That time of the season has come where teams have to evaluate how well they have performed in the first 100 or so games of the year. With the trade deadline approaching on Friday, now is the time for contenders to make the move that could potentially push them over the top. In previous years, Aroldis Chapman, Johnny Cueto, and Hunter Pence were crucial to pushing the Cubs, Royals, and Giants over the top. Other trades, such as the Blue Jays trading for David Price, Cleveland acquiring Andrew Miller, and the Astros snagging Greinke at the last minute were crucial for each teams’ deep postseason runs.
Many teams have already begun to make their moves for the postseason run. The Milwaukee Brewers traded for shortstop Willy Adames in the middle of May and Rowdy Tellez at the beginning of the month. The Padres have already acquired NL All-Star Adam Frazier and cash for a trio of prospects from the Pittsburgh Pirates and now have Eric Hosmer on the trading block. This week’s power rankings will focus on the trade deadline for the ranked teams, and the moves or potential moves that they may make. With all that said, let’s get into the rankings!
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1. Houston Astros (61-40, +141 run differential, Last Time: 2)
The Astros’ biggest need was addressing the bullpen. Entering play on the 27th, the Astros’ bullpen was ranked 15th in ERA, 22nd in FIP, and 20th in home run rate. With the luxury tax looming, the best option they felt was available was Kendall Graveman from the Seattle Mariners. This season, Graveman has posted a 0.82 ERA, a 2.88 FIP, and 0.55 HR/9 which rank second, 29th, and 30th among relievers with at least 30 innings pitched. While the rankings may not jump of the page, Graveman also is on a 1-year, $1.25 million contract, which is significant for a team like Houston that is brushing against the luxury tax this season.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (60-40, +92, Last Time: 5)
As always, the small-market Tampa Bay Rays are open for business one way or another. Earlier this season, shortstop Willy Adames and Trevor Richards were swapped to the Brewers for J.P. Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen as a way to clear playing time for rookie shortstops Taylor Walls and Wander Franco. Last week, the Rays bolstered their lineup by trading for Nelson Cruz and Calvin Faucher for Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman from the Twins. Following the Cruz trade, the Rays then traded Rich Hill to the New York Mets in exchange for Tommy Hunter and Matt Dyer.
3. San Francisco Giants (62-37, +120, Last Time: 1)
The Giants are a strange team to gauge for the trade deadline, simply because they could stand pat and stick with a team that has overachieved this year, or they could search for upgrades to try and win the NL West and potentially more. They have banked enough wins in a weak NL to probably make it into the playoffs, so the Giants could be a total wild card for approaching the deadline. They have been linked to the big fish on the market, Max Scherzer, along with Kris Bryant (per Jon Morosi).
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (61-40, +146, Last Time: 4)
Unlike the rival Giants, the Dodgers have a clear need at the trade deadline, and that is pitching. With the injuries to Dustin May and Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin and David Price not able to adequately eat innings, and Trevor Bauer out indefinitely, the Dodgers shortly went from having enviable pitching depth to it being a need at the deadline. As a result, the Dodgers have been linked primarily to Max Scherzer from the Nationals, who would be a rental for the Dodgers.
5 (tie). Boston Red Sox (62-39, +69, Last Time: Not Ranked) & Chicago White Sox (59-41, +114, Last Time: 2)
Similarly to the Giants, the Boston Red Sox have been surprisingly great this season, and are in first place in the AL East over the preseason favorite New York Yankees and defending AL pennant winners Tampa Bay Rays. The biggest move that the Red Sox will make will not come at the deadline, but in the middle of August when Chris Sale returns from his Tommy John surgery. In his rehab starts in the minors, Sale has an ERA of 1.74, WHIP of 1.06, and 20 strikeouts in 10.1 IP(!). The Red Sox recently announced that Chris Sale will make two more rehab starts before joining the Red Sox, and then he will rejoin the team.
The White Sox need to upgrade at second base. Since Nick Madrigal went down for the year due to a torn hamstring, White Sox second basemen have posted a wRC+ of 100 (18th in the majors in that span), and have an OPS of 0.696 (22nd). Comparatively, Nick Madrigal posted a wRC+ of 116 and OPS of 0.774 while he was in the lineup. A potential good fit for the White Sox could be Arizona’s Eduardo Escobar, a rental player who could primarily play second base and has a wRC+ of 106 and an OPS of 0.783, both of which are upgrades over their current production at second.
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27 (tie). Baltimore Orioles (34-64, -130, Last Time: 30), Miami Marlins (43-57, +1, Last Time: NR), & Washington Nationals (45-54, -27, Last Time: NR)
The Orioles are not going to be in the playoffs this year and do not have any trade chips that teams would realistically want. Trey Mancini has had an excellent year in his first season back from stage 3 colon cancer and would be a free agent after 2023. However, with what Mancini has been through during his time with the Orioles, the PR hit would be very damaging. Cedric Mullins and John Means could also be traded, but Means and Mullins would not hit free agency until 2025 and 2026, respectively, and realistically could be on the next good Orioles team. Maybe Anthony Santander can bring something of value back.
The Marlins are a strange team to evaluate just from how unlucky they have been. They boast a positive run differential, yet are in last place in a weak NL East, primarily due to their poor record in one run games. The main piece for the Marlins to potentially move is Starling Marte. Marte is an impending free agent and with extension talks reaching an impasse, the Marlins moving their center fielder is certainly a reality. A potential destination is the Yankees, who have an 84 wRC+ amongst center fielders this season and a need for better baserunning that Marte would provide.
The Nationals went on a run at the end of June to bring their record to 40-38, and more importantly, 2 games behind the division-leading Mets. Since then, the Nats have gone 5-16, and have announced that they would be listening to offers on their ace Max Scherzer and that every player but Juan Soto is available. With Max Scherzer becoming a free agent after this season, he is the most coveted rental player, and with his no trade clause can effectively choose where he plays.
28. Arizona Diamondbacks (31-70, -150, Last Time: 28)
The most attractive trade chip that the Diamondbacks realistically have to offer is their lone representative from the 2021 All-Star Game, Eduardo Escobar. The White Sox are a potential suitor with Nick Madrigal’s injury for Escobar. Outside of Eduardo Escobar, there are not many attractive trade chips that could net Arizona a decent return. Ketel Marte would be able to command a haul, but with him under contract with a team-friendly contract until 2025, he would not likely be moved for what many teams would offer at the deadline, but could maybe be on the move in the offseason.
29. Minnesota Twins (43-58, -70, Last Time: NR)
What a fall for the team formerly known as the Bomba Squad. The Twins had won back to back division titles and were expected to be in the playoff race this season, only to struggle out of the gate and fail to build any momentum throughout the season. The first trade domino already fell for the Twins as they traded designated hitter Nelson Cruz to the Rays last week. Jose Berrios has also been rumored to be on the move, as he has drawn interest from both the Dodgers and the Padres. Another name to potentially watch is Byron Buxton, who has not signed an extension and might be a trade chip that the Twins plan to cash in.
30. Texas Rangers (35-65, -112, Last Time: 27)
The Rangers have stumbled out of the All-Star break, losing their first ten games since coming back from the rest and 12 straight. The noise surrounding Joey Gallo has continued to grow as he will become a free agent after the 2022 season, and will likely not be a member of the next good Rangers team. While the Rangers have weighed extending Gallo or trading him, he has drawn interest from plenty of teams, including the Yankees and the Padres. This season, Gallo has posted a 139 wRC+ with outstanding defense in right field and 24 home runs. Another player who could bring back considerable value is Kyle Gibson, who is in the midst of a career season and would not be a free agent until after the 2022 season.
I have developed a primitive ranking system via Google Sheets using a team’s record, record from their last 10 games, and run differential. It’s not necessarily bad to not see your favorite team here every week, it just means that they are closer to an average team instead of a great one or a terrible one. Also, I don’t play favorites and I don’t hate your team (at least I don’t hate them enough to rank them lower). These rankings are derived straight from the numbers. Feel free to argue with me about this on Twitter. My username is @jwdblue42, and I will talk about my rankings with anyone who disagrees in a respectful manner only.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and BaseballSavant, player numbers are accurate as of 7/26/2021, team records and run differentials are accurate as of 7/27/2021
Featured Photo Courtesy of Kevin Dietsch