Yesterday, we saw a couple of huge trades in baseball that could potentially lock teams into the postseason. If only it were that easy.
Zack Greinke going to the Houston Astros was the biggest move yesterday. He now gives the Astros three aces in the rotation, and his acquisition now has to make the Astros the American League favorites. With guys like Altuve, Correa, Gurriel, Springer, Brantley, and Osuna, if the Astros do not make the Fall Classic, I will be shocked. The Astros looked to be on their way to the World Series last year, but as one of my colleagues said, “they ran into a buzzsaw” that was the Boston Red Sox.
The Minnesota Twins, led by one of the best young outfields (Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, Byron Buxton) and starting pitchers (José Berrios) in the game, are another AL hopeful. If you want to talk about a team that has the talent, but always seems to fall short (and by that, I mean running into the former buzzsaw called the New York Yankees), the Twins are that team case in point. And it does not get any easier for them this year, as the Yankees are back and better than ever. The Twins need starters besides Berrios to step up if they want to be playing in late October.
The New York Yankees. Watch out. Their offense is one of the best offenses in baseball, if not the best offense. How do they make it work? Seemingly half of their team is injured. Guys like Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu have stepped up big time. Gleyber Torres is having another solid year. And of course, the best power duo in baseball: Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. If they want to make the Fall Classic, however, their starting pitchers need to be on their game.
The Cleveland Indians have shot up the AL Central, only sitting three games behind the Minnesota Twins for the title. Oscar Mercado has emerged as one of the best hitters on the team. Carlos Santana is back (he earned All-Star honors). The pitching staff, even without Kluber, Carrasco, and Salazar, has been holding their own, led by All-Star Shane Bieber. Brad Hand is the best closer in the AL this year in terms of saves. If the Tribe want to roll to the Fall Classic, they need to hit consistently.
The Tampa Bay Rays are that one team in the American League who is always in the middle of the playoff race. They just acquired Jesús Aguilar from the Brewers to play first base. Outside of Aguilar and Meadows, the Rays do not have a ton of big names that will blow you away, but they have guys that produce. The Rays have chemistry, something every winning team should have. If the Rays want to make the Fall Classic, they just need to keep playing their brand of baseball.
The Atlanta Braves are getting it done. They can make a baseball game look like batting practice. Josh Donaldson, Ronald Acuña Jr., and Freddie Freeman are just a few of the sluggers in the Braves lineup. Dallas Keuchel signed on with the Braves to help the pitching rotation, which has been subpar at times this year. If the Braves want to make the Fall Classic, they will need more out of their starting pitching.
The St. Louis Cardinals are that one team who always seems to be in the playoff hunt. Paul Goldschmidt has been heating up. Kolten Wong is one of the most consistent second baseman in the game. Tyler O’Neill and José Martinez have been reliable bats. Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright have had off years, but they have plenty of season to turn it around. Andrew Miller, one of the best relievers in baseball, is now the closer with Jordan Hicks out indefinitely. If the Cardinals want to make the Fall Classic, they just need to keep playing Cardinals baseball.
The Los Angeles Dodgers. Where do I even start. They can outplay you in just about every aspect of the game. Cody Bellinger, one of baseball’s best sluggers, leads the hitting attack. Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner are dangerous pieces of that hitting attack. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, and Walker Buehler, all aces, are in the pitching rotation. Kenley Jansen is a great shutdown man at the back of the bullpen. The Dodgers do not really have a weakness, similar to the Astros. They just need to keep playing the way they have been.
The Chicago Cubs. Three years removed from a World Series title, they are hopeful to do it all over again. They have the sluggers in Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, and Kyle Schwarber. They have the pitchers in Jon Lester and Yu Darvish. They have one of the best closers in baseball in Craig Kimbrel. David Bote has emerged as the everyday second baseman. The Cubs’ starting pitching needs to improve, however, if they want to be playing in the World Series.
As good as the Milwaukee Brewers are, their starting pitching is to be desired. Yelich, Braun, and Moustakas lead the hitting attack. Yelich is an MVP candidate, and one of the best sluggers in the game. Josh Hader is one of the best relievers in baseball. Brandon Woodruff, Jimmy Nelson, and Jhoulys Chacin are all on the DL, however. Gio Gonzalez has found his way back into an MLB rotation, but the Brewers will need a lot more than Gio to help their pitching staff. The Fall Classic is not out of reach for the Brew Crew, and they have plenty of time to regain their dominance from last year.
Who will make the World Series as of right now? No one knows. Dodgers-Astros is the clear-cut favorite pick, but I have to go with Yankees-Braves. The Yankees are long overdue for a World Series title, and the puzzle pieces just seem to be clicking for the Braves.
It will be interesting to see how the season finishes. Who knows, maybe there will be a surprise team that shoots up the standings?