Contenders Christmas in July.

Minor league ball parks, department stores and bars/clubs all seem to run Christmas in July promotions, right? Yes.
Let’s apply that theme to the final frenzied two weeks of July when hopeful MLB playoff participants attempt to shore up their weaknesses.
Red Sox – They’ve already jumped into the trade market by acquiring the once nearly unhittable lefty Matt Thornton, from the White Sox. He’s not as electric as he once was, but he’s a quality upgrade for the Red Sox bullpen, and this year lefties aren’t even hitting .175 against him. Boston could still use a closer, but they’ve had unfortunate luck once they’ve arrived with Joel Hanrahan’s busted elbow and Andrew Bailey’s busted closing skills. Let’s grab the Rockies Rafael Betancourt who comes with an inexpensive mutual option for 2014.
Rays – Unlike typical Rays team, their bullpen was disaster for a large part of the first half of the season. Now it’s fixed, and David Price has regained his health, Matt Moore has overcome his recent struggles over the last month, and Evan Longoria continues to trooper on through a foot injury. The Contender Santa Claus (CSC) just needs to bring the Rays good health and steadiness, since he’s already blessed them in the offseason with a useful James Loney. Then again, Tampa is where careers are reborn. A small part could be added to offset the expected regressions of Matt Joyce and Kelly Johnson, but I see it as unlikely.
Yankees – They could use an upgrade at catcher, but since Carlos Ruiz doesn’t have a legal prescription for ADD, he’s been mostly worthless, and his receiving skills haven’t done much for the Phillies staff as in the past. The Yankees steady pitching has kept them in the AL East race. CSC needs to keep A-Rod away, limit the distractions of Jeter being back but bad, or inconsistent, and getting Curtis Granderson back should suffice. Acquiring Michael Young for his revered intangibles, and ability to be a super utility guy works too. Plus, he’s age appropriate for the ancient Yankees.
Orioles – They need an ace. It doesn’t appear that they’re the front runners for Matt Garza, but they should be. Kevin Gausman for Garza, and sign him and his vested AL East experience to a comfortable free agent deal. Gausman may be special one day, but the O’s are an ace away from being potential Series front runners. And Chris Davis not getting suspended, if you’re into that kind’ve pretty baseless accusation.
Tigers – I’m off the Papelbon thing, but they still need a reliever. K-Rod is up to 22 innings pitched with an ERA just over one. He can setup, and he brings playoff closing experience. The Phillies were scouting in Toledo last week; possibly in preparation for a Peralta suspension (Rollins) or Omar Infante’s leg being seriously jacked up (Utley).
Indians – Can they out ante Texas for GarzaGarza vs. the Tigers.
Athletics – First Michael Young, maybe Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon and more as part of the great Philly exodus. Slide Jed Lowrie over to second and make Jimmy Rollins the Oakland SS. He’s about worn out his welcome in Philly, his contract is managable, he returns to his Bay Area home, and I think he’d be reenergized back in a playoff race with a less chafed fanbase supporting him.
Rangers – It feels like they want Garza or Cliff Lee, but Matt Harrison should be back soon and along with Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, and potentially Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz, they’ve got a viable playoff staff. The thirst to finally win a title after having been so close may have them relentless chasing their white whale. I don’t take a megamove off the table. David Murphy’s been terrible this year, so call the Cubs about Nate Schierholtz to usurp Murphy’s LH at bats, OR bring back Alfonso Soriano, who’s on his annual pre-deadline summer tear.
Angels – A time machine. Either to send Pujols and Hamilton back in time to their more productive selves, or to erase those deals in place of more prudent ones.
Astros – Bud Norris isn’t that good. You’re better off keeping him, trying to turn him at least into an innings eater, rather than getting $0.50 for the dollar.
Braves – Even without Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty, they’ve got the number one bullpen in baseball. So, someone, anyone who can put the ball in play. It doesn’t even have to be a regular, but only the overmatched Astros have struck out more than the Braves. That’s going to be a devilish albatross  to defeat in October.
Nationals – Rickie Weeks used to be a 2-3 win (WAR) player. Perhaps a scenery change will help him regain that form, and the Nationals are absolutely desperate for offense.
Phillies – It should’ve been SELL, SELL, SELL, after Ben Revere broke his foot on Saturday night, but now they genuinely need a centerfielder unless they want every fly to the outfield to be accompanied by circus music. Delmon Young and Domonic Brown are there to hit, not defend. Being back at .500 I’ve advocated a buy/sell approach for the much maligned (by me) Ruben Amaro Jr. To remedy the Revere absence, he’s inexpensive because he’s not a free agent until 2017, but the AstrosJustin Maxwell is also nearly 30, and he’s not part of the future in Houston. A nice stopgap for the Phils and a bench player in the future. (For the record I’ve shipped off Young and Rollins. More to come.)
Marlins – What!? Why are they here. Because I have some advice for the Fish. The recovery project has been more successful at this point than initially expected. If you haven’t noticed, the 20 year old Jose Fernandez is putting up a Trout-type season on the mound. Marlins or not, the kid is a deserving All Star. More quality youth is on the way (Christian Yelich), so capitalize on the relative exuberance and see if Giancarlo Stanton is amenable to signing away his arb and early free agency years. I know they’re spendthrift but something 7/100 seems like a comfortable place to compromise at.
Cardinals – They’re so well rounded, and so stacked with elite prospects, they can just c-block any rival in the NL if they’d like.
Pirates – The Stanton thing bandied around recently was an imaginative idea, but unrealistic. It won’t do much for the average or strikeouts, but desperately requiring improved right field production, Josh Willingham for $3 million for the rest of this year, and $7 million for 2014 is solid investment. The staff could use a boost as well. The pipe dream is acquiring James Shields and replenishing what the Royals gave Tampa for him. More likely targets to land could be Shields’ teammate and free-agent-to-be Ervin Santana. Also a free agent in training, and healthy, but getting clobbered by AL pitching is the once very special Josh Johnson.
Reds – The sabr community would simply say stop batting Todd Frazier and Zack Cosart in the 2 hole.
Diamondbacks – Prospects Tyler Skaggs and Archie Bradley come up and round out a young gauntlet of playoff starters. And even though Martin Prado just signed a heart offseason deal – he can move to 2B – and their #2 prospect is a 3B, check San Diego’s price on Chase Headley, who’s numbers are WAY off from last year’s surprising MVP campaign.
Dodgers – They already brought in Ricky Nolasco, so nothing really. But they’ve got money engulfing their pockets in flames, so I expect another sizeable transaction.Chase Utley makes a ton of sense. And it’s probably one of the few places – because it’s home for him – that would snare Utley away from going back to the Philly in the offseason. In other words, if the Phillies want Utley until he retires, best not send him to Los Angeles.
Rockies – One year I’d love to see Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez both play 150+ games (and have an Ace of aces). Their offense could rival the Miggy/Fielder 3, 4 combo in Detroit. Their prospects aren’t special, but if they decide to buy, make a play for Kyle Lohse; as I’m sure the Brewers would love to get back something for him since he cost them a first round pick.
Whew. That was exhausting playing faux GM for more than half of MLB. 

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