Report Cards for All 30 MLB Teams' Seasons at the 2016 Three-Quarter Mark

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2016

Report Cards for All 30 MLB Teams' Seasons at the 2016 Three-Quarter Mark

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    The third semester of the 2016 regular season has come to an end, and report cards are heading home to each of baseball's 30 teams. Some managers and front office executives will try to get into work early to intercept the mail, while others will simply lean back and wait for a trip to their favorite restaurant as a reward for a job well done. 

    A team's record certainly plays a part in our evaluation, but it's important to recognize that not all teams are created equally. Every team enters the season with different goals and expectations. It'd be silly to look at a team like Milwaukee and give them a failing grade—the Brewers are playing like a rebuilding club.

    We'll also take into consideration what moves a team made—or didn't make—at the non-waiver trade deadline. With that out of the way, let's take a look at which teams made the grade and which clubs need to stay after class for a bit of extra help.

Arizona Diamondbacks (50-71)

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    Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller
    Zack Greinke and Shelby MillerChris Carlson/Associated Press

    If Charles Dickens were writing the story of Arizona's 2016 season, he'd have titled it "A Tale of Two Trades."

    On one hand, February's five-player swap with Milwaukee for second baseman Jean Segura couldn't have turned out much better for the Diamondbacks. After two down years with the Brewers, the 26-year-old has bounced back, hitting .313 with 46 extra-base hits (10 home runs) and a .825 OPS.

    On the other hand, there's the widely panned Shelby Miller trade, which sent a pair of top-level prospects and outfielder Ender Inciarte to Atlanta for Miller, who pitched his way back to Triple-A in early July. While he's shown signs of life down on the farm, the deal has been a disaster for the D-backs.

    That's pretty much how we can sum up the team's season—a disaster.

    Sure, there have been some bright spots along the way: Paul Goldschmidt's continued excellence, Jake Lamb's breakout season and Yasmany Tomas' power surge would qualify as such.

    But those have been few and far between, interspersed with things like A.J. Pollock's season-long absence due to a broken elbow and Zack Greinke, the team's $206 million ace, missing more than a month of the season with a strained oblique.

    While you can't blame a team for injuries and ineffectiveness, the fact is that Arizona was supposed to contend in the National League this seasonif not for a division title, at least for a wild-card berth.

    Instead, the Diamondbacks find themselves battling San Diego for last place in the division. 

    Grade: F

Atlanta Braves (44-77)

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    Brian Snitker
    Brian SnitkerTodd Kirkland/Associated Press

    The three players Atlanta acquired in the aforementioned Shelby Miller trade—Aaron Blair, Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson—haven't helped general manager John Coppolella's November prediction stop him from looking like something of a turkey.

    "We want to win," Coppolella told USA Today's Bob Nightengale. "And we will win. I’m not under any delusions that we’ll win 110 games, but we’re not going to lose 95 games again. We will win more games than we did last year."

    Coppolella was right about one thing though—the Braves aren't going to lose 95 games again. According to FanGraphs, Atlanta is on pace to finish the season with 101 losses.

    While that might not seem like a good sign for interim manager Brian Snitker, who replaced Fredi Gonzalez in an awkward managerial change in May, the fact is that the Braves have played significantly better under Snitker, who has led the team to a 35-46 record.

    That's a step in the right direction and a sign that progress is being made. That, really, is all the Braves could have reasonably hoped for this season as their rebuilding efforts continue. 

    Grade: C

Baltimore Orioles (67-53)

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    Manny Machado
    Manny MachadoTommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    It hasn't always been pretty, but Baltimore has managed to stay in contention throughout the season, much of it atop the American League East, thanks to a big-time bullpen and a homer-happy band of bombers in the heart of the lineup.

    Manny Machado has once again put together an MVP-caliber season, while Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo have all helped power the team's attack.

    Zach Britton has become a legitimate Cy Young Award candidate at the back end of the bullpen, which leads the AL in ERA (3.20) despite carrying a heavy workload thanks to a starting rotation that, after Chris Tillman, struggles to pitch deep into games.

    Grade: A-

Boston Red Sox (67-53)

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    David Ortiz
    David OrtizNick Wass/Associated Press

    More than a decade after Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Craig Biggio last took the field together for the Houston Astros, the "Killer B's" are back. Only this time their hive is in Boston, and there's four members of the swarm: Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr.—and Big Papi.

    What, you were expecting to see Clay Buchholz's name included?

    Betts, Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. have all put together fantastic seasons, but all eyes have been on Papi, David Ortiz, who is having one of the best years of his career at the age of 40. It wouldn't shock anyone if his numbers, coupled with the sentimental value of his final season, earned him the MVP Award.

    As for Buchholz, who has pitched his way out of Boston's rotation, terrific showings from Rick Porcello and Steven Wright have made his struggles less of an issue. And while David Price hasn't yet met expectations, he has gotten himself back on track, pitching to a 3.23 ERA over his last nine starts.

    In each of the last two seasons, Boston had faded into baseball irrelevancy at the season's three-quarter mark. That they're still in the middle of a heated battle with Baltimore and Toronto for AL East supremacy at that point this year makes this season a success.

    But you get the feeling that this team might just be getting started. 

    Grade: A

Chicago Cubs (77-43)

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    Joe Maddon, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant
    Joe Maddon, Anthony Rizzo and Kris BryantBenny Sieu/Associated Press

    "They are who we thought they were!" The late NFL great Dennis Green was talking about the Chicago Bears, and not the Chicago Cubs, when he uttered those seven legendary words, but his rant rings true for the Cubbies in 2016.

    For the Cubs are who we thought they were heading into the season—the best team in baseball.

    You can make strong cases for why Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo each deserve to be named the National League MVP, which, as Bleacher Report's Danny Knobler noted last month, could result in neither one taking home the award.

    Jake Arrieta, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, hasn't been as dominant as he was in 2015, but has still been studly atop the rotation, which has been one of baseball's best. Arrieta, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel all have an ERA below 3.00, while John Lackey's 3.41 is the high mark.

    Trading for Aroldis Chapman and, to a lesser extent, Mike Montgomery not only shored up the bullpen, but sent a clear message that the Cubs are indeed going for it all.

    “If not now, when?" president of baseball operations Theo Epstein rhetorically asked reporters after the Chapman deal was announced, per the Los Angeles Times. "This was the appropriate move, given where we are and what we are trying to accomplish."

    Like most teams, not everything has gone according to plan for the Cubs. Jason Heyward's lack of offense has the eight-year, $184 million deal he signed in December looking like one of the offseason's biggest mistakes.

    But that hasn't been enough to keep the Cubs from looking—and playing—like the best team in baseball for most of the regular season. 

    Grade: A+

Chicago White Sox (57-63)

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    It looked like the Fall Classic might turn into a Chicago Crosstown Classic in April thanks to the White Sox jumping out to a 17-8 record and three-game lead in the AL Central at the end of the season's opening month.

    Unfortunately, the White Sox haven't posted a winning month since then, and haven't been within two games of first place since June 4.

    James Shields has been a colossal flop in Chicago, pitching to a 7.34 ERA over 13 starts despite a six-start stretch from June 29 to July 26 that saw him pitch to a 1.71 ERA. Not even a month's worth of excellence can make his numbers look good.

    While the results have been disappointing, there have been some bright spots to the season.

    Jose Quintana and Chris Sale have delivered their usual brand of excellence atop the rotation, while Melky Cabrera and Adam Eaton have delivered solid, albeit unspectacular seasons at the plate. 

    Top prospect Tim Anderson strikes out far too much and needs to learn how to draw a walk, but the 23-year-old has put concerns about his defense at shortstop to rest with a solid showing in his first taste of the big leagues. 

    Between another strong offseason and a strong start to the season, Chicago was expected to contend in a wide-open AL Central this season. Instead, the team is headed for its third consecutive fourth-place finish.

    Wholesale changes are needed for this team to get back to respectability. 

    Grade: D-

Cincinnati Reds (51-69)

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    Adam Duvall and Joey Votto
    Adam Duvall and Joey VottoBenny Sieu/Associated Press

    Say what you will about Joey Votto, but the 32-year-old is once again putting together an MVP-caliber season, all the more impressive when you consider how awful Cincinnati has been.

    Adam Duvall might be an all-or-nothing hitter—either he goes deep or he strikes out—but the 27-year-old earned his first All-Star berth this season and leads the team with 27 home runs and 76 RBI. Not bad for a player some pegged as a Quadruple-A talent entering the season.

    While it's disappointing to not have Raisel Iglesias in the rotation, the 26-year-old could be the Reds' long-term solution at the back end of the bullpen. He's been filthy in relief, pitching to a 0.87 ERA and 0.87 WHIP with a 10.5 K/9 rate.

    That's where the good news ends.

    Outside of Iglesias and starter Anthony DeSclafani, the pitching staff has been dreadful, posting baseball's highest ERA and walk rate.  

    It seemed inevitable that Jay Bruce was going to be traded, but the return the team got from the New York Mets—infield prospect Dilson Herrera and pitching prospect Max Wotell—didn't seem like nearly enough for the second-best bat (after Jonathan Lucroy) on the market.

    If that wasn't bad enough, Cincinnati had a deal in place to trade Zack Cozart to Seattle at the non-waiver trade deadline, but according to the News Tribune's Bob Dutton, the Reds were so focused on the Bruce deal they ran out of time to finalize things with the Mariners.

    Expectations for the Reds were low heading into the season, but getting solid returns for Bruce and Cozart at the trade deadline would have bumped this grade up. Instead, the front office added to an already crowded middle infield and, apparently, is unable to multitask. 

    Grade: D

Cleveland Indians (69-50)

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    Jason Kipnis and Mike Napoli
    Jason Kipnis and Mike NapoliPhil Long/Associated Press

    Cleveland's starting rotation has been terrific once again, pitching to the AL's second-lowest ERA (3.97). That number is even more impressive when you consider that the Indians were without Carlos Carrasco for all of May.

    You can't help but wonder how much better that rotation would be if the Tribe had been able to pull off a trade for Jonathan Lucroy, who ultimately was traded to the Texas Rangers. But the Tribe wouldn't guarantee him the full-time catching job in 2017, which, as Lucroy told ESPN.com's Robert Sanchez, was the reason he vetoed the deal.

    With all due respect to Yan Gomes, Lucroy is a superior catcher in every possible way. That was a poor decision on general manager Chris Antonetti's part. What wasn't a poor decision, however, was his move to acquire shutdown reliever Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees.

    As manager Terry Francona noted in the news conference announcing the Miller deal (via the Akron Beacon Journal), the move sent a message to the team that the front office believes they have a chance to do something special. It was also a welcome change of pace for an organization that traditionally holds onto its young talent in order to keep costs down.

    In-season moves aren't the only ones paying big dividends for the Indians though.

    Signed to a one-year, $7 million deal before the season, Mike Napoli has not only been a major run producer in the middle of the Indians lineup but helped to change the culture around the team. "He's had an effect on everybody in that clubhouse," Francona told the Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes recently.

    If there's a dark cloud to be found in Cleveland, it's hovering over left field at Progressive Field. 

    At this point, the Indians have to be concerned about whether Michael Brantley can be counted on to be a major piece of the puzzle in 2017. The 29-year-old All-Star underwent season-ending shoulder surgery for the second year in a row earlier this week.

    But when it comes to the players who are healthy enough to contribute, the Indians have exceeded expectations thus far. Nobody expected that Cleveland would be one of baseball's best teams with a quarter of the season left to play—especially without Brantley in the heart of the lineup.

    Grade: A

Colorado Rockies (58-63)

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    Trevor Story
    Trevor StoryDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Colorado might boast MLB's fourth-highest ERA, but the Rockies have pitched to the game's seventh-lowest mark (3.87) away from Coors Field. In fact, the Rockies are one of only seven teams to have posted a sub-4.00 ERA on the road.

    If they could only figure out how to pitch at Coors Field, we might be talking about the Rockies as a legitimate contender at this point, not a team on the fringes that's moving in the wrong direction.

    Then again, Colorado's playoff chances took a significant hit after losing Trevor Story to what is likely season-ending thumb surgery earlier this month. Story made Rockies fans forget all about Troy Tulowitzki with a record-setting rookie campaign.

    And it certainly doesn't help that the team's big offseason additions, reliever Jake McGee and outfielder Gerardo Parra, have both struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness, neither one delivering the kind of performance the Rockies hoped they would.

    While the Rockies are likely going to finish the season with a losing record for the sixth consecutive year, a third-place finish in the NL West—the team's first time finishing higher than fourth since 2010—at the very least gives the impression of some progress being made. 

    Grade: C+

Detroit Tigers (64-57)

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    Justin Upton
    Justin UptonTony Dejak/Associated Press

    When Detroit acquired Michael Fulmer at last year's trade deadline, I noted that a scout had told the New York Post's Joel Sherman that Fulmer reminded him of a young Matt Garza or Garrett Richards. Fulmer has exceeded those comparisons and looks like a legitimate front-line starter.

    That's a huge deal for the Tigers, as Jordan Zimmermann, one of the team's big offseason additions, has been dealing with a neck issue, one that has landed him on the disabled list twice this season. Over his last nine starts, dating back to June 3, he's pitched to a 7.61 ERA and 1.58 WHIP.

    Justin Upton, Detroit's other big-ticket addition, doesn't have an injury to use as an excuse for his poor play—he's just been bad, putting together the worst season of his 10-year career.

    That's undermined solid contributions from the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez—along with a breakout season from Nick Castellanos, who is out at least a month after he broke his left hand earlier in August.

    Yet for all their issues, the Tigers remain within striking distance of both the AL Central crown and a wild-card berth. While that's a drastic improvement from where this team was at this point last season, anything less than a deep playoff run is going to be viewed as a disappointment in Detroit.

    Grade: C

Houston Astros (61-60)

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    Jose Altuve
    Jose AltuveEric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    How many Altuves does it take to comprise the American League MVP? One—Jose Altuve, whose .363/.426/.572 triple-slash line is nothing short of extraordinary. Yet for as good as he's been, along with Carlos Correa and George Springer, the Astros have struggled to put runs on the board.

    That's a problem when your starting rotation hasn't been nearly as good as it was a year ago. Mike Fiers, Collin McHugh and the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, Dallas Keuchel, haven't been able to replicate their past success.

    When the rotation has been able to keep things close, Houston's bullpen has been up to the task of closing things out. 

    Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Pat Neshek have all been stellar in relief while Ken Giles, who pitched to a 9.00 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in April, has become the shutdown reliever Houston thought it traded for. Since May 1, Giles has pitched to a 2.17 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with 60 strikeouts over 37.1 innings of relief.

    After shocking the baseball world with a run to the playoffs last season, the Astros entered the season with expectations for bigger and better things. While it's impressive that Houston has been able to climb back into contention after starting the season 7-17, merely contending isn't enough this time around.

    Grade: C-

Kansas City Royals (61-60)

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    Alex Gordon
    Alex GordonCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

    With all due respect to Cheslor Cuthbert, Paulo Orlando and Whit Merrifield, a team knows its season is in trouble when they're among your most productive bats.

    That's the situation Kansas City found itself in for much of the season, with Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas both out due to injury (Cain has since returned), leaving Eric Hosmer to essentially fend for himself in the lineup.

    Things might have been different if Alex Gordon, Kendrys Morales and Salvador Perez were able to pick up some of the slack, but they weren't. Couple that with a shaky starting rotation that lacks any depth and a bullpen that wasn't quite as dominant as its been in the past and you get a team that's ill-equipped to defend its World Series crown.

    While the Royals have been able to stay on the fringes of contention, it's been a disappointing season in Kansas City. 

    Grade: C-

Los Angeles Angels (51-70)

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    Mike Trout
    Mike TroutRon Schwane/Associated Press

    The Angels are yet another example of how having one of baseball's highest payrolls guarantees absolutely nothing. Rather than contend for a title, Los Angeles finds itself contending with Minnesota, Oakland and Tampa Bay for the worst record in the American League.

    That's probably a good thing for the long term, considering how awful the team's farm system is, but it does nothing to make the 2016 season any less painful for fans of the Halos.

    Sure, Mike Trout remains a generational talent, and both Kole Calhoun and Yunel Escobar are quality role players. But Albert Pujols has become an all-or-nothing slugger, and the rest of the lineup hasn't done enough to warrant a mention.

    The rotation has been an injury-filled mess and the bullpen a disappointing bunch, though youngsters Cam Bedrosian and Deolis Guerra at least offer some hope for the future.

    Grade: F

Los Angeles Dodgers (67-53)

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    Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner
    Adrian Gonzalez and Justin TurnerTom Mihalek/Associated Press

    Whether you're a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers or not, you have to give the team credit.

    Left for dead upon the late June announcement that staff ace Clayton Kershaw was heading to the disabled list with a back injury, the Dodgers have gone 23-16 since the start of July and, thanks to some untimely losses by San Francisco, climbed back atop the National League West.

    It also helps that six of the team's everyday players have posted a second-half OPS above .800, led by Justin Turner (1.089) and Yasmani Grandal (1.025). That production has made it possible to overcome the pitching staff's post-All-Star break struggles.

    While the team's trade-deadline additions, Josh Reddick and Rich Hill, have contributed little, the biggest addition the Dodgers could make would be the return of a healthy Kershaw. According to Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times, that might occur sooner rather than later.

    Grade: A

Miami Marlins (62-59)

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    Giancarlo Stanton
    Giancarlo StantonJae Hong/Associated Press

    Another year, another Giancarlo Stanton injury.

    Miami's hulking slugger was likely lost for the season due to a groin injury he suffered this past weekend, and with Stanton's departure likely goes the Marlins chances of staying in contention. Assuming he doesn't get back on the field, it marks the fourth time in five years he's failed to play in at least 125 games.

    Sure, Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto, Martin Prado and Marcell Ozuna are all quality hitters capable of putting the team on their backs on any given night. But Stanton was the team's most consistent source of power, and teams can now pitch around Ozuna, the only remaining power threat.

    It also doesn't help the Marlins chances that staff ace Jose Fernandez is working under an innings limit this season. With 141 innings already under his belt, you wonder just how many more starts the 24-year-old is going to make down the stretch.

    Still, the Marlins have managed to contend up to this point in the season, and we're not grading on how we think things are going to play out.

    Grade: B

Milwaukee Brewers (52-68)

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    Orlando Arcia
    Orlando ArciaBenny Sieu/Associated Press

    At the end of play on June 12, Milwaukee sat with a 30-33 record, only three games below .500. For a moment, it looked as if the team was perhaps farther along in its rebuilding process than even the most optimistic Brewers fan could have imagined.

    A 20-35 record since then put any such thoughts to rest, but the Brewers have offered their fans some hope for the future. Zach Davies and Jimmy Nelson look like building blocks for the team's future rotation, while top prospect Orlando Arcia is finally getting his first taste of the big leagues.

    More importantly, the Brewers finally traded Jonathan Lucroy, along with Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith, bringing back even more young talent, some of it nearly ready to contribute in the majors.

    While we can't give the Brewers a pass for their record, nobody really expected the Brew Crew to contend in 2016. The hope was that the team would continue to make moves toward the future and clear room for some of their young talent to start getting acclimated to life in the majors. They've done just that.

    Grade: C+

Minnesota Twins (49-72)

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    Byron Buxton
    Byron BuxtonBruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Minnesota returned largely the same roster that won 83 games and nearly played its way into the playoffs last season, yet the results have been drastically different. There was little reason to think they couldn't do the same in 2016.

    Even after the team started 0-9, there was hope that they could eventually play their way back to respectability. That hasn't happened, and Minnesota finds itself in the running for the top overall pick in next year's MLB draft.

    The team's top young talent—Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano—have all struggled badly, with Buxton still looking completely lost at the plate against big league pitching. It's far too early to write the 22-year-old off, especially given his natural tools, but there's reason for concern.

    If there's been a bright spot, it's been the performances of veterans Joe Mauer and Ervin Santana, along with relievers Brandon Kintzler, Taylor Rogers and Ryan Pressly. But really, none of their performances is reason enough for fans to be optimistic about the team's future.

    Grade: F

New York Mets (60-61)

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    Jay Bruce
    Jay BruceDuane Burleson/Associated Press

    Even without Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, the New York Mets still have one of the better pitching staffs around, with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and "Big Sexy," Bartolo Colon, toeing the rubber. But an abundance of pitching talent hasn't been enough to overcome a mediocre offense.

    Injuries to Lucas Duda and David Wright certainly didn't help the Mets chances of repeating as National League champions, but aside from Yoenis Cespedes, the team has been without a consistent source of offense all season long.

    Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera and, yes, even Jose Reyes have had their moments, but none have been able to sustain any sort of long-term success. Jay Bruce, who the team acquired at the non-waiver trade deadline to add some pop, has been a non-factor, hitting .188 with a .580 OPS.

    That helps explain how a team with such a terrific pitching staff can be sitting with a negative run differential with a quarter of the season left to play. While the Mets remain in contention for a wild-card berth, its hard to like their chances given their inability to put runs on the board.

    Grade: D

New York Yankees (61-59)

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    Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez
    Aaron Judge and Gary SanchezSeth Wenig/Associated Press

    It took some time but, ultimately, ownership in New York saw what general manager Brian Cashman saw—a flawed roster that wasn't built for sustained success, either in 2016 or in the future.

    By the time the non-waiver trade deadline had passed, the Yankees had unloaded Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Ivan Nova, bringing in a massive haul of young prospects, good enough to make the team's farm system one of baseball's best. That's nothing short of miraculous.

    "We’ve been contending for a long time and we are damn proud of that," Cashman told reporters after the wheeling and dealing was done, per Newsday's Laura Albanese. "There’s no shame in anything we’ve tried to address today."

    Shortly after that, the team parted ways with Alex Rodriguez, releasing the polarizing and struggling slugger.

    Not only did those moves restock the team's farm system, but they cleared a path for a new era of Yankees baseball to begin.

    The "Baby Bombers"—Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez—have injected new life into a clubhouse and fanbase that badly needed a boost. Judge and Sanchez have put on a vulgar display of power with 11 extra-base hits (seven home runs) and 15 RBI in 68 combined at-bats.

    Didi Gregorius has arguably been the Yankees MVP this season, hitting for power and average while playing solid defense at a premium position. While FanGraphs' advanced metrics disagree with that last part, plays like this say he's just fine with the leather.

    There's still plenty of work to be done. The rotation, after Masahiro Tanaka, remains a mess, while the bullpen will have to be rebuilt around Dellin Betances, the remaining member of the team's "Big Three."

    But for the first time in a long time, there's reason for optimism in the Bronx. And it has nothing to do with an upcoming free-agent class.

    Grade: B

Oakland Athletics (52-69)

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    Sonny Gray
    Sonny GrayBen Margot/Associated Press

    You know it's been a rough season when the best thing you can say about a team is that they've got fantastic throwback jerseys.

    Such is life in Oakland, where a lack of offense and consistent starting pitching has undermined a solid bullpen, relegating the A's to the back of the pack in the AL West.

    It doesn't help that the team's best player, Sonny Gray, has been in a season-long funk, looking nothing like the pitcher who garnered a third-place finish in last year's AL Cy Young Award voting.

    Things haven't all been terrible at the Oakland Coliseum, with Danny Valencia and Stephen Vogt having solid seasons at the plate and both Khris Davis and Marcus Semien contributing power, though the rest of their numbers have suffered due to their free-swinging ways.

    The A's did well to trade pending free agents Rich Hill and Josh Reddick to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline, but until some of the team's young talent begins to produce consistently in the big leagues, it's hard to envision this team returning to relevancy anytime soon.

    But in terms of the 2016 season, the A's performed about how we expected them to perform—poorly. 

    Grade: C

Philadelphia Phillies (57-65)

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    Aaron Nola
    Aaron NolaJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

    Sitting with a 26-26 record after the first two months of the season, it looked as if Philadelphia was much further along in its rebuilding process than anyone could have hoped for.

    And that might be the case on the hill, where Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez all look like building blocks for the Phillies' future rotation. The bullpen looks to be in good hands as well, with Jeanmar Gomez and Hector Neris delivering strong seasons in relief.

    But the offense in Philadelphia is downright offensive. Both Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco seem to have taken steps backward in their development, while the team will need to see more from Cameron Rupp and Tommy Joseph before anointing either one a part of their future plans.

    Perhaps the most disappointing development in Philadelphia this season was the team's missed opportunity to cash in on a pitching-starved trade market and flip veteran starter Jeremy Hellickson. Now the Phillies will either have to extend him a qualifying offer or let him walk away as a free agent.

    Grade: C

Pittsburgh Pirates (62-56)

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    Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte
    Gregory Polanco and Starling MarteKeith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Pittsburgh's bullpen remains solid, even after the team traded All-Star closer Mark Melancon, but the starting rotation has been anything but solid.

    It's a bit of a concern that after years of working miracles with mediocre starters like Francisco Liriano, J.A. Happ and Edinson Volquez, manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage weren't able to do the same with the likes of Jon Niese and Ryan Vogelsong.

    That said, there's reason for hope on that front, as a quartet of young arms—Steven Brault, Tyler Glasnow, Chad Kuhl and Jameson Taillon—have all shown flashes of greatness. Pairing those four alongside staff ace Gerrit Cole could find the Pirates rotation back among the game's best in 2017.

    Two of the game's best corner outfielders reside in Pittsburgh, with both Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco taking the next step in their development. Yet the man between them in the outfield, Andrew McCutchen, has gone from perennial MVP candidate to mediocre outfielder at the age of 29, currently suffering through the worst season of his career. 

    Yet for all those issues, the Pirates have gotten hot at the right time, going 25-15 since July 1 (11-5 in August) to put themselves back in the thick of the wild-card race. It hasn't always been pretty, but Pittsburgh is right where most thought they'd be at this point in the season—in contention. 

    Grade: C

San Diego Padres (51-70)

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    Wil Myers
    Wil MyersGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Credit Padres GM A.J. Preller for recognizing that the team he assembled wasn't very good and selling off the likes of Andrew Cashner, Matt Kemp, Drew Pomeranz, James Shields and Melvin Upton Jr., bringing in more young talent to the team's farm system in the process.

    None of that helps the current on-field product, which has suffered from both a lack of offense and quality pitching.

    Wil Myers, who is healthy for the first time in two years, has put together a terrific season and looks like a cornerstone piece. The 25-year-old has recorded his first 20-20 campaign (23 home runs, 21 stolen bases) and made his first All-Star appearance in July.

    Things could have been better on the mound if Tyson Ross, the team's ace, was healthy enough to pitch. But shoulder inflammation has limited the 29-year-old to one start—Opening Day. If he's able to return before the season ends—Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Ross recently threw live batting practice—the Padres could have a valuable trade chip to play this winter. 

    While the Padres have been about as bad on the field as we expected they'd be, San Diego gets a bump in its grade for the job Preller did in continuing to stockpile prospects. That said, the Padres still seem like a team in search of an identity.

    Grade: C-

San Francisco Giants (67-54)

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    Madison Bumgarner
    Madison BumgarnerDerik Hamilton/Associated Press

    San Francisco might not put a lot of runs on the board, but the team's plus-48 run differential is the Senior Circuit's fourth-highest mark and an indication that the Giants are doing something right.

    That something is getting quality starting pitching. Both Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto are legitimate contenders for the NL Cy Young Award, while Jeff Samardzija has done enough to keep things relatively close.

    The Giants also made a pair of bold moves at the non-waiver trade deadline, trading for Matt Moore and Will Smith. Adding Smith into what has been a mediocre bullpen could pay big dividends down the stretch.

    Expectations were high for San Francisco entering the season—it is an even-numbered year, after all—and for awhile it looked as if the Giants were one of the game's elite teams. But they've gone just 17-23 since the start of July and fallen behind the Dodgers in the NL West. 

    Grade: B

Seattle Mariners (64-56)

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    Felix Hernandez
    Felix HernandezMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager have not only powered Seattle's offense all season, but comprise one of the most productive heart-of-the-order trios in all of baseball. Unfortunately for the Mariners, that's where their productive bats end.

    That's a problem for a team that struggles in tight one-run games, as the Mariners have played .500 baseball, going 22-22. That's not good enough for a team that fancies itself a contender.

    The rotation hasn't been good enough either outside of Felix Hernandez, who missed significant time with an injury and is no longer the overpowering force he once was. That said, the King has figured out a way to remain successful atop the rotation despite a drop in velocity (per Brooks Baseball), a career-high walk rate and career-low strikeout rate.

    Taijuan Walker failed to take the next step in his development, but the 24-year-old found himself demoted to Triple-A in early August, with manager Scott Servais telling Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times that Walker needs to work on the mental aspect of being a starter.

    Going 7-3 over its last 10 games has bought Seattle back within shouting distance of Texas atop the AL West and only two games out of a wild-card berth. But the Mariners need to show more consistency if they're going to reach the postseason for the first time since 2001.

    Grade: B-

St. Louis Cardinals (64-56)

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    Aledmys Diaz
    Aledmys DiazJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    You have to go back to 2004 to find the last season that St. Louis cracked MLB's top 10 for home runs in a season. So it's been nothing short of shocking to see the Cardinals leading the National League with 166 round-trippers—baseball's fourth-highest total.

    It's also been shocking to see the way the Cardinals play defense. St. Louis has committed 86 errors—the fourth-highest total in baseball.

    What's normally a strength for the Cardinals—their rotation—has been mediocre at best. Mike Leake, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright have all delivered subpar performances, each pitching to an ERA well over 4.00.

    Things haven't been all doom and gloom around Busch Stadium, however. 

    Seung-hwan Oh has lived up to his "Final Boss" nickname in his first season with the Cardinals, pitching to a 1.88 ERA and 0.85 WHIP while converting 12-of-14 save opportunities after replacing Trevor Rosenthal, who pitched his way out of the ninth inning.

    Then there's Aledmys Diaz, who had emerged as one of baseball's biggest breakout stars before a fractured thumb sent him to the disabled list earlier this month. The 26-year-old leads St. Louis in batting average (.312) and is third in OPS (.894), behind Matt Carpenter (.947) and Brandon Moss (.924).

    Barring an epic collapse by the Cubs, the Cardinals run of consecutive NL Central titles will end at three. But St. Louis remains in the thick of the playoff race, holding a one-game lead over Pittsburgh for the second NL wild-card berth.

    Grade: B-

Tampa Bay Rays (50-69)

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    Chris Archer
    Chris ArcherAdam Hunger/Associated Press

    After two down years that saw him hit a combined .261 with a .744 OPS, Evan Longoria has delivered the kind of season Rays fans have come to expect. The face of the franchise is hitting .289 with 27 home runs, 72 RBI and a .885 OPS.

    But outside of Longoria, Brad Miller and Logan Forsythe, producing runs has been an issue for the Rays. Tampa Bay finds itself tied with the Yankees (which would normally be a good thing) for 11th in the AL in runs scored with 498, one of five teams in the Junior Circuit yet to crack the 500-run plateau.

    Perhaps even more puzzling than the team's lack of offense is the continued struggles of staff ace Chris Archer, who leads the AL in both strikeouts (186) and losses (16) while pitching to a 4.18 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. Rather than build upon his fifth-place finish in last year's AL Cy Young Award voting, the 27-year-old seems to have taken a step backward.

    For years, the Rays have found a way to stay in contention with less than their competition. More of the same was expected in 2016. But that hasn't been the case, as Tampa Bay sits 18 games back in the AL East and 16.5 games out of a wild-card berth with a quarter of the season left to play.

    Grade: F

Texas Rangers (72-50)

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    Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran
    Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos BeltranTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    That GM Jon Daniels was able to add Carlos Beltran, Jeremy Jeffress and Jonathan Lucroy at the non-waiver trade deadline without having to part with Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara or Jurickson Profar was nothing short of miraculous.

    While it might not be miraculous, given his previous track record of success, the one-year, $8 million deal Ian Desmond signed with the Rangers in late February has been one of the biggest steals of the offseason. Not only has Desmond hit for average and power, but he's played quality defense in center field while learning the position on the fly.

    The starting rotation ranks fourth in the AL and ninth in baseball with a 4.07 ERA despite being without Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis for extended periods of time. Both Holland and Lewis remain sidelined, though Holland is nearing a return.

    The same can't be said for Shin-Soo Choo, who may not play again this year after fracturing his forearm earlier this month, or Prince Fielder, whose career was cut short at the age of 32 due to a neck injury.

    That said, Texas has built a comfortable lead in the AL West and joined the likes of the Cubs and Nationals as one of the elite teams in the game. The resiliency it's shown in overcoming untimely injuries to key players bodes well for continued success down the stretch. 

    Grade: A+

Toronto Blue Jays (59-52)

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    Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders
    Jose Bautista and Michael SaundersJulie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Getting All-Star production from Michael Saunders, who has stayed relatively healthy for what seems like the first time over the course of his eight-year career, has helped make up for some offensive shortcomings elsewhere in the lineup.

    So too has the continued excellence of Edwin Encarnacion and a healthy Devon Travis, who took some time to shake off the rust once he was activated from the disabled list in late May. We can't say the same about Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki, former All-Stars who have both battled injury and inconsistency throughout the regular season.

    Aaron Sanchez has emerged as the ace of a talented Blue Jays rotation, while the underrated Roberto Osuna and Jason Grilli have solidified the back end of the bullpen after Drew Storen pitched his way out of town.

    While Toronto has played its way back into playoff contention after a slow start, we've yet to see the Blue Jays go on a serious run to try to put any distance between themselves and the rest of their competition in the AL East.

    Getting Bautista and/or Tulowitzki swinging the bat the way we know they're capable of could be all the Blue Jays need to set off on such a run. 

    Grade: B

Washington Nationals (71-49)

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    Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos
    Daniel Murphy and Wilson RamosRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Bryce Harper didn't just put together a National League MVP-winning season in 2015he had the second-best season a 22-year-old has ever had in the history of baseball. Only Ted Williams' legendary 1941 campaign was better. Yet Washington missed the playoffs.

    Harper has put together a good, but not great season in 2016, and the Nationals not only sit with a comfortable lead in the NL East but look like one of baseball's best teams. 

    It's funny how baseball works sometimes.

    Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos have helped make up for Harper's drop in production, each delivering the best season of their respective careers, while the rotation and bullpen have been solid all season long.

    The addition of All-Star closer Mark Melancon—and Jonathan Papelbon's departure—have only made the back end of that bullpen stronger.

    For as good as the Nationals have been, it's scary to think about where they'd be if the team was getting any production from center field, where Matt den Dekker, Ben Revere and Michael Taylor have combined to hit .214 with a .593 OPS.

    First base has been another issue, with Ryan Zimmerman battling injuries in the midst of his worst professional season. 

    That said, the Nationals have lived up to expectations and are well on their way to a third NL East crown in the past five years. Ultimately, Washington's success won't be judged by division crowns, but rather by how deep of a playoff run they embark on.

    Grade: A

        

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs and are current through games of Aug. 18.

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