Well, we have hit a little past the halfway point and the 2nd half already had an earth-shaking moment:
Manny Machado is now a Dodger. What seemed like it could have been Machado to Philadelphia flipped to Machado to LA. It obviously gives another bat to a quality Los Angeles lineup and they have to be considered favorites to repeat winning the pennant now. And it leaves Philadelphia with a sour taste in their mouth they couldn’t get the deal done. Of course, Los Angeles has to start out with a road trip to Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Atlanta so this was probably a VERY MUCH NEEDED move by the Dodgers to make. And while the Dodgers may have given up a good bit, it was a good move and really doesn’t shatter their excellent farm system.
So just some thoughts of what I think we can expect in the 2nd half:
(1) THE MLB NON-WAIVER TRADE DEADLINE WILL BE A VERY BUSY ONE: A lot of teams are already out (by my accounts, 12 will be easy sellers on the market) so they will look to move some veteran pieces or pieces that will improve the farm system and look for the future (any team in the AL Central not named Cleveland fits this bill). And you can bet that the teams fighting for a playoff spot or late October baseball (Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Astros) will try to make that one big splash, though the big splash ended with Machado being traded to the Dodgers. Unless……
(2) IF THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS START SLOW FROM THE BREAK THEY WILL BE SELLERS AT THE DEADLINE, AND IF THEY DO, THEY MAY LISTEN TO OFFERS FOR BRYCE HARPER: It’s still hypothetical, and Washington did no favors having a 6-5 run to the Marlins, Pirates, and Mets to end the break and remain a .500 team IF Philadelphia starts to push away from the division and the Dodgers/Diamondbacks/Brewers all make key moves and starts to roll, it will be very difficult to see Washington get in the postseason. Adding on top of it, their first 6 games are to Atlanta and Milwaukee. Anything less than a 4-2 run would be a detrimental, and if they get swept at home to Atlanta to start, forget it. And that means they would have to listen to offers on their star in Harper. He’s been down all season, but you have to figure the losing hasn’t helped much of the cause either. And given the uncertainty that he stays in DC after this year, it is very much possible Bryce *could* get moved before the deadline IF Washington falls apart to start the 2nd half. But if they sweep the Braves to start, they will buy. So the team to watch obviously early on is Washington.
(3) JACOB deGROM OR NOAH SYNDERGAARD WILL LIKELY BE TRADED: deGrom from all honesty as he’s already 30. The Mets have a mediocre farm system but trading one or the other will jack the farm up big time as these guys are key monsters for any team looking to make a push. And with the pitcher’s market so thin (JA Happ and Cole Hamels headline the group) and teams wanting to buy starters, the Mets could ask for their price if they play their cards right. The team that could really do it may be Milwaukee as they need that front-end guy in a big way.
(4) THE REDS COULD BE AN UNDER-THE-TABLE-BUYER AND AN EASY SPOILER FOR THE NL: I’ve never been a fan of Jim Riggleman, but I applaud the job he’s done in Cincinnati. This team was 9-27 at one point. Since then, 34-26. Matt Harvey has found his groove again. The offensive lineup is great with Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez, Votto, etc. and the pitching, while still a mess outside of Harvey has shown signs of life at times. I think they may sell a piece here or there, but honestly, they may stand pat and even do a “wait, they added a piece?” move, more related for next year. On top of it, they’re already playing spoilers to a few contenders, notably the Braves (4-3), Cubs (7-5), Indians (won 2 of 3), Dodgers (4-game sweep in LA), etc. and has spots for spoiler such as a home tilt with Philadelphia for 4 and then later 4 in Washington, and a huge stretch at home seeing the Diamondbacks, Indians, Giants, with a 7 game road trip at Milwaukee & the Cubs before having 3 at home to the Brewers again. And then in September they will have another key stretch of seeing the Dodgers, Cubs, and Brewers in a row.
(5) MANAGERS CAN STILL GET CANNED BEFORE THE SEASON IS OUT: There are a few that may not survive the season still. Obviously the AL Central has 3 of them that may not see the end (Paul Molitor, Richie Renteria, and Ned Yost). While Chicago and Kansas City weren’t expected to contend, they look worse than I think anybody expected. Buck Showalter is safe as the Orioles have said he will manage the rest of the year, but given that train-wreck that is Baltimore, that may be a change after. A sleeper manager on the hot seat may be Dave Martinez in Washington if the Nationals bottom out.
(6) THE YANKEES/RED SOX RIVALRY: We already saw one brawl with New York and Boston this year. And they are neck neck in the division with both teams slated to win over 100+ this season. We may see more tensions escalate on the field while the teams try to play one up on each other at the deadline. Don’t be surprised if both teams try to make a huge splash at the deadline to get somebody not many were expecting.
(7) THE ORIOLES WILL FLIRT WITH THE INFAMOUS 120 LOSSES: Manny Machado is gone. Adam Jones may be next as will Zach Britton. Baltimore is just a bad spot with a porous pitching staff and an offense that will really struggle without Machado. The sad part is as I mentioned it last week, unlike the Royals who are cleaning the slate and the White Sox, in the midst of their rebuild, the Orioles still have veterans and have no clear goal of what they want to do. It’s probably the worst-run franchise in all of baseball right now. At least the Marlins are looking to the future.
(8) THE MVP AND CY YOUNG RACES IN THE AL WILL BE EXCITING AS EXCITING CAN GET OUT: Trout, Betts, Martinez, Ramirez, Lindor, Judge, etc. will be looked on (if Judge has a big 2nd half, watch out). And then you have the pitchers dealing. The usual suspects of Verlander, Kluber, Sale, and throw in the likes of Gerrit Cole and Blake Snell, all of whom are just dealing. Also throw in Aroldis Chapman and Edwin Diaz at closer and you will have some worthwhile games to watch, if MLB pushes those games besides of just having Yankees/Red Sox vs. (insert non-competitive team here)
(9) THE RAYS MAY MAKE A STRONG PUSH IN THE 2ND HALF: This may be debatable if they try to move Chris Archer at the deadline. Props to Kevin Cash as he’s becoming one of my favorite managers with his ideas. But if they keep Archer, obviously, winning the AL East isn’t happening, but a Wild Card if they can get on a hot streak and we have to figure a few teams won’t replicate their magic from the first half. So if Tampa Bay stands pat and maybe even add a low-risk piece at starter, keep an eye on them.
(10) IT WILL BE AN AWESOME 2ND HALF OF BASEBALL IF YOU’RE A CASUAL FAN: The races with the Red Sox/Yankees, NL East, NL Central, AL West, NL West, AL MVP (and NL MVP) and AL Cy Young all look competitive as well. Even those tweener teams like the Nationals, Reds, and Rays could be ones to watch. So I am pumped for this 2nd half of baseball, as I am also taking a trip next week to see the Dodgers and Phillies in Citizens Bank Park while coming back later on to see the Braves & Brewers. I can’t wait.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat