Just over a week before the MLB deadline, mid-of-the-pack teams must decide whether to go to 2019 or not.
MLB has lifted the waiver Dealing deadline, therefore, the roster is on August 1 at 4:00 clock MEZ the roster, which the teams will have until the end of the year. We've already seen some side effects, such as the experienced Red Sox starter Andrew Cashner. But which other teams are best positioned as buyers at this point?
At the top of the list of buyers are the Indians, a team that pretty much everyone expects to do in the off-season to gain their favorite status in the American League Central to consolidate. and position themselves for a World Series run. Well, Mike Chernoff and Company naively and falsely assumed that the team was just good enough to take on the division as it is, so they made exactly zero impact moves last season.
As of Tuesday, the Indians have six games behind the Twins at headquarters and only 1
Cleveland's offense needs some pop. With a team wRC + of 91 they occupy the 11th place in the American League. Their 122 home runs are close to 50 (!) Behind the league leaders, and though a baseball everyone knows makes more power in the bowl, their 0.419 stroke is also in the lower third of the AL.
One area for improvement is the second base where Jason Kipnis was a complete black hole on the plate. The 32-year-old second baseman has an OBP score of less than 300 and a value of 71 wRC + in over 300 record appearances. He was cruel to left-handed pitchers and has slashed .186 / .210 / .258 in over 100 record appearances.
One way to help the team and make the tricky front office happy is the DFA recently launched by EDUARDO NUNEZ. Nunez is a right-handed player (although he has reverse platoon splits for his career numbers), who gave the Red Sox a nice bump in the postseason last year. If they prefer the more expensive (albeit modestly expensive), they can try to land Whit Merrifield through a cross-departmental agreement.
The Indians were unlucky this season as Corey Kluber failed for a few months and Carlos Carrasco paused recovering from leukemia. Kluber is likely to be back for a possible playoff run and it is possible that Carrasaco will return this season, but rightly baseball is not a priority for him at this time. If Kluber and Carrasco were to return to a late-season run, Cleveland's offensive would have to be improved to allow them to generally run in the division or in the playoffs.
New York Yankees
Regardless of what the Yankees do within this trading period, they have positioned themselves well in the AL East. Despite a variety of injuries, the Americans overcame the difficulties of the early season to take command of the division, although they have more talent on the injured list than on the pitch.
New York has five games in full control of the East's lead over the Rays, which are unlikely to have much to do on the deadline, and nine games off Boston that do not seem to go out of their way and most likely this season not to fight for the division.
It is no shock to hear that the Yankees are looking for a hit starter. With names like Trevor Bauer, Madison Bumgarner and Marcus Stroman at the top. They have the depth and the talent to make a decent offer, and money should be secondary after adding an Impact Starter.
The Yankees made it to the World Series ten years ago, while the Red Sox held two World Cups in the same period. This may not work well with New York fans, but 2019 is ripe for inclusion. A hit star and the Yankees could surpass the Astros as favorites of the American League.
The Nationals have made a difficult start, but since June 1 it's 25-10 (.714 win percentage). They are 7½ games behind Atlanta and are currently at the top of the Wild Card slots, two games ahead of Phillies and Cardinals.
The division may be lost, but adding a strong relief would be helpful. Maybe the giants' will, Smith, fits the bill? Smith is a landlord who will not crack the bank at $ 4 million. The other thing to consider is that this is a zero-sum game. If the Nationals do not acquire Smith, one of their wildcard competitors could end up with him.
The Nationals will have a big chance in the playoffs with their currently built bullpen. You probably need at least two helpers to improve their chances in a short series, even if Max Scherzer is well prepared and ready for a wildcard start.
The Phillies have gone in the opposite direction of the Nationals, since June 1, they are only 15-22 (.405 win percentage) in that time. Thanks to the successes in the preseason, however, they are equal to the Cardinals, two games behind the Nationals, with the second Wild Card place.
This is pretty clear as the Phillies' launch was their Achilles heel throughout the season. They occupy the 11th place in Star League ERA in the National League and in starter FIP last place. With their currently constructed rotation, they would be at a disadvantage against almost every other National League contender in a short series.
The Phillies have been linked to Robbie Ray, the starter of Diamondbacks, but the aforementioned Stroman or Bumgarner (or Bauer) may also be an option. To be a true competitor, this team probably needs two startup upgrades, a challenge in this kind of market.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals play with the Nationals and Phiillies the role of the third team, which vies for two places. While the Brewers and Cubs jump in the division between the first and the second (with the loser right in the middle for a placeholder).
St. Louis is right there, everyone else is supposed to be with Will Smith (who would not be there at this stage?). However, the cards may have the upper hand, as they have asked and laid the foundation for a deal for Smith in the off-season.
The Cardinals also have a clear platoon problem under control as the left-wing Tyler Webb has given away 15 earned runs in just 30 innings and has booked a terrible -0.1-fWAR and 2018-trade acquisition Chasen Shreve, Yankee Slugger Luke Vogt, who just a few days ago was able to break through to the majors. Oops!
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox set team has set records in its 2018 World Championship run. With mostly the same squad they have fought against the Mariners since their first series in March. At that point in time, the division is almost lost, but if Boston wants to make a decent run after the season, it will need pitching assistance.
Adding Andrew Cashner to the rotation is something, but how much something remains to be seen. Cashner is not an impact player, but serves as a starter number five, which offers a certain rotation depth in the absence of the currently injured (and often injured) Nathan Eovaldi.
Moreover, Boston's bullpen was at best inconsistent, though help might be on the way as Dave Dombrowski is known to instantly swap prospects for the current value. Regardless of what Boston is doing to repair its bullpen, they will not win the division. Therefore, it does not matter if Chris Sale continues to give up his runs in early innings and does not return to his dominant self.
Chicago Cubs & Milwaukee Brewers
The Cubs and Brewers are merged here because both should be shoppers although there is no indication that both teams will cause a sensation. There were not too many rumors linking big acquisitions to one of the two clubs, which is strange as it is not excluded that the out-of-team team misses out on the playoffs altogether.
Both teams struggle for first place and could use any edge they can get, whether it's a rotation support for the back-end, a reliever or perhaps one of the Royals runabouts they're ready for be seem to separate. Putting a chance on the current roster would be an interesting game of chance considering that the other option is a one-time wild card game or when you go home and miss the postseason altogether.
To the Bladder Buyers
These teams could add, but their fate seems largely sealed.
The Twins are the magical and funny story of 2019. Their offense has historically been good and you hit homeruns with an unprecedented clip. With a gain of 0.630 percent, they have outperformed the Moloch Astros and put the rest of the division in the rear view mirror for the entire first half of the season.
Players like catcher Mitch Garver have received an outstanding unexpected production that complements their diverse core of young players such as Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler as well as veteran Nelson Cruz.
The one place they can possibly upgrade is the first base on which CJ Cron was a defensive disaster and a moderate bat. However, the twins could knock on their feet, as Justin Smoak and Brandon Belt are probably the best available players and neither is a clear upgrade to Cron.
It may seem strange to put the Diamondbacks on the list with such a crowded NL wildcard field, but this team is better than their record shows. First and foremost, they are between 13 and 19 in one-off games, a record that could as well be between 19 and 13. They also have a running differential that is better than any team that fights for the wildcard points.
According to the baseline list of the baseball prospectus, Arizona has undercut its 1st, 2nd, and 3rd order victories, and if things were slightly different by sequencing or one-pass games, they would have 51/52 wins and top of the list of jokers.
In 2019, Arizona will be able to take advantage of an already sealed NL West, where the Padres, Rockies and Giants are likely to throw in the towel over the next few weeks. Arizona also has a pretty soft schedule in which they play over 40 games against teams under .500, including games outside the division against greats like Orioles, Marlins, Mets and Reds.
The Diamondbacks have a challenging run of eleven games against playoff opponents between July 30 and August 11 as they play the Yankees / Nationals / Phillies / Dodgers in a row, but the schedule becomes fairly easy after those games. If they upgrade before this track and play a 500-ball, they are well positioned to win a wild card.
We'll see what happens in the next 10 days, but we should do some interesting upgrades.
On the positive side, at least we do not have to re-learn how the deadline for doing without trade works!
Steven Martano is editor on Beyond the Box Score, a contributing Prospect writer for The Colorado Rockies on Purple Row and a contributing author for The Hardball Times , You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano