The MLB All-Star game is now over, but we still have a few days without baseball.
For us, it means we can relax for a few days without scrambling around to edit our lineups (so difficult to just sit here, I know). For the players, it means some much needed rest, or a couple days of fun if you’re involved in the theatrics. For front offices across the league, well, now the pressure is on.
It’s time to decide if you want to become a buyer, a seller, or just stand pat with what you have and see where the second half of the season takes you. We’ll find all this out for sure by July 31, but for now, it’s fun to take some guesses (divided into different tiers).
The Obvious: Phillies/Brewers
The Phillies should go without mentioning here. In case you were unaware, they’re 29-62 at the break. Anyone that is even thinking about adding an ace will be calling on Cole Hamels. It will just come down to whether or not Philly gets something they like in return. Jonathan Papelbon has been trying to talk his way out of town since the season started — he’s another solid option for a team seeking a closer.
The Brewers are in the basement of the NL Central (the best division in baseball) and could use a shakeup. Although they may not be looking for a total rebuild, there should still be talks swirling about some of their bigger names. They have a couple of big bats in the outfield that teams would certainly consider players that could put them over the top.
Honorable mention: We will see the annual Giancarlo Stanton talks, but he’s not going anywhere. The A’s are the AL’s worst team and always seem to be active at the deadline. They we’re HUGE buyers last season, but those were all rentals. Now they may have to move in the other direction.
The Not-So-Obvious: Reds/Padres
The hosts of the All-Star festivities may come tumbling back to reality when it’s all over. Although they likely wouldn’t move a big bat like Votto or Frazier, a guy like Jay Bruce could be in play. But the big prize is expected be an arm like Johnny Cueto, who is rumored to be available.
The Padres felt like they had just loaded up this offseason, then, just like that, they’re discussing moving James Shields. Hearing this reminded me of the Marlins a couple of years ago when they stacked the payroll before admitting failure almost immediately and moving all of their big contracts to Toronto. This wouldn’t be quite as drastic, but it would be a low blow for San Diego to start selling this early … they we’re just getting started as buyers last offseason.
Honorable mention: None … the way the standings are this year, there aren’t many teams all the way out of it. But that should mean a lot of teams wanted to buy.
The “Let’s Wait and See”: Tigers/Blue Jays
The Tigers are at .500 with a 44-44 record. At the same time, they’re still nine games behind the Royals, and Miguel Cabrera is going to remain on the shelf for a while. If they free fall out of the break, expect the trade talks surrounding David Price to heat up. If he were dealt, it would be the second year in a row he’s moved in a deadline deal.
The AL East is still WIDE OPEN. The Blue Jays are currently being mentioned as potential buyers on an ace like Cueto. However, Toronto is also in the midst of a 3-7 stretch after being major players in the division. If they continue in the direction they’re trending, they definitely won’t be buying, and could even completely reverse field.
Honorable mention: The Orioles have been mentioned as trying to move Chris Davis. At 44-44, they’re in a much better situation than the Tigers since the AL East is up for grabs. The Rangers will have a tough time even competing for a wildcard with the Astros and Angels in their division. They likely stand pat, but if things go too far downhill, you never know if they may want to explore some options.
The Obvious: Dodgers/Yankees
Money. Need I say much more? Magic Johnson has shown he will do whatever it takes. If a player that generates interest becomes available, but nobody wants to pay his contract, Magic will. And if Magic won’t? Then the Yankees will. If they can add a big piece, it would be a huge hit to the four other teams in the division, who all feel they’re still in the race.
Honorable mention: The Angels just jumped the Astros heading into the break. Their lineup is deadly, but a starting pitcher could be a huge addition. The Nationals also could look to make a move, although they’re very in control of that division.
The Not-So-Obvious: Astros/Royals
Yup … the Astros and Royals. How the hell did we get here? Really, these two teams should fall under the obvious category, but just because of their names and reputations I put them here. KC is killing it once again this season, as is Houston, who as mentioned were just surpassed by the Angels. These two squads have very real playoff hopes. At this point, the Royals would likely be buying to bolster up their World Series odds, whereas the ‘Stros may need to focus more on the division. Both teams have been mentioned in the race for Cueto.
Honorable mention: The Mets are only two games behind the Nationals. Everything on paper would point to the Nats having a huge advantage, as would everyone who watches baseball. But maybe the Mets get aggressive and try to make this their year. They haven’t been this good this late in the season in ages.
The “Let’s Wait and See”: Red Sox/Giants
In the Giants case, they can’t really react to anything the Dodgers may do. The Dodgers are atop the division, but are spending much more money to be there. San Fran’s currently 4.5 games back, so if it can close that gap in the next couple weeks, maybe it’s time for them to buy and see if they can de-thrown L.A. It’s pretty unlikely, though.
Then we have the Red Sox, who lost a big game to the Yankees on Sunday heading into the break that has them 6.5 back instead of 4.5. It was a tough one for those who follow the Sox. This team has been sellers two of the past three deadlines, though. It’s hard to see them doing that again. Everything revolves around the young core now in Boston, but one thing is clear, no matter what direction they go. This team needs pitching. Might as well try and get it now (and in the offseason), maybe something good comes of it in this crazy division.
Honorable mention: The NL Central is going to see some action.
The two highest win totals in baseball? The 56-win Cardinals and 53-win Pirates. Not far behind are the 47-win Cubs — who if the playoffs started today would face the Buccos in the NL Wild Card game. Who knows what’s going to happen here. The idea of Chicago winning the division is a bit farfetched, but maybe they still make a move to try and assure we get an NL Central Wild Card showdown.
Although the Pirates and Cards likely won’t make moves based on what the other does, both will be active in fielding calls. They have the luxury of passing on deals since they’ve already established their dominance, along with the temptation to add to what they’ve already built. And although neither will overreact to the other team making a deal, they certainly will feel the pressure.
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