We're inching close to MLB's non-waiver trade deadline. Teams have until 4 p.m. ET Thursday to get their deals done, or take their chances with waiver trades.
A number of teams could use help at the trade deadline. And a number of teams are in the mix for some of the biggest names on the market — the Los Angeles Dodgers, for instance, seem linked to almost anyone who is available.
But do the Dodgers really need to make a deal? Probably not. They could stand pat and still make the playoffs. The St. Louis Cardinals didn't need to make a deal to make the playoffs. They're a team with talent that just needs to play better. Though, getting Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians is going to help that mission.
Other teams aren't in such a desirable place. Other teams have playoff hopes that may just hinge on whether they do something meaningful. Other teams need to act before Thursday's deadline.
Here are five teams The Stew believes need to get down to business:
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates have crept into the second wild-card spot in the NL after performing well lately, but their starting pitching is still suspect. Without an improvement to their rotation, it's hard to see them in the playoffs for a second straight season. The Pirates know this and that's why they're pursuing Jon Lester. There are other, less costly, arms on the market, but getting Lester would give the Pirates a definite boost in the crowded NL Central. The Cardinals making a move to get Masterson puts the Pirates under even more pressure to land an arm.
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Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles are in first place in the AL East, so you might think they're in a good spot. In general, they are. They have a 2 1/2-game lead in the division and a lineup full of good bats. But like many teams, they could use some rotation help. In fact, they're the team that most needs one of the frontline pitchers on the market, because they're without an ace. But it sounds like the Orioles may not be willing to give up the necessary prospects. Big or small, they need some rotation help, and Ubaldo Jimenez coming back from the disabled list isn't it.
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Toronto Blue Jays: The AL East may come down to whether the Blue Jays or Orioles make the best moves to upgrade their pitching. Of the two of them, the Blue Jays seem a little bit more likely to make a big deal, based off history and reputation. Toronto's starting pitchers rank 18th in ERA, which is right ahead of the Orioles. But when your starters are sandwiched between the Cubs and the Yankees, that's not exactly the best position to start the month of August while chasing a playoff spot.
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San Francisco Giants: The Giants, unlike some of the other teams listed so far, have made a big deal already. They grabbed Jake Peavy early from the Red Sox fire sale. But the second-place Giants have another problem: they're not scoring runs. They've lost six in a row and scored a grand total of six runs. They signed Dan Uggla, hoping for a best-of-luck pickup and he's been horrible (as expected). The Giants need offensive help, whether it's an extra outfielder or a second baseman who can hit, or perhaps a utility guy who can do all that. Ben Zobrist seems like a good fit, but if the Rays aren't dealing Zobrist, the Giants will have to look elsewhere. Martin Prado might be a good fit for them. So would Emilio Bonifacio.
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Kansas City Royals: The Royals finally making the playoffs and ending their 28-year drought probably isn't going to happen if the Royals stay as is. They need some upgrades — another good starter, another good outfielder. They're not going after the big fish, but would be well served to land a veteran who can contribute consistently. They've been linked to a lot of players — from John Lackey and A.J. Burnett to Alex Rios and Marlon Byrd — but nothing hot and heavy. The Royals probably aren't going to catch the Tigers in the AL Central. Instead they're competing against the Mariners, Yankees and Blue Jays for the wild card. All those teams could potentially be dealing too, so the Royals shouldn't get left behind.
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