Which MLB Teams Should Be Buying Before the 2021 Trade Deadline?

By Anthony Haage in MLB
| June 20, 2021 5:46 am PDT

The 2021 MLB playoff picture is starting to take shape, but a few teams could still benefit from some big moves ahead of this year’s MLB trade deadline.

There is still time to act, with the 2021 MLB trade deadline officially arriving on July 30th, 2021.

The following teams have had success early on, and they should prepare to buy at the trade deadline. Some teams need to pick up the pace to make a run at their respective divisions, and the trade deadline is where a lot of the action happens.

Here are the teams who will be competing for the postseason and possibly even the 2021 World Series.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays are magicians when it comes to trades. The World Series runner-ups somehow got Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, and Randy Arozarena at cheap prices in recent years.

They know exactly how to configure a roster to win games with their 26th lowest payroll in the MLB.

Arozarena carried the offense in the postseason last year and has proven to be a top player for their team. Glasnow has been one of the most impressive pitchers in baseball the last couple of years, and Meadows is heating up too.

The Rays find themselves in first place in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. According to Spotrac.com, Tampa Bay has the 26th lowest payroll in all of baseball ($68,002,497), and they have shown that money doesn’t equal winning.

In a very real sense, the Rays are playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.

Tampa Bay isn’t going to make a trade for anyone who has a large contract, but they are amazing at seeing value in players. The Rays have bought into the Three True Outcomes approach as they walk, strikeout, and hit home runs a lot.

Here’s how they’ve been producing in that regard so far in 2021.

Walker Rate Strikeout Rate Home Runs
10.2% (6th) 27.2% (2nd) 76 (10th)

Some have highly criticized this approach, but the Rays are scoring the 3rd most runs per game of any team (5 runs/game). Their collective team ERA is 6th lowest at 3.32, as well.

So, where do the Rays need help? The Rays have had some injury issues in their bullpen, and they have already traded SS Willy Adames and RP Trevor Richards in exchange for bullpen pieces Drew Rasmussen and J.P Feyereisen.

Along with some more pitching depth, they could use a hitter who hits lefties well. As a team, their wRC+ against lefties is 92 (10th lowest in the league).

A player who could help them out is Robbie Grossman. Grossman is only due $10 million for the next two seasons, and he has a wRC+ of 171 against lefties. He also knows how to take his walks with a career walk percentage of 12.7%.

It’s tough to predict what the Rays will do at the 2021 MLB trade deadline, but judging by their approach and talent evaluation, they should be able to make a good move.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox are a slight surprise at this point in the season. The first-place battle in the AL East was seemed to be between the Yankees and the Rays coming into the season, with the Red Sox and Blue Jays fighting for 3rd.

It now seems that the Red Sox have a realistic chance to beat out the Yankees, while the Yankees will have an uphill battle for the Wild Card.

Their current standing is largely thanks to an offense that has gotten back to an elite level. Just look at their production so far this season.

Runs Per Game Batting Average Slugging % ERA
4.9 (4th) .255 (3rd) .432 (3rd) 3.95 (13th)

Boston has a great core of hitters in their lineup with SS Xander Bogaerts (wRC+ of 149), 3B Rafael Devers (wRC+ of 138), DH/OF J.D. Martinez (wRC+ of 153), and OF Alex Verdugo (wRC+ of 123).

They also have players with extreme flexibility, such as Marwin Gonzalez, Kike Hernandez, and Danny Santana. Those players will provide the ability for the Red Sox to give their core much-needed days off later in the season.

With the offense in such a good spot, Boston’s MLB trade deadline priority should be beefing up their defense.

Boston’s starting pitcher rotation isn’t going to frighten anyone in the postseason. Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Richards, and Eduardo Rodriguez are playing decent enough, but they don’t have a true ace that they can trust in a potential Wild Card game.

Unless Chris Sale is randomly healthy enough to take on that task upon his return, that is.

The Red Sox have some strong pieces in the bullpen, such as Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, Garrett Whitlock, and Brandon Workman, but they could use some more arms. They have the offense to hang with the Rays and Yankees, but they should target some quality pitching at the deadline.

If you’re wondering what the Red Sox will do at the 2021 MLB trade deadline, it all starts on defense.

New York Yankees

The Yankees haven’t been playing up to their “super team” talent and payroll. Their 2nd highest payroll in the MLB suggests that they would be dominating their division, but the Rays are showing them up with the 26th lowest payroll in the first place.

The Red Sox also aren’t making it any easier for the Yankees to win the division for the 20th time in their franchise history, either.

New York finds themselves in third place in their division and 5.5 games behind the Rays. Top ace Gerrit Cole has made recent headlines with his insanely awkward response to a question regarding foreign substances, which hasn’t helped matters.

Understandably, his RPM will be closely examined in his next starts.

Besides Cole, the Yankees starting rotation and bullpen have been excellent. The Yankees’ team ERA is 7th lowest at 3.43. Aroldis Chapman is having an incredible season so far at a minuscule ERA of 0.39. Some other Yankees’ starting pitchers who have been great so far this year include Corey Kluber (3.04 ERA in 53.1 innings) and Domingo German (3.12 ERA in 60.2 innings).

The weird thing is how much New York’s offense has struggled. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are still hitting bombs, but the rest of this lineup hasn’t been good enough.

Judge has been excellent with 15 home runs and a wRC+ of 162. Giancarlo Stanton has missed some more time this year, but he has 11 home runs with a wRC+ of 133. Behind the two power-hitting machines, the rest of been replaceable.

Going off wRC+, the Yankees have been sitting around 100, which is average. Gleyber Torres is at 105, Gio Urshela 106, Gary Sanchez 108, and D.J LeMahieu has been below average at 87. Some other players who are below average in wRC+ behind LeMahieu include Aaron Hicks (79), Brett Gardner (72), Clint Frazier (83), Rougned Odor (74), and Miguel Andujar (89).

An interesting split for the Yankees is that Giancarlo Stanton is struggling against lefties. His wRC+ against lefties is just 66, while it is 160 against righties. As a team, the Yankees wRC+ against lefties is 96. This is odd because the Yankees lineup is full of right-handed batters. They also are average against righties with a wRC+ of 99.

Considering who they’ve been in 2021, it’s clear that this lineup needs quality hitters.

The Yankees lost their first baseman, Luke Voit, again (although he’s due back soon), and he is the first to admit his poor health has held the 1B position back for the pinstripes.

With their incredibly high payroll, the Yankees need to win now.

They should flip prospects and maybe some young hitters for someone who could play 1B, 3B, and/or OF. In their hitter’s stadium, a pull-hitting lefty would benefit greatly here.

Carlos Santana would be a potentially great fit. He gets on base a lot (.370 OBP), has pop in his bat (10 home runs), and can play all three of those positions. When Santana bats lefty, he has a high pulling percentage as well (53.8%).

They should also make a run at Eduardo Escobar from Arizona, Kyle Seager from Seattle, and Joey Gallo from Texas. All of these sticks stand out as viable additions and serve as ways the Yankees can get better at the 2021 MLB trade deadline.

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are swagged out in first place. Of course, there isn’t much competition in their division as the Tigers and Twins are far from competing.

The Indians and Royals are in 2nd and 3rd, but the White Sox are currently the heaviest favorite at the top MLB betting sites (-400) to win their division in the entire league.

Chicago has the second-highest wRC+ in the entire league at 112. They also have the 3rd lowest team ERA in the league at 3.25, and are in the middle of the pack when it comes to payroll ($131,006,515), which means they could make a big move at the deadline. They could make a big blockbuster trade, where they get someone on a lucrative contract.

The White Sox have a solid rotation behind Lucas Giolito, Carlos Rodon, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease, and Dallas Kuechel. They could also unleash flame-throwing youngster Michael Kopech in the rotation at the right time this season.

He’s only one of the top-5 pitching prospects in baseball right now.

Chicago’s bullpen has been outstanding so far, as well. Garrett Crochet has a beautiful 0.49 ERA in 18.1 innings. Liam Hendricks (1.96 ERA) and Jose Ruiz (2.88) have all been solid. Aaron Bummer’s ERA is also unlike him at 4.30.

The hitters have been doing well, too. They have the second-highest on-base percentage in the league at 3.40 (only behind HOU at .343). Their core lineup consists of 1B Jose Abreu, 2B Nick Madrigal, SS Tim Anderson, 3B Yoan Moncada, DH Yermin Mercedes, and C Yasmani Grandal.

Unfortunately, they lost their soon-to-be star outfielders in Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert to injury earlier this year. Due to that, it’s arguable that they should look at acquiring some outfielders as Jimenez and Robert recover from their injuries, along with another bullpen piece that could help in high-leverage, postseason moments.

Starling Marte could be an interesting addition to this lineup, with the Marlins struggling to get wins this year. They could also run at hitter Nelson Cruz, Mitch Haniger, or bullpen piece Daniel Hudson.

Oakland Athletics

The A’s are another team like the Rays. They’re a first-place team that isn’t going to spend big on any single player, but they know how to utilize their players.

Oakland has the 12th lowest ERA in the league, with the 5th highest team wRC+ of 107.

Their core hitting lineup consists of Matt Olson, Mark Canha, Ramon Laureano, Matt Chapman, and Jed Lowrie. Their starting rotation includes Chris Bassett, Sean Manaea, Cole Irvin, Frankie Montas, and Jesus Luzardo and James Kaprielian have also made starts.

Their main bullpen pieces include Yusmeiro Petit, Jake Diekman, and Lou Trivino. This team is solid everywhere.

If you’re trying to predict who the Athletics will trade for, I’d start with a bullpen piece that excels at getting righties out. Oakland’s xFIP against righties is 29th lowest in the league and could be their weak spot.

Rafael Montero from Seattle has an xFIP of 3.06 against righties, and Kevin Ginkel from Arizona has an xFIP of 3.51 against righties. Hector Neris is also great against righties with a BAA of .133 and xFIP of 3.29.

Oakland should bolster their bullpen if they want to beat out the Astros in the AL West.

New York Mets

The Mets find themselves at the top of the NL East. Jacob deGrom has been performing at MVP levels and has to be a front-runner if you’re trying to predict who will pitch the next no-hitter.

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New York’s collective ERA as a team is second-best in baseball (3.15). Their starting rotation has the best ERA in baseball to date at 2.88. Their bullpen ERA is also top 6 in baseball at 3.52.

Suffice to say; their strength is their pitching.

Besides deGrom, starters Taijuan Walker and Marcus Stroman have been excellent. Their bullpen has been led by closer Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia, Miguel Castro, Trevor May, and Robert Gsellman.

Unsurprisingly, the Mets’ offense has been their weak spot. They only score 3.9 runs per game, which is tied for 24th in the league.

Their main hitters include Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, Dominic Smith, and James McCann. They have dealt with a string of injuries to Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Jeff McNeil.

Their offensive struggles have to do with poor play and injuries. Their expensive new free agent Francisco Lindor has been awful so far this year. His slash line is .217/.311/.338, but he is too talented to be playing this bad. Pete Alonso has been their best hitter who has played the majority of games. He has ten home runs with a slash line of .265/.349/.500.

Once the trio of McNeil, Conforto, and Nimmo come back, their offense should put up better numbers. Fortunately, that time is nearing.

Even though the Mets aren’t performing well offensively, they still are first in their division. If they want to gain some distance between them and Atlanta and Philadelphia, they need to trade for some quality hitters. The Mets also have the third-highest payroll in baseball ($137,877,878), so they need some cheaper options.

They aren’t hitting righties or lefties well, but since Conforto, Nimmo, and McNeil are all lefties, they could use a righty or two to balance that out.

Houston Astros

The Astros find themselves in a battle for first for the AL West with the A’s.

This might make a lot of people mad, but the Astros are good. It should make everyone mad – including the Astros themselves – because of how good of a team they are, and yet they still chose to cheat and disrespect baseball.

But here we are.

The Astros are going to be fighting for a postseason spot. They have the 11th lowest team ERA in baseball at 3.75 and have the highest wRC+ of any team with a whopping 121. They are first in runs per game with 5.4, first in hits per game at 9.4, first in batting average (.271), first in on-base percentage (.343), and 1st in OPS (.779).

Their core batting lineup consists of SS Carlos Correa, 2B Jose Altuve, 3B Alex Bregman, DH Yordan Alvarez, 1B Yuli Gurriel, OF Michael Brantley, and OF Kyle Tucker.

Their starting rotation has Zack Grienke, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia, Lance McCullers Jr., and Christian Javier. Their bullpen has Ryan Pressly, Brandon Bielak, and Ryne Stanek.

If there was a place where the Astros could improve, it is the bullpen. Their bullpen has struggled against righties with the 25th lowest xFIP of 4.40. They might also be competing with the A’s bullpen arms who excel at getting righties out.

They do, however, have the 4th highest payroll in the MLB at $192,043,814.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers have been hanging around first place in the NL Central, and they should gear up and add some quality hitters.

Milwaukee being a small-market team means that they probably won’t grab one of the big names around the 2021 MLB trade deadline, but they should still do something.

The Brew Crew’s pitching has been phenomenal, and one could easily put them among the more intriguing 2021 World Series sleepers.

Just look at where their top three starters stand on the year.

  • Brandon Woodruff (1.94 ERA, 102 Ks)
  • Corbin Burnes (2.27 ERA, 102 Ks)
  • Freddy Peralta (2.28 ERA, 104 Ks)

They are filthy.

They have the 9th lowest ERA (3.63), but they have the highest K/9 with 10.58. They have a great starting rotation and bullpen, so their focus needs to be on the offensive side of things.

They have a good balance of lefties like Christian Yelich, Travis Shaw, Daniel Vogelbach, and their righties include newcomer Willy Adames, Lorenzo Cain, and Avisail Garcia. They are currently tied for 22nd in runs per game (4.0), and their collective slash line is .213/.300/.373, which is bottom 25 in each category.

The Brewers have not been totally healthy, so their offensive performance could improve as the season goes on. They should still add another inexpensive, quality bat or two in their lineup.

San Francisco Giants

Nobody would have thought the Giants would be first in a division with the Dodgers and Padres, but they are absolutely killing it.

It is unclear what direction the Giants front office will go in, as they have a lot of older players in their lineup. But if the Giants continue to play this well, they will have no choice but to go for the NL West title.

San Francisco’s starting pitching has been their strong suit with a collective ERA of 3.11. That ERA is 4th lowest among starting rotations in all of baseball. They also have some quality bats in their lineup, including C Buster Posey, 1B Brandon Belt, SS Brandon Crawford, 3B Evan Longoria, and OF Mike Yastrzemski.

Those may sound like retreads, but they’ve wielded some serious power. As in, the Giants rank second in the league in home runs. Second.

Their bullpen has also been solid, but I think they could use one or two more pitchers if they want to compete. They could also use some hitting depth if they want their offense to keep up with the Dodgers and Padres.

San Diego Padres

The Padres are in win-now mode. Behind uber-talented SS Fernando Tatis Jr. and 3B Manny Machado, they have some very talented players. The trade deadline is to fill out their weak spots and make a run at the World Series.

The Padres’ bullpen has the lowest ERA in all of baseball at 2.59. Their starters have also been impressive with a collective ERA of 3.28, which is the 6th lowest in the league among starting pitchers.

The hitting lineup consists of SS Tatis, 3B Machado, OF Tommy Pham, and 1B Eric Hosmer. They also have some quality bats that aren’t always in the middle of the lineup too. 2B Jake Cronenworth, OF Trent Grisham, and OF Wil Myers round out the lineup nicely.

San Diego has enough talent to make a run at the World Series, but they should always try to improve at the trade deadline.

Top Tip
It’s arguable the Padres are one of the best value bets in baseball right now. They’re just +310 to win their division and +900 to win the World Series. Their odds won’t get better than that, but a trade deadline move could make them an even better bet.

Any competing team can use another bullpen arm, even when they are the best in the league. The Padres could also invest in a position player that is flexible, just in case any of their main guys get injured. Shooting for the moon and trying to land a big-name player to make their lineup even deadlier wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.

Another pitcher who can be a starter or long bullpen arm would be great for them, too, so their starters could get an extra day of rest later in the season.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers’ recent victory in the 2020 World Series was impressive, and they still have a very realistic chance to repeat this year. They already have an amazing lineup, pitching, and hitting-wise, and they even added Albert Pujols earlier this season.

L.A. probably didn’t expect the division race to be this tough so far, with the Giants and Padres ahead of them. Still, the Dodgers remain an incredibly talented team and should be more than capable of beating out their division rivals.

The Dodger’s hitters have been excellent, with a wRC+ of 110, which is 3rd highest in baseball. OF Mookie Betts, IF Max Muncy, IF/OF Chris Taylor, OF Cody Bellinger, and 3B Justin Turner lead the way, with SS Corey Seager on the IL.

Once Seager returns, their lineup will be full of amazing hitters. Luckily, manager Dave Roberts suggested he’ll be back in the not too distant future.

“Corey is gonna be with us. He’ll be with us and get through the weekend. I’m sure he’ll do some stuff at CBR while we’re in Arizona, and hopefully if things continue to go well, we can get him on an assignment sometime in the middle to end of next week.”

Their starting pitching is among the best in the league (3rd lowest starting pitcher ERA at 3.04) with Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, and David Price after Dustin May’s injury.

The Los Angeles bullpen is incredible behind closer Kenley Jansen, as well. Blake Treinen, Victor Gonzalez, and Jimmy Nelson have been great, but they have dealt with some injuries to their bullpen and could use some depth.

The Dodgers recently had Cody Bellinger return from injury, and he might give them a boost to get back into first place in their division. Look for the defending champs to add a bullpen piece, and they might even try to land a big-name player, as they often do.

Betting on the 2021 MLB Trade Deadline

As you can see, several teams are in the mix for a playoff run this year. They’re all in good shape, but even the best teams have some flaws and can get better.

If you’re trying to hammer in some 2021 MLB trade deadline predictions, hopefully, this breakdown assists you in doing so. You can do it for fun, but you can also potentially bet on what happens ahead of the trade deadline at your favorite MLB betting sites.

Some sites will offer MLB player props dealing with player landing spots in trades, among other things. These 11 MLB teams should be active at the 2021 MLB trade deadline, but as we’ve learned over the years, bettors and MLB fans alike should expect the unexpected.

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