpen, as the starters past Bieber and Triston McKenzie have been a bit inconsistent, and outside of Trevor Stephan, the bullpen needs help getting to Clase. They would also benefit from a right-handed power bat, as their 31 home runs from right-handed batters ranks last in the majors.

The White Sox Are Suffering the Consequences of Doing Nothing

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Sell: There has also been talk that this could be a time for the Guardians to trade batters like Amed Rosario and Franmil Reyes. Rosario is a free agent after 2023, and Cleveland is loaded up with middle-infield prospects like Gabriel Arias and Brayan Rocchio, while Reyes has struggled with other outfield prospects like George Valera and Will Benson knocking on the door. The Guardians could also make Bieber available on the trade market, which would make him the most sought-after pitcher and would fetch a massive return as he's under contract through 2024. The Guardians' loaded farm system has them poised for a bright future. So maybe they should wait for a strong group of Double-A pitchers to reach the majors before going all-in.

Verdict: Given the team's prospect riches, there is no reason the Guardians shouldn't at least ask about Soto. If they can win the Soto sweepstakes, maybe they change their timeline, with a dynamic one-two punch of Ramirez and Soto. But since that is still unlikely to happen, Cleveland would appear best to stand relatively pat. Maybe trade Reyes if a team is willing to bank on his power upside. But don't go all-in on selling. This team can already make a playoff run this year, and could be a serious contender in 2023.

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Phillies

Buy: It hasn't been the season Phillies fans were hoping for as Bryce Harper is hurt and Nick Castellanos has struggled, and Philadelphia is well out of first place behind the Mets, but the Phillies are still in the playoff hunt. They are just a half game out of the wild card and still have a scary one-two punch, and they are receiving a standout year from Kyle Schwarber. Moves to improve the middle infield and add some outfield depth and potentially a reliever or two could help push them over the edge.

Sell: But there is reason for concern in Philadelphia. This starting lineup features only one player younger than 29, and the farm system is barren. It's also not easy to see a scenario where the Phillies are actually better than other teams in the NL like the Mets, Braves, Dodgers and Padres any time in the near future unless they were to add some major pieces. If they decided to break things down, their large assortment of experienced bats and arms could drastically rebuild the farm system. If done right, it could still give Harper time to compete for a World Series before he starts getting to the true back-end of his career.

Verdict: The Phillies have been doing nothing but try to compete for the past several years now, with moves to acquire Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Wheeler, Schwarber and Castellanos. There is no reason to start selling now. Their farm system is largely depleted, but Andrew Painter and Mick Abel are still a few years away from contributing to the big league club and could be valuable trade pieces for win-now moves.

Recap of the most notable trade deadline moves in the American League

  Recap of the most notable trade deadline moves in the American League Here is the recap of every American League club’s most notable trades of the last few days.New York: Though the Yankees’ rotation had been a big reason for their first-half dominance, the team still added Frankie Montas (one of the biggest trade candidates of the last few months) to reinforce the pitching staff.  Bringing in Montas and reliever Lou Trivino cost New York four noteworthy prospects, yet the Yankees were able to hang onto everyone in their true top tier.  Beyond Trivino, the Yankees further bolstered the relief corps by landing Scott Effross from the Cubs.

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Red Sox

Buy: Boston has two of the game's brightest stars in the lineup in Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, but unless they sign extensions, their time might be running out. Bogaerts is expected to opt out of his contract at the end of 2022, and Devers is a free agent after 2023. The lineup with those two, Trevor Story and J.D. Martinez looks like a formidable order. The pitching leaves some room to be desired, however, especially as Chris Sale continues to miss time with injury. But if Boston can stay in contention until he returns, the Red Sox could make a late push to reach the playoffs.

Sell: The AL East is dangerous, and it's only getting more so. The long-awaited Orioles rebuild is starting to come to light, and the Yankees, Blue Jays and Rays are all currently in the playoff picture. Entering play on Friday, the Red Sox were 3.5 games out of the playoffs, trailing the Rays, Guardians and Orioles for that last wild card. That's a lot of teams to climb to make the postseason. Bogaerts entering the trade market would be a shake-up and could deliver a haul for a weak farm system, and Martinez could be a nice addition for a team looking for lineup help.

Verdict: It's rare that the Red Sox go into sell mode. But this is one instance where it makes sense to break things down. Bogaerts could walk this offseason for nothing, and at this point, buying at the deadline would maybe help them reach the playoffs, but not reach the World Series. If Boston could guarantee extensions to Devers and Bogaerts, it would be a different story. Instead, trade Bogaerts and more to begin re-stocking the farm, use the money to keep Devers and begin looking toward the future.

Bieber's strong outing leads Guardians past Tigers, 5-2

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White Sox

Buy: The White Sox were expected to run away with the AL Central in 2022. Instead, they're third in the division and several games out of a wild card spot. But there is so much upside with this team, both this year and in the future. Outside of Jose Abreu, who is a free agent after 2022, every starter in the lineup is under contract at least through next season. Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez and Andrew Vaughn will all be together through the 2026 season, and Tim Anderson isn't a free agent until after 2024. Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech won't be free agents until after 2025. The White Sox need rotation help with Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn struggling this season, and the bullpen could use some more arms helping get to Kendall Graveman and Liam Hendriks.

Sell: A full rebuild is not in the cards given how long Robert, Jimenez and Vaughn are under contract. But the run to the playoffs in 2022 is going to be hard given how many teams are in the playoff picture. Pending free agents Abreu and Johnny Cueto could net solid returns, and a move of Yasmani Grandal and A.J. Pollock, who are free agents after 2023, could also help restock a farm system that is shallower than it has been in recent years or add to the young core that will be around for many more years in Chicago.

Verdict: When the season began, buying would have seemed like a no-brainer. And it still is for Chicago. Most of the team is under control for several more years, and the AL Central is the most winnable division in baseball. No team in that division has a better middle-of-the-order than Abreu, Robert, Anderson, Vaughn and Jimenez, when they're all healthy. With most of the team still under control for several more years, the White Sox should look for players with at least another year of control to try and make a late push in 2022 and to set up for 2023.

Report: Teams closely tracking start of former Red Sox playoff hero Nathan Eovaldi .
Eovaldi is 4-3 with a 3.14 ERA during his postseason history and helped pitch the Red Sox to the 2018 World Series. His ability to pitch in big games makes him attractive to teams. But he is 0-1 with an 11.08 ERA in July and has allowed 23 hits and 17 runs in 13 innings. If he turns things around on Monday in Houston, contenders may want to take a chance on him.The 32-year-old pitcher has no interest in being traded, though.“I love the organization here,” Eovaldi said on WEEI Friday. “I want to be a part of this organization forever.”For the season, Eovaldi is 4-3 with a 4.43 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 81.1 innings.

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