MLB Playoffs: Contenders & Pretenders, Post-Trade Deadline Edition
The Major League Baseball non-wavier trade deadline has officially passed, and a number of teams have set themselves up for the race towards the postseason, while others unloaded talent or simply just stayed put.
MLB front offices earn their stripes if they hit home runs on these deadline deals, but they can also set a franchise back a number of years if they give up too many prospects for an over-the-hill veteran.
With the season approaching its final leg, here are the contenders and pretenders as we reach the dog days of August.
NOTE: Records are updated as of August 2nd.
New York Yankees: Contender
Current Record: 61-43 (1st place in AL East)
The Bronx Bombers currently have the largest lead of any division leader in baseball, and it appears that their comfortable grip is not going to be loosening up at time soon.
The acquisition of Ichiro Suzuki on July 22 was a nice addition to replace the often-injured Brett Gardner, and it will certainly provide the team with a tremendous defensive upgrade.
Ichiro's bat, on the other hand, is not what it used to be, but it will do just enough to help the Yankees continue winning.
Baltimore Orioles: Contender
Current Record: 55-50 (6.5 GB in AL East; 1.5 GB in wild card)
The Baltimore Orioles are a refreshing and pleasant surprise to baseball this year.
The Birds have been just awful for more than a decade, and it seems like the team finally has enough pieces to make a quality push towards the playoffs.
Adam Jones is certainly a candidate for the AL MVP, and if the pitching staff can continue to hold their own, the city may be awarded a playoff berth for the first time since 1997.
Tampa Bay Rays: Pretender
Current Record: 55-50 (6.5 GB in AL East; 1.5 GB in wild card)
The Rays are having some serious problems in the hitting department. The team owns the league's second-worst batting average (.231), and they rank at the bottom half in runs scored and on-base percentage.
Their pitching, on the other hand, is what has kept this team in the wild-card race.
David Price has been brilliant, and the bullpen has been solid all season. However, the team's inability to score runs will ultimately leave them out of the playoff race.
Boston Red Sox: Contender
Current Record: 53-53 (9 GB in AL East; 4 GB in wild card)
Simply put, the Boston Red Sox can hit, but their pitching is lacking.
The team has one of the league's worst ERAs (4.28), and they rank in the bottom half of the league with only 49 quality starts.
With that being said, I still expect this team to hang around until the end of the season. Their bats will keep them in games even if the pitching staff has an off outing.
Toronto Blue Jays: Pretender
Current Record: 51-54 (10.5 GB in AL East; 5.5 GB in wild card)
The Toronto Blue Jays are another quality pitcher away from being a serious playoff contender.
The team can flat out hit, but they have not been as consistent on the mound as they should be. The team failed to make any major moves at the deadline, and Jose Bautista's injury is only hurting their cause.
Chicago White Sox: Contender
Current Record: 57-47 (1st place in AL Central)
Robin Ventura may be taking home the Manager of the Year award if he can keep his White Sox in first place until the end of the season.
The rookie manager has gotten the most out of veterans Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Alex Rios and A.J. Pierzynski, and he has even received an unbelievable season from his 23-year-old third-year starter, Chris Sale.
The mix of veterans and young stars really makes it difficult for me to see the White Sox completely fading out of the playoff race.
Detroit Tigers: Contender
Current Record: 55-50 (2.5 GB in AL Central; 1.5 GB in wild card)
The Detroit Tigers are a team that has just underperformed.
The team has struggled on the road, and they are in the middle of the pack in almost all major statistical categories. Despite their early struggles, the team is still only 2.5 games behind the first-place White Sox in the AL Central.
Detroit has experienced some issues with their starting rotation, and they attempted to solve their issues by acquiring pitcher Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante from the Miami Marlins. The Tigers will be in the playoff race until season's end because they have two of the best hitters in baseball and a pitcher that will likely win the Cy Young.
Texas Rangers : Contender
Current Record: 61-43 (1st place in AL West)
The Texas Rangers have split a four-game series with their archrival, the Los Angeles Angels, which still gives me reason to believe that they are the best team in baseball.
This team hits and pitches with the best of them, and they got even better after a deadline deal to acquire pitcher Ryan Dempster from the Cubs.
Texas is a lock for the playoffs, and it will be interesting to see if they can reach their third straight World Series.
Los Angeles Angels of Anehiem: Contender
Current Record: 57-49 (5.0 GB; Owns 2nd wild-card spot)
The AL West is baseball's best division, and the Angels made things a lot more interesting right before the deadline.
The team acquired Zack Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers, which gives them a bona fide third ace in the rotation to go along with a lineup that is awfully scary.
It will be interesting to see if they can surpass the Rangers in the coming weeks.
Oakland Athletics: Prentender
Current Record: 57-48 (4.5 GB in AL West; 1st in wild card)
The Oakland Athletics have surprised us all this season with their unpredictable start, but it is still hard to envision this team making the playoffs.
The team failed to make any key additions before the trade deadline, and it is going to be quite difficult for them to compete with the likes of the Rangers and Angels, let alone the rest of the American League wild-card contenders.
Washington Nationals: Contender
Current Record: 62-42 (1st place in NL East)
The Washington Nationals have the best team pitching staff in the majors, and they also own the league's best road winning percentage.
These two facts alone leave me reason to believe that this team is going to be in the playoffs by the time October comes around, and that's even if Stephen Strasburg is shut down early.
Atlanta Braves: Contender
Current Record: 60-45 (2.5 GB in NL East; Owns 2nd wild-card spot)
The Atlanta Braves continue to keep up with the Washington Nationals' pace, and much like the Nationals, they are a team that plays extremely well away from home.
Atlanta's starting rotation has not been as good as Washington's, but their bullpen has been the best in the major leagues.
Atlanta's ability to build a lead and sustain it will keep them in the race for the remainder of the season.
Cincinnati Reds: Contender
Current Record: 64-41 (1st place in NL Central)
The Cincinnati Reds are the team to beat the NL Central.
This team has the second-lowest ERA in the major leagues (3.37), and their lineup is filled with quality hitters from top to bottom.
Joey Votto is certainly an MVP candidate, and Johnny Cueto is currently my pick to win the NL Cy Young. If the Reds continue to receive quality outings from Bronson Arroyo and Mat Latos, then they will be a force to be reckoned with in the postseason.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Contender
Current Record: 60-44 (3.5 GB in NL Central; wild-card leader)
The Pittsburgh Pirates have been the worst team in baseball over the past two decades, as the team has averaged just over 68 wins a season since 1993.
The tides have changed, however, because as of August 3, Pittsburgh has 60 wins under their belt. This team has totally flipped the switch and they have been led by some solid pitching and a lineup that features one of the best hitters in the league, Andrew McCutchen.
McCutchen leads the Pirates every major category except for doubles, which shows how extraordinary his season has been. The acquisition of pitcher A.J. Burnett has also turned out to be a diamond in the rough.
St. Louis Cardinals: Pretender
Current Record: 56-49 (8.0 GB; 4.0 GB in wild card)
The Cardinals are going to be the first team outside looking in when it comes time for the playoffs.
The Red Birds failed to make any key moves before the deadline, while the Dodgers, Pirates and Braves all strengthened their rosters.
San Francisco Giants: Contender
Current Record: 56-49 (1st place in NL West)
The San Francisco Giants have struggled over their last 10 games, and it is their inability to score that has cost them the most.
The addition of Hunter Pence should help in the long run, but it still may not be enough to upend the Dodgers. The Giants do have one of the league's top pitching staffs, and they will certainly keep this team in contention for the playoffs.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Contender
Current Record: 56-50 (0.5 GB in NL West; 4.5 GB in wild card)
The Dodgers were baseball's most aggressive team before the trade deadline, and it is going to pay off in the long run. The additions of Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino bolster an already impressive lineup that features Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.
The Dodgers are now the team to beat in not only in the NL West, but the entire National League.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Contender
Current Record: 54-51 (2.0 GB in NL West; 6.0 GB in wild card)
The Arizona Diamondbacks are the hottest team in the National League West, and they are getting a ton of production from some unexpected sources. Jason Kubel is having an MVP-caliber season, while Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero are picking up the slack for the struggling Justin Upton.
The team's pitching has been suspect at times, but I am expecting a solid finish from last season's stud, Ian Kennedy. If Kennedy can pitch remotely close to what he did a year ago, this Diamondbacks team will be in the wild-card race until the end.
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