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How the Deadline affected each playoff race

@williamfleitch
August 1, 2019

The Trade Deadline has now passed and, unlike, years past, there is no other deadline coming: These are your teams, for better or worse. Teams have made their moves, or not made them. They’re riding with these guys. So now that all the moves are in, and so many players

The Trade Deadline has now passed and, unlike, years past, there is no other deadline coming: These are your teams, for better or worse. Teams have made their moves, or not made them. They’re riding with these guys.

So now that all the moves are in, and so many players we thought would be traded are staying put, how does the chase stack up down the stretch? Let’s take a look at all eight postseason races, for the six divisions and the Wild Card Game in each league.

American League East
The Yankees have been a little wobbly of late, but they still have a 7 1/2-game lead on the Rays and a 10-game lead on the Red Sox: FanGraphs has them at more than 90 percent to win the AL East. So for all the dunking on the Yankees for being outmaneuvered by Houston at the Deadline for starting pitchers -- much of it justified -- it is worth noting that they're still in excellent position in this division. It’s possible the team will have to use the opener strategy in every one of its postseason games, but if Yankees fans are panicking, the AL East still seems to be theirs. Look out if they meet the Astros in the AL Championship Series, though.

The other teams in the division didn’t exactly rise to the challenge, with the Rays, after last year’s brilliant Deadline (in which they brought in Tommy Pham, Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow), adding Brewers first baseman Jesús Aguilar, along with righties Trevor Richards and Nick Anderson from the Marlins in a couple of minor moves. And the Red Sox begged out of this Deadline entirely. The Yankees have work to do to wrap up the division. But their AL East rivals didn’t make it any harder on them.

American League Central
On June 15, the Twins were 11 games up on the Indians, holding the best record in baseball, and you can be forgiven for thinking that the division race was already over. But since then, the Twins are 18-19 and the Indians are 26-11.

Cleveland actually climbed to within one game a week ago but is now back to three, and the Indians were obviously aggressive at the Deadline, shipping out Trevor Bauer and his center field fastballs to Cincinnati in a three-way trade that brought back Yasiel Puig and the Padres’ Franmil Reyes. So remember all those issues the Indians were having in their outfield? Well, now they’ve got Puig, Reyes (who may DH more than play the field) and Oscar Mercado out there, three huge pieces that weren’t there on Opening Day. They’re down Bauer, of course, but Corey Kluber is coming back soon. The Indians traded their best current starter ... and look better than they did a week ago.

The Twins’ response? Sam Dyson from San Francisco, who instantly becomes one of their key relievers down the stretch. Will he (and Sergio Romo, who was added a few days ago) be enough to hold off the Indians? Dyson could low-key be one of the key Deadline moves.

American League West
The Astros look free and clear in this division -- FanGraphs has them at 99.7 percent odds to win the AL West -- but they’re of course focused on the playoffs at this point, which is why they just went nuts. A team looking for starting pitching went out and brought in Aaron Sanchez (who reeks of a player who will thrive in Houston), Joe Biagini and ... Zack freaking Greinke, in the official Brain Explode trade of this year’s Deadline.

The Astros paid plenty for him, four of their top prospects, including top 100 prospect Seth Beer, but Greinke is the best player traded at the Deadline by far ... and might still be the Astros’ third-best starter. At a Deadline where most teams were timid, the Astros floored it. The Astros might have been the best team in baseball on July 30. They are undeniably better now.

The A’s added as well, acquiring right-hander Tanner Roark from the Reds and lefty reliever Jake Diekman from the Royals, but at eight games out, the AL West is not currently Oakland's target. Instead …

American League Wild Card
Well, say what you will about the Wild Card Game, but it certainly didn’t inspire much ambition among the teams trying to sneak into it. The Red Sox stood pat; the Rays made the minor addition of Aguilar; the Angels made a tiny trade with the Astros of all teams; the A’s brought in Roark, instantly the biggest deal of those four teams.

The biggest effect on the AL Wild Card race was the Indians’ smart trades for their outfielders, raising their ceiling and making it very possibly those four teams are competing for just one spot rather than two.

National League East
The Nationals are like your friend who ran out of deodorant right before a big date once and now their entire medicine cabinet is full of deodorant just in case. The bullpen has broken the hearts of Nats fans for years, so the team is throwing bodies at the problem, bringing in right-handers Hunter Strickland and Daniel Hudson and lefty Roenis Elias. Hudson is having by far the best season, but Elias is a lefty and Strickland ... well, Strickland has pitched 3 1/3 innings this year and given up three runs. But he has pitched in a World Series before, so maybe he can tell his teammates what that was like. (He also has a long-standing beef with Bryce Harper, who is now a division rival and a former National. Fun!)

But the Nationals are in a pennant chase, after all, just 6 1/2 games behind the Braves, who don’t need to be told at this point how important a bullpen is: They just blew a two-run lead on Wednesday against those very same Nats before winning in 10 innings, right as the Trade Deadline was winding down. To make sure that stops happening, Atlanta traded for the Tigers’ Shane Greene before that game had even ended. Right afterward, San Francisco shipped over Mark Melancon, who has been better this year than you probably think he has been. Those pitchers patch over the Braves’ greatest weakness, and all told ... with a 6 1/2-game lead and Greene now shoring up the ninth, you have to like their chances.

Meanwhile, the Phillies, right behind the Nats, have acted this July like they’re aware how extending their playoff drought -- they haven’t been back since 2011, when Ryan Howard collapsed running up the base line on the final out of the NLDS -- is going to look to their fan base. In the past two months, they’ve added lefties Drew Smyly and Jason Vargas, outfielders Jay Bruce, Corey Dickerson (right at the Deadline) and five other players: The Phillies want October, badly.

National League Central
The tightest division in baseball didn’t lead to a massive number of moves; if anything, the only real active team was Cincinnati. The question is whether that inactivity will come back to haunt anyone.

The Cubs made the biggest move, trading for Nicholas Castellanos, who was leading the American League in doubles and may have a perfect swing for Wrigley Field, if manager Joe Maddon can figure out where to play him. The Brewers, desperate for any sort of pitching at this point, brought over Drew Pomeranz and Jake Faria just a couple of days after adding Jordan Lyles.

But the big surprise was how quiet the Cardinals were. The team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015 -- the longest drought in 20 years -- but they did nothing but unload Jedd Gyorko to the Dodgers. The Cardinals are short a starter (they’ve brought Michael Wacha and his 5.15 ERA back in the rotation) and they’re short in the bullpen, particularly from the left side. But the team remained idle. Considering that the Cardinals traded Oscar Mercado, Tommy Pham and Luke Voit last year, maybe they were just gun-shy this year. But they better make the playoffs now, or the anger in St. Louis may boil over.

National League West
The Dodgers have the biggest division lead in baseball and, like the Astros, are mostly just positioning themselves for short-series baseball. But the big move everyone was expecting -- bringing in closer Felipe Vazquez from Pittsburgh -- didn’t happen.

They’ll have Jedd Gyorko to add to their seemingly endless number of infielders, and Adam Kolarek (from Tampa Bay) for the bullpen, but their Big Mammoth move, the traditional Dodger Pile-On, didn’t happen. They’ve got the division essentially sewn up. But Dodgers fans aren’t satisfied with just winning the division anymore.

The rest of the West? You’ll find them in this race …

National League Wild Card
The Giants were wheeling and dealing like crazy, trading off players but keeping Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith and even bringing in Scooter Gennett. The Phillies and Nationals, as mentioned, were shoring up. Turns out the Mets really did want Marcus Stroman to help them this year. And the D-backs traded away Greinke but brought in Mike Leake and kept Robbie Ray.

This race has been scrambled, which is why it’s particularly surprising that the NL Central teams, other than the Castellanos addition, were so quiet. If they were hoping the Giants, D-backs or Mets would drop out of this race, they haven’t. The Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers are going to have to earn their spot. Because this one is doing to be crazy.