Trade Deadline buyers? Look first in NL

June 29th, 2018

OK, this is fascinating: Several sites -- including Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus and Clay Davenport's site -- offer the percentage chance that every team has for making the playoffs.
One thing they all agree on is that the Kansas City Royals have no chance at a postseason berth.
But there's something else that is kind of mind-blowing: In most of the projections, the five American League teams -- the Yankees and Red Sox in the East, the Indians in the Central, and the Astros and Mariners in the West -- ALL have a better chance of making the playoffs than any team in the National League.
Take, for example, the Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds Report:
In the AL: The Yankees (99.9 percent), Astros (99.7 percent), Red Sox (99.4 percent) and Indians (98.6 percent) are all virtual locks. The Mariners (80.9 percent) are heavy favorites.

And that's it. That's all five. We are not even to Independence Day and the AL is just about wrapped up. Sure, there's some drama in the Yankees-Red Sox race to see which team will win the division and which will have to settle for an AL Wild Card -- we actually might see our first 100-win Wild Card team since the 2001 A's. There's also some drama in the Mariners' saga -- maybe they catch the Astros, or maybe they get caught by some team like the Angels.
• MLB standings
Realistically, though, we pretty much know how this all ends up.
And then there's the NL, where NOTHING is wrapped up. The three playoff predictors I listed above don't even agree about which NL team is most likely to make the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus thinks it's Arizona at 78 percent, but Fangraphs and Clay Davenport are much less bullish on the D-backs' chances. The Cubs top the NL postseason likelihood rankings of both Fangraphs (88.6 percent) Davenport (82.5 percent).
Nobody has the Brewers, owners of the league's best record, as the most likely postseason team in the NL.

In all, Clay Davenport has NINE NL teams -- three in each division -- listed as having a very real chance (at least 20 percent) of making the postseason.
It's hard to find a recent time when one league was so much more competitive than the other. Four AL teams are projected to win 100 games; that would be new -- the first time more than two teams from the same league have ever won 100 games. And, on the other end of the spectrum, three AL teams are projected to lose 100 games.
Meanwhile, no NL team is projected to win more than 95 games and none -- not even the Marlins -- is projected to lose 100.
• Catch up on the latest trade chatter
There is a lot that goes with all this, but today's question is: How will this impact the non-waiver Trade Deadline? With so many NL teams and so few AL teams in contention, you would expect the deals to head the NL's way ... and that does seem to be the prevailing wind. The Royals have already dealt fireballing reliever to the Nationals, and Kansas City will probably look to trade Mike Moustakas before too long. Rumors swirl that Texas might set up shop and offer players such as Cole Hamels and . Toronto might be ready to deal Josh Donaldson and J.A. Happ. And, of course, the prize of the Trade Deadline is Baltimore's Manny Machado, who the Orioles, on good authority, will either trade or not trade.
So yes, it's mostly the AL teams who are looking to sell. You can probably add Minnesota (? ?) and the White Sox (?) and maybe even the Athletics (? ?) to the list of possible dealers. The A's are sort of, kind of in contention if the Mariners fall off, so Oakland might hold on for a while longer … but we also know that Oakland tends to be super-aggressive at the Deadline once they make an honest appraisal of their chances.
Well, who is going to buy their wares? The Yankees and Red Sox always find themselves in a nuclear arms race -- the Yankees, in particular, could use an arm to shore up the rotation -- and so they might get into the middle of all this.

But mainly, you would think the buyers will be NL clubs. The Dodgers, Cubs and Nationals all feel in pretty good position to make a real run at the World Series, and not one of them leads their division at the moment. That spells buyers. Of course, if the Cubs get into the buying, you have to believe the Cardinals and Brewers will, too.
The Giants have every right to feel like they're in the race, and they love to buy.
The Braves have probably come on faster than even they expected, but you can just see them thinking: "Wow, how much of a difference could Hamels make?"
Everybody loves making predictions about the Trade Deadline, and the predictions are inevitably wrong, and we don't want to go down that road. Still, it's not hard to come up with fun ideas, such as the Braves dealing for Hamels or the Brewers shocking everyone and snaring Machado away from the Dodgers and everyone else, or St. Louis trading for whatever is left in cross-state Kansas City.
The Trade Deadline tends to appeal most to hopefully desperate teams, and all the hopeful desperation is in the NL right now.