Fans, writers, broadcasters, etc., obsess about Trade Deadline stuff pretty much from Opening Day onward. But now, with the MLB Draft in the rearview, team executives can obsess over it, too. And while that doesn't mean we'll have early action in the summer trade market, it does mean conversations are kicking into another gear as we speak.
So let's get a working shopping list going. These are the 10 most pressing needs right now among contending clubs.
1. Nationals: A closer
The division still appears to be in hand, but October could get out of hand if the Nats (who, remember, have never won a postseason series) don't address a need that was obvious in the offseason and has, despite many an in-house effort, remained so. Dusty Baker's public plea for "some help" earlier this week was a rare-but-understandable show of patience gone kaput. While becoming just the second team in the last 20 years to reach the postseason with a 'pen posting an ERA greater than 5.00 would make for great trivia, it wouldn't make for a great October outlook.
Perhaps the kid Koda Glover figures it out by year's end, but right now that's impossible to do after his shower snafu landed him on the disabled list. Unfortunately, there will be no bankable season-shapers like Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller in this trade market. While it would be interesting to see the Nats try to reel in Mark Melancon for the second consecutive summer, you can't label that as an especially likely scenario given the cost in dollars in prospects. David Robertson and Kelvin Herrera are the obvious targets, though the Nats could try to find multiple arms who could conceivably convert from setup duty to the ninth.
2 (tie). Brewers and Twins: Bullpen help
These two surprise first-place clubs are in the same strange territory, in that they're not clearly deep enough to fully commit to the 2017 effort just yet. But if they don't get some improvement from their bullpens soon, their unexpected viability is likely not long for this world.
The Brewers' bullpen hit the midweek mark with a Major League-high 18 losses. Milwaukee's relievers worked overtime early in the year as the rotation struggled to provide length and are now paying the toll. Twins relievers have a bullpen ERA well north of 5 and, what's more, had posted a 9.83 ERA in their last 50 1/3 innings.
4. Orioles: Starting pitching
If their recent play continues, the O's won't be in the race long enough to even worry about adding on. Perhaps the projections were finally right about the O's, a team that started strong (they were in first place in the AL East as recently as May 20) but has faded fast, with Manny Machado's puzzling offensive decline, Zach Britton's prolonged absence and a rotation living up to (lackluster) expectations all contributing to the frantic fall from grace. For now, we'll rate the Orioles as still worthy and capable of salvation, but it's going to take a lot. This rotation, in which would-be No. 1 Chris Tillman opened the year on the DL and now sports an ugly 8.01 ERA, has provided neither length (fewest innings of any AL group) nor reliability (highest ERA in the AL). The problem is not just the difficulty of finding an external fix but bidding against other clubs with a farm system relatively lacking in upper-level assets to deal. Maybe this will be the club that overdoes it for Jason Vargas, but, again, that's assuming they're still in it a month from now.
5. Cardinals: Middle-of-the-order bat
As I write this, there are 166 players across the Majors who have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, and the Cardinals have just two - Jedd Gyorko (.850) and Matt Carpenter (.809) -- who rank in the upper half of those 166 and none who rank in the top 40. While the Cardinals will also probably have to address their bullpen if they're going to take over what has been a weirdly winnable NL Central for all involved, a reliable run-producer rates as the club's greatest need. We already saw general manager John Mozeliak make some aggressive moves last week with the change to the big-league coaching staff and the punting of Jhonny Peralta -- moves that put manager Mike Matheny on notice. Now we'll see if Mo operates similarly aggressively in the market for a bat.
As of now, Marcell Ozuna, who is under contractual control through 2019, rates as the most intriguing possibility from a Marlins team that, while not much worse than the Cardinals record-wise, is in a dicey divisional proposition. J.D. Martinez would be an attractive short-term solution, but right now the Tigers are -- much like the Cards -- in too forgiving a division to think about selling just yet.
6. Red Sox: Third baseman
The Red Sox wanted to see Pablo Sandoval drop some pounds -- not some OPS from what was already pitiful production in his time in Boston. The Panda has quickly surrendered his everyday spot in the lineup, but it's not as if Boston is teeming with other attractive options there after, regrettably, trading Travis Shaw. The most intriguing in-house option would be to promote Rafael Devers, who is holding his own against Double-A competition at just 20 years old. Scouts are split as to whether he can handle the hot corner at the big leagues, and skipping Triple-A would be a big jump, but there might be value to calling up the kid early and letting him work through the adjustment in time to potentially leave his mark on the late-season race.
The other option, of course, is just going out and getting somebody. Though he has already raided this farm sytem, Dave Dombrowski is in too deep to turn away from the trade market now, and the good news for the Red Sox is that this market should offer multiple rental options in Mike Moustakas, Todd Frazier and -- if the Red Sox believe in the bounceback ability of his bat -- Trevor Plouffe, who has reportedly been designated for assignment by Oakland.
7 (tie). Indians and Cubs: A bankable starting pitcher
The defending pennant-winners get lumped together here for the way a perceived strength has betrayed them in the first half. At midweek, Cubs' and Indians' staff ERAs ranked 22nd and 26th, respectively.
The Cubs' expected regression from a historically great batting average on balls in play has been steeper than expected, and the Indians have fought through Corey Kluber's early back issue, Danny Salazar's struggles and basic inconsistency. Will be interesting to see how aggressive the defending champs get in the search for a controllable arm with Jake Arrieta and John Lackey both approaching free agency.
The Indians have already gone all-in on the effort to end the game's longest World Series drought, but might put more emphasis on Salazar's internal upside over an outside acquisition that would further raid their farm system after last summer's Miller swap.
9. Astros: Starting pitching support
OK, so maybe the need for a new No. 1 isn't as strong as was suspected in the offseason (and, given the uncertainties surrounding Jose Quintana, Sonny Gray, Gerrit Cole and Julio Teheran), isn't easily obtainable anyway, because Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. are, when healthy, both fully capable of starting a Game 1 in what has become an inevitable Division Series appearance for the 'stros. But right now Keuchel's on the DL with a neck issue for the second time this season, and McCullers is out with lower back discomfort. The Astros' rotation has also been hit with Joe Musgrove's shoulder issues, Charlie Morton's back woes and the continued shoulder and elbow problems that have kept Collin McHugh out of the first-half equation. The Astros are just five games above .500 on days Keuchel and McCullers don't pitch.
So it seems pretty clear that for this Houston club to do right by its World Series potential, another starting arm is in order. Consider this reasonably high ranking on this list a compliment to the Astros, because it means they are good enough to feel the urgency to augment and truly go for the throat.
10. Yankees: An ace-type arm
The Yankees' rotation has held up reasonably well. The strength of their need to land a front-of-the-rotation-type in advance of October is in direct proportion to what they get out of Masahiro Tanaka moving forward. Perhaps his strong start against the Angels this week is an indicator of a turning tide for the man who has, surprisingly, been one of the least-effective starters in the game this season. But it's unrealistic to expect Tanaka to make every remaining start on five days' rest, as he did that day, and it's realistic to think the partially torn elbow ligament he's been pitching with for quite a while may have played a part in his early command woes this year.
CC Sabathia's hamstring injury this week is a depth-tester. The Yankees have an intriguing prospect in Chance Adams, though his innings will likely be limited in the second half.
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Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor, MLB.com columnist and MLB Network contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.