The All-Star break has come and gone, and playoff races are beginning to take a more concrete form. With the trade deadline looming on July 31st, the contenders will look to add final pieces to their championship puzzles from teams slipping back in the standings. Last year, the Cubs and Indians sparred in one of the best World Series in recent memory on the backs of their respective star relievers, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, who were both brought in at the deadline. As the Astros and Dodgers continue to build up their leads over the rest of their respective leagues, this MLB season is about to get even more interesting. (All statistics as of the morning of July 24th)
- Los Angeles Dodgers (68-31, 1st NL West): Previous edition: 3
The Dodgers have finally knocked the Astros out of the top slot for the first time this year, and are 10.5 games up on the Rockies. However, trouble could be on the horizon for LA after Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in baseball, suffered a back injury Sunday that will cause him to miss some time. This situation will make the Dodgers’ trade talks more interesting, and they could pursue Rangers hurler Yu Darvish, which would give them a star-studded rotation once Kershaw returns.
2. Houston Astros (65-33, 1st AL West): Previous edition: 1
After holding onto pole position in the rankings for months, the Astros finally conceded despite continuing to play terrific baseball. Former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel has been sidelined for some time, though an encouraging rehab start in Triple A has Houston’s management hoping that their star can return to action as early as Friday. The Astros could also be in contention for Darvish’s services, as Keuchel as well as fellow pitchers Collin McHugh and Charlie Morton have spent time on the DL.
3. Washington Nationals (59-38, 1st NL East): Previous edition: 5
The Nats are a comfortable 12 games up on the Braves in the NL East and should cruise to another division title. However, they may run into trouble in the postseason unless they address their bullpen through trade, even with Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover set to return. All-Star pitcher Stephen Strasburg’s recent injury is also a cause for concern, but the upcoming return of stud shortstop Trea Turner will boost the offense.
4. Colorado Rockies (58-42, 2nd NL West): Previous edition: 2
Despite the Rockies’ best efforts, the Dodgers have built up a sizable lead on the rest of the division. The Rockies have had no problem with their Nolan Arenado-fueled offense thus far, as their 540 runs scored is tied for the best in the NL. However, playing in Coors Field means other teams will pile on runs as well, and the Rockies need pitching help. They brought in reliever Will Lamb from the White Sox yesterday, and could make a play for Sonny Gray as well.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks (56-42, 3rd NL West): Previous edition: 4
Overlooked in baseball’s toughest division, the D-Backs are in the shotgun seat with the Rockies for the NL’s wild card spots. Their duo of starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray have been tremendous thus far, as their respective ERA’s of 2.83 and 2.97 are good for 4th and 5th in the NL. The D-Backs have already pulled off a trade typical of a contender by sending 3 prospects to Detroit in exchange for former All-Star outfielder JD Martinez, who has struggled with injuries recently but is still a potent threat atop a lineup.
6. Boston Red Sox (55-45, 1st AL East): Previous edition: 7
The Red Sox, despite cold streaks from the Yankees and the Rays, have failed to truly separate themselves from the rest of the division. Their offseason trade for Chris Sale has paid off well thus far, as the former White Sox fireballer has stupefied opposing hitters to the tune of a 12-4 record and a 2.48 ERA. The Red Sox recently called up one of the best prospects in their system in third baseman Rafael Devers, which dampens any trade rumors that Boston was in the market for someone to man the hot corner.
7. Cleveland Indians (51-45, 1st AL Central): Previous edition: 8
The well-rounded Tribe squad had begun to separate themselves from the Twins in a relatively unthreatening AL Central, until the Royals began to heat up. Corey Kluber has been his typical terrific self, as his 2.74 ERA is second in the AL. The Indians could be active at the deadline, but with a strong recent outing from Danny Salazar and the impending returns of Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall, making a significant move could complicate the roster.
8. Chicago Cubs (51-46, 1st NL Central): Previous edition: 9
The defending champs are in a dead heat with the surprising Milwaukee Brewers for the NL Central crown after being stuck behind the Crew for much of the year. The North Siders have been rebounding in a big way behind the bat of Willson Contreras, who is batting .339 with six home runs to boot in the month of July. With their star pitchers struggling, the Cubs are rumored to be in trade talks with the Tigers over 2016 Cy Young runner-up Justin Verlander, who would bring a critical late season boost to Chicago.
9. New York Yankees (51-46, 2nd AL East): Previous edition: 6
The Yanks are down three spots in the rankings as Aaron Judge continues to slump, and find themselves in an unexpected wild card race with Tampa Bay. Though Judge’s 32 home runs continue to pace the league, he has only hit .242 in the month of July, a rough average compared to his .310 season. Though Luis Severino and CC Sabathia have performed well thus far, the Yankees are in the market for another pitcher, and could pursue Sonny Gray or Darvish.
10. Milwaukee Brewers (53-48, 2nd NL Central): Previous edition: 10
The Brew Crew’s grip on the NL Central has diminished with the rise of the Cubs, but are still well in the hunt. The Eric Thames Show has begun to slow down, as opposing pitchers have begun to figure out the Brewers’ Korean league import. Thames has improved his batting average to .293 in July, but has only hit three home runs in the month. With stud pitcher Chase Anderson mired on the DL, the Brewers have been linked to most available pitchers in trade talks, including Sonny Gray.
11. Tampa Bay Rays (51-48, 3rd AL East): Previous edition: 11
A surprise contender out of the blue, the Rays are in wild card position after a strong June and July. A small-market club in the truest sense of the word, the Rays have relied on big performances from overlooked players like Corey Dickerson and Alex Colome. However, their low budget would make them unlikely to be buyers at the deadline, even if they badly need to add another piece. If they do indulge, cheaper players like Detroit reliever Justin Wilson or Oakland outfielder Khris Davis would be welcome additions.
12. Kansas City Royals (50-47, 2nd AL Central): Previous edition: 13
Expected to be on the verge of a fire sale after disappointing in prior seasons, the Royals are in the hunt for the AL Central crown as well as a wild card spot. Starting pitcher Jason Vargas has been incredible thus far, and third baseman Mike Moustakas’ 28-homer season is one of the best in his career. On Monday, Kansas City sent a package of three players to San Diego in exchange for former All-Star pitcher Trevor Cahill and two relievers, which will fortify the back end of their staff.
13. Minnesota Twins (49-48, 3rd AL Central): Previous edition: 12
After a strong start to the season, the Twins have been passed in the division by both the Indians and the Royals. Despite their solid standing in the power rankings, the Twins have a run differential of -66, a pitiful total that is bested by even the cellar-dwelling White Sox. Starting pitcher Ervin Santana started the year on fire, but is 1-3 in his last four starts and a 4.42 ERA in July. The Twins appear to be buying at the deadline, as they dealt away prospect Huascar Ynoa to Atlanta in exchange for veteran hurler Jaime Garcia.
14. Pittsburgh Pirates (49-50, 3rd NL Central): Previous edition: 20
The Pirates stock is way up in this edition of the power rankings, as they jumped from mediocrity to the outside edge of playoff contention. Only three games back out of the division lead, the Bucs are 7-3 in their last ten games and appear to be a legitimate threat. The Pirates biggest weakness is their rotation depth, and could add an extra arm behind Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole through trade.
15. Texas Rangers (48-50, 4th AL West): Previous edition: 14
In an ironic twist, the Rangers are stuck in the back of their division despite having the 6th best run differential in the AL with +11, which is greater than their total run differential was during their 2016 division-winning campaign. With the playoffs possibly out of their reach, the Rangers have begun to talk to teams about dealing their star pitcher, Yu Darvish.
16. Seattle Mariners (49-51, 2nd AL West): Previous edition: 17
The AL West has a battle for second place behind the AL-leading Astros, though it doesn’t seem any of the teams have a true chance at making the playoffs. The Mariners have struggled with consistency from their starting pitchers, as 12 different hurlers have started a game and Ariel Miranda is the only one who is able to qualify for the ERA title. Reliever David Phelps was just brought in from Miami, and despite their distance from contention, Sonny Gray has been linked to Seattle in trade rumors.
17. Los Angeles Angels (49-51, 3rd AL West): Previous edition: 16
Despite Mike Trout being stuck on the sidelines, the Angels have held steady as the league’s most mediocre club. Outside of shortstop Andrelton Simmons, the Angels have received contributions from almost nobody. Somehow, they are only 2.5 games out of wild card position. With help needed almost everywhere but with not much to give up, it will be interesting to see if there is any action out of Los Angeles as the deadline approaches.
18. Atlanta Braves (47-50, 2nd NL East): Previous edition: 23
The Braves, while still far from contending for the division title, have actually put together a respectable season. However, after the Garcia trade, it appears that they are continuing their rebuilding project. With a number of veterans in the midst of vintage seasons such as Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis and Brandon Phillips, it is likely that the Braves will continue to move players out.
19. St. Louis Cardinals (47-51, 4th NL Central): Previous edition: 24
The Cardinals are also on the up, moving five pegs up in this edition of the rankings. Utilityman Jedd Gyorko has been the spark club for the team thus far, but has cooled off in July. The Cards’ pitching staff has been stellar thus far, with a team ERA of 3.87. As the team has a run differential of +20, 11th in the MLB, their poor showing thus far could be mostly attributed to luck and could point to a second-half rebound.
20. Baltimore Orioles (47-51, 4th AL East): Previous edition: 18
The Orioles have not replicated the success of last year’s playoff team in 2017, and are fading out of contention in a tough division. Despite appearing to be in a seller’s’ position, the Orioles management has put together a buyer’s agenda, dampening the hopes of opponents looking to land star reliever Zach Britton in trade.
21. New York Mets (45-51, 3rd NL East): Previous edition: 25
Another 2016 playoff team that has underwhelmed this season, the Mets injury problems don’t appear to be going away soon as Zack Wheeler was just placed on the DL. Jacob deGrom has been among the best pitchers in baseball and has been especially dominant of late, though the Mets appear to be on the verge of dealing their young superstar if the price is right.
22. Detroit Tigers (45-52, 4th AL Central): Previous edition: 19
The Tigers have star power, but their roster is chock-full of past-their-prime veterans like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. With ace Justin Verlander on the trade block and outfielder JD Martinez off to the greener grass in Arizona, the Tigers have already committed to a rebuilding project for the foreseeable future.
23. Miami Marlins (44-52, 4th NL East): Previous edition: 22
The Marlins big bats have somewhat made up for their awful pitching, though it is yet to be seen if their roster will be missing any of their top names after July 31st. Their set-up man David Phelps was recently dealt and closer AJ Ramos is one of the hottest names on the reliever market. The Marlins could possibly trade away beloved outfielder Giancarlo Stanton in a move that would shock the entirety of the baseball world.
24. Oakland A’s (44-54, 5th AL West): Previous edition: 26
The A’s roster contains very few recognizable names, even for baseball diehards. Sean Manaea is the only pitcher who has accumulated enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, though Sonny Gray’s recent spurt of health has made teams willing to shell out for the up-and-down star.
25. Toronto Blue Jays (44-54, 5th AL East): Previous edition: 15
Suffering the largest drop in the rankings of any team, the Blue Jays look far from the team that advanced to the ALCS last year. Marcus Stroman endured a rough early start to the season, and is currently 9-5 with a 2.98 ERA. Stroman is unlikely to be dealt, however, as one rough year as a club isn’t enough reason for panic.
26. San Diego Padres (43-55, 4th NL West): Previous edition: 28
The Padres are far from contention, and displayed their eagerness to sell by dealing their ace, Trevor Cahill, to Kansas City. First baseman Wil Myers is leading the team in every offensive category, but is still fairly young and may not be dealt as a result. Third baseman Yangervis Solarte, however, could be targeted by other clubs.
27. Cincinnati Reds (41-57, 5th NL Central): Previous edition: 27
The Reds have done very little damage to opponents yet again, and are once again tight-lipped about possible trades. Shortstop Zack Cozart is the most likely player to be moved, but the market for shortstops isn’t favorable for Cincinnati. The Reds actually have a potent lineup, but their abysmal pitching (5.24 team ERA) will prevent them from competing until they can resolve their issues.
28. Chicago White Sox (38-57, 5th AL Central): Previous edition: 21
Continuing their full-fledged rebuild, the South Siders sent third baseman Todd Frazier and reliever David Robertson to the Yanks in exchange for prospects, and sent star pitcher Jose Quintana to the Cubs earlier in July. Still armed with first baseman Jose Abreu, the Sox could entirely clear house by July 31st.
29. San Francisco Giants (38-62, 5th NL West): Previous edition: 29
With Madison Bumgarner finally off the DL after his dirt bike accident, his sidekick Johnny Cueto promptly went on the DL with blister issues in what has been an absolutely disastrous season for the Giants. So far behind the top teams in the NL West, the Giants have been in talks about moving third baseman Eduardo Nunez and pitchers Hunter Strickland and Jeff Samardzija.
30. Philadelphia Phillies (34-62, 5th NL East): Previous edition: 30
Solidly the worst team in the MLB, the Phillies will likely be inactive as the deadline approaches. While players like third baseman Aaron Altherr, outfielder Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco would fetch significant talent in a trade, their young age means they will be part of the Phillies’ long rebuild.