While clubs like the Indians and the Pittsburgh Pirates are in contention, they are also on the rise in their organizations, and it might be better for them to sign veteran fill-ins rather than mortgage their futures on a quick fix which might not get them over the hump.
So this article via Matthew Leach of MLB.com maintains.
Leach makes the point that clubs such as the Indians and Pirates are not safely guaranteed of anything as far as the post-season goes.
"If either the Bucs or Indians were safely in the playoffs, you could argue more strongly that they should be willing to sacrifice future talent for October upgrades. However, both are in multi-team races with no guarantee of making the postseason even with an upgrade. It's important not to lose sight of the bigger goal in both cities, which is to build teams that can contend year-in, year-out.". says Leach in his column.
Here is what Leach says that various contenders should do in the next couple of weeks:
Chicago White Sox: Buy, if possible. The Sox are in a fairly unenviable position. They built for this year but they don't have top prospects to trade and they don't have a whole lot of financial flexibility. Yet they have the second-best run differential in the American League Central, and even a couple of returns to form by so-far-disappointing veterans could turn them into a very serious factor in a strange division. Chicago shouldn't be any worse from here on out than it has already been, and there's room to keep climbing the standings even without a move. It's worth an add -- the question is how.
Cleveland Indians: Buy. This one's easy. Unlike the Pirates, with whom they're often compared, Cleveland's path to the postseason is a good bit clearer. The White Sox and Twins both have a shot, but they're both a few games back from the Tribe and Tigers. Being one of two teams separated by a half-game is a better position than being one of three teams separated by a half-game. The Indians still shouldn't go crazy; they should hold onto pieces like Jason Kipnis and Drew Pomeranz. But they should be taking this chance at October baseball very seriously.
Minnesota Twins: Sell. It would be painful for a franchise as used to winning as the Twins are, but it's the right course of action. They stand a relatively small six games out of first place, but they trail three teams. More distressingly, they have the second-worst run differential in the AL, an indication that even with improved health, they're not likely to make the kind of run it would take to steal the Central.
The Twins have a quantity of what everyone always wants at the deadline: relief pitching. They should part with some of it and focus on bolstering a core that should be plenty good enough to win again in 2012.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Buy, within reason. In a typical year, in a typical division, the Pirates are just the sort of team that would make a mistake by buying. Often a surprising team that flirts with contention will lose sight of the long-term plan and give up key rebuilding pieces for a hopeless swing at a long-shot playoff berth.
However, the National League Central isn't a typical division. While the Buccos would only be on the fringes of contention in either the East or West, they're right in the mix in the Central. Their chances of playing in October are real, if still far from guaranteed, and Pittsburgh should look to make upgrades -- within reason.
The Pirates shouldn't part with key pieces of their future. The long view needs to remain the goal. But if they can add an outfield bat or a reliever for only a minor prospect, or in exchange for taking on money, they should do it.
Tampa Bay Rays: Sell. This is coming from a fairly consistent and shameless Rays apologist. My preseason predictions included Tampa Bay winning the AL Wild Card. But the season has shown that this year's edition of the Rays just isn't as good as those of the Yankees or Red Sox. That wouldn't necessarily be a huge problem if the three teams were in a dead heat, but they're not. Tampa Bay has to make up 6 1/2 games on New York just to win the Wild Card, and even then they would also have to hold off the Central and West runners-up.
So while the Rays gave it a good run, surprising many observers by even making it this far, it's time to get back to the plan. This always looked like a transitional year in St. Petersburg, a season to retool before returning to the top in the next year or two. There's nothing wrong with returning to that plan of attack, parting with replaceable pieces in order to strengthen the next two or three Rays teams.