The American League Wild Card race is a little more complicated than it looked like it would be about a month ago -- Oakland is now a game-and-a-half behind Seattle for the second Wild Card spot, and, not for nothing, but Seattle is now closer to the Yankees than the
The American League Wild Card race is a little more complicated than it looked like it would be about a month ago -- Oakland is now a game-and-a-half behind Seattle for the second Wild Card spot, and, not for nothing, but Seattle is now closer to the Yankees than the Yankees are to the Red Sox -- but it's still relatively straightforward, at least when compared to the National League. The National League has gone right nuts.
There are now eight teams in contention for the two National League Wild Card spots, and that's only if you're not including the current division leaders, none of whom have separated themselves from the teams in second place chasing them. (The Cubs have the biggest lead, at 2 1/2 games.) You essentially have to count all 11 as chasing the Wild Card, which means there are only four teams who are not in playoff contention. It's insane out there. With five days until the Trade Deadline, it's time for a National League Wild Card dossier, a breakdown of every team in contention. Where they stand. What they need at the Deadline. And whether they should go all-in for 2018, or hold back some cards for 2019, and beyond. Five of these 11 teams will reach the postseason. Which five? Your guess is as good as mine. (All playoff odds courtesy of FanGraphs.)
Games Ahead: 2 1/2 in NL Central, 3 1/2 ahead of second Wild Card team
Playoff Odds: 96.6 percent
Deadline decisions: The Cubs need starting pitching more than anything else, but unfortunately for them, the starting pitching market is slim. Tellingly, our own Mike Petriello doesn't see any of the pitchers on the market going to the Cubs; there just isn't a right fit. They may just have to cross their fingers for Yu Darvish to return and then just see what Jonathan Lester, Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks can give them. Fortunately: They have a terrifying offense that is starting to round into form. The Cubs haven't separated themselves from the pack, but if any team will, it's them.
So, should they floor it? Probably not. If there were a No. 1 starter left out there, maybe, but the Cubs are the prohibitive NL favorite at this point as they stand. They'll be in the same place next year. Steady she goes.
Games Ahead: 1 1/2 in NL East, 1 1/2 ahead of second Wild Card team
Playoff Odds: 58.2 percent
Deadline decisions: The Phillies are arguably a year ahead of schedule, so a playoff chase is just gravy. (A bunch of these players will be playing their first meaningful August games.) Adam Jones is a potentially obvious fit to help their outfield offense issues, and he would bring a veteran presence they could use. But for the Phils, honestly, it's just exciting to be here.
So, should they floor it? You could stall a lot of the Phillies' momentum by falling short down the stretch in the breakthrough year, but there's no real need to give up a ton of young talent just for this season. The Phillies will be back next year. Winning the NL East this year would just be a bonus. What a bonus it would be.
Games Ahead/Behind: 2 1/2 in NL Central, 1 ahead of second Wild Card team
Playoff Odds: 53.2 percent
Deadline decisions: The Brewers have been a blast this season, but you can't shake the feeling that they need a little more, particularly from their rotation. If anyone in the NL is going to pry Jacob deGrom out of the Mets, it's probably them, right? The trade -- or a trade like it -- makes plenty of sense for the Brewers, who have shown aggressiveness in the trade market before, and clearly see a window open right now. Can they get their 2008 Sabathia?
So, should they floor it? Yes. This is the time for the breakthrough. The Brewers finished second in the NL Central last year and just missed the Wild Card. That won't do this time.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Games Ahead/Behind: 1/2 in NL West, 1 behind of second Wild Card team
Playoff Odds: 92.2 percent
Deadline decisions: They've already made the big decision, bringing in Manny Machado, though they still lost his first series against the Phillies. The rotation has more options than it knows what to do with, and even though some of the extra parts could hit the rotation come the postseason, the Dodgers could always use a bullpen arm or two. It is worth noting that, those playoff odds aside, the Dodgers are anything but guaranteed a playoff spot at this point. Wouldn't that be something if they fell short?
So, should they floor it? As much as anyone on this list, yes. They just traded for Machado, for crying out loud. The Dodgers are built to contend for the next decade, but they've got free agent to be Machado (not to mention free agent to be Clayton Kershaw) right now. No time like the present.
Games Ahead/Behind: 1 1/2 in NL East, currently second Wild Card team
Playoff Odds: 34.7 percent
Deadline decisions: The Braves arguably have a bit more urgency than the Phillies to make the playoffs this year. They'll still be good in the coming years, but they have obvious holes right now for the right acquisition. They have the prospects and the money to go after big game, and while deGrom probably wouldn't work, Chris Archer makes a lot of sense. A lot more than Mike Moustakas, anyway.
So, should they floor it? They very much need a starting pitcher or two. They shouldn't give up any of those top 100 pitching prospects that are on their way, but there's plenty of depth in the system. At this point, it would be an active disappointment if the Braves missed the postseason this year. They should act accordingly.
Games Behind: 1/2 behind in NL West, 1/2 behind second Wild Card team
Playoff Odds: 49.6 percent
Deadline decisions:Matt Andriese is a sneaky-good acquisition for a team that needs a little, but not a ton, of pitching help, and they're supposedly in on Archer as well. A third baseman could do them some good as well; Machado, alas, would have been a nice fit.
So, should they floor it? The D-backs have done a terrific job of shifting on the fly in the last couple of years, but they haven't stopped the Dodgers' reign atop the NL West. They're a half-game out right now. No time like the present.
Games Behind: 1 1/2 behind in NL West, 1 1/2 behind second Wild Card team
Playoff Odds: 23.8 percent
Deadline decisions: The team that spent most of its offseason building up its bullpen added another piece this week in Seunghwan Oh, but the dirty secret about the Rockies remains that their offense is not that good. This is the second consecutive year that Jose Abreu would be a logical fit here.
So, should they floor it? Do they want their playoff push of the late 2010's to be limited to last year's road Wild Card lost? The Rockies have probably played a little bit above their heads to this point. That's a reason to push, not a reason to let up.
Games Behind: 7 behind in NL Central, 3 1/2 behind second Wild Card team
Playoff Odds: 17.2 percent
Deadline decisions: The Great Win Streak of 2018 is finally over, and as fun as it was, the Pirates probably shouldn't get too excited. Maybe they can catch lightning in a bottle, but, all told, they just did catch lightning in a bottle. And they're still 3 1/2 out of the Wild Card with four teams ahead of them. Maybe if they want to grab a spare bullpen arm, they can. But don't get carried away.
So, should they floor it? No. You'll always have mid-July 2018.
San Francisco Giants
Games Behind: 4 1/2 behind in NL West, 4 1/2 behind second Wild Card team
Playoff Odds: 11.5 percent
Deadline decisions: The Giants are in the same tough spot they've been in the last few years: Old, but not terrible enough to give up and start over. If you were to pick a record you wouldn't want the Giants to have, it would probably be 52-51, right? They can't buy or sell. Would you go all-in on this roster? But would you be able to look Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner in the eye if you sold players from a winning roster?
So, should they floor it? The cliff is coming eventually. The only question is how fast the Giants are driving when they go over it.
St. Louis Cardinals Record: 51-51
Games Behind: 8 1/2 behind in NL Central, 5 behind second wild-card team
Playoff Odds: 13.4 percent
Deadline decisions: The firing of Mike Matheny did not inspire the instant turnaround the team was hoping for; they just lost two of three in Cincinnati and made the Reds' wretched pitching staff look like Maddux/Smoltz/Glavine. Firing Matheny was still the right call, but it was clearly just the first step of many. Of all the teams on this list, the Cardinals are the most likely to be a seller at the deadline as they reconstruct a roster that has gotten stuck in the mud. The question is whether the trades will be small (Bud Norris), medium (Marcell Ozuna?) or massive (Carlos Martinez).
So, should they floor it? Heavens, no. This is the least inspiring Cardinals team in a decade, probably longer.
Games Behind: 7 behind in NL East, 5 1/2 behind second Wild Card team
Playoff Odds: 49.5 percent
Deadline decisions: Hoo boy. The Nationals just can't get this thing kicked into gear, and now Stephen Strasburg is on the DL. This was supposed to be the Nationals' big culmination year before Bryce Harper hits free agency. Now it's falling apart. But still; look at those Fangraphs odds! Can the Nationals really sell? (Or send Harper to the A's, as Petriello suggested, which would be amazing.) It's tough to see how. The Nationals have to still be all-in here, standings be damned.
So, should they floor it? Probably not. But they might as well.
Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.