MLB Report Card Grades for All 30 Teams Entering August
With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline in the rearview, it's as fine a time as any to hand out grades to all 30 MLB clubs.
These are more progress reports than final marks, since hot streaks and cold spells can change the calculus between now and the postseason.
Also, while this is based largely on record and performance, we are grading on a curve to some extent.
A club that was expected to contend for the World Series but is desperately clinging to the .500 mark, for example, will be scored more harshly than a presumed basement-dweller performing above its pay grade.
American League West
Houston Astros (Record: 68-41)
The defending world champions might wish they had more than a four-game lead in the American League West at the outset of August.
That said, they're among the most complete clubs in baseball with a balanced lineup, deep rotation and a strong bullpen augmented by the addition of Roberto Osuna in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays (legitimate ethical concerns notwithstanding).
Hoisting two straight Commissioner's Trophies is no small feat, but the 'Stros are well-positioned to do exactly that.
Seattle Mariners (63-44)
The Seattle Mariners and general manager Jerry Dipoto added a bevy of ancillary pieces before the trade deadline but didn't upgrade a starting rotation that could make or break the team's chances of busting a 16-year postseason drought.
They'd join the dance if the season ended Wednesday, but they could use a boost to a starting corps that ranks 15th in baseball with a 4.08 ERA.
Post-deadline reinforcements are possible, and the M's can hold out faint hope for a late-season resurgence by erstwhile ace Felix Hernandez, but for now, that's their glaring weakness.
Oakland Athletics (63-46)
A team virtually no one counted as a contender before the season, the Oakland Athletics are in the thick of the AL playoff race and added late-inning bullpen arm Jeurys Familia in a trade with the New York Mets.
It was a clear signal the A's intend to go for it, and while their climb to October remains steep in the top-heavy Junior Circuit, they are among the coolest surprise success stories of 2018 and an unflagging underdog worth watching.
Los Angeles Angels (54-54)
The Los Angeles Angels employ the best player on the planet in center fielder Mike Trout. Once again, however, they haven't surrounded him with enough support to be anything more than mediocre.
The Anaheim contingent are kicking desperately to keep their heads above .500, but they're looking up at three teams in their own division. Their chances of getting Trout to the postseason hover in the vicinity of zero.
That's a shame for the Halos, and a bigger shame for baseball.
Texas Rangers (46-63)
The Texas Rangers needed to move left-hander Cole Hamels at the deadline as they floundered in last place.
Yet, the return they got from the Chicago Cubs—a couple of middling minor league right-handers—wasn't spectacular.
Texas is shifting into a full-scale rebuild, as it should, but for the moment it's a lurching former contender with a depressing present, an uncertain future and not enough blue-chip prospects to adequately ease the pain.
American League Central
Cleveland Indians (58-48)
The Cleveland Indians are waltzing toward another AL Central crown and made a pre-deadline splash with the addition of late-inning lefty Brad Hand from the San Diego Padres.
The dynamic duo of shortstop Francisco Lindor and third baseman Jose Ramirez could carry the offense, while Trevor Bauer has emerged as an ace alongside Corey Kluber.
Whether it will be enough for the Tribe to bust the longest active title-free drought in MLB remains to be seen, but for the moment, they're an unmitigated contender.
Minnesota Twins (49-57)
If we pretended 2017 never happened, this season might feel like a moral victory for the Minnesota Twins.
In 2016, Minnesota lost 103 games. In light of that, a sub-.500 second-place standing wouldn't sting too badly. The Twins vaulted past expectations in 2017, however, and grabbed the AL's second wild-card spot.
As such, it's tough to view their injury-marred, regression-filled 2018 showing as anything less than a crash-to-Earth splash of ice-cold water.
Detroit Tigers (46-62)
It's been an odd season for the Detroit Tigers.
On the one hand, they've modestly outperformed expectations. On the other hand, they're sunk several leagues below .500 and are miles away from sniffing the playoffs.
That was expected after Detroit initiated a rebuild over the winter and made certain when franchise icon Miguel Cabrera was lost for the season with a biceps injury.
Either way, the Tigers have a lot of work to do to improve their farm system and set themselves up for future contention.
Chicago White Sox (37-69)
The Chicago White Sox are loaded with young talent at the MLB and MiLB level. Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter ranked their farm system No. 2 in the game after the 2018 amateur draft.
If you're a South Side fan searching for optimism, you can find it all over.
That said, the ChiSox are more than 30 games below .500. That will net them another high draft pick and further dreams for a juggernaut down the road, but losses are losses.
Kansas City Royals (33-73)
The Royals let some franchise cornerstones (Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain) walk via free agency this winter and re-upped others (Mike Moustakas, whom they dealt before the deadline to the Milwaukee Brewers).
Now, they're facing the music. After winning two pennants and a World Series between 2014 and 2015, the ride is over. It's time to tear it down and rebuild.
In the meantime, KC fans should clutch their commemorative merchandise and brace for the pain ahead.
American League East
Boston Red Sox (75-34)
With a comfortable-if-not-insurmountable five-game lead in the AL East, the Boston Red Sox are well-positioned in the AL hierarchy.
The archrival New York Yankees are nipping at their heels. The Astros and Indians loom as threats come playoff time. And word that ace Chris Sale is on the 10-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation, per Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com, should send shudders through Beantown.
Yet, the Sox have an offense led by MVP candidate Mookie Betts and enough ancillary firepower to weather the storm, assuming Sale returns healthy.
New York Yankees (68-37)
The New York Yankees acted like contenders at the trade deadline, adding reliever Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles and southpaw starter J.A. Happ from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Whether they can catch the Red Sox depends on the health of Sale, as well as the health of Yanks sluggers Aaron Judge (wrist) and Gary Sanchez (groin).
New York appears to be a lock for at least a wild-card berth, but injuries will determine how deep into October the Bronx Bombers go.
Tampa Bay Rays (54-53)
Despite entering play Wednesday with a winning record, the Tampa Bay Rays waived a white flag at the trade deadline by dealing right-hander Chris Archer to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
On the other hand, the Rays netted a nice prospect haul for Archer in outfielder Austin Meadows, pitcher Tyler Glasnow and a player to be named later.
It was a typically Tampa Bay move, punting on a long-shot playoff run while shedding payroll and keeping an eye on the future.
Toronto Blue Jays (48-58)
The Toronto Blue Jays are cooked. Their recent run of success is over.
They made some moves, including shipping Happ to New York, in acknowledgement of that undeniable fact.
That said, the Jays must own their poor decision to keep third baseman Josh Donaldson past his sell-by date.
Instead of cashing in on the 2015 AL MVP when his value was at its zenith, the Jays hemmed and hawed and will now likely watch him walk away (or, possibly, re-sign) for a show-me contract next winter while their farm system gets no deeper.
Baltimore Orioles (32-75)
Credit the Baltimore Orioles for trading Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Britton to the Yankees and Jonathan Schoop to the Brewers. They saw the writing on the wall and acted accordingly.
At some point, the chips netted in those deals might make the O's a factor again. In the meantime, they own the worst record in baseball, and the mood is dark at Camden Yards.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks (60-49)
The Arizona Diamondbacks claimed the NL's top wild-card spot in 2017 and entered 2018 with designs on a division title.
As we enter the stretch run of the 162-game marathon, that goal is within reach.
The D-backs didn't make any seismic deadline additions, but they own a narrow lead in the NL West entering play Wednesday and have won seven of their last 10. Plus, offensive leader Paul Goldschmidt rounded into form with a .317 average and .950 OPS in July.
Colorado Rockies (58-48)
The Colorado Rockies rank 23rd in baseball with a 4.59 ERA. Pitching poorly when you play half your games at Coors Field? You don't say.
Their minus-one run differential entering Wednesday also wasn't a great look.
At the same time, the Rocks are in the midst of the NL West and NL wild-card races with a solid shot at making a second straight playoff appearance.
They could have been more aggressive at the deadline, but they're far from out of it.
Los Angeles Dodgers (59-49)
Thanks (or, more accurately, no thanks) to a slow start, the Dodgers have been unable to shed their rivals in the National League West. Entering play Wednesday, they were a half-game behind the Diamondbacks with the Rockies in the same position and the San Francisco Giants 4.5 games behind Los Angeles.
L.A. was aggressive, acquiring Machado from Baltimore and second baseman Brian Dozier from the Twins.
Clearly, executive Andrew Friedman understands the urgency of a huge-market team that hasn't won a World Series since 1988. The days of protecting prospects and tweaking around the edges of the roster are over.
San Francisco Giants (55-54)
The Giants keep fighting their way back to and slightly above .500. Whether that represents a team tenaciously staying in contention or a fading former contender delaying the inevitable depends on your perspective.
The Giants will be in an even tougher spot now that Johnny Cueto is lost for the season to Tommy John surgery. They've been beset by multiple other injuries to key contributors dating back to spring training. Even at full strength, they're a fringe postseason hopeful at best.
Rub your lucky rabbit's foot and mutter your even-year incantations. The Orange and Black are gonna need it.
San Diego Padres (42-68)
The San Diego Padres entered 2018 expecting to be an NL West also-ran that auditioned and developed young players while building for the future and securing a high draft pick with a terrible record.
So far they've been an NL West also-ran that's auditioned and developed young players while building for the future and securing a high draft pick with a terrible record.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs (61-45)
The Cubbies were active at the deadline and acquired Hamels, a postseason-tested veteran, from the Rangers.
In a sense, it was an admission that their winter signing of free agent Yu Darvish was a mistake, but it was a needed and bold move.
Overall, Chicago is locked into a tight battle with the Brewers atop the NL Central, yet it possesses much of the young core that led it to curse-busting champagne and confetti in 2016.
The Cubs aren't perfect, but they're clear contenders with the best run differential (plus-98) in the National League.
Milwaukee Brewers (63-47)
The Brewers could have used an ace, or at least a strong top-of-the-rotation arm, at the deadline. They didn't get one, though they did add pieces to an offense that ranks 16th in baseball in runs scored and 18th in OPS.
After a title run in 2016 and a trip to the National League Championship Series in 2017, the Cubs are the favorites here.
Credit the Brewers for hanging in the race this long, however, and don't count them out for at least a wild-card berth and possibly a surprise division flag.
Pittsburgh Pirates (56-52)
This past offseason, the Pirates traded away outfielder and franchise icon Andrew McCutchen and ace right-hander Gerrit Cole. It looked like they could be headed for 100 losses. Fans were calling for ownership to sell the team.
Instead, the Pirates have an outside chance at making the playoffs and just acquired Archer, an ace-level arm who's under club control through 2021 with a pair of affordable team options.
It might all blow up in Pittsburgh's face if the team misses the playoffs, Archer crumbles and the prospects it sent to Tampa Bay flourish, but this is quite a script flip for the Bucs.
St. Louis Cardinals (54-53)
Much like the Giants, the St. Louis Cardinals are a proud franchise caught on the border of contending and rebuilding.
Their decision to ship outfielder Tommy Pham to the Rays hints at a retool, if not rebuild, and an acceptance that 2018 isn't their year.
That said, they've got enough talent on the MLB roster and young pitching in the pipeline to return to relevance soon.
Cincinnati Reds (48-59)
The Cincinnati Reds could have traded right-hander Matt Harvey, outfielder Billy Hamilton, second baseman Scooter Gennett and other targets at the deadline, but they didn't.
It was an odd call for a club mired in last place that should have its sights trained squarely and solely on the future.
Time will be the ultimate arbiter, but for now, the Reds appear to be in some degree of denial about their status as bottom-feeders.
National League East
Philadelphia Phillies (59-48)
The Philadelphia Phillies entered play Wednesday in first place in the NL East. The list of people who thought that would be an accurate sentence come the beginning of August is limited to a few diehards in threadbare Darren Daulton jerseys.
Yet here the Phils are, with the fifth-best ERA in the Senior Circuit and an offense that added infielder Asdrubal Cabrera and his 18 home runs from the New York Mets and injured catcher Wilson Ramos and his 14 homers from the Rays before the deadline.
Whatever happens over the final two months, credit Philadelphia for blossoming ahead of schedule.
Atlanta Braves (57-47)
Speaking of blossoming ahead of schedule, the Atlanta Braves have done exactly that behind a cast of burgeoning young stars and steady holdovers.
The Braves threaded the needle at the deadline, acquiring help such as Orioles right-handers Kevin Gausman, Brad Brach and Darren O'Day and Reds outfielder Adam Duvall without heavily raiding the game's No. 1 farm system, per Reuter.
They're positioned to compete for a postseason slot this fall while also maintaining their status as arguably MLB's most exciting club of tomorrow.
Washington Nationals (53-53)
The notion of Bryce Harper being traded before July 31 turned out to be a pipe dream, and it now seems clear the Washington Nationals intend to go for it in the final season before their franchise player hits free agency.
The Braves and Phillies are young squads who could melt under the pennant-race glare. The Nats are an experienced team with NL Cy Young Award favorite Max Scherzer at the front of their rotation. There are causes for exceedingly cautious optimism in the nation's capital.
But with two clubs to leapfrog in their own division and a roster that's been decimated by injuries, this doesn't feel like the year the Nationals finally make a deep run.
New York Mets (44-60)
The New York Mets entered 2018 with designs on contending behind a healthy starting rotation and an offense stocked with a mix of veterans and emerging hitters.
Instead, the un-Amazins have been buffeted by injuries and underperformance. They could have been bold and traded top arms Jacob deGrom and/or Noah Syndergaard at the deadline. Maybe that would have been wise; maybe it would have been foolish.
Instead, the Mets made other trades—such as the Cabrera swap—that were necessary but not franchise-renewing and will head into 2019 awash in angst and uncertainty.
Miami Marlins (46-63)
The Miami Marlins blew up their roster over the winter under a much-critiqued ownership group fronted by former Yankees icon Derek Jeter.
The fact that the Fish aren't floundering with the worst record in baseball in early August ought to count for something.
It does, though Miami is sunk deep below .500 and has only a tenuous plan to return to relevance at some undetermined future date.
The Marlins get a modest bump for jumping over nonexistent expectations, but they're pretty darn awful.