The All-Star Break is the unofficial halfway mark of the baseball season (the official version occurred at game number 82 two weeks ago – we’ve now played 95), and it’s time for a few reflections and observations:
Around the League
NL East – 2 teams are in the hunt: Washington and Atlanta.
The Mets would like to think they’re still relevant (finishing 8-2 before the break), but no: they’re really not. Injuries and inconsistency have hurt them a lot. Frankly, had the injuries of the Braves and Mets been reversed, it’s conceivable that the fortunes of each team could have been reversed as well… had they been forced to pick up Ervin Santana and/or Aaron Harang instead.
The Marlins have been fading as the Summer has come upon us. Their incredible home-record start has evaporated… pretty much since the Braves swept them at the end of May. They’re now just 27-22 at home and 3rd worst in the NL on the road (17-28).
NL Central – a dogfight has broken out: 4 teams are in it. You just knew Pittsburgh and Cincinnati would make runs… and now they have as Milwaukee has returned to the pack.
NL West – Once Kershaw returned, so did the Dodgers. The Giants are flailing, but still in the thick of it. No other team is competitive as Arizona is the worst in baseball at home, San Diego and Colorado are the worst 2 road teams.
NL Wild Card Race. Yes: it’s a race as 5 teams are currently within 3 games of those 2 extra playoff spots. If the playoffs began today, San Francisco and Atlanta would be in the one-game playoff (at Pac-Bell Park). Washington, Milwaukee, and the Dodgers would win the divisions (ATL is 1 point behind Washington, having played 2 more games). The Cardinals, Reds, and Pirates would be all left out.
GUESSES FOR 2ND HALF: Washington finds some consistency and knocks Atlanta to the wildcard spot. Milwaukee, the Reds, and Pirates all fade. St. Louis gets just enough to win the division. The Dodgers win theirs, while San Fran holds on for dear life and ekes out the last playoff spot.
Buyers and Sellers
BUYERS: Baltimore, Toronto, Yankees, Tigers, possibly Royals, Oakland (though not any more!), Angels, Nats, Braves, the entire NL Central (except Cubs), Dodgers and Giants. Seattle and the Indians probably should not be, but can’t be ruled out.
SELLERS: Boston, Tampa, Cubs, San Diego for certain. Phillies, Arizona, Texas, and Houston likely.
BIGGEST TRADE PIECES: David Price is still the prize; Jake Peavy will probably be moved this week. Numerous relievers from Cubs, San Diego, possibly Boston. Martin Prado should be sold if Kevin Towers doesn’t get too greedy.
The Cardinals and Boston would seem to match up well on Peavy. Watch for that.
The Phillies would do well if they were to dump all of Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee… Domonic Brown and Marlon Byrd, too. That would allow them to rebuild the entire franchise in one shot: both with numerous prospects and with cash to buy anybody they’d want this winter. But they won’t go that far.
On July 14th, 2013, the Braves were 54-41. Today they are 52-43. Last year, they also had a six game lead over Washington. Feels a lot different than that, eh?
The Dan Uggla situation needs to be resolved. After yesterday’s incident, it’s painfully obvious that frustration is bubbling to the surface. For the good of everyone involved (as I add my voice to several here), it is time for the Braves to cut ties. A 24-man bench is not helpful to the club and if Dan has any shot at getting his mojo back, then he needs to have the freedom to find a place with available ABs… anywhere. And right now, the only way Atlanta can get any money back from the $18+ million they still owe him is to suspend him daily… which isn’t going to happen. Cut him and go with Philip Gosselin.
The only reason I add this section is because it is starting to sound like interest in him is actually dwindling:
- The Rays themselves have rallied a bit, finishing a run of 11-4 before the break. But they’re still 9.5 games back and 9 under .500.
- If the Cardinals end up with Jake Peavy, then they’re out.
- If the Dodgers actually pass on him (according to their GM, Ned Colleti, they do not wish to “tear apart the farm system”), then that’s a major suitor out of the running.
- The Yankees don’t have the players and have big needs (having lost Masashiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia).
- Toronto and Baltimore would make difficult trade partners
- Seattle can’t catch Oakland or the Angels
- The Braves can’t afford him
In other words, the Rays might be faced with keeping Price – something they really don’t want to do. Sometimes you get burned when you overplay your hand – something that the Cubs certainly didn’t do when selling Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
The Braves have a couple of very interesting positional situations shaping up in the near future:
- CATCHER. Ryan Doumit and Gerald Laird will be off contract at years’ end, but they will still have Evan Gattis, Christian Bethancourt, and possibly Yenier Bello all available for 2015. Just thinking out loud for a second here: Bello is now signed and working out in Orlando. If the evaluations of him are as good as hoped, Christian Bethancourt’s work in the majors might actually become something of a “showcase” for a possible trade. Yes, that’s pure speculation, but something to consider.
SECOND BASE. In a matter of about six weeks, we’ve gone from “what on earth can we do with the position” to “where are we gonna put everybody”?
- Tommy La Stella is showing us exactly what we’d hoped he would be: he’s hitting .292 with .371 OBP and actually can hit with runners on base.
- Phil Gosselin was hitting .345 at AAA with a .381 OBP.
- Jose Peraza (still just 20 years old) got promoted to AA and got better - in a pitching league. He’s now hitting .365 with a .393 OBP – and has 42 steals on the year. He’s really a shortstop, but we’ve kinda already got one of those.
My guess? For 2015, Peraza starts in AAA but if either La Stella or he can play third base, then Chris Johnson could be the odd-man out. Gosselin could also replace Pena as the super-utility guy.