The MLB trade deadline is the time when contenders try to solidify their spot in the postseason, and those on the outside looking in try to elbow those contenders away and claim a playoff bid for themselves.
With this year’s non-waiver deadline in the books, which teams look like they’ll be playing into October? Let’s go division by division and see who did enough at the deadline to start printing playoff tickets.
AL East: Toronto Blue Jays
In a division where neither of the contenders made a significant move at the deadline, the favorite appears to be the Blue Jays. They boast a stronger pitching staff than either the Red Sox or the Orioles, and their lineup remains one of the deadliest in the league. Pitching is what’s going to get them to the playoffs, though. Boston’s staff is still messy even with the additions of Drew Pomeranz and Brad Ziegler, and Baltimore’s staff of Chris Tillman and cross your fingers doesn’t look like it’ll be enough. The East looks like it’s Toronto’s for the taking.
NL East: Washington Nationals
Closer Mark Melancon gives the Nats a stable presence at the back end of their bullpen, something that was a major weakness for some time. They still have the best lineup in the division, and while the Marlins and Mets made additions at the deadline, it seems like they’ll be fighting it out for a Wild Card spot. Washington came into the deadline as the class of the division, and nothing has changed.
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
The hard-charging Tigers are right at their heels, but the Indians went all in with the addition of Andrew Miller and still look to be the strongest team in the division. Losing Danny Salazar to an arm injury hurts, but the Indians are deep enough to get by without him. It would be a surprise if the Tigers managed to catch and pass them. Magical things seem to be happening to Cleveland teams that aren’t the Browns this year.
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs could have done absolutely nothing at the deadline and would still be the obvious favorite to run away with the division. Instead, they added Aroldis Chapman. Start printing division champs shirts now.
AL West: Texas Rangers
The Rangers made moves at the deadline not simply with the intent of winning the division, but winning the World Series. No other team did as much to improve as the Rangers, adding Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy to their dangerous offense and Jeremy Jeffress to the back end of their bullpen. That should be enough to keep the Astros at bay in the division, and could make them the prohibitive favorite in the American League. Their lineup is relentless.
NL West: San Francisco Giants
The Giants addressed a major weakness in their bullpen with the addition of Will Smith, and getting Matt Moore from Tampa Bay was a necessary move as well. It cost them Matt Duffy, but the addition of Eduardo Nunez makes that sting a bit less. The Giants’ offense is finally healthy and backed by a stronger pitching staff, that should be enough to turn around their slow start to the second half and hold off the beat-up Dodgers for the division crown.
AL Wild Cards: Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers
Take your pick of the two AL East teams for the Wild Card, but it’s hard to pick both of them, considering they’ll be beating up on each other down the stretch. The Orioles seem to have a leg up on the Red Sox and look like the stronger team. The Tigers, meanwhile, are starting to play their best ball of the season and may be hitting their stride. It wouldn’t be a shock to see them outplay the Astros over the next two months to hold them off in the Wild Card standings, and sneak by the third AL East team to claim a playoff spot.
NL Wild Cards: Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Mets added Jay Bruce at the deadline to prop up their lineup, but they still don’t look like a playoff team, especially with the Marlins playing as well as they have been. Andrew Cashner may not be a world-beater, but he’s an upgrade for Miami, who should be able to claim one of the spots here. The Dodgers could certainly use Clayton Kershaw back and healthy, but they’ve played well without him and made a few strong additions in Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. It may not be enough to keep up with a healthy Giants team, but it should get them to the playoffs.