Tigers must hang on to roaring Verlander

Six teams occupy second place in
their division in Major League Baseball. As 31 July looms – deadline day for
making trades during the season – here are my suggestions for a move that each
should make to have a chance of winning. AL East: Tampa Bay Rays (2.5 games
behind the Yankees)

Fourth in the league in runs
scored, leading in runs allowed, a solid bullpen and dominant top part of the
rotation. Their roster may be the best in baseball. What they should trade for
is a better mascot: ‘Raymond’ the seadog just isn’t getting it done.

AL Central: Detroit Tigers (2.5
games behind the White Sox)

They have little power as a team,
but what they desperately need is a rotation. When only your ace – Justin Verlander
– has an ERA under 4.74 you have little shot at making the postseason, and no
shot of progressing if you get there. They badly need to get Roy Oswalt from
the Astros and then hope that Rick Porcello returns to his rookie form of 2009.

AL West: Los Angeles Angels (5
games behind the Texans)

A big reason they’re struggling in
second place is that they let free agent Vladimir Guerrero go this offseason.
However, the biggest hole is starting pitching as they rank 11th in the AL in
runs allowed. Ben Sheets may be available from division rivals the Athletics,
and would provide a relatively low-cost, low-risk upgrade. They may also make a
play for Oswalt.

NL East: New York Mets (5.5 games
behind the Braves)

The starting rotation looks shaky
after Johan Santana but the real problem is hitting. The Mets live and die with
leadoff man Jose Reyes and right now they’re dying – they need an on-base guy
at the top of the order. Unfortunately no-one fitting that description figures
to be available, though it might be worth a call to Seattle about
underperforming Chone Figgins who may benefit from a change of scenery and
could also solve their 2B problem.

NL Central: Cincinnati Reds (0.5
games behind the Cardinals)

Team leader Scott Rolen is out
injured but their biggest need is some help at the back of the rotation. Their
top three pitchers may be able to give them a run in the postseason, but
they’re going to need more out of the fourth and fifth spots to get them there.
Another team who should make a run at the Athletics’ Ben Sheets.

NL West: San Francisco Giants (4
games behind the Padres)

Starting pitchers Lincecum, Cain,
Sanchez and Zito may be the best 1 through 4 in the league and their bullpen is
OK but they badly need more runs. Pablo Sandoval – last year’s breakout
slugger, has fewer homers (6) than rookie Buster Posey (8) in 200 more at-bats.
Rumours are that the Brewers’ slugger Prince Fielder may be available – if the
Giants could land him they should be a lock for the postseason.