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As everyone keeps tabs on everyone else in an attempt to box out the other shoppers and shore up their bids at hitting October's paydirt, some needs are more obvious than others. Here's one person's short list of the moves today's contenders shoul dmake now to make sure they win tomorrow.

1. The Yankees acquire LHP Ted Lilly from the Cubs for 2B prospect Corban Joseph.

Skip Brian Cashman's brave talk about standing pat. This is a straightforward matter of patching up in Andy Pettitte's absence, and avoiding Sergio Mitre as a rotation regular for the month or more till Pettitte comes back. Keep in mind, the Yankees are also trying to endure A.J. Burnett's latest inconsistent season—Burnett's .457 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage looks a lot like Mitre's career high-water mark of .451 back in 2007. That just won't get it done in the AL East. Valid concerns about Lilly's flagging velocity aside, a big problem for him this season has been location against left-handers, leading to a return of the bass-ackward platoon splits that hampered his performance in 2008. With the Yankees he'd have the advantage of pitching with great run support in a ballpark that is turning out to be less of a launching pad than initially expected. He has experience pitching in pennant races, experience pitching in pinstripes, and he wouldn't come in having to be a star, just deliver effective starts consistent with his .512 SNWP and let the offense grind opponents to dust.

As for dealing Joseph, the Yankees have a crowd of options at second base, and the Cubs need to ask themselves how far they want to rely on Ryan Theriot as the answer. Joseph's hitting an impressive .309/.386/.450 in the High-A Florida State League, providing power and walks playing in a pitcher's circuit in his age-21 season.

2. The Reds shore up their bullpen by trading for RHP Matt Lindstrom from the Astros for SS Zack Cozart, and acquire RHP Michael Wuertz from Oakland for OF Chris Heisey and LHP Donnie Joseph.

With a 4.73 bullpen-wide Fair Run Average that betrays how little they have going for them beyond Francisco Cordero and Arthur Lee Rhodes, the Reds rate 12th in the National League, the worst mark of any of the league's contenders. During Walt Jocketty's days with the Cardinals, the Reds GM was a master at dealing middling prospects to acquire veterans, but the Reds' need is immediate and dire. Getting Lindstrom shouldn't be all that expensive, but as a hard-throwing veteran closer bound for free agency, the Astros should try to respond to the Reds' need by getting themselves a shortstop. Cozart isn't a blue-chip stud as prospects go, but he's playable, hitting .265/.330/.450 for Triple-A Louisville (and a .254 TAv), with 22 steals and 14 homers in his age-25 season; he'd fill the Astros' need up the middle immediately.

Trading for Wuertz is almost the opposite of renting Lindstrom, because he'd be a long-term fix. The A's set-up man was one of the game's best relievers last season, finishing 11th in WXRL without being a closer, and after missing the first month with shoulder trouble, he's settled back into slider-driven dominance. He's under contract through 2011 for $2.8 million with a $3.25 million club option, a relative bargain compared to what top relievers can command on the open market. The A's need outfielder, and Heisey's a grinder whose value may never be higher after popping five homers during his 10 weeks on the Reds' bench.

3. The Cardinals acquire Ben Sheets and cash from the Athletics for 1B/OF Allen Craig and RHP P.J. Walters.

The Cardinals don't really know what to expect or when to expect it from veterans Kyle Lohse and Brad Penny, and rookie Jaime Garcia is beginning to show signs of wear after spending much of 2009 shelved with his recovery from Tommy John surgery, so they need a starter. Why not call on pitching coach Dave Duncan's restorative powers with yet another veteran ace looking for a new lease on life? Sheets has been healthy enough, and if his results pitching in the AL have been a mixed bag (.465 SNWP), if the A's pay the expense of employing Sheets—perhaps the reason they signed him in the first place, to escape the union's ire—it's worth giving up a utility right-hander and an organizational bat like Craig. For the A's, it's a matter of adding depth, Walters to stock Sacramento or the back of the rotation as they play out the string, and Craig to add to their woeful outfield mix.

4. The White Sox acquire DH Luke Scott and 3B Miguel Tejada from the Orioles for SS Eduardo Escobar and RHPs Lucas Harrell and Jhonny Nunez.

Tied with Oakland in a ninth-place ranking in the AL in team True Average, the Sox need to punch up their offense somewhere. Obvious spots that need help are third base and DH, with Mark Teahen shelved and healing slow, and the Andruw Jones/Mark Kotsay platoon struggling to produce. Always a wheeler/dealer, Kenny Williams likes adding the occasional ex-famous person to the mix for his stretch runs—Roberto Alomar, Carl Everett, Ken Griffey Jr.—and Tejada would fit neatly within that pattern, providing the White Sox with a former MVP who might get a last lease on life at the plate while manning third base. Scott would be the more subtle addition, but his .304 TAv would provide a big dose of sock and balance. To swing the deal, the Sox would have to give the Orioles the shortstop prospect they need to land from somewhere, and the sure-handed Escobar has elicited comparisons to Omar Vizquel for his fielding. Since Harrell and Nunez are both live arms who could help in a big-league bullpen, this may seem like a lot, but Scott's under club control through 2012, providing the Sox with a lasting answer to fill their need for a lefty power bat.

5. The Padres acquire Adam Dunn from the Nationals for Will Venable and Adam Russell.

The one thing potentially holding the Padres back is their offense, which is tied with the Cubs for 12th in TAv. They're leading the league in one-run wins, and the best way to avoid that coming back to bite them is to field an offense that provides wider margins to work with. So why not rent Dunn for a couple of months before he departs for free agency? Walks and his kind of power work in every venue—even Petco—and as much as the Padres are being touted as a pitching and defense team and Dunn's now infamous immobility in the outfield would seem to spoil that, the thing about the Padres' defense is that their pitchers are limiting total defensive opportunities thanks to their MLB-leading 21.3 percent strikeout rate. Balls that never enter play are the easiest to defend, and add in the benefit of pitching in Petco, and this is one glove the Pads should risk adding to give them a second pillar beyond Adrian Gonzalez to prop up their bid for an upset.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

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escapeNihlism
7/22
Dunn was historically bad in the OF the last few seasons. dragging him far closer to replacement level than anybody with his bat should be. his value is as a 1B/DH
ckahrl
7/22
With a pitcher-friendly park and the pitching staff that allows the fewest balls in play thanks to a league-leading strikeout rate, my argument's that some risks are worth affording over two months for the offensive benefits, which are far more tangible than the guesstimates on defensive impact the available metrics suggest (at best).
pobothecat
7/22
Great article. Clear-headed.
HalfStreet
7/22
I have to say that Venable and Russell don't seem like very good players. Why should the Nats bother?
yankeehater32
7/22
Venable's a plus defender in a corner who can also handle center field, and, as with everyone who spends time in Petco, has had his offensive numbers brought down.
dawhipsaw
7/22
Do you think Venable and Russell are comparable to what the Nationals would receive upon Dunn's leaving via comp picks? i.e., why would the Nats make this move?
MikeLHenderson
7/22
Not to pile on, but the Nats need infield and rotation help more than they need outfield and bullpen help, n'est-ce pas?
dcoonce
7/22
Dunn's gone after the season and the Nats aren't going anywhere, so getting two major-league ready players might be a better gamble than the draft picks. Especially because, presumably, the Yankees are going to sign Dunn, which places those draft picks down towards the bottom part of the first round anyway. Venable's had a tough year, but he's got good tools - he's fast, plays great defense and has some pop. His achilles heel is his strikeout rate, but he is drawing walks in about 10% of his plate appearances. His numbers are pretty much the same as in his previous couple years - basically a 110 OPS+, which makes him far more useful than the likes of Nyjer Morgan or Wllie Harris. He's actually pretty similar, based on the numbers, to current Nats outfielder Roger Bernadina. Russel is a hard-throwing reliever - I'd assume the Padres could just sub another reliever if Russel wasn't satisfactory. They have lots. As a long-suffering Padres fan, I understand how painful and nonsensical it seems to trade away your "best player" (Dunn) for peanuts. But this is the reality of baseball. I never wanted the Padres to trade Jake Peavy, but I'm glad they did it last year than this year, when his trade value would be nil. Dunn might give the Nats an extra win or two this season. But if the Nationals can get 10-12 controllable years of production from above-average players, they should make that move in a heartbeat.
OTSgamer
7/22
"Especially because, presumably, the Yankees are going to sign Dunn, which places those draft picks down towards the bottom part of the first round anyway." They are? I'll defer to others with more informed opinions, but I cannot see the Yankees doing that. I just don't see that happening at all. Dunn is clearly a 1B / DH if his value is to be maximized, but how would the Yankees ever play him there? Tex has first base locked up for many more years. The DH spot is open now, but an aging Jeter / A-Rod are going to need to use that spot at times in the years to come, and that is to say nothing of Jesus Montero. Based on what he has done in Triple-A, I imagine Montero is the full-time DH next year. And with all of that established, why would the Yankees ever sign him to a long-term deal?
dcoonce
7/22
Montero will almost certainly never play an inning with the Yankees. They were willing to include him in a Lee trade - almost did, in fact - and if they do manage to keep him it will probably not be long-term. A young hitter has more value to the Yankees as trade bait.
holgado
7/22
This is way too authoritatively worded, particularly since it is also wrong. Let's assume Montero really was made available for Lee. First, this was in season, and in a potential trade for the best pitcher in the league. We are a week from the trading deadline, Montero is knocking on the MLB door, is under team control for the next several years, and the Yanks seldom part with prospects in the off season given their deep pockets for FA signings. So you are basically saying Montero will be traded in the next week. Because if not, he's in camp with the Yanks next spring, and stands some chance (maybe even >50%) of breaking camp with the big club. Second, the Lee rumor was before Montero snapped out of his early season semi-funk and exploded for what so far has been a monster July. So there is some chance that he has become untouchable again. Third, do you recall how many Phil Hughes trade rumors we endured before he made his MLB debut? Do you know how good Cashman looks now for having held onto the kid? There is some chance he has learned his lesson. All of this does not add up to your almost certainty, it substracts from it. A lot.
dcoonce
7/22
Montero was nearly traded for lee - no assumptions there, it was reported everywhere. I know Cashman said it was a "special" situation (the possibility of obtaining Lee) which you second above ("a potential trade for the best pitcher in the league"). So who's to say there won't be another such "special" trade opportunity? Suppose the Giants make Tim Lincecum available? (In the offseason, mind you). Suppose San Diego made Mat Latos available. Do you really think the Yankees wouldn't trade a future DH for that? Montero will almost certainly be a great hitter, but his value is limited by his defensive inability and the fact that the Yankees are in perpetual win-now mode. It's one thing to hang onto Phil Hughes and break him in through the bullpen. It's quite another to sit Montero on the bench for two seasons until he's seasoned enough to be a star. I just don't believe the Yankees have that kind of patience with a position player.
collins
7/23
Why in the *world* would SD trade Latos for a DH? These are crazy scenarios.
thenamestsam
7/24
"I just don't believe the Yankees have that kind of patience with a position player." Brett Gardner comes to mind. He's no star, but I think the Yankees willingness to hang with some young guys has been a bit underrated. They stuck with Cano through some not-so-great years also.
tcgoldman
7/25
Montero has caught 74 games this year as a 20-y.o. in AAA. He's caught 227 games in his pro career. For as bad as the 'experts' think he is at catching, the Yankees seem committed to it. Posada, at the same age, had caught 52 pro games. I, having seen him in person and on TV several times, think he won't be any worse than Posada.
sde1015
7/23
The biggest problem with this statement is that if he's not traded in the next week, I would bet Montero gets called up in September for a cup of coffee at least. And if Johnson's still out, it wouldn't surprise me if he gets a share of DH duties when rosters expand. So unless you think he'll be traded before the deadline (and there aren't any other Lee-like players thought to be available) you have to think he'll play at least an inning. Anyway, I think this off-season's decision to sign Johnson as the DH rather than re-up Damon for more than one year suggests that they didn't want to tie up DH for more than a year in case Montero were ready. On the other hand, it wouldn't surprise me if they do trade Montero in the offseason (they trade Jackson and Vizcaino this past offseason) and it wouldn't surprise me if they signed Dunn (though I think it more likely they sign Crawford and move Swisher to DH). But there's no way anyone should be so certain about either outcome as you seem to be.
ckahrl
7/22
I figure moving Venable out of Petco--and possibly into a platoon or job-share with Justin Maxwell--would provide the Nats with the kind of toolsy outfielder who might surprise people once he gets there. Russell's a live arm, nothing more, but with their rotation about to be topped up with so many guys coming back from the DL, it's easier to put a ready-now reliever to work on this team, rather than live the Miguel Batista experience indefinitely.
dcoonce
7/22
The other point to make is that the last time Adam Dunn was traded in-season the return was Wilkin Castillo, Micah Owings and something called Dallas Buck. Venable/Russell is better than that. Regardless of how good we all know Dunn to be, his trade value just isn't off the charts.
ckahrl
7/22
True, but to be fair, Owings' value was considerably higher at that point than subsequently, and I don't see Venable or Russell as rating now with how he was seen in some circles then.
dryice
7/23
Dunn is a sick first baseman -absolutely sick. Like Mike Tyson left hook yea, we gotta stick this guy at 1st..uh nevermind type sick. Dunn's cut a huge swath in the turn this big lumbering outfielder into the corner statue axiom. Washington hasn't turned the back to outfield trick this year but they did last year, along with every other attempt to play this guy at 1st. Agree. SD could hide the guy in right field, and forget he's there with that pitching staff. Can't move, at least in a coordinated manner, but good arm. Less fiy balls in right, but more need of an arm.
comish4lif
7/23
So what if Venable/Rusell is better than what the Reds received. Just because the Reds got a bad deal, doesn't mean the Nats should take one. As for Venable and Russell, to me, they look like league average type players - Venable is pretty similar to Roger Bernadina and relievers with 4.91 ERAs are pretty easy to find. If I'm the Nats, I don't make that deal. I'd rather offer arbitration and take the draft picks for Dunn.
Peter7899
7/22
I am fairly certain Lilly will be a Type A and will decline arbitration if offered after the season. I'm not sure Corben Joseph is worth more than the FA comp picks in a loaded 2011 draft class.
OTSgamer
7/22
My thoughts exactly. Now that I would expect the Cubs front office to do anything with those picks, but nevertheless...
ckahrl
7/23
I think the problem with this line of thinking is that offering Lilly arbitration is that, in face of concerns over his velocity and long-term future, his best financial choice might be to accept. Which I thought about going in, figuring that's an additional incentive to deal him.
Jens521
7/23
You take what you can get, but I wonder if a middle-infielder in A ball is what the Cubs really want right now, with Darwin Barney as an acceptable stopgap for the next couple transitional years before Hak-Ju Lee arrives. Of course, this is my best-case scenario dreams come true, but it comes with the territory.
brucegilsen
8/02
That's still a good gamble IMHO, because if he accepts arbitration and you don't want to pay, you trade him. Lilly will at worst be able to traded like Rafael Soriano was, and he'd probably merit a positive return given how many teams need pitching and the appeal of only having to commit to 1 season.
submute
7/22
Really? Venable and Russel for Dunn? Like, yeah, why not. The Nats would really just do that. I mean, why not Venable and Russel for Dunn, Zimmerman, and Strasburg, since we're throwing out ideas from the Never Would Happen department.
submute
7/22
Oh, wait. If the Pads did that, they could flip Dunn to the Braves for Heyward and Tommy Hanson, and maybe $10m in cash. YES.
scareduck
7/22
Dunn? In the outfield? Or were you also thinking the Padres should join the AL West?
ErikBFlom
7/22
The Orioles should not take that deal. They should not deal Scott for a player whose ceiling is about that of Robert Andino. Take a look at that 10-year WARP!
AInquisition
7/22
I'd rather stick with Omar Vizquel at 3rd. Tejada can't really hit anymore, and Omar's defense at 3rd has been other worldly. I love Luke Scott though.
chris0501
7/22
Scott would be a nice addition to the White Sox; Tejeda not so much (.274/.314/.374 and lowest F Pct (.942) of his career). Dunn for Viciedo, Escobar, Nunez and Harrell would be even better.
mshopoff
7/22
Lidstrom is still under club control - he's only in his fourth season.
BillJohnson
7/23
Out of curiosity, Christina, why should the Cardinals not shoot for bigger game and go for a better arm than Sheets -- say Roy Oswalt, for whom a deal is rumored to be in negotiations? Oswalt plus Dave Duncan sounds downright scary. Is the problem lack of anything to entice Houston into the deal, short of trading mega-prospect Shelby Miller, which IMO would be a mistake no matter WHAT they got back for him?
ckahrl
7/23
I completely agree, Oswalt would be, but I left Oswalt off my list out of an expectation that nobody would be able to give Drayton McLane joy.
mhmosher
7/23
I can see a team like SD getting Dunn, but the Nats are going to want more than those two bums. I think Jonathan Sanchez to the Nats makes sense for Dunn.