With the baseball trade deadline now behind us, lets quickly look at some of the teams that made impact moves and how they are set up for the remainder of the season.
Twenty-two games over .500, the Kansas City Royals seem poised to make another world series run as they continue to blow the roof off of stadiums. A small market team that cannot afford to sign stars the way the Yankees and Red Sox do, they recognize their groomed star-studded team, and that this is their window to succeed. With sluggers Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Kendrys Morales leading the way, the Royals snagged one of the biggest prizes off the market, Right handed start Johnny Cueto from the Reds. With a sure fire ace to lead the way, the Royals are for real. Not only is Cueto a number one starter, but he will be able to groom the highly talented but immature Yordano Ventura over the next few months. Kansas City appears to be a World Series favorite at this point in the season.
Going in the entirely opposite direction is the once promising Detroit Tigers. The Tigers, led by slugger Miguez Cabrera and ace David Price at the beginning of the season, the team has underperformed throughout the season leading general manager Dave Dombrowski to have a sudden change of heart just before the deadline, and blowing up the team. Hours before the deadline he sent ace David Price to the Blue Jays and slugger Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets in a full-blown team reboot. Surely, Brad Ausmus’ job is in jeopardy. In an even more bizarre move, after completing these deals the Tigers released the well-respected Dombrowski from his general manager role. The Tigers are in complete shambles as they plummet towards the bottom of the division. I’m picking the Royals to handily win the division, and the Tigers to finish dead last. I expect the young and suddenly competitive Chicago White Sox to beat out the mediocre Twins to finish second in the division.
The American League West has been absolutely crazy this year. No one on the planet picked the Houston Astros to not just be leading the division at this point, but even have a remotely competitive record. Obviously that’s a bit of a stretch, but seriously how are these Astros the same Astros that lost over one hundred games last year? Led by young stars Carlos Correia and Jose Altuve, the Astros promise to be one of the best teams in baseball for the foreseeable future. Playing a boom or bust style of baseball, the Astros have been extremely fun to watch. They play hitters in the lineup such as Luis Valbuena and Chris Carter, players that hit below the Mendoza line while striking out at alarming rates, but when they make contact, they hit massive home runs. After a hot start the baseball world has waited for the Astros to come back to earth. But that hot start has proved to be the real deal, as the team made deadline moves for a front line starter, Scott Kazmir, and for power bat Carlos Gomez. The team is very young though, and though I believe they will outlast the Trout and Pujols led Angels to win the West, they are too young and inexperienced to make a serious run in October.
The Angels made some minor but important moves in their quest for the playoffs. A resurgent Pujols is playing like he’s 26 again, smashing homeruns alongside the best player in baseball, Mike Trout. Though not the flashiest of moves, the pick-ups of David Murphy and David Dejesus should help the Angels fight it out till the end with the Astros to win the division, and surely be fighting for a wild card spot.
One of the biggest players of the trade deadline was the unsuspecting Texas Rangers. Playing .500 baseball, the Rangers landed one of the top prizes of the market, making a blockbuster deal with the Phillies for left handed ace Cole Hamels. Both teams in this deal consider themselves winners as the Rangers were able to hold on to top prospect Joey Gallo while obtaining Hamels, while the Phillies in desperate need of a reboot loaded up on a big haul of prospects. Suddenly, at 55-55 and with Hamels at the helm, the Rangers find themselves only 4.5 games out of first place with 52 games remaining. With Adrian Beltre finally healthy, and Prince Fielder playing like the comeback player of the year, Rangers nation now feels like anything is possible. If they can get a resurgent Josh Hamilton to perform, the Astros and Angels better be careful. Texas has the tools to be the real deal and make an October run. If they can even get one of the wild card spots, they should feel good trotting out ace and former world series MVP Cole Hamels for a one game playoff.
The Seattle Mariners continue to disappoint, being eight games under.500 despite having ace Felix Hernandez, and all-star sluggers Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz and the severely overpaid and shockingly under performing Robinson Cano. The team is loaded with talent but continues to play truthfully pathetic baseball. With Iwakuma and Mike Montgomery, both plus pitchers, following Hernandez in the rotation, they surely should be competing for the division.
The Athletics round out the division hanging around the basement playing subpar baseball. The small market Billy Beane led team though does not have the stars that Seattle does, yet are only a game and a half behind the Mariners for the fourth position in the division. With ace Sonny Gray having a Cy Young season, the A’s have hung around with teams, especially every fifth day with Gray. After an extremely hot start catcher/first baseman Stephen Vogt has become equally cold at the plate, as the A’s struggle to score runs. Greg Burns, the rookie leadoff man seems promising, with speed and some extra base power, but the fact remains that this small market team will struggle to compete, especially once Beane trades Gray towards the end of his contract.