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WHEELER: Forecasting Final Three Months In The NL

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Matt Adams #53 of the St. Louis Cardinals is congratulated by Matt Holliday #7 after he hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning of their game against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum on June 29, 2013 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Matt Adams #53 of the St. Louis Cardinals is congratulated by Matt Holliday #7 after he hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning of their game against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum on June 29, 2013 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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Since it’s July 1st I thought it would be fun to look at every team in the National League – briefly – and  offer up a few thoughts on what is in store for them in the final three months of the regular season.

I will label every single team one of three things: Buyer, Seller and Tweener

I think the meaning is obvious. For the Buyers I’ll suggest weaknesses that could be addressed in the trade market. For the Sellers I’ll throw out some names they should sell. For the Tweeners I’ll address what needs to happen over the next 3-4 weeks for them to determine what course to take at the deadline.

Let us begin…

NL Central

1) Pittsburgh Pirates – Buyer

Needs: Cleanup hitter, a veteran reliever

The Pirates have the best team ERA in MLB so far and the 2nd best rotation ERA but the starters are logging just over 5 1/3 IP per game. I’m a bit worried about the bullpen wearing out.

The lineup has started to come together but I worry about a collapse if a couple bats go cold for a few weeks. They’re only 20th in runs scored this season. One more big bat would likely convince me they can hang.

Prognosis: Recent collapses leave doubt but  a hitter away from convincing me.

2) St. Louis Cardinals – Buyer

Needs: Veteran 4-5 starter, veteran reliever

The Cardinals have the 3rd best ERA in all of baseball and the best rotation ERA despite some slippage in the month of June. My concern is not with the talent the Cardinals have but the innings load some younger guys could have to carry. Shelby Miller will be watched closely, so will Michael Wacha regardless of what level he’s at. Heck, Lance Lynn still has to prove his second half abilities. One veteran with a friendly, expiring contract would make sense if the price is right.

Same logic for a veteran reliever. A lot of young guys down there doing a nice job but as we saw with the Edward Mujica deal last year, an experienced arm down the stretch can really help.

Prognosis: Definitely in it until the end unless a rash of big injuries hits.

3) Cincinnati Reds – Buyer

Needs: Upgrade in LF, veteran reliever, maybe a catcher

The Reds are 4th in team ERA and 3rd in rotation ERA so the pitching stuff isn’t an emergency but Johnny Cueto and Jonathan Broxton are on the DL with uncertain timetables. Another arm never hurts.

Ryan Ludwick will be back at some point but not anytime soon. LF isn’t giving them much, neither is the catcher position from an offensive standpoint. The team raves about Ryan Hanigan’s defense but he’s hitting .183 and Devin Mesoraco has defensive problems.

Prognosis: Slumping like the Cards right now but in it down to the wire in my book

4) Chicago Cubs – Seller

Needs: Prospects that are close to helping in the big leagues

Matt Garza would bring a good prospect if they don’t think they can re-sign him. Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva should be readily available. Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston could have value to contenders as well.

If some team were willing to go crazy with an offer on Starlin Castro, I’d listen.

Prognosis: Farm system improving, money coming free soon. 2015 maybe?

5) Milwaukee Brewers – seller

Needs: An infusion of young talent into the system, especially pitching

Francisco Rodriguez, John Axford, Jim Henderson and everyone else on their pitching staff, including Yovani Gallardo, should be available for the right price. Everyone 27 and older, anyway. Gallardo could bring a nice haul and the Brewers aren’t close. They should be planning for 2015.

I’d say trade some hitters too but the only ones that are worth trading – Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Aramis Ramirez and Jean Segura – probably need to stay. If not for Ramirez, nobody would pitch to Braun once he’s healthy.

Prognosis: Need to retool the entire pitching staff and shoot for 2015

NL EAST

1) Atlanta Braves – Buyer

Needs: Injury insurance

They’re very well-round and have good players all over the place. The bullpen has a bunch of guys on the DL so a reasonably priced reliever would probably make some sense, though with Brandon Beachy coming back they could move a starter like Kris Medlen to the pen.

Prognosis: They’re in great shape. Definitely in it all the way.

2) Washington Nationals – Buyer

Needs: Another bat, preferably short term for CF

It’s hard to believe a team with the talent this one has is 2nd to last in runs scored in all of Major League Baseball. Even with Dan Haren struggling (and now hurt), the rotation is excellent. The bullpen is strong. They just can’t score.

Denard Span has been a real disappointment. A replacement/complement to him in CF would help, maybe someone who can push Jayson Werth as well. A healthy Bryce Harper wouldn’t hurt either.

Prognosis: Teetering on the edge but talented enough to keep pushing for playoffs.

3) Philadelphia Phillies – Sellers

Needs: Youth, athleticism and more live young arms

Shopping Chase Utley and Michael Young to contenders would be wise. They need another outfielder and some more live arms. Ryan Howard’s contract is unmovable.

If I were the Phillies I’d consider moving Jonathan Papelbon but only for an offer that knocks me out of my chair. I’d keep Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. You can continue to build your rotation around them while hoping/praying for Roy Halladay to recover.

Prognosis: With the right moves they could be in the hunt again in 2014.

4) New York Mets – Sellers

Needs: Offense, offense, offense

With Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler leading the way, they have a good start when it comes to pitching. Other than those two and David Wright, I’d move anyone else on the roster. It would take a heck of a deal to move Bobby Parnell, however.

I don’t know what the future holds for Ike Davis but he’s young enough to stick with for 2014 so they need to acquire outfield bats to help solidify the lineup. Marlon Byrd and Daniel Murphy could be particularly helpful to contenders. Murphy is solid but not a star and getting a peek at prospect Wilmer Flores at 2B later in the year might be a good idea.

Prognosis: They could be a factor in 2015 if they can spend some money.

5) Miami  Marlins – Sellers

Needs: Young, cheap talent (especially at 2B, 3B and SS)

They have some nice potential trade pieces in Ricky Nolasco, Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn and Juan Pierre. The pitchers could be key pieces for contenders. Pierre would be more of a bench piece.

They should also look to move Giancarlo Stanton. The time to get max value for him is now, before his salary goes up and while teams (ahem, Pittsburgh!) are emotionally caught up in playoff races. I wouldn’t force it but I’d be listening very closely.

Prognosis: They have a lot of young talent but can they keep it? Loria needs to go.

NL WEST

1) Arizona Diamondbacks – Buyers

Needs: Starting pitcher

I like Arizona’s depth on the offensive side and the bullpen appears to be in good shape now that J.J. Putz is back. But they’re 19th in rotation ERA and guys like Ian Kennedy and Wade Miley have taken steps back, plus Brandon McCarthy is hurt again.

One more veteran arm would make a big difference. A rental would be fine, I like their starting pitching long term.

Prognosis: They’re gritty so they should stick around but no guarantees.

2) Colorado Rockies – Buyers

Needs: Starting pitcher, maybe a complementary bat

The Rockies always need pitching and this year is no different. They’re 20th in both team ERA and rotation ERA but they have a good offense even without Troy Tulowitzki. If they can bide time until he’s back and go get another pitcher they would be in good shape. A longer term option, ideally a sinker baller, would be ideal.

Jhoulys Chacin has been hot lately and that’s a good start. Roy Oswalt could be helpful too but he’s a bit of a wild card.

Prognosis: I’m worried about the pitching letting them down and seeing them fall.

3) San Diego Padres – Tweener

Needs: Starting pitching

I love their bullpen and the offense is a lot better than it used to be even though they’ve still got a couple of guys on the DL. Seems like they’ve finally gained some traction there, though.

They’re 25th in rotation ERA so that’s an area they need to fix if they’re going to stay in the race. But do they have the cash to get the experienced guy they need? A multi-year option would be ideal.

Prognosis: If they make a move they can stick around. If not, it’s all about 2014.

4) San Francisco Giants – Buyers

Needs: Starting pitcher, outfield bat

They’re the defending champs so they know they can make a run. They need help to do so, however. They’re 23rd in rotation ERA and they need a jolt. Ricky Nolasco would be a nice pick-up, for example. Even if they overpay a bit, they need the help.

With Angel Pagan out for the year they need an outfield bat pretty badly as well. Ideally someone who can hit either at the top of the order or down in the middle.

Prognosis: If they don’t get a couple of pieces they won’t get to defend their crown.

5) Los Angeles Dodgers – Buyers

Needs: Starting pitcher, veteran reliever, third base help

Even after their horrible start the Dodgers are back in the hunt, just 4 games out of 1st place in the NL West. They have the big names and they’ve gotten huge boost from phenom Yasiel Puig so they’re probably feeling like adding rather than standing pat or subtracting.

They’ve had all kinds of pitching injuries this year so another healthy starter would be great. A more consistent presence at 3B would be helpful but probably isn’t totally necessary.  Another vet for the bullpen certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Prognosis: They’re in it. My pick before the season so I’m sticking to my guns.

NOTE: Not a lot of sellers there, huh? There are more than a few in the American League but I think prices are going to be sky high this trading season. Teams might be best off striking early if it is at all possible.

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