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Which teams on the fence should consider buying at the trade deadline?

Not every buyer looks alike.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Not every contender is the same, which is an obvious thing to say. While the Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros are sure to add pieces to their teams in hopes they clear the final hurdle come October, other teams are just trying to get through September.

The bigger additions, arguably, are for teams that are merely kind-of-in-it as of the trade deadline, and whose acquisitions make all the difference in both getting into the postseason, and clearing through it. As far as leveraged decisions go, they’re arguably more important than the former teams. We’re going to look at a few who are at a crucial crossroads, and who should maybe consider buying instead of thinking of 2020.

Nationals

This is a team that gyrated wildly from buyer to seller to buyer once again, and they still find themselves in a precarious spot. While they don’t have a particularly old core, they don’t have a particularly young one either. Max Scherzer is arguably at the height of his greatness, and Anthony Rendon will be a free agent and could never return once the season is over.

On the other hand, players like Juan Soto, Trea Turner, and Victor Robles are evidence that their time isn’t nearly over, if not just beginning. So they find themselves walking the tightrope of not wasting the talent they have, but also not leaving their future stars out to dry with no surrounding cast.

This year they should be firmly in the buy category, as they have all of these great pieces with a now-remarkable 61% chance of winning a wild card. Adding a rental starter like Madison Bumgarner, or more importantly a reliever like Sam Dyson, Will Smith, or Ken Giles, would give them a leg up on other middling contenders in the National League.

Brewers

For all of the things laid out for the Nationals, the exact same holds true for Milwaukee. Yes, the Brew Crew have youngsters like Keston Hiura and Orlando Arcia, but they also have peak Christian Yelich and Josh Hader, and those two helped them get them within one game of the World Series.

Brandon Woodruff has shown he can be an elite starter, just like we saw in the postseason, and they also have Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas at the absolute heights of their careers. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t use a starter—or two—to clear another tough NL Central competition in which they once again are not considered a favorite. That was the case in 2018, until the last day of the season.

Indians

Uhhhhh, so they’re good again? Cleveland was 10.5 games back in the AL Central as of June 1st, and now it’s just... three. They’ve basically doubled their playoff odds in the process, and that’s without Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco. Kluber is questionable to pitch again this season, yet the pitching has been fine with Shane Bieber and Trevor Bauer shining.

There’s a legitimate argument to be made that they should sell and try to hang in there by shaving Brad Hand, for example, or even Bauer. The better way to think about it is there is a very slim chance Francisco Lindor sticks around when his team control expires, and Cleveland should try to maximize every last second of it as long as they can compete.

Red Sox

This is not your one-year-old father’s Red Sox, as they are basically a .550 club, for what that’s worth. Despite Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers having career years, the rest of the team is... kind of just OK? Chris Sale has finally recovered but still has an ERA over 4.00; Price has been a 3.61 ERA pitcher which isn’t half-bad, and the bullpen has been predictably mediocre in the absence of Craig Kimbrel.

That doesn’t mean they can’t use help, obviously. Nathan Eovaldi should return as a closer in the near future with the potential of pitching more than just three outs, and with the addition of one more bullpen hand and even just another body in the rotation, that could be juuuust enough star power to squeak them through the wild card game and into the dance one more.

Each of these teams have pretty circuitous routes to get where they are, and they find themselves either on an irreversible precipice, or at a crossroads to decide what kind of team they want to look like in 2020, 2021, and 2025. Yet flags fly forever, and there’s an outside chance—let’s say, 15%—that one of these teams does exactly that.