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Deadline talent flow to NL sets up wild finish

Big names switch leagues with more clubs selling on AL side
MLB.com @JPosnanski

OK, you could see this coming. In fact, with all due modesty, we did see this coming. This season's shape and rhythm has been apparent almost from Opening Day: The American League is pretty much locked in. There are six teams fighting for the five playoff spots, and while there are a few questions looming, you know more or less where everything is going. There are a lot of teams in the AL who know that they aren't in the game.

The National League though? Wild. Wonderful. Out of control. There are seven teams within a half-game of the lead in the three divisions, a near mathematical impossibility, and there are a couple of other streaking teams who can still impact the season. Nobody has any idea what will happen next.

OK, you could see this coming. In fact, with all due modesty, we did see this coming. This season's shape and rhythm has been apparent almost from Opening Day: The American League is pretty much locked in. There are six teams fighting for the five playoff spots, and while there are a few questions looming, you know more or less where everything is going. There are a lot of teams in the AL who know that they aren't in the game.

The National League though? Wild. Wonderful. Out of control. There are seven teams within a half-game of the lead in the three divisions, a near mathematical impossibility, and there are a couple of other streaking teams who can still impact the season. Nobody has any idea what will happen next.

And so, yes, once you know the narrative, you can follow along; the non-waiver Trade Deadline played out exactly as you might expect. We just witnessed the most extraordinary migration of talent from one league to the other in the history of baseball. A bunch of NL clubs who still have hope and belief raided despairing AL teams looking to the future. And it sets up some kind of finish in the National League.

The talent shift begins, obviously, with the Dodgers' acquisition of superstar Manny Machado from the Orioles. This has been such a crazy year for the Dodgers. They got off to such a terrible start and had so many things go wrong (including the heartbreaking injury to Corey Seager) that there were plenty of people who believed they should just write off the season. But the Dodgers have too much invested year-in, year-out to write off any season. Plus Max Muncy arrived, the pitching came together, and Matt Kemp just kept on hitting. Getting Machado fit the Dodgers' formula of trying to win it all every year.

But it isn't just Machado. The Dodgers also got slugging second baseman Brian Dozier from Minnesota; Dozier is a star in his own right who hit 143 home runs the past 4 1/2 seasons. They also picked up veteran reliever John Axford from Toronto.

Arizona countered. The D-backs went to Minnesota for a different slugging infielder; they picked up Eduardo Escobar, who led the AL in doubles. The D-backs also picked up some versatile pitchers of their own, trading for Matt Andriese from Tampa Bay and Jake Diekman from Texas. And as a bonus, they picked up outfielder Jon Jay from Kansas City.

Video: Hazen on D-backs trading for Ziegler, Diekman

You can see the trend clearly. The AL was in full-fledged sell mode -- Texas, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Toronto, Baltimore, these teams were like those people shouting "Sell! Sell!" on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. And NL teams were picking up stars and valuable players left and right.

Look at the NL Central. The Cubs went to Texas and got a recognizable star, Cole Hamels, and they also picked up a nice reliever in Jesse Chavez. But the Brewers went even bigger. They got Mike Moustakas from Kansas City and Jonathan Schoop from Baltimore and, oh yeah, Brad Miller from the Rays. The Brewers picked up so much talent that nobody is entirely sure what their infield will look like at the end of this musical chairs game. As a bonus, they also got reliever Joakim Soria from the White Sox.

And then there's Pittsburgh, which has been winning like crazy lately, and the Pirates decided to get in on this race, too. They shocked everybody by getting starter Chris Archer from the Rays almost at the buzzer. The Pirates also picked up Texas closer Keone Kela. The NL Central race promises to be a crazy final two months.

Video: Archer on finding out he was traded to Pirates

If anything, the NL East will be even crazier. It has already been a shock as Atlanta and Philadelphia fight for the division lead while the heavily favored Nationals try to get out of their own way. The Phillies went to Tampa Bay (so much of this season's shopping spree went through the Rays) and got All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos.

Atlanta, meanwhile, went to the Orioles and asked them to just put all their pitchers in a bus and send it over -- the Braves picked up Kevin Gausman, Darren O'Day and Brad Brach from Baltimore. And then, because it was apparently a law during this Trade Deadline season, the Braves also made a deal with Tampa Bay, getting pitcher Jonny Venters.

The Nationals made their AL talent grab early by picking up dominant reliever Kelvin Herrera from Kansas City before the flurry, but one of Washington's bigger moves was not a move at all. The talk for the last few days before the Deadline was that they might move Bryce Harper, perhaps even to an AL team.

Video: Ramos on trade, time with the Rays

But this trade season, just about all the talent was flowing in one direction, from AL to NL. How will it play out? I can offer some guesses. I think the Dodgers helped themselves an awful lot and made themselves a strong contender to win the pennant again. I love that Pittsburgh saw an opportunity to really get into the race and went for it. I love what the Braves and Phillies are doing and think that will be a fascinating finish there.

And a whole lot of AL teams will flail to the finish line this year and hope for a better but distant future.

Joe Posnanski is a national columnist for MLB.com.