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One Key Player Each MLB Team Should Try To Acquire Before 2018

A change of scenery or a timely move can turn any of these players into a franchise’s hidden gem.

The Major League Baseball trade deadline is a dandy of a time. Players are on the move, coaches try to keep everyone calm, general managers decide if their team needs a makeover and fans hope their favorite player stays put so that 300$ jersey is still relevant.  Trades can have massive ramifications on a franchise, whether it’s a small tinkering or a blockbuster move. Remember when the 2004 Red Sox acquired the speedy Dave Roberts from the Dodgers and he went on to literally steal the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees? Or when the Oakland Athletics traded Mark McGwire to the Cardinals in 1997 and “Big Mac” cemented himself as the most prolific home run hitter of the 90s. Trades can set you up with a franchised superstar or a World Series ring but they can also set you back by years. Remember when the San Diego Padres shipped Fred McGriff to the Braves in 1993? The “Crime Dog” became a staple in Atlanta for five years as an All-Star and a World Series champion while the Padres received players who disappeared into obscurity. The Cleveland Indians sent Bartolo Colon to the Montreal Expos (R.I.P.) for a massive haul of three prospects who not only became All-Stars, but consistent high quality players in Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips.

Instead of focusing solely on Major League Baseball’s trade deadline, we’re going to look at players each team should try to acquire before the start of the 2018 season. Sometimes a conversation in July can lead to a blockbuster deal in December. A change of scenery or a timely move can turn any of these players into a franchise’s hidden gem.

*Stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com and are through July 24th, 2017*

30 Arizona Diamondbacks – Zach Britton

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Diamondbacks are enjoying a roster loaded with homegrown talent; A.J. Pollock is an outstanding center fielder, Paul Goldschmidt is an established superstar and Jake Lamb is on the verge of breaking out. The D-Backs are sitting pretty in the starting rotation as well, thanks to the free agent signing of former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke and budding star Robbie Ray. Arizona's bullpen stands out as a weakness and while Fernando Rodney has been shutting down games reasonably well in his first year with Arizona, it's clear the franchise needs some young blood at the backend of their pen. The D-backs should pry Zach Britton away from the Baltimore Orioles, the 29-year-old enjoyed a remarkable 2016 campaign tallying 47 saves while pitching to a minuscule 0.54 ERA. Britton has scuffled so far in 2017 but a new jersey could help lockdown a very competitive National League West division and give the Diamondbacks a shutdown closer for years to come.

29 Atlanta Braves – Jurickson Profar

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves are heading in the right direction. They’ve been careful and calculated with their draft picks and have made clever trades that has put them on the fast track to reclaiming the National League East division that they dominated from 1995 to 2005. They have a brand new stadium in SunTrust Park, an experienced captain in Freddie Freeman, their future superstar in Dansby Swanson and a stockpile of young talent ready to make them legitimate contenders. The Braves could use some versatility and that’s where trading for Jurickson Profar would make sense. Profar is still only 24-years-old, plays every position and at a time was MLB’s 74th ranked prospect. Profar can’t get consistent playing time with the Rangers and a change of scenery might tap that unseen potential. Profar, so good.

28 Baltimore Orioles – Jeremy Hellickson

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles have power; they can hit taters with the best of ‘em in baseball. Unfortunately for them, Manny Machado, Mark Trumo, Jonathan Schoop, Chris Davis and Adam Jones can’t provide the same power from the pitcher’s mound. The Orioles could use an upgrade in the starting rotation and making a push for the Phillies’ Jeremy Hellickson would help fortify their pitching in a powerful American League East. The 30-year-old Hellickson would be a good fit in Baltimore having put up good numbers at Camden Yards from his days with the Tampa Bay Rays. Hellickson has also been very reliable in his past two seasons with the Phillies - 18 wins/15 losses/4.09 ERA/301.1 innings pitched - impressive considering the Phillies have been the worst team in baseball during that span.

27 Boston Red Sox – Yangervis Solarte

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

It’s suffice to say that the Pablo Sandoval project in Boston is not working out and can be recognized as one of the worst free agent signings in all of sports, let alone baseball. Pablo signed a five-year $95 million contract in 2015 and even during the rare times that he stayed healthy, he wasn't producing. The Red Sox recently released Sandoval and are still on the hook for his massive contract. They've called up prospect Rafael Devers to fill the void but need a relatively cheap contract and established player to keep the hot corner warm before Devers is really ready to see everyday action. The BoSox should look to acquire third basemen Yangervis Solarte from the Padres, he makes 525,500$ a year and has been very productive (.267/10HR/40RBI)* on an unproductive Padres team. Solarte is a sound defensive third basemen and would slot in nicely in the 7th hole of a very talented Red Sox club.

26 Chicago Cubs – Julio Teheran

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs and Braves are very similar franchises; they both benefitted from several losing seasons by amassing a collection of elite level draft picks and prospects. The two franchises could benefit even more by making a trade with each other. The Cubs should try and acquire right-handed pitcher Julio Teheran from Atlanta whereas the Cubs could send 23-year-old third basemen Jeimer Candelario and prospects to the Braves. Teheran is only 26-years-old and is under control through 2019 – exactly the type of pitchers the Cubs want considering two of their current starters, John Lackey and Jake Arrieta are eligible for free agency following the 2017 season. With the recent addition of lefty Jose Quintana who is also under team control for years to come, the Cubs could boast a solid pitching rotation into the 2020 season. The Braves would be happy by keeping their haul of young and up-and-coming players in tact and the acquisition of Teheran would help the Cubs fortify their claim of starting a dynasty.

25 Chicago White Sox – Marcell Ozuna

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox have spent the past two seasons making smart moves and revamping a previously depleted farm system. They've traded off Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier and Chris Sale for a library of young talent but need a veteran boost before they can compete. They could use a couple of those prospects to help a confused Miami Marlin franchise reboot their system as well. The White Sox are a couple of years away from fielding a young, strong team -it would be wise for them to acquire Marcell Ozuna. The 26 year-old outfielder is coming off an All-Star campaign in 2016 and is on pace to break his career highs in every offensive category. Ozuna plays every outfield position and could be a veteran and productive leader on a soon-to-be explosive Chicago White Sox club.

24 Cincinnati Reds – Jonathan Lucroy

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Reds need help behind the plate. Their highly touted catcher, Devin Mesoraco, drafted 15th overall in 2007, has been riddled with injuries over the past three years having only played in 79 games since 2014. The Reds as a team are giving up far too many home runs. In 2016, the Reds set a major league record by surrendering 242 long balls which is a direct result of having inexperienced catchers. The Rangers’ Jonathan Lucroy could help right the ship. Lucroy is an experienced catcher who calls a good ballgame. He would serve as a mentor to the Reds upcoming catcher prospect Tyler Stephenson and Lucroy’s no slouch with the bat either. Lucroy’s biggest asset to the Reds would be that he knows the National League East having played in the division for seven years with the Milwaukee Brewers.

23 Cleveland Indians – Edinson Volquez

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The defending American League champs have a productive starting lineup, a clever manager and debatably the best bullpen in the majors. Their pitching rotation is very top heavy and has a big hole in the fourth and fifth rotation spots. Edinson Volquez is putting together a strong season on a Marlins club that isn’t winning. The Indians should acquire Volquez to strengthen the backend of their rotation. Volquez is no spring chicken but even at 34-years-old he’s still effective. His repertoire includes a sinker, changeup, four seam fastball and a curveball. Volquez has enjoyed success in the American League Central having spent two seasons with the Kansas City Royals from 2014-16 and has put up good numbers at Progressive Field. The addition of Edinson would help cement the Tribe’s repeat as division champions.

22 Colorado Rockies – Cole Hamels

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Coors Field is tricky; the thin Colorado air makes it a paradise for hitters and a nightmare for pitchers. There hasn’t been a consistent starter in the Colorado rotation since Ubaldo Jimenez in 2011 and the Rockies should look to acquire Cole Hamels to regain an ace-starting pitcher. Hamels has been spectacular in his three years with the Rangers and is no stranger to the National League having had pitched for 10 years in Philadelphia. Hamels is most effective when he keeps his changeup low in the zone resulting in groundball outs; the key to Coors Field is keeping the ball on the ground so the thin air doesn’t soar it out of the park. The 33-year-old would benefit from a high-powered Rockies’ lineup giving him ample run support to keep climbing the active win leader ranks among pitchers.

21 Detroit Tigers – Javier Baez

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Javier Baez is a gem in the baseball world. He excels at every infield position, is capable of playing the outfield and is a wizard on defense. Plus he’s got opposite field pop and is a skilled baserunner. The Tigers are all of a sudden very old and static – they don’t have much versatility and their lineup is slow. Acquiring the super utility man would immediately give the Tigers options to move players around and add some depth to a stable lineup. Baez is a prized piece with the Cubs and it would take a lot to pry him away but the Tigers have some pieces and plenty of cash to at least make the Cubs listen on the 24-year-old defensive specialist.

20 Houston Astros – Gerrit Cole

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros are enjoying a resurgence atop the American League Central after spending years in the basement. They’ve drafted smart and currently boast a stellar lineup of young stars including Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and their ace, Dallas Keuchel. Houston is destined to compete for years to come and could fortify an already strong rotation by adding former first round pick, Gerrit Cole. Cole was dominant during the 2015 where he won 19 games and sported a sparkling 2.60 ERA, he struggled in 2016 and so far in 2017 and could be pried away while he’s not performing up to his standards. Cole could join the Astros rotation with less pressure as a number three or four starter and would have plenty of help from the Astros’ stellar lineup and reliable bullpen.

19 Kansas City Royals – Trevor Cahill

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics were excited when they drafted starting putcher Trevor Cahill in the second round of the 2006 draft and were even more excited when he went 18-8 in 2010 with a 2.97 ERA. Cahill fumbled his way through the following five seasons and moved around from Oakland, to Arizona and Atlanta before reinventing himself in Chicago. Cahill is enjoying a successful campaign with the Padres while relying on his sinker and changeup to mold himself into a finesse style pitcher. He would bode well in Kansas City as a back-of-the-order pitcher or he could provide help in long relief for the Royals. Without spending too much money or giving away prospects, Cahill would be a low risk, high reward acquisition for the 2015 World Champs.

18 Los Angeles Angels – Dee Gordon

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Halos have good middle of the order production thanks to the best player in baseball, Mike Trout and future hall of famer, Albert Pujols. With little depth at second base however, and a revolving door in the leadoff spot, the Angels should acquire Dee Gordon to fill both those holes. Gordon is no stranger to Los Angeles as he enjoyed four years with the Dodgers where he hit .272, stole 130 bases and scored 173 runs. The 29-year-old is currently enjoying his third year with the Marlins where he’s swiping bags with ease. The Angels could use his unbelievable speed atop the lineup and let the big boys; Trout, Pujols and Kole Calhoun knock him in.

17 Los Angeles Dodgers – Yu Darvish

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers have their generational ace in Clayton Kershaw and have built a sound team around him in the likes of Corey Seager, Justin Turner and rookie Cody Bellinger. The Dodgers boast an impressive bullpen and have one of the best minor league systems in the game. They could use some help in the rotation now that Kershaw is expected to miss some time with another back injury. Acquiring Yu Darvish from the Rangers would give the Dodgers an ace while Kershaw heals up and then the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball upon Kershaw's return. The Dodgers could deplete a bit of their farm system to entice the Rangers to pull the trigger on a deal. Darvish would bring his vast repertoire of pitches to the pitcher-friendly confines of Dodger Stadium.

16 Miami Marlins - Marco Estrada

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlins and the surrounding baseball world was shocked by the untimely death of their superstar pitcher Jose Fernandez and understandably, haven’t been able to return their pitching rotation to form. They’ve added significant pieces in Dan Straily and Adam Conley but the addition of pitcher Marco Estrada could really strengthen their rotation. Estrada owns one of the sneakiest changeups in baseball and would really help to keep opposing batters off-balance at Marlins Park. Estrada has enjoyed success in the National League having had played there for seven years with the Brewers and Nationals.

15 Milwaukee Brewers - Ian Kinsler

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Speaking of the Brewers, they've been a pleasant surprise so far in 2017 thanks to Eric Thames' comeback and Travis Shaw breaking out as a legitimate run producer. The Brewers have remained competitive without the production from last year's star Jonathan Villar. Perhaps playing second base everyday is too much for the young versatile infielder and he would be best suited to go back to a platoon role. Ian Kinsler would provide good support among Thames and Shaw in the Brewers' lineup and is undeniably a fantastic defender at second. Looking to sell at the deadline, the Tigers could ship Kinsler to the Brew Crew who need to answer the Cubs' acquisition of Jose Quintana if they want to stay in the National League Central race. The 35-year-old Kinsler is enduring a down year by his standards, currently batting .247 with nine homers and and 28 RBI* - perhaps his first ever stint in the National League and placing him in the middle of a pennant race would help turn things around for both parties.

14 Minnesota Twins – Zack Cozart

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Things are back on track in Minneapolis – The Twins have a gorgeous new ballpark and their young players are gaining major league experience. Infielder Miguel Sano is as powerful as advertised and center fielder Byron Buxton is exciting to watch. Their highly touted shortstop, Nick Gordon is on his way to the bigs but the Twins need someone to hold down the fort until he gets there. Zack Cozart makes sense for Minnesota, he’s been steady in Cincinnati defensively and offensively and would slot in nicely in front of Sano and Robbie Grossman in the Twins lineup. The 31-year-old Cozart could provide the young Twins with some leadership alongside Brian Dozier and would act as a mentor when Nick Gordon is ready for a full time role.

13 New York Mets – Mike Moustakas

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately for the Mets, the David Wright era is over in New York. Wright has been suffering from spinal stenosis since the 2013 season, an ailment that prevents him from throwing a baseball and his career is in jeopardy. The Mets should look to the Royals’ third basemen Mike Moustakas to replace Wright. Moustakas is a solid defender at the hot corner and would prove to be a hefty offensive upgrade over the Mets’ constantly changing third basemen. Moustakas is 28-years-old and averages 22 homeruns and 73 RBI a year, his career high is 25 and 82 respectively and he would see plenty of good pitches batting in front of Yoenis Cespedes. Imagine how nice those “moose” calls would be at Citi Field.

12 New York Yankees – Yonder Alonso

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Yonder Alonso exhibited some fundamental changes to his approach and to his swing before the 2016 season and it has paid off. Alonso is hitting balls harder and further than he ever has and the lefty-hitting-first-basement would thrive with the Yankee Stadium short porch in right field. Alonso is a first basemen by trade but has also played in the outfield and third base but would benefit most with the Bronx Bombers as a first basemen. The Yankees plans for Greg Bird at first has stifled as he dealt with season ending injuries in back-to-back years. Alonso should use the Yankees short porch as a magnet to potentially put up powerful numbers in pinstripes.

11 Oakland Athletics – David Freese

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane always has his creative methods to field a competitive team at a relatively cheap price. Beane should look to acquire David Freese to play both corners of the infield for the Athletics. Freese in an established presence in baseball, a World Series champion and could help anchor a young Oakland Athletics club. Freese is a gap-to-gap hitter that would bode well in the spacious Oakland Alameda County Coliseum. What would be most enticing to Billy Beane would be Freese’s pricetag as he makes a yearly salary of $3 million, a bargain of a deal considering Freese’s experience and production.

10 Philadelphia Phillies – Lorenzo Cain

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies are trending in the right direction as the organization tries to reclaim their glory of the back-to-back World Series appearances in 2008 and 2009. They have established and young pieces up the middle in Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis and Maikel Franco is on his way to becoming a star. If the Phillies acquire Lorenzo Cain from the Royals, they would obtain one of the best centerfielders in baseball. Cain would provide a steady middle-of-the-order bat, stellar defense and phenomenal baserunning to a young Phillies squad who are hoping for a quick turn around after back-to-back last place finishes.

9 Pittsburgh Pirates - Sonny Gray

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The National League Central has been up for grabs throughout all of 2017, with every team hovering at close to .500 ball. The Pirates could fortify an under performing rotation by acquiring Sonny Gray from Oakland. Gray would slot in nicely for the Pirates, behind their ace Gerrit Cole and the young hurler, Jameson Taillon. A change of scenery could do Gray well as his inconsistent play in Oakland has over shadowed his talent. Pirates’ pitching coach Ray Searage has a knack for turning pitchers around, recently revitalizing Francisco Liriano’s career and he could do the same for Sonny Gray.

8 San Diego Padres – Christian Yelich

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres are in trouble. Their draft picks haven’t panned out, nor have their free agent signings. One thing that has worked out for them recently was a trade. Perhaps another would propel them in the right direction. The Padres traded for first basemen/outfielder Wil Myers in 2014 and he’s been one of the lone bright spots in the organization since. The Padres could acquire Christian Yelich from the Marlins and form a robust duo of Yelich and Myers. Yelich, a left-handed batter, can play every outfield position and he’s a dangerous bat in the three hole or batting cleanup. He’s only 25-years-old and fans would be excited to see him and Myers playing together for many years.

7 San Francisco Giants – Ryan Braun

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants enjoyed a dynasty of sorts by winning the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014 but have all of a sudden become very depleted in the outfield. They could benefit by nabbing longtime Milwaukee Brewer, Ryan Braun and slot him in left field. Braun has been one of the most consistent hitters of the late 2000s, averaging 34 homers and 112 RBI a season. His smooth swing would jumpstart the Giants’ offense behind Brandon Belt and Buster Posey. Braun, a native of California, could play in his home state while using AT&T Park’s hitter friendly gaps to his swing’s advantage.

6 Seattle Mariners – Eric Hosmer

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Mariners’ general manager Jerry Dipoto did a great job tweaking his team during the 2016 offseason by grabbing centerfielder Jarrod Dyson and shortstop Jean Segura on smart deals. Eric Hosmer could be his final piece to assembling a strong contender. The Mariners are weak on the first basemen depth chart and Eric Hosmer would certainly be a welcome upgrade. Hosmer is regarded as one of the best defensive first basemen in the game and his bat would prove worthy in the bottom part of the order behind sluggers Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. The 27-year-old World Champion averages 19 homers a year and 85 RBI, he won three consecutive gold gloves from 2013-2015 and would help the Mariners form one of the best infields in baseball.

5 St. Louis Cardinals – Josh Donaldson

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals are a franchise to model after – they are successful, classy and a perennial contender in the National League Central. They’re currently in a little bit of a funk at third base however and former A.L. MVP Josh Donaldson should be their answer. Donaldson would revitalize a Cardinal infield that has big question marks at the corners and some holes in their lineup. Donaldson would slot in nicely in the middle of the order and provide some production behind Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter. Donaldson’s left-field-gap power would thrive in the spacious Busch Stadium and the National League Central’s surrounding hitter friendly ballparks. The Cardinals would be able to offer the Blue Jays a hefty overhaul of young players to help a confused Jays’ franchise get back on track.

4 Tampa Bay Rays – Hunter Strickland

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays are the perfect example of a small market team making the right moves to remain competitive. The Giants’ relief pitcher Hunter Strickland would be another smart acquisition by the Rays. As of this writing, Strickland is enjoying a tremendous season out of the pen; he’s currently sporting a 1.85 ERA and has racked up 36 strikeouts in 34 innings of work. Strickland would be a powerful addition to the Rays bullpen as a seventh and eight inning guy setting up for Danny Farquhar and closer Alex Colome. Strickland, 28, is currently on a one-year salary worth $555,000 – a relatively cheap player with solid production numbers, exactly the type of players the Rays seek.

3 Texas Rangers – Jeff Samardzija

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The Rangers have struggled to recapture their glory after letting the championship slip through their gloves when they were one strike away from winning it all in 2011. They’ve been competitive, making the playoffs since but losing to the Jays in the American League Division series in back-to-back years. They boast a solid solid one-two punch in Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels but could really do some damage acquiring Jeff Samardzija from the Giants as their number three starter. Samardzija has struggled since signing a five-year, $90 million contract with San Francisco and could enjoy a turn around with the high-powered Rangers’ offense. The 6’5’’ right-hander would fit well with the Rangers, everything is bigger in Texas.

2 Toronto Blue Jays – Josh Harrison

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After enjoying back-to-back playoff appearances and a massive increase in attendance, the Jays failed to address the team’s needs during the 2016 offseason and are currently sitting in the basement of the American League East. They’re all of a sudden very old and lack the versatile athleticism that is trending in baseball. The Jays should strike a move with the Pirates to acquire Josh Harrison who plays every outfield and infield position and is a speedy pest at the top of the lineup. Harrison is also a tricky base-stealer, another hole in the Jays current lineup. His versatility would be an upgrade to the failed Steve Pierce experiment and his impressive on base percentage would opt for many scoring opportunities for the Jays’ sluggers.

1 Washington Nationals - David Robertson

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Nationals are good. They have one of baseball’s most exciting players in Bryce Harper and two of the league’s best starting pitchers in Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. They’re lineup is productive and their rotation is deep and effective but the Nats need help in the bullpen. They’ve longed been to linked to acquiring David Robertson from the Yankees and he would help to fortify their one weak spot. Since Robertson moved to the closer role in 2014, he’s been effective tallying 30+ saves in three consecutive seasons with the Chicago White Sox. He was recently re-acquired by the Yankees to help in the late innings but won’t close games as he is blocked by Aroldis Chapman. If Robertson went to the Nationals, he would become a closer again and could put up scary numbers on a good National squad.

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One Key Player Each MLB Team Should Try To Acquire Before 2018