The 2016 season has come to a close, which is unfortunate in some respects. But it appears we are going to have an exciting postseason ahead of us--we always do, honestly--perhaps adding a little bit of sunshine on the overall sadness that another year has gone by.
But, with every 2,430 games that come in a single baseball season, some players (and managers), stand out above the rest. Thus, we honor them, and I’ll do my best here to provide my selections for both leagues’ top awards. Without further ado, my MVP picks and choices for the rest of the major awards. . .
National League Most Valuable Player: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (8.4 fWAR)
It’s still hard to think that Bryant was a rookie just last year, but the former No. 2 overall pick has proven why he was one of the most hyped prospects since Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Bryant, this season, hit for a .292/.385/.554 slash, popping 39 home runs and driving in 102 RBI. He’s been by far the best player on by far the best team in baseball, making the MVP award almost a lock for him.
Worth nothing: The Cubs as a whole have four of the top-15 players in OBP this season, and they’re all right near each other, at Nos. 11, 13, and two tied for 14 (Bryant is here). Bryant, even with the fourth-best isolated power in the NL, still manages to be a top-15 player at getting on-base. That’s a lethal combination right there.
Runner Up: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals (5.5 fWAR)
American League Most Valuable Player: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (9.4 fWAR)
I’ve ranted a lot on Twitter about Trout being the American League MVP, including the usage of the #TeamTrout hashtag, which may or may not actually exist elsewhere. But, the debate about whether we should name an MVP based on whether a player is playing a pennant race is appalling. Sure, “valuable” and “best” are definitely different words, and I think most (if not all) would agree that Trout is the best player in the American League. But even still, as Dave Cameron of FanGraphs said it best, by naming an MVP on a contending team, we’re basically rewarding a player for having good teammates.
Maybe if the race was closer, I’d consider looking elsewhere. It’s harder to play better under the stress of a pennant race, so guys like Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado should get some credit, but they are so far behind Trout it really isn’t fair to the Millville Meteor, as he is often called. This season, Trout hit for a .315/.441/.550 slash and sat on 29 home runs, 100 RBI and 30 steals, all while playing solid defense in center.
Runner Up: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox (7.7 fWAR)
National League Cy Young: Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins (6.2 fWAR)
What happened to Fernandez is obviously upsetting to everyone in the baseball community, and it’s hard to say that I did not take that into account when making this selection. The National League featured lots of good pitchers this season, but no one pitcher really took the spotlight this year, as Clayton Kershaw often does. This, then, leads me to Fernandez, who definitely comes with his array qualifications to get the nod, tragedy aside. But honestly, there’s not a better way to honor Fernandez then by giving him an award he was likely to get at some point during his career.
Looking at the conventional stats, Fernandez posted a 2.86 ERA this season, ranking 7th in the National League. His 16 wins tie him for fifth. But his 182 ⅓ innings put him down at 19th, and if there’s a reason as to why he won’t win the award, this is likely it. But Fernandez really shines in the advanced metrics, with only one pitcher, Noah Syndergaard, having a better FIP and no pitcher having a better xFIP. Fernandez also struck out batters at the highest rate in the NL, with his K-BB% also ranking first. In a wide-open field, Fernandez could capture the NL Cy Young award this year.
Runner Up: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (5.6 fWAR)
American League Cy Young: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox (5.2 fWAR)
Asking me to pick an American League Cy Young is like asking me to choose between a glazed or a sprinkled doughnut. Yes, I like doughnuts. But if Boston Creme isn’t an option, I could take it or leave it. The American League Cy Young race lacks a Boston Creme, and it’s filled with glazed and sprinkled (with maybe a jelly-filled in there somewhere). Due to the lack of a true “Cy qualified” candidate, many writers have found themselves choosing Zach Britton, something I cannot get myself behind, purely due to his lack of innings pitched. So, this leads me to the White Sox’ Sale.
Sale tied Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander on the fWAR leaderboard, with 5.2 wins above replacement, but Porcello got over six-and-a-half runs per game in run support (ranking first in the Majors), obviously making his job much easier. Sale received 4.47 runs of support per game, ranking 32nd of 74 qualified starters. Sale didn’t rank 1st in the AL in FIP (3nd) or xFIP (7th), but sometimes it’s a combination of results and dominance, which is where Sale finds himself. His K-BB% is the 2nd highest in the league, and his overall 17-9 record with a 3.21 ERA isn’t shabby either. Sale has the chocolate sprinkles in this race, which are obviously better than rainbow.
Runner Up: Rick Porcello, Boston Red Sox (5.2 fWAR)
National League Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers (7.5 fWAR)
Seager is not just a Rookie of the Year candidate. He’s also an MVP candidate and should easily finish in the top 5 of the voting. The 22-year-old hit like a big league veteran this season, slashing .308/.365/.512 with 26 home runs and 72 RBI, providing stellar defense at the game’s hardest position, shortstop. In terms of fAWR, Seager more than doubles second-place Trea Turner, who may have made this a closer race had he played more than 73 games.
Seager’s dominance in this race does not need much more backing, perhaps outside of the fact that he was the second-most valuable player (fWAR) in the NL this season, period.
Runner Up: Trea Turner, Washington Nationals (3.2 fWAR)
American League Rookie of the Year: Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees (3.1 fWAR)
In the AL, you’ve got a ridiculously close race between two well-worthy candidates: Gary Sanchez, Yankees’ catcher; and Michael Fulmer, Tigers’ starting pitcher. Both, believe it or not, were worth almost exactly the same amount of fWAR, but I’m going with Sanchez here.
My reasoning for this pick is quite simple, actually: Sanchez made history, whereas Fulmer was good. Good usually wins this award, but when you have history, I think you have to side with that. Sanchez hit 20 home runs this season while playing just 53 games. It may be hard to give a player who played just two months of the season this award, but Fulmer himself only made 26 starts, raising the question of who truly had a larger impact. Sanchez plays a premium position defensively, and he’s pretty good at it, catching 11 of 30 runners stealing among other things. He also slashed .299/.376/.657 this year, which speaks by itself.
Runner Up: Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers (3.0 fWAR)
National League Manager of the Year: Dusty Baker, Washington Nationals
The Nationals effectively ended their 2015 season with Bryce Harper being choked by Jonathan Papelbon in a dugout skirmish that ex-manager Matt Williams apparently did not see. Somehow, Baker managed Papelbon and Harper together (more just Papelbon by himself), and it appeared that no problems arose. The Nationals moved quite smoothly up until Papelbon was released (more due to performance than anything else) and continued to steamroll right along through the rest of the season.
If I told you at the beginning of the season that Harper was going to hit .243 this season with “just” an .814 OPS, and asked you to predict the Nationals’ record, many of you would have likely predicted them to win about 85 games, or perhaps even less. The Nationals went on to win 95 games this year and run away with the NL East. It’s true, not all of the credit should be attributed to Baker; Wilson Ramos had a phenomenal year behind the plate, Trea Turner provided a spark plug during the second half of the season; and the back-end of the rotation more than picked up the slack for the loss of Stephen Strasburg for extended amounts of time. Baker did a very nice job in his first season as Nationals’ manager, and thus, he’s my pick for NL Manager of the Year.
Runner Up: Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs
American League Manager of the Year: Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
Francona has been a phenomenal manager throughout his entire career, leading both the Red Sox and the Indians to success (though his tenure with the Phillies from 1997 to 2000 is often forgotten, for obvious reasons).
In 2016, Francona showed excellent bullpen management especially. What really stood out to me in particular was his willingness to use Andrew Miller in roles outside of the 9th inning, taking the advice to use your best pitcher in the most important situations to heart. Miller made at least one appearance in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings with Cleveland. It’s also important to note that the Indians ran away with the AL Central and finished with the second-best record in the league.
Runner Up: Jeff Banister, Texas Rangers
Baseball season begins in a month. Spring Training games began last week, but the real news is that regular season baseball is just four weeks away. This Saturday night, I will be previewing the National League West division, after previewing the East and Central divisions each of the past two weeks.
1. San Francisco Giants -- 2015 Record: 84-78; Projection: 93-69
I don't believe in correlation without causation, but the fact that the Giants won the World Series in 2010, missed the playoffs in 2011, won the World Series in 2012, missed the playoffs in 2013, won the World Series in 2014, and missed the playoffs in 2015 is fairly interesting. The Giants appear to retool every other year to then subsequently win the World Series. And boy did they retool this offseason.
San Francisco added Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Denard Span over the winter, deepening both their rotation and lineup. On the offensive side of the ball, the Giants boast the likes of Joe Panik, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence, and Matt Duffy, as well as Span, to give them a great order from the top to the bottom. This was a team that posted the second-best wRC+ in baseball without Span, so 2016 should be a similarly good offensive year for the team.
The Giants' downfall came in their rotation last year. As a group, that unit was worth a total of 7.2 fWAR, sixth-worst in the Majors. With pitching that bad, I'm actually surprised that the Giants played as well as they did last year. The front office obviously noticed the same issues, and they pounced. Cueto and Samardzija now give the Giants a much improved rotation that also includes Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy, and Matt Cain. This improved pitching, plus the fact that it is an even year, should carry the Giants to a division title.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks -- 2015 Record: 79-83; Projection: 91-71
I guess I still haven't learned my lesson, have I? I've always been high on teams that are considered the bigger winners of the offseason and then they falter and do not reach expectations. The Diamondbacks are different, though. They did something similar to what the Cubs did last offseason. The Diamondbacks took a young core in the form of Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, and Patrick Corbin and supplemented to it. That's different than the 2015 Padres, for instance, who basically built their team through free agents and trades. The Diamondbacks built their team, and now they are supplementing it. This is why I think this will work.
Who were those additions, you ask? Well, their biggest came as a huge rotation upgrade. Zack Greinke will now be leading a Diamondbacks' staff that also includes fellow new addition Shelby Miller, as well as Patrick Corbin, Rubby De La Rosa, and Robbie Ray. The rotation was a place of struggle for Arizona last season, and they definitely made the necessary moves this offseason to give them one of the more formidable staffs in baseball. Their bullpen, too, got an upgrade. This time it comes in the form of Tyler Clippard, who will serve as a nice bridge to closer Brad Ziegler. Last season, the Diamondbacks ranked 27th in fWAR from pitchers.
In the lineup, the Diamondbacks supplemented Goldschmidt, Pollock, and Peralta with Jean Segura. They hope Segura can find his bat in 2016. If so, he'll be an extremely good upgrade in the middle infield. Arizona also needs Yasmany Tomas, Jake Lamb, or Nick Ahmed to step it up in 2016 in order to make up for the loss of Ender Inciarte.
The Diamondbacks will be on the cusp of making the playoffs, but if everything goes well for them, I wouldn't be surprised if they are still playing come October.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers -- 2015 Record: 92-70; Projection: 88-74
It appears that the Dodgers have an unlimited amount of funds, but they still could not get David Price or Zack Greinke to sign with them in free agency. Even a deal with Hisashi Iwakuma fell apart, leaving the team to settle for deals with Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda, and Yaisel Sierra. The Dodgers won the NL West in 2015, but this was partly because their pitchers combined for the second-highest fWAR total and fifth-lowest ERA in the Majors.
In 2016, where are the Dodgers going to get their pitching? Greinke, who was worth 5.9 fWAR, is gone. The Japanese Maeda is something of an unknown. Hyun-jin Ryu missed the entire 2015 season with a torn shoulder. Clayton Kershaw is the only anchor in this rotation. If it works out, more power to them. But, I'd rather have the Diamondbacks' Greinke, Miller, and Corbin in a three-game set as compared to Kershaw, Anderson, and Kazmir or Ryu.
On the offensive, the Dodgers should be just fine. Their lineup posted the third-best wRC+ in baseball last year, and it should be even better this year with a full season from top prospect Corey Seager. Adrian Gonzalez, Joc Pederson, and Yasiel Puig are the heart of a power-heavy order that is among the best in the league. The Dodgers still have the firepower to make a run deep into the postseason, but their pitching remains a question mark.
4. San Diego Padres -- 2015 Record: 74-88; Projection: 74-88
The Padres' 2015 season was nothing short of a disappointment. The team put all their chips on the table last offseason, acquiring Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, Derek Norris, James Shields, and Craig Kimbrel via trade and free agent signings. Despite all those big names, the Padres were actually worse in 2015 than they were the prior year (77-85). Kimbrel and Upton are gone, but the Padres seem to be in between fully rebuilding or trying to contend. This uncertainty will lead to another subpar season.
Perhaps the biggest offseason acquisition for the Padres was the hiring of new manager Andy Green. He has never managed at the big league level, last serving as the Diamondbacks' third base coach, but needs to spark this team and develop a chemistry that they did not have last year.
The Padres' offense got additions in the form of Jon Jay and Alexei Ramirez this offseason, but the loss of Justin Upton in the middle of the order will hurt. Even with Upton posting a 122 OPS+, San Diego was in the bottom third in baseball in wRC+. They can be better this year if Norris can improve on his 99 OPS+ in 2015 and if Ramirez serves as a true upgrade over Alexi Amarista at shortstop (which he should).
In the pitching department, the Padres shouldn't be terrible. Their staff actually posted the eighth-best xFIP in baseball and top-three starters, Tyson Ross, Shields, and Andrew Cashner, all return. In the bullpen, Fernando Rodney takes over as closer. If the Padres want to beat this projection, they need their offense to pick up the slack. It's hard to see that happening, when the team appears to lack a real direction.
5. Colorado Rockies -- 2015 Record: 68-94; Projection: 70-92
The Rockies want to contend, but I just don't think that is possible. It may happen sooner rather than later, however. In 2016, the Rockies indirectly proved that they wanted to contend, signing Gerardo Parra and acquiring Jake McGee from the Rays to upgrade their lineup and bullpen, respectively. This team won just 68 games in 2015 and is not complete or deep enough to make any real noise in the National League this upcoming year.
I am a fan of the Rockies lineup heading into the season. Charlie Blackmon, D.J. LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, and the Coors Field effect should give the Rockies one of the higher scoring offenses in the National League. Last season, though they did have Troy Tulowitzki for the first half of the year or so, the Rockies scored the fifth-most runs in baseball.
The only issue with the Rockies is their pitching. That's a pretty major issue, to be fair. Colorado's projected rotation consists of Jorge De La Rosa, Chad Bettis, Jordan Lyles, Jon Gray, and Tyler Chatwood. De La Rosa and Bettis each posted ERA+s over 100 (considered average). The bullpen should be improved, because the Rockies also added Jason Motte and Chad Qualls to go along with McGee. It's hard to know how much of a difference all these moves will make, but the Rockies probably won't be in the conversation in the National League this year.
Next up: AL East.
Chase Utley's slide in the seventh inning was probably not the cleanest.
He slid hard into Ruben Tejada behind second base at Dodgers' Stadium to break up a double play, injuring the Mets' shortstop. The game-tying run scored.
Neither Utley nor Tejada touched the bag at second base, however. But after a delay and a review, Utley was ruled safe. The umpires determined that because Utley was ruled out initially, he never was required to touch second base. So by overturning the umpire's call there, Utley was safe.
The "neighborhood play" was also not in effect there. A shortstop or second baseman does not have to touch the base in an instance of staying out of the runners' way. If a neighborhood play occurs, and the middle infielder gets close enough to the base so that the umpire thinks the runner is out, he will be called out. These types of plays are not reviewable.
In this instance, however, Major League Baseball determined that because the throw was off the bag to begin with, and Tejada having to make that spin, that was a force play and not a neighborhood play, making it a force play, which is reviewable. And because Utley never touched second base, he was called safe.
Regardless, the slide was dirty. It doesn't look like Utley even tried to slide into the bag, and stuck his hand out to make it appear like he wanted to get into the base. But by taking out Tejada, especially with a possibly playoff-changing injury in a broken right fibula, Utley's slide, or tackle as some like to refer it, was not clean.
MLB Rule 6.01(6) states as follows:
If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.
If MLB enforced that rule, Utley should have been out by interference and no run would have scored. However, it isn't enforced like it should be.
Joe Torre, MLB's Chief Baseball Officer, noted that these types of plays will be under consideration for a rule change. Additionally, MLB will try and experiment with them in the Arizona Fall League.
"...in the Fall League we're having the players work on sliding directly into the bag, just to see how that works and stuff," Torre said in a press conference.
The Dodgers went on to win the game 5-2 and the Mets' regular shortstop Tejada is out for the rest of the postseason. This NLDS series took a huge swing just because of a slide into second base.
Using Baseball Prospectus' playoff odds, you should be able to tell who has the best chance of doing just that. Teams really should take those odds to determine whether they should be buyers and sellers because more often than not, they are right.
After games being played on July 6 last year, five of the ten eventual postseason teams had a 80 percent chance of making the playoffs or better. Every team that did have an 80 percent or greater chance of making the playoffs on this date last year did.
The team with the highest percent chance to make the playoffs on July 6 that ultimately didn't was the Milwaukee Brewers, who had a 71 percent chance to punch their ticket, but collapsed down the stretch and failed to make it.
Only three (Orioles, Royals, and Pirates) had less than a 50 percent chance of making the playoffs following action on July 6. By July 31, the Orioles were up to a 71 percent chance, the Royals were at a 17 percent chance, and the Pirates were at a 46 percent chance.
Knowing this, I will use Baseball Prospectus' current postseason predictions to determine who should buy and who should sell at the 2015 Trade Deadline.
All In (85% or greater)
St. Louis Cardinals (99.3%)
There's no reason why the Cardinals, who own MLB's best record at 54-28, should consider selling. In fact, Baseball Prospectus says that they have a 99.3 percent chance of making the playoffs, leaving just a very small chance for an extreme collapse. If the Cardinals play just .500 ball the rest of the way, that would put them on pace for 94 wins, which would definitely put them in prime position to punch their ticket to the postseason. The Cardinals have no reason to do anything but buy.
Los Angeles Dodgers (92.9%)
The Dodgers have the second-highest playoff percentage in the league, and nothing suggests that this team won't buy at the trade deadline. I predicted them to go out and get Johnny Cueto, perhaps the best pitcher available not named Cole Hamels. The Dodgers are always willing to spend money and prospects to make their team better and can easily justify doing so at the deadline.
Washington Nationals (85.6%)
The Nationals have arguably not played their best baseball yet, but still have an 85.6 percent chance to make the playoffs. They could use some reinforcements in their bullpen, but most of the additions the Nationals will be getting will be players coming back from injury, such as Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, and Stephen Strasburg. They may not need to make a ton of moves in July, but if they do, they have good reason to do so.
Houston Astros (84.7%)
The Astros have already shown interest in some of the top pitchers that will be available, and Baseball Prospectus' playoff odds completely backs that up. Houston's playoff percentage, at 84.7 percent, is so close to 85 percent that I had to shove them into this category. The Astros have showed that while they are a bit of a surprise, they still can win ballgames and do it over a period of time. The Astros by no means are "pretenders," as they have been able to hold a comfortable AL West lead since late April.
Should be buyers (70-85%)
Pittsburgh Pirates (81.3%), Chicago Cubs (73.1%)
The Pirates and Cubs have a case of some serious bad luck. They are playing in the National League's toughest division and would be either leading or close to leading any other division in the league. The only reason I'm wary of either of these teams buying at the deadline is because they are not division leaders and have more of a chance to collapse and fall out of the playoff race altogether. Unless they believe they have a real shot at the Cardinals (which it appears they don't), they shouldn't completely unload their farm systems to go out and get the best guy on the market.
Kansas City Royals (75.3%)
Of the three teams in this category, I am most comfortable with the Royals buying at the trade deadline due to the fact that they lead their division by a comfortable margin and need just one or two pieces to really put the pressure on the rest of the division. All signs point to the Royals making the playoffs again this year, so I would go ahead and pencil them in as buyers at the deadline.
Los Angeles Angels (64.8%)
The Angels are in a good position right now. They are playing good baseball and have shown the need for an upgrade in left field. Of the teams listed in this section, I truly believe they are the best and most complete team, so therefore they should be buyers at the deadline. The Angels could use some rotation help as well, but if they patch up a few spots, they will get into the postseason. My verdict? They should be buyers.
AL East: New York Yankees (59.4%), Toronto Blue Jays (39.6%), Tampa Bay Rays (34.9%)
The American League East division is lumped together because the division is so muddled and close that really anyone could win it. Baseball Prospectus' simulations give the Yankees the best chance to go to the playoffs out of that division, but with some rotation help, the Blue Jays are the division's best team. The Yankees and Rays should stand pat or make small moves at the deadline, while the Blue Jays should go out and make a splash for a rotation piece.
Detroit Tigers (36.7%)
With Miguel Cabrera being sidelined with his hamstring injury, I'm going to pencil the Tigers in as should be sellers, but as this team continues to try and make a run once again, they will find themselves trying to buy. The Tigers are heading towards a Phillies-esque fall, and if they don't realize that soon, it could only get worse if they decide to buy at the trade deadline in hopes for one last run at the World Series.
Maybe/Stand Pat (20-30%)
New York Mets (28.9%)
Even if the Mets added an offensive piece, I don't think that would be enough to get them to the playoffs this season. With that said, however, I could see them dealing for a guy with more than one season of control, as their young and talented pitching staff comes into their own. The Mets couldn't justify buying for a rental player, but a guy who is at least signed through 2016 could make sense.
Baltimore Orioles (28.7%)
The Baltimore Orioles have a ton of free agents at the end of the season that they probably should move. The Orioles could be one of those teams that tries to get 25-man roster guys with more years of team control in return. The Orioles could be a team that buys and sells at the trade deadline, and I would be fine with that.
San Francisco Giants (22.9%)
It's an odd year. The Giants aren't good enough to win the NL West, and considering that they have to deal with the Cubs and Pirates for the Wild Card, it will be tough for them to really make a run into the postseason. However, they still have a good core group of guys and the team has proved me wrong before. They probably should stand pat.
Shouldn't buy (Less than 20%)
Minnesota Twins (18.2%)
The Twins just aren't that good. Sure, they had a good run earlier this season, but all the numbers suggest that they were going to fall out of first in the AL Central. The Twins should really try and go for 2016, when some of their rookies will be more polished.
Texas Rangers (15.0%)
While the Rangers shouldn't buy, they probably will, as I consider them to be in a similar boat as the Tigers are in. The Rangers could legitimately contend, but they would more than a couple of upgrades, to the point where they probably shouldn't go for it this season.
Cleveland Indians (13.5%)
The Indians were a popular postseason pick prior to this season, but Baseball Prospectus' simulations show that they would need some serious luck to actually get there. The Indians shouldn't sell any pieces other than the impending free agents because my gut says that they will be back in the postseason sooner than later.
Boston Red Sox (11.8%)
The Red Sox are in a tough position right now. It might not be time for a fire sale quite yet, but it's definitely not time to go out and try and contend this season.
Seattle Mariners (7.0%)
The Mariners have had some issues staying in the race this season, and while they shouldn't sell off their entire team, they really shouldn't be buyers either.
Oakland Athletics (6.8%)
The Athletics are already shopping their pieces and it looks like they will be sellers.
Arizona Diamondbacks (6.4%)
The Diamondbacks are a team that should stand pat. They still have pieces to contend in the near future and as their pitching improves with guys coming back from injury, they could be a legitimate contender coming 2016.
Atlanta Braves (3.8%)
The Braves, especially in the offseason, have committed to becoming a selling team. They don't have any exciting pieces, but even though they have kind of surprised, they should by no means buy.
Chicago White Sox (3.2%)
The White Sox are in a tough position. They reportedly won't have a fire sale, which makes sense considering how much money they spent in free agency, but they need to get rid of Jeff Samardzija and still be planning to try again in 2016.
San Diego Padres (2.7%)
The Padres could buy at the deadline, but in all reality, they shouldn't. They've got some important games coming up that they need to win if people start seriously seeing them as contenders. Once again, they are proving that the winners of the offseason don't necessarily win during the season.
Miami Marlins (1.6%)
The Marlins shouldn't go into a fire sale, but Mat Latos, Dan Haren, Brad Hand, and other free agents at the end of the season should be gone.
Cincinnati Reds (1.1%)
The Reds have Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and possibly Aroldis Chapman available, and while they won't sell until after they host the All-Star Game, I expect it to come, as it should.
Colorado Rockies (0.2%)
I'd pull the trigger and deal Troy Tulowitzki. It's time for a real change in Colorado if they want to be relevant down the road.
Milwaukee Brewers (0.2%)
The Brewers should enter into a fire sale.
Philadelphia Phillies (0.0%)
Now, these rankings and categories don't mean that each of these teams will do as I advise. Their postseason percentages could change and perhaps an addition is all they need to do that. However, Baseball Prospectus' odds are very accurate and should not be taken lightly. Teams really should use them to determine whether they could justify buying at the deadline.
The Trade Deadline season has began. With the deadline just 30 days away, teams are going to be moving players and prospects at extremely fast rates, trying to either build for the future or improve their team for the stretch run.
Here are six of the most notable players that could be moved at the deadline and predictions for where they will be headed on July 31.
Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers
Hamels is obviously the biggest name available at the deadline with the highest chance of being moved. Considering the sad state of the Phillies, Hamels has an extremely high chance of being on another team on August 1. The Texas Rangers represent a strong fit for Cole Hamels, as they have showed interest in him. Their rotation this season has been good at run prevention, but the analytic stats show that they're not as good as advertised. They view Hamels as an elite upgrade worth getting, and they seem like the team that would pay GM Ruben Amaro Jr.'s price--or at least close to it--in order to get him.
Other possible fits: Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays
Jonathan Papelbon, Toronto Blue Jays
Papelbon, like Hamels, will be another key part of the Phillies' trade deadline season. His contract is more of an obstacle, though, so his deal will likely take longer to progress while all the details are hammered out. The Blue Jays have had plenty of interest in acquiring Papelbon throughout the season and dating all the way back to the offseason. The contract has been the only thing keeping them from actually pulling the trigger, it seems. As the Phillies become more motivated to move their players, asking prices and the amount of contract to be picked up should become lower. The Blue Jays will get this deal done.
Other possible fits: Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs
Jeff Samardzija, Houston Astros
The Astros are going to make a move for a starting pitcher this deadline season, but it remains unclear as to which pitcher they will most heavily pursue. Samardzija looks like a solid fit in Houston. His run prevention numbers have not been great, but the Astros are a team that would definitely look past that, perhaps even viewing that as a way to get Samardzija on the cheap. Samardzija's analytical stats show that his ERA is about a run inflated (check this!!), due to poor luck and defense on the White Sox' part. With the Astros, Samardzija would be moved for the third time in two years, but would fit their system much better, with what is likely to be improved defense. Samardzija's the type of guy the Astros want.
Other possible fits: Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees
Johnny Cueto, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers seemingly never have enough pitching, and the same goes for this year, as the team has lost starters Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy for the entire year. The Reds are likely going to sell after they host the All-Star Game, and when they do so, Johnny Cueto will be the first to go. Cueto's in the last year of his contract, so he will get an opportunity to contend throughout the rest of the season and then get a huge contact for 2016 and beyond. When the Dodgers get Ryu and McCarthy back next year (check to make sure they're under contract), Cueto will be gone, but in the short term, he's definitely a move worth making and one that they will ultimately make.
Other possible fits: Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays
Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs
Zobrist has already been with Cubs' manager Joe Maddon in a clubhouse when the two were with the Tampa Bay Rays together. The Cubs may want to get an upgrade in left field, where Chris Coglan currently resides. Maddon also understands the importance of having a super utility man down the stretch, as that could go a long way if a player gets injured or needs a day off. Zobrist is pretty much a starting-caliber super utility man, which will make him in hot demand at the trade deadline.
Other possible fits: Pretty much any contending team in need of an infielder or outfielder.
Scott Kazmir, Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays and Athletics have already had their trade in past year, with the Josh Donaldson deal over the offseason. However, a second deal could be made this July, as the Blue Jays need starting pitching and the Athletics will likely unload Kazmir. While the two sides haven't been mentioned as anything more than a practical fit, as the arms start going off the board, the Blue Jays may be more likely to make a move. Another plus to Kazmir is that he has just this season left on his contract, perhaps making him a cheaper option at the deadline. Also, when Marcus Stroman comes back from injury in 2016, the Blue Jays will be able to make a quick and easy transition from Kazmir.
Other possible fits: Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees