With the passing of the non-waiver trade deadline and newly acquired players making an impact on their new teams, it's time to take a renewed look at the already intense Major League Baseball playoff picture.
Content with their roster, the Yankees did not make any significant moves while the Red Sox destroyed any doubt that the division is now a two-team race.
Give credit to Theo Epstein for another deadline masterpiece, with his acquisition of Victor Martinez to an already potent lineup. Martinez is already proving his worth to the Sox, as evidenced by his 5-for-6 performance in Boston's 18-10 thrashing of Baltimore.
Boston already has incredible depth in their pitching staff, a strength that will give them the advantage over the Yankees.
New York's starting rotation is two injuries away from implosion. The depth that's so apparent in Boston is lacking in the Yankees' staff. When Sergio Mitre is your fifth starter, can that really be debated? The offense is there, but New York fans better pray that no one in the pitching staff gets injured.
For the Tampa Bay Rays, the wild card is their best hope and will only happen if the aforementioned Yankees pitching collapse happens. Tampa Bay is a good team that unfortunately plays in the AL East.
My Prediction: Martinez powers Boston to the East crown while the Yankees' pitchers survive the season and claim the wild card. The Rays will wonder what might have been if the first couple of months had turned out differently.
This should end up being the most interesting race of any division, AL or NL.
Newly acquired Jake Peavy and Jarrod Washburn instantly make the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers the teams to beat.
A year removed from a massive spending spree that ended in disaster, the Tigers currently hold a 1.5-game lead over the White Sox. Washburn adds to the best rotation (outside Boston) with Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, and Rick Porcello, with Jeremy Bonderman sitting on the DL.
The White Sox definitely received the better player in Peavy, but it's unclear when he'll see his first action in Chicago. GM Ken Williams's plan is for Peavy to return in time for a September playoff run.
So far, the Sox rotation, anchored by Mark Buehrle and John Danks, has held up, and the offense has provided just enough to keep Chicago near the top of the division.
The Minnesota Twins continue to linger behind the scenes. Their trade for Orlando Cabrera was overshadowed by Detroit's and Chicago's moves, but it figures to be an upgrade for the team.
My Prediction: Detroit will build a sizable lead in August. Peavy will enter the Sox rotation and make for an interesting September, but the Tigers will ultimately take the division.
The biggest non-trade of the year will have the biggest impact in the race for the West.
The resurgent Angels and surprising Rangers both had prospects of landing Roy Halladay. With the Angels building a comfortable lead before the deadline, Halladay would have made them the unquestioned division winners. The Rangers needed him to patch up a rotation hurt by injuries in order to improve their chances.
Neither were willing to meet Toronto's demands, and now both clubs have to hope that their current runs of success this season will be enough.
My Prediction: The Angels have been the dominant team in the West for years, and this year will be no different. The Rangers will continue to win but will fall far short of the wild card.
The East crown was up in the air just a few weeks ago. Following the deadline, it's all but solidified.
The Phillies trade for Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco has made them the undisputed favorite in the division. The addition of Pedro Martinez later this month should provide more consistency at the bottom of the rotation, but it remains to be seen how much of an impact it will really make.
Florida, Atlanta, and New York keep playing musical chairs with the second spot in the division, but none of those three has established itself as second-best.
My Prediction: Phillies will take the division by a landslide. It's not even close. In my opinion, Cliff Lee was the best trade of the season.
St. Louis made a splash with the addition of Matt Holliday and, to a lesser extent, Mark DeRosa.
Albert Pujols has been a monster this season, but the Cardinals have struggled to find protection for him in the lineup. Holliday and DeRosa should fix that.
The Cardinals were already the strongest club in the division before the additions and now appear to be on par with the Phillies and Dodgers in the National League.
The Cubs have risen above mediocrity, and they pose the only threat to St. Louis. The Cubs have been on somewhat of a hotstreak while everyone else has been struggling.
The biggest deals they made were for John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny, which may not be enough to win a playoff spot.
My Prediction: St. Louis has too much firepower now for Chicago to stage a coup. A solid rotation and a stellar lineup have made the Cardinals one of the elite NL clubs.
The Dodgers have basically run away with the division from the start of the season. But who would've guessed the wild-card challengers would come from the same division?
San Francisco established themselves as contenders early, with strong pitching from Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum and the surprise performance of Pablo Sandoval. A no-hitter from Jonathan Sanchez helped, too.
The addition of Freddy Sanchez will help the defense and offense.
The other wild-card contender is an even bigger surprise: The Colorado Rockies. After a horrible first two months, the firing of Clint Hurdle, and the benching of Garrett Atkins, the Rockies have been on a tear similar to their 2007 run to the World Series.
The bullpen was given some extra arms at the deadline with Joe Beimel and Rafael Betancourt moving to Colorado.
My Prediction: We already know who will win the division. Colorado's magic should carry them past the Giants, but we might see another one-game playoff.
Before I make playoff predictions, I will wait to see how the rest of the season pans out. But please post your predictions.
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