2017 MLB Playoffs

Potential Dark Horse Teams for 2017 MLB Playoffs

Just as the leaves change each fall, so do MLB’s playoff teams. Each year there are a number of surprise contenders looking to make a run at the World Series. Whether they come out of the gate strong or turn it on late, you can almost guarantee that one team will fit the Cinderella Story narrative.

So with the season fast approaching, which teams are primed to be this year’s Cinderella? Let’s take a look at four teams who might be able to fit into the glass slipper for the 2017 MLB Playoffs.

Colorado Rockies-NL West

Nolan Arenado looks to provide the power in a deep lineup. (Photo by Ben Margot/AP Photo)

The Colorado Rockies finished 2016 at 75-87, good for third in the NL West. While they were 12 games under .500, don’t let last years results fool you. They received strong contributions from home grown starting pitchers Tyler Anderson and Jon Gray. Both were in their first full seasons in the majors, and performed well; Gray struck out 185 batters over 168 innings pitched while Anderson posted a solid 3.54 ERA. With the offseason addition of Ian Desmond to play first base and the continued growth of Gray and Anderson, the Rockies could look to turn some heads in 2017.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim- AL West

The Los Angeles Angels have one of, if not the best player on the planet. Automatic playoff berth, right? Not so much. In Mike Trout’s tenure with the Angels, they have only made the playoffs once, while Trout has won two MVPs in that time. The Angels are hoping to provide Trout with more support in 2017. With the acquisition of disgruntled second baseman Danny Espinosa from Washington, the Angels have added more pop to their lineup. Couple Espinosa with prime Trout and past-his-prime-but-still-dangerous Albert Pujols, and you have the core of a pretty good lineup. Couple in the additions of outfield speedster Ben Revere and Cameron Maybin and the Angels have a lineup that can compete with most any in baseball. If Pujols and Espinosa can take some pressure off Trout, the Angels could make a surprise run to the 2017 MLB Playoffs.

Miami Marlins- NL East

2017 MLB Playoffs

Giancarlo Stanton looks to send plenty of balls into orbit in 2017.(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

With the loss of pitcher Jose Fernandez in 2016, the Miami Marlins lost more than an ace; they lost the soul of their team. With heavy hearts, the Marlins were able to go 79-82 in 2016, finishing third in the NL East. It was an inspiring finish to the season, and one I believe will carry over to 2017. The Marlins will look for Giancarlo Stanton to improve on his lackluster 2016 season, in which he posted a slugging percentage of .489, the lowest of his career. Stanton won’t have to carry the Marlin’s offense on his own though. Dynamic second baseman Dee Gordon will be back to start the season and will be joined by steady outfielder Christian Yelich and power hitting Marcell Ozuna. If starting pitcher Adam Conley can build upon his solid 3.85 ERA and Wei-Yin Chen can get back to his career average 3.90 ERA, the Marlins will have two good starting pitchers to build their staff around. If Giancarlo Stanton can deliver on his 40+ homer potential and the pitching staff can stay near league average, this team could mash it’s way to a playoff berth.

Tampa Bay Rays- AL East

Out of the previous three teams, this team will have the most difficult time of making it to the playoffs. The Tampa Bay Rays finished the 2016 season at 68-94, 25 games back of first place in the AL East. The AL East is one of the most stacked divisions in baseball, with three out of the five teams making the postseason in 2016. But the Rays have one thing that every team covets; young, good starting pitching. The Rays have one of the deepest and youngest starting rotations in all of baseball, with five starting pitchers logging more than 100 innings pitched, and those same starters averaging 27 years old. With the addition of slugging catcher Wilson Ramos and the resurgence of third baseman Evan Longoria, the Rays will look for their offense to help carry them to the 2017 MLB Postseason.

The MLB season is full of surprises. Players and teams alike will burst onto the national stage, defying expectations. But while players look to their cleats to propel them from base to base, some teams will be looking for more dainty footwear. Maybe a glass slipper?

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2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Two

Welcome to the second installment of The Game Haus’ 2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season. Since the initial ranking, a number of small deals have continued to occur across the MLB. However, none of these deals have yet to include some of the larger trade candidates still being named by the rumor mill.

Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, and Brian Dozier still remain a heavy topic of conversation. Both free agent sluggers Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo are also still available in free agency. That fact would make Quintana the most likely candidate for movement until the slugger market dries up.

This week’s rankings include five teams who wouldn’t quite be considered rebuilding, but rather retooling. Recently, many of these clubs have reestablished a young core and are now looking to grow and mature that base. These clubs stand further back in the rankings, in large part, due to their youth. However, if their front offices stay on course, these teams could be the “look out” contenders in 2-3 years.

All logo images courtesy of MLB.com.

25. Milwaukee Brewers

2016 record: 73-89

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Two The Brewers are an organization with a number of young players beginning to emerge, with even more on the way. The Brewers are among the top rated farm systems in the MLB with several of those top prospects already in Triple-A. Last year’s emergence of young players such as Zach Davies, Jonathan Villar, and Keon Broxton represent a strong core to build around. The dark cloud over the Brewers continues to be the curious case of what to do with Ryan Braun. At age 33, Braun posted a very respectable slash line of .305/ .365/ .538, while adding 30 home runs to the mix.  The Brewers just need to find a partner willing to roll the dice on that kind of production. If so, the Brewers may quickly become one of the younger, more formidable teams over the next few years.

 

24. Tampa Bay Rays

2016 record: 68-94

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Two The Rays have been a tricky team to predict. One can’t help but feel as though they have under performed given their talent. Part of it is due to a struggling Chris Archer and an Alex Cobb who simply can’t seem to stay healthy. The Rays did manage the solid pickup of Wilson Ramos, who can provide stability behind the plate while adding pop to the lineup. At just 31 years old, Evan Longoria continues to be one of the quietest super stars in the game. All the signs point to an improved Rays team in 2017, but it may be a long road to get the top of the highly competitive AL East.

 

23. Philadelphia Phillies

2016 record: 71-91

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Two The signing of Clay Buchholz provides stability and veteran leadership to one of the most promising young pitching staffs in baseball. Buchholz may even prove to be a valuable trade piece at the deadline. Regardless, the Phillies are one of a few teams I expect to a make a surprise leap forward in 2017. The addition of Howie Kendrick alone won’t make up for an offence with the worst run differential in baseball. Another year for this young team to mature with some solid veteran additions definitely shows promise.

 

22. Miami Marlins

2016 record: 79-82

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Two There is simply no filling the void left by Jose Fernandez. Pitching will be an area of need. However, a fully healthy Giancarlo Stanton alongside a continuously emerging Christian Yelich makes for a nasty outfield 1-2 punch. Add that to a solid young infield and you have the makings of a pretty strong lineup. Unfortunately for the Marlin’s, the Phillies and Braves aren’t going to be the punching bags of past years. The Nationals and Mets will likely both be contenders or at least in the hunt. This could leave the Marlins in a much more competitive situation then they’ve faced in years past.

21. Los Angeles Angels

2016 record: 74-88

2017 MLB Rankings: Sizing up the Season Part Two The only offseason move of significance for the Angels has been the trade for second baseman Danny Espinosa. While this move provides a nice boost in their lineup, few around the league feel this changes the Angels 2017 outlook. Smaller moves like signing outfielder Ben Revere and trading for catcher Martin Maldonado also represent decent additions. However, they really aren’t game changers. If the Halos can stay healthy, they have enough in the tank to compete, but not to contend. The real question for this organization will be whether or not they sign Mike Trout for the “king’s ransom” that this once in a generation talent commands.

If you are interested in part one, you can find it here.

 

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NL East: Offseason Needs

With MLB free agency in full swing, it’s time for teams to start diagnosing what positions they need to fill a gap at, and who would be the best fit for that spot. Over the next week, I’ll diagnose the needs of teams throughout the National League, and name a few potential free agents who could fill that role. I’ll begin with the NL East. I’ll work from the bottom of the division upwards. I am not proclaiming that these deals are sure thing. I’m simply suggesting free agent players who fill the role that the team needs.

Atlanta Braves – Catcher

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Image courtesy of FOX Sports.

The Braves are starting to fill a lot of holes on offense. A catcher would be huge for them because he can play a huge part in developing all of the young pitching the Braves have available. They recently signed the two oldest starting pitchers in free agency, R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon, to one-year deals. If you combine the experience these two have with an established catcher, it could really help these young arms flourish. We saw A.J. Pierzynski in this role for Atlanta last year, I think they could look for someone around his value this year. While names like Matt Wieters or Wilson Ramos would certainly be tempting, they might be too expensive for Atlanta. They could aim for ex-Angel Geovany Soto, whose injury riddled 2016 might lower his value, or maybe former Rockie Nick Hundley.

 

Philadelphia Phillies – A Big Bat. Anywhere.

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Image courtesy of MLB.com

While the Phillies 2016 went the reverse of Atlanta’s, starting high and finishing low, they share a need for offensive production. The Phillies were in the cellar for almost every offensive category in the MLB, ranking last in the MLB in runs scored and OPS. They also sit in a similar position as the Braves in regards to where they are right now. They have some fresh offensive talent that showed it’s potential in 2016. Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, and Cesar Hernandez are all signs of things to come for the Phils. What they need now is someone to provide protection for these guys at the plate. The Phillies did recently acquire Howie Kendrick from the Dodgers for Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney. While Tommy Joseph showed some potential in his first Big League season at first base, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Phils go after someone like Adam Lind or Mitch Moreland. Both would be cheap options (especially compared to Ryan Howard) who can still provide at the plate.

Miami Marlins – An Ace SP

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Image courtesy of FOX Sports.

The Marlins rotation is going to struggle mightily without Jose Fernandez. Right now it consists of Wei-Yin Chen, Adam Conley, and Tom Koehler. While Conley did show a lot of improvement throughout the season, he’s not a number one starter. The problem is, there is no established, dominant ace for Miami to pursue in the free agency this offseason. They don’t have the money to pursue Rich Hill, and even if they did he’s 36 years old and spent over two months on the DL in 2016. They could try to roll the dice on someone who has shown spurts of success, like Ivan Nova, but that’s the best they can do. If they really feel like gambling, they could go for Tim Lincecum. To get the big-name ace they need, Miami would have to work a pretty big trade this offseason. The free agency pool is just too shallow heading into 2017.

 

New York Mets – A Versatile Bat

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Image courtesy of The New York Times.

While there will certainly be questions surrounding the Mets starting rotation in 2017, the bigger concern has to be their bats. Despite being 5th in the MLB in home runs, they ranked 26th in runs scored and total hits. Losing Yoenis Cespedes will be huge for the Mets, as he led the team in home runs and RBIs. Even though they have the big bats of Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and Michael Conforto remaining, they lack the ability to consistently hit for average and drive in runs. Not to mention they’re all left-handed. Then there’s the situation in the infield. David Wright remains extremely vulnerable to injury, and second baseman Neil Walker also hit free agency. Assuming he can carry over his success from 2016, Ian Desmond could be a good fit for the Mets. He’s a righty, he has experience in the infield and the outfield, and he was a 20 homer, 20 steal player in 2016. If they’re not willing to try Desmond or Jose Reyes at second base, they might make an attempt at Stephen Drew or even Chase Utley.

 

Washington Nationals – First Baseman

Regardless of whether Trea Turner ends up staying in the outfield, or returning to the infield, the gap still remains at first base. Ryan Zimmerman has been a fan favorite around DC for a long time, but his effectiveness at the plate has been lacking in recent years. He hit just .216 in 2016, with just 15 home runs and 46 RBIs. That is not the kind of numbers you want to see from your first baseman. With that being said, most of the first baseman available in free agency are equally as inconsistent. Ryan Howard has more pop in the bat, but he hit just .196 in 2016. Ex-Indian Mike Napoli is an attractive choice, but Washington will have to fork up a good bit of money to pursue him. They might take an approach similar to the Phillies and look in the Adam Lind or Mitch Moreland spectrum of first basemen. James Loney was solid with the Mets, filling in for the injured Lucas Duda. If the Nats want to give Zimmerman another shot in 2017, they could grab Loney as an insurance policy if Zimmerman continues to struggle.

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Image courtesy of amny.com

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Why Baseball is the Greatest Sport

Baseball has been dying. America’s pastime is not as popular as it once was. Football and Basketball have risen above it because they are faster and “more” exciting sports. The faster pace is definitely true and nobody would argue that. However, baseball is definitely exciting. In fact, baseball is the best sport.

No Clock

In football, basketball, hockey, soccer, and basically every sport, you have a clock. This allows fans to know how much time is left in the game and when they can expect it to be over. With the clock, teams can also manage it to their advantage. Teams with a small lead can kill the clock to help them win.

SCOREBOARD

Photo: ESPN

In baseball, there is no clock. Baseball has innings. Fans and teams have no idea how long a game can last. It could last two and a half hours, or it could last four hours. Baseball does not let a clock dictate how much time is left in a game. As a result, teams can’t kill clock. Baseball teams can’t take the easy way out. They have to play hard all the way through. They can’t let up and take it easy.

All-Star Game

The MLB All-Star game is better than any other All-Star game in sports. The league that wins the MLB’s All-Star game gets to host the World Series. This gives both teams a reason to play hard.

The NFL’s All-Star game, which is the Pro Bowl, is a joke. The best players rarely play. They are worried about getting hurt. The Super Bowl is also the week after, meaning no one from the two best teams in football will be playing.

Last year, the six quarterbacks on the rosters were Russell Wilson, Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Eli Manning, Derek Carr, and Tyrod Taylor. Those guys are decent quarterbacks, but they are nowhere near the best in the NFL. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Aaron Rodgers were all absent.

allstar_chicagotribune

Photo: Chicago Tribune

The NBA’s All-Star game is filled with entertainment. There is a lot of exciting offense, but that is mostly because zero defense is played. It just becomes guys shooting wide-open threes and throwing alley-oops from all across the court. The best players play, but it is not a hard fought game and the guys mess around more than anything else.

In the MLB’s All-Star game, the best players play. They play hard and they play to win. Home field advantage for the World Series is on the line. Baseball is also not a violent game and no one is worried about getting injured.

Player Rings

NFL players, quarterbacks specifically, and NBA stars get overrated and underrated based on the amount of championships they have won. Dan Marino is hardly ever talked about as a top 5 all-time quarterback, but John Elway is. Fans say Tom Brady is better than Peyton Manning because he has more Super Bowls. Bill Russell is actually considered an all-time great because he won 11 championships in an era where the NBA was small and slow. Elgin Baylor doesn’t get the credit he deserves because his NBA finals record is 0-8.

Seattle Mariners

Photo: Huffington Post

Championships are team accomplishments, and baseball fans seem to understand that better than any other sports fans. No one thinks less of Ken Griffey Jr. or Tony Gwynn for never winning a ring. Griffey and Gwynn were some of the greatest hitters of all time and they get that credit despite not winning a title. Nobody thinks Yogi Berra is the greatest player of all-time due to the fact he has won more World Series than any other player. In baseball, players put up the numbers and get the credit they deserve.

Team Sport

Baseball is more of a team sport than any other. Lebron James lead the 2007 Cavs to the NBA Finals with his best teammates being Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Daniel Gibson. In basketball, one player can lead a team a long way, even to the championship like Lebron. There is no way they are going to win it all though. That season the Spurs swept the Cavs in the Finals 4-0.

Football is more of a team sport. You need a lot more than one star player to lead a team to the championship. Both the offense and defense need to do well. Tom Brady couldn’t save the Cleveland Browns’ season with how bad their team has been.

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Photo: ESPN

In baseball, you don’t really need a superstar to win the World Series. Take a look at the 2010 San Francisco Giants. Buster Posey was their only 300 hitter. No one on their team hit 30 home runs. They didn’t even have a batter get 90 RBI’s. They didn’t have a starting pitcher with an ERA below 3. Tim Lincecum lead the starters in wins with 16.

This Giants team beat the star-powered Texas Rangers. Josh Hamilton was the best hitter in the league with a 359 batting average, 32 home runs, and 100 RBI’s. Vladimir Guerrero hit 300 with 29 home runs and 115 RBI’s. Nelson Cruz joined the team late, but hit 318 with 22 home runs and 78 RBI’s. They had two great starting pitchers in CJ Wilson and Cliff Lee and the hottest closer in the league in Neftali Feliz.

The Giants victory over the Rangers proved that baseball is a team game. Championships are a team accomplishment and every position is important.

Unpredictability

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Photo: Boston Globe

The Giants 2010 World Series proves just how unpredictable baseball can be. Last place teams can beat first place teams in the regular season. The Cubs overcame a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series. The 2004 Boston Red Sox overcame a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS and went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter in his second career start. Josh Hamilton, Lou Gehrig, and 14 others once hit four home runs in a single game. You never know what is going to happen. No lead is safe in baseball either. Baseball may be low scoring, but it just takes one swing to put one run on the board.

It is difficult to predict the playoff teams in the MLB at the beginning of the season. Almost everyone can predict most of the NBA playoff teams and almost everyone predicted a Cavs/Warriors rematch in the finals. In the NFL, it is also not too difficult to predict playoff teams. In baseball, it is much more challenging. The season is long. Teams can go hot and cold so quickly. There are always teams that breakout.

Playoffs

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Photo: SportsLogos.net

You won’t see any team below 500 in the MLB playoffs. The worst team to make the playoffs in baseball was the 2005 San Diego Padres, who finished with an 82-80 record. The 1981 Kansas City Royals made it with a 50-53 record in a strike-shortened season and different system. The bottom line is only the best teams in baseball make the playoffs.

Each league now allows five postseason teams. There are three division winners and two wildcards. The NFL allows six teams from each conference and the NBA allows eight. Teams below 500 have also made the playoffs in these leagues. It is fairly common to happen in the NBA. The Carolina Panthers recently won their division with a 7-8-1 record and the Seattle Seahawks won with a 7-9 record. You would never see this in baseball and you should never see it in any sport.

Contracts

In baseball, there are no max-contracts or even a salary cap. Max contracts put a maximum on how much players can make based on their years of experience in the league. Max contracts have allowed the NBA to form the “super team” culture that traditional basketball fans hate because teams don’t have to necessarily break the bank to sign a top free agent. For example, Lebron James could have signed with any team he wanted to in free agency. The offer he received from each team would be essentially the same because each team could only offer him a certain maximum amount of money to come play for their team. Money does not talk in situations like this. Instead, the team’s success and location does.

Giancarlo Stanton recently signed a 13-year contract with the Marlins for $325,000,000. This is the largest in baseball history. Before him, Alex Rodriguez had the richest contract of 10 years for $275,000,000. The free market determined the value of these players and not a max-contract. The free market allows talent to be distributed evenly among baseball teams. It is difficult to build a super team in baseball.

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Photo: CBS Sports

The NBA, along with the NFL, has a salary cap. A salary cap puts a limit on the amount a team can spend to put together its roster. The MLB does not have a salary cap. This forces teams to make money so they can afford to buy players. Some people may argue and say it is unfair that only the rich can win. This is not always the case. Big-name free agent signings don’t always work out. The 2016 champion Cubs were 14th in payroll. The 2015 champion Kansas City Royals were 16th. The Dodgers and Yankees, who were the top paying teams in both of those seasons, were no where to be found in the World Series. Spending money can make a roster look good on paper, but it does not always guarantee success.

Some fans will say that a salary cap is necessary because it will keep competitive balance. Well, lets look at the NBA as an example. Since the NBA implemented the salary cap for the 1984-85 season, only ten different teams have won the NBA Finals. That is just ten teams in 32 years. Three of those teams, the Cavaliers, Warriors, and Mavericks, have only won the Finals once. Then there are teams like the Lakers, who have won eight. The Bulls have won six. The Spurs have won five. If you are going to make the competitive balance argument, the NBA is not the league to look at. 

Baseball, which does not have a salary cap, has had a much more even spread of world champions. Since 1985 (the same year the NBA added their salary cap), 18 different teams have been crowned world champs. Compare that to the 10 in the NBA. Only eight of those teams have won more than once. The MLB proves that a salary cap does not bring competitive balance.

 

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Marlins’ Fernandez Killed in Tragic Boating Accident

The Marlins organization has confirmed that pitcher Jose Fernandez and two others were killed in a boating accident in Florida earlier this morning. He was 24 years old.

The organization has announced that Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Braves has been cancelled, along with a statement, “The Miami Marlins organization is devastated by the tragic loss of José Fernández. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time.”

Fernandez was well-known as one of the up-and-coming pitchers in the MLB, but he was also known around the League for his outgoing personality. Our thoughts at The Game Haus are with his family, including his girlfriend who he announced as pregnant last week on Instagram, friends and teammates at this time.

The Miami Dolphins held a moment of silence before today’s game against the Cleveland Browns in memory of Fernandez.

After attempting to defect from Cuba three times, Fernandez and his family finally made it to the United States in 2008. He was drafted 14th overall in 2011 from Alonso High School. He became a citizen of the United States in 2015.

In 2016, Fernandez was 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA and had 253 strikeouts over 182.1 innings. In his career, he was a two-time All-Star and won NL Rookie of the Year in 2013. He had compiled a 38-17 record alongside a 2.58 ERA with 589 strikeouts in 471.1 innings.

Fernandez is not the first pitcher to die on a boating accident. Steve Olin, 27, and Tim Crews, 31, who were both pitching for the Indians, died in a similar accident in 1993.

Baseball mourns the loss of one of its brightest stars. Photo courtesy of MLB’s Twitter.

Tracking the Transactions: Rating NL Deadline Trades for Contenders

Earlier this week, I evaluated how all of the trade deadline moves made by contending American League teams panned out. Now, I’ll give my take on how National League trades fared.

Chicago Cubs – Aroldis Chapman/Mike Montgomery: 5/3

The Cubs came in to the deadline with plenty of offensive firepower, so they made some deals to acquire some lefty relievers to diversify a right-hander flooded bullpen. Chapman has looked fantastic in Chicago, to nobody’s surprise, he’s 13 for 14 in save conversion in 18 appearances. He’s surrendered just three runs in 17 innings, and hasn’t allowed a run in three appearances this September. With the Cubs having clinched the NL Central on Thursday, I doubt Chapman will see as much play as he did in August, in an attempt to preserve him for the playoffs. They’re still looking to solidify home-field advantage, however, so he certainly won’t be shut down entirely.

Montgomery was originally brought in as another southpaw in the pen. He now sits apart of the Cubs rotation, and frankly, he’s looked better there than he did starting off in the pen for the Cubs. He allowed runs in three consecutive outings, two of them lasting just one-third of an inning, while in the pen. Since his relocation to the rotation, he’s looked better on the mound, even if his starts don’t last particularly long. He averages just under five innings per start, and has only thrown over 90 pitches on one occasion. Recently his starts have improved, and he even notched his first quality start in their division-clinching victory vs. the Brewers. Since becoming a starter, Montgomery has posted a 3.33 ERA. We’ll see what Joe Maddon has planned for him over these next two weeks heading into playoffs.

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LA hopes Rich Hill can stay healthy for the playoffs. Photo courtesy of todaysknuckleball.com

LA Dodgers – Josh Reddick/Rich Hill: 2/4

The Reddick plus Hill deal was seen as the Dodgers’ power play to take control of the NL West. Reddick has certainly struggled since the deal, however, batting just .225 since heading to LA. He’s only hit one homer, driven in three RBIs, and stolen one base. His August numbers (.161 BA, .172 slugging) are certainly not what a team wants to see from their deadline acquisition. Things are beginning to look up for Reddick at the plate this month, he’s hitting .394 and slugging .576. He’s still not producing runs, though, with just a lone homer and two RBIs to show. We’ll see if he can get back on the up-and-up in time for playoffs, however, let’s not forget he had a spectacular May following a sub-par August. Maybe the Dodgers just need him to have a good month at the right time.

The only reason Rich Hill doesn’t get a five here is because he’s only made four starts since the Dodgers acquired him at the beginning of August. With that said, three of those four starts have been spectacular, including a flirt with perfection against the Marlins. The Dodgers are playing it smart, not allowing him to hit triple-digit pitch counts while still working off his injury. Thursday’s start against the D-Backs was a return to Earth for Hill, who was riding a 24 inning scoreless streak, spanning back to July, coming into the game. With a four game lead over the Giants in the heart of the home stretch, we’ll see if Hill and Kenta Maeda can continue to make life miserable for batters and secure the division for the Dodgers.

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Photo courtesy of miamiherald.com

Miami Marlins – Andrew Cashner: 1 

Oh Miami, when are you going to catch a break? I guess losing the other half of the deal, Colin Rea, to injury after his first start should have been a sign of things to come. Cashner only recently picked up his first win with the Marlins against the Phillies, making him 1-4 in eight starts with the team. His stat line as a starter since the move isn’t much prettier, a 6.18 ERA through 39.1 innings of work, a 32/22 K/BB ratio and opponents batting .303 off of him. Cashner was supposed to provide a solid arm, replacing injured Wei-Yin Chen, in a rotation that has been cluttered with inconsistency for Miami from the get-go. Needless to say he hasn’t lived up to the expectations set for him. Combine that with Marcell Ozuna’s massive second-half slump and the loss of Giancarlo Stanton and you can see why Miami currently sits four games out of the Wildcard.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of nypost.com

New York Mets – Jay Bruce: 2

If it’s true that, prior to the deadline, Bruce explicitly said that he didn’t want to go to the Mets, then maybe we can attribute his stats since coming to New York to spite instead of an actual drop in his caliber of play.  Regardless of why the numbers have dropped, they certainly aren’t what the Mets wanted from their deadline acquisition. He was supposed to provide a shot in the arm for a Mets offense that had sputtered all year, and only really saw (limited) success via the long ball at various points throughout the season. Bruce, who had 25 homers on the year with Cincinnati, seemed like the perfect candidate for the offense’s playstyle. He’s hitting just .192 since coming to New York, with four homers and 11 RBIs in 36 games. He looked like he might be heating up at the end of August, piecing together a five-game hit streak from August 30 to September 4, but he’s now hit just .120 and notched a lone RBI in his past seven games. The Mets have, against my predictions, remained in the hunt for the Wildcard and even hold the last spot in, currently, but Bruce’s contributions have been below average at best.

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Ivan Nova has been hot since coming to Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy of rumbunter.com

Pittsburgh Pirates – Ivan Nova/Antonio Bastardo: 5/4

Why the Pirates made acquisitions at the deadline after selling closer Mark Melancon to the Nationals boggled my mind at the time. But the Pirates have at least remained in contention for a Wildcard spot, currently 5.5 games behind the Mets, in no small part due to the efforts of Ivan Nova. He’s looked spectacular since coming to Pittsburgh, posting a 5-0 record alongside a 2.41 ERA in eight starts for the Pirates with a stellar 43/3 K/BB ratio. Nova came in from New York with a 7-6 record, a 4.90 ERA, and a 75/25 K/BB ratio in his seventh season with the Yankees. I don’t know what pitching coach Ray Searage does to these guys in Pittsburgh, but you can’t argue with his results. At this rate, Nova will be one of the more interesting pitchers to hit the free-agency after the season.

Antonio Bastardo is also showing marked improvement from his performance in New York. Bastardo was acquired in a deal that brought him back to Pittsburgh, after half a season with the Mets, and returned Jonathon Niese to New York. Bastardo posted a 4.74 ERA in 43.2 innings with the Mets; since returning to Pittsburgh, his ERA sits at 2.41 and he’s got a 2-0 record to show for it. Stats-wise, I’d definitely say Pittsburgh came out ahead of their awkward pitcher exchange program with the Mets.

San Francisco Giants – Matt Moore/Eduardo Nunez: 3/4

The Giants stayed true to their pitcher-first, small ball mentality with the acquisition of Matt Moore. It should be noted that Moore wasn’t brought in to provide the same level of performance as guys like Johnny Cueto or Madison Bumgarner at the front of the rotation. Moore’s job is to be a guy who holds things down and keeps things close at the back of the rotation. I would say been hit-or-miss in that department. His production with the Giants sits almost exactly where it did in Tampa, a record around .500 (3-4), and an ERA in the low 4s (4.08). He’s had a mix of really good starts with really bad starts almost at random; I think if he’s able to begin to build momentum with a string of good starts heading into the postseason, then he could be in good shape.

Eduardo Nunez fits the typical depiction of a Giants position player. He’ll help the team manufacture runs via small ball, work his way on base, and make productive at-bats. Nunez is sitting with a .329 OBP, 18 RBIs, 18 runs scored, and nine stolen bases. None of these numbers are going to blow people away, but then again I think that can be said for anybody on this Giants offense. He seems to be getting more and more consistent at the plate, as well. He’s currently on a nine-game hitting streak, spanning back to September 3.

Image result for zach duke cardinals

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com

St. Louis Cardinals – Zach Duke: 4

Duke has been quietly performing since the Cardinals nabbed him to help out their bullpen. While his record is 0-1, he’s allowed just three runs in 18.1 innings over 20 appearances with St. Louis. His biggest concern comes in the control department. Since coming to St. Louis, he’s walked 11 men and fanned 20. 11 walks in 18.1 innings isn’t the most optimal way to operate as a reliever, but he’s been able to play damage control thus far.

 

Washington Nationals – Mark Melancon: 4

The Nationals bullpen has been the bane of their existence in September/October for seemingly years now. As of right now, Melancon appears to have aided those bullpen woes in Washington. He hasn’t blown a save opportunity yet, although September has looked rockier than August. Last month he allowed just one run over 13.2 innings, posting a 0.66 ERA. This month, his ERA sits at 4.50 with four runs surrendered in eight innings. Luckily for Washington, the Nats sit ten games ahead of the Mets with 16 games to play, so if there was a time for Melancon to get the bad mojo out, it would be now.

NL Playoffs: Priority Players Entering September

As the MLB regular season nears its conclusion, injuries become more frequent and more costly for teams looking to make a postseason run. Here, I’ll identify players that teams simply cannot afford to lose as they make the race to October. I’ll start with the division leaders and then go by wildcard standings.

Chicago Cubs – Kris Bryant

The Cubs don’t really have one guy that will sink the team if he’s lost. They have so much depth and talent that it’s actually not fair. If I had to pick just one guy, I would say Kris Bryant. Even though Anthony Rizzo leads the team with 93 RBIs, Bryant is right behind him with 91 and leads the team in every other major hitting category. He’s tied for second in the MLB with 36 home runs, and his 91 RBIs are fourth in the NL. Losing any guy in the heart of your lineup can be a huge detriment, but Bryant has been a catalyst for the Cubs, and losing him could do some serious damage to their power game.

Washington Nationals – Max Scherzer

It was a really tough pick between Scherzer and Murphy for Washington, but I decided that pitching ultimately wins out on a team that’s already lost Stephen Strasburg. Scherzer has made a strong case for the NL Cy Young this year, posting a 15-7 record with a 2.89 ERA and an MLB leading 238 strikeouts. He’s really turned it on since the All-Star Break, going 6-2 with 90 strikeouts in 11 starts. With Stephen Strasburg ending up on the DL on August 22, the Nats now have two of five Opening Day rotation members on the DL. Tanner Roark has had moments of brilliance on the mound this year, but it will ultimately be up to Scherzer’s consistency to guide this ailing Nats pitching staff to the playoffs.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Corey Seager

The Dodgers lost the obvious bid for this pick, Clayton Kershaw, at the end of June. Despite that, the pitching staff has still done remarkably well, with Kenta Maeda stepping up big time in his absence. The Dodgers have struggled more on the offensive side of things this year, and Corey Seager has been a big part of this team’s offensive production. He’s having a standout first full season in the MLB, posting a .315 average and a .375 OBP. His consistency in getting on base has allowed the Dodgers to get ahead and let their pitchers work. While he may not be the most experienced player in October, losing him would certainly affect the team’s ability to manufacture runs.

San Francisco Giants – Madison Bumgarner/Johnny Cueto

The Giants don’t have a supercharged offense coming into September. The Giants are often a small ball team that relies heavily on their pitchers to keep games close while they produce runs. Both Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner have been stellar on the mound for San Fran this year, and losing either of them would put a significant damper on their ability to compete in September. The Giants made it very clear they’re a pitching-oriented team with their moves at the end of July, shoring up the back of the rotation with Matt Moore. With Brandon Belt leading the team with just 14 homers this year, I think it’s safe to assume that this dynamic won’t dramatically change in September, and that any disruption of it could be disastrous for the Giants.

St. Louis Cardinals – Stephen Piscotty

The DL in St. Louis is already looking pretty long, so any injury to this Cards team would be a tough loss. Piscotty has been a breath of fresh air on a Cards team that consists of a lot of older veterans. He leads the team with 73 RBIs and has played a big part in the Cardinals offensive success this year. That offense will have to step it up even more with the addition of two rookies into the Cardinal rotation, Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes. While both of these guys look like stud prospects, Weaver showed that he can be rattled on the mound, and strong run support could do wonders for his composure on the mound, especially in these high pressure games.

New York Mets – Yoenis Cespedes

It’s hard to pick any one Met, since basically every guy on the team seems to have an injury of some sort. The offense has been the problem for the Mets all year, and Cespedes has been the guy to try and lead this team at the plate. With Jay Bruce underperforming, whether due to his injured calf or otherwise, the pressure on Cespedes’ shoulders is even greater than ever. His quad injury from July seems to still be bothering him, however, so the Mets will have to be sure to use him with caution as they continue to hang on in the wildcard race.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Starling Marte

The Pirates continue to hang around in the NL wildcard race, and Marte’s offense is a big reason why. He leads the team with a .306 batting average and a .360 OBP, along with 46 stolen bases on the year, which ranks third in the MLB. Marte is a big part of the heart of Pittsburgh’s lineup, and losing either him, Gregory Polanco or Andrew McCutchen could severely hamper Pittsburgh’s run production.

Miami Marlins – Christian Yelich

You thought I was going to say Jose Fernandez, didn’t you? While it would be catastrophic to lose Fernandez, the Marlins are in desperate need of bats with Giancarlo Stanton out for the remainder of the year. Yelich had been the most consistent of the trio of Ozuna, Yelich and Stanton, but Marcell Ozuna has struggled mightily since the All-Star Break (and left Wednesday’s game with a wrist injury himself), leaving a lot of the weight on Yelich’s shoulders. He delivered with a homer against the Mets last night, and while he probably won’t put up Stanton-like power numbers, we saw back in April that he can be a menace to face at the plate.

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Miami Suffers Critical Injuries to Stanton, Conley

The Marlins race for the postseason just got significantly tougher, as they will be making it without right fielder, Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton left Saturday’s game against the Chicago White Sox with a groin injury, and will miss the rest of the season. Stanton hit .244 with a team-leading 25 home runs and 70 RBIs in 103 games played this year. He’d been on the upswing, however, after a rough May and June. He’d hit 12 homers and driven in 38 RBIs in his last 41 games, and taken over as the Marlins top run producer during Marcell Ozuna’s slump.

Stanton will be missed at the plate, suffering his second major injury in as many years, but I don’t think losing him knocks Miami out of playoff contention entirely. While they will be missing Stanton’s power at the plate, his replacement, Ichiro Suzuki still offers plenty of Big League experience, and has looked solid at the plate this year, despite being 42 years old. Suzuki knocked his 3,000th Major League hit against the Rockies last Sunday, and has since passed Roberto Clemente on the career hits list. Ichiro doesn’t have the same stamina that he did when he entered the League 15 years ago, however, and won’t be able to start every game. Luckily, Marlins third baseman Martin Prado has over 200 career games of outfield experience, according to ESPN’s David Schoenfield. So, Prado can fill in at outfield and third base can be picked up by Derek Dietrich, who has been a bench player since Dee Gordon’s return from suspension.

While the offense has looked decent in some categories, ranking third in the MLB in batting average and sixth in OBP, it has struggled to bring home runs, averaging 4.28 runs-per-game (21st in the MLB). The team has seen different guys take on the bulk of the run production this season, with Marcell Ozuna leading the team into the All-Star Break, and Stanton taking over during Ozuna’s slump afterwards. Christian Yelich looks to be taking up the mantle now, batting .320 in his last 30 games with 5 homers and 23 RBIs. He’s currently second on the team with 67 RBIS this year.

There have also been rumors that this injury opens up doorways for Alex Rodriguez, who Miami is reportedly interested in pursuing. A-Rod played his last game in New York on Friday, but he never said he was retiring. If Rodriguez is interested, Miami may be too good of a story for him to pass up. He’d come to a team that’s in contention for a playoff spot, and have a chance to hit his 700th career homer (he currently has 696) in his hometown. He would probably share time with current first baseman, Chris Johnson, since there’s no reason to take out Martin Prado, who leads the team in BA at .320. Rodriguez has been flexible with his defensive position in the past, transitioning to third base when joining the Yankees, and Johnson is hitting just .227 with four homers and 19 RBIs this year.

Adam Conley has shown vast improvement over the past months, but now finds himself on the 15-day DL with finger tendinitis. Photo courtesy of fishstripes.com

No matter what happens on the offensive side of things, the Marlins also have to find a way to cope with the loss of Adam Conley, who is on the 15-day DL with finger tendinitis. While his injury may not remove him for the rest of 2016, the Marlins will have to find a way to survive with already slim pickings on the rotation after Jose Fernandez. Conley had a red hot July, posting a 3-0 record and a 1.82 ERA in five starts. In August, he’s struggled, mainly due to the tendinitis, which was reported as hand soreness over his past three starts.

The Marlins rotation has been their weaker spot in 2016, even with the acquisition of Andrew Cashner at the trade deadline, but Conley had shown remarkable improvement over the course of this year. Hopefully, this injury is just a bump in the road for Conley, and doesn’t hinder his long-term growth as a pitcher. In the meantime, the rest of Miami’s rotation will have to step up, because Jose Fernandez can only pitch so many games between now and the end of the regular season.

 

 

 

Information from ESPN.com was used in this report.

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Sizing up the NL Wild Card Race

As we near the home stretch of the regular season in 2016, the NL wild card race continues to heat up, with some of the divisional races beginning to look out of reach for some teams. The NL Central appears to be all but secured for Chicago, who currently sit 12 games above second place St. Louis in the division. The Nationals in the East, while not holding quite as large of a lead, are comfortably ahead of Miami by 6.5 games. The NL West is the only division that, barring a late season meltdown by a current division leader, looks like it will be a dogfight for first place between the Giants and the Dodgers.

Here, I’ll give my opinions on the teams currently in the thick of the Wildcard race in the National League. Since the NL West is currently a deadlock, I’ll look at both the Giants and the Dodgers, since they will both be competing for that wildcard spot while trying to nab the division crown. Teams are listed in the order they currently sit in the Wildcard standings, not where I think they will end up.

San Francisco Giants (64-49) +4 GB

Luckily for both the Giants and the Dodgers, they’re currently sitting pretty in the wild card standings. San Francisco had held sole position of the NL West since May 14, appearing to be in typical Giants even year form. The Dodgers have finally caught up, however, and that can be attributed primarily to a complete lack of offense from the Giants since the All-Star Break. The run production has looked bleak for them, averaging just 3.4 runs-per-game, leading to a 8-16 record in 24 games. Brandon Crawford is trying his best to carry the offense, pounding out seven hits against the Marlins on Monday and hitting a solo homer for the only run of the game on Wednesday, but he can’t be expected to keep up this performance for the rest of the season.

Their deadline acquisition of Matt Moore to replace Jake Peavy has looked like an improvement thus far (not saying a whole lot, frankly), but it’s hard to leap to any massive conclusions after just two starts. He does need to find his control on the mound again, though, as his 11 walks in two starts is just one less than he had in all of July. I’m sure he’ll look more composed as he acclimates, but my biggest concern with this team is still the offense. They didn’t go out and get a big bat at the deadline, so they’re gonna have to continue to rely on what they’ve always done and play small ball, relying heavily on pitching and defense. With that said, even small ball requires you to score some runs.

Los Angeles Dodgers (64-49) +4 GB

The Dodgers have to hope veteran pitchers Rich Hill and Clayton Kershaw can return from injuries sooner than later. Photo courtesy of cbssports.com

Even if the Giants still had a lead over the Dodgers in the division, I’d still like their odds of making the postseason with how they have looked lately.

Clayton Kershaw’s return has been further delayed, being moved to the 60-day DL a week ago, and this team already has a laundry list of players on the DL, but they’re still finding ways to win games. The Dodgers actually have the best record in baseball since losing Clayton Kershaw (23-13 since June 27), according to ESPN’s Dave Schoenfield. They’re still waiting to see what deadline acquisition Rich Hill can do on the mound, as blisters on his hand will prevent him from making his would-be debut with the Dodgers on Friday.

The Dodgers other big-name deadline pickup, Josh Reddick, is having some serious troubles at the plate since coming to LA, batting .074, but the rest of the offense is performing well enough to help Reddick through his slump. While averaging 4.4 runs-per-game on the year, the Dodgers are up an entire point from that since the All-Star Break. Corey Seager continues to have a special second year in the Bigs, leading the team with 21 homers and batting .310 in his last 30 games.

So long as the Dodgers don’t let the Yasiel Puig sideshow get out of hand, and can keep up the offensive production, I like the direction they’re headed down the home stretch, especially when they start getting more of their veteran starters healthy.

Miami Marlins (60-53) 

The Marlins would currently be the last man (fish?) into the postseason, a pleasant surprise given the struggles this team has had in past years. This team can attribute a large part of its successes to its offense, which seems to be consistent regardless of who is currently going through a slump at the plate. Marcell Ozuna has had some woes since the All-Star break, but the rest of the offense has been hot, driving in the fourth most runs in the MLB since the Break (116), and averaging 4.6 runs-per-game.

The concern for Miami in these last seven weeks will be the same as it has all year, will their pitchers not named Jose Fernandez be able to contribute enough to help this team win? The Marlins tried to get some help in that department, acquiring Andrew Cashner at the deadline, who replaces an injured Wei-Yin Chen. I wasn’t sold with his stuff in San Diego, but I won’t judge him on just two starts with the Marlins. What I will say is that Adam Conley has shown dramatic improvement from where he was at the start of the year; if the rest of the staff can hold it down for this offense, I think Miami will be a wildcard contender down to the wire.


St. Louis Cardinals (59-54) 1 GB

The Cards are the last team that I think will be hanging around in the wild card hunt through the remainder of the year. Starter Michael Wacha has ended up on the DL with shoulder inflammation, meaning Alex Reyes and potentially Luke Weaver, two of the organization’s most promising pitching prospects, will be coming to the Bigs. If they can make a splash upon arrival, it might give this pitching staff the kick in the pants it needs to get back into gear.

St. Louis is bottom-five in ERA since the All-Star Break, but they’ve made up for it in the power game, cranking 34 homers, the second most in the MLB, during that time as well. The situation in St. Louis really hasn’t changed all that much, they’ve got a respectable offense with solid enough pitching to hang in most games. If they’re able to keep that up, and maybe see an improvement in their pitching with Reyes and Weaver coming up, I think the Cardinals are in a decent spot as we near the end of the season.


Pittsburgh Pirates (56-54) 2.5 GB

I don’t like the Pirates’ odds in this wildcard race. Sure, they’re only down 2.5 games right now, and they could prove me wrong, but I think they should have just fully committed to rebuilding for next year when they traded Mark Melancon. I’m not saying that Melancon was the make-or-break guy for Pittsburgh this season, but their trying to play both sides of the buyer/seller card really just leaves them in limbo here down the stretch.

If they wanted to buy, they should have at least looked at their offense, too. Pittsburgh has the least runs scored since the All-Star Break, 76, averaging just 3.8 runs-per-game. Andrew McCutchen says he isn’t in a slump, but the numbers don’t lie, he’s hitting below the Mendoza line in his last 15 games. And now with Gregory Polanco struggling this month, the Pirates don’t have anybody to consistently look to for run support. To top it all off, the rotation lacks a real ace starter; the Buccos traded Jonathon Niese (not that he was an ace, himself) who led the team’s starters in wins (8) and ERA (4.91). I think the Pirates gave it a good run, but they’re not in an enviable position in these final two months.

New York Mets (57-55) 2.5 GB

The Mets are in the same state offensively as the Pirates, although they can contribute the bulk of those woes to a massive list of offensive players on the DL. Three quarters of the team’s Opening Day starting infield is on the DL, not to mention their offensive leader in almost every category, Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets offense saw success (relatively speaking) during the year via home runs. Now that they’ve lost the bulk of their power bats, despite adding Jay Bruce at the deadline, they just continue to struggle to bring in runs, averaging just 3.4 runs-per-game.

NL Wild Card Race

Photo: sportsinformationtraders.com

The one thing the Mets have that the Pirates don’t is pitching, but it’s incredibly difficult to win games with this little offense. I think the Mets caught several strokes of bad luck this season, which leaves them in a really bad spot as we near the home stretch. I think it would take nothing short of a small miracle to get the offense in workable enough condition to contend for this wilcard spot.

Colorado Rockies (55-58) 5.5 GB

The Rockies are trying to will themselves into wildcard contention on the back of one of the MLB’s best offenses, statistically. Colorado is top three in all major batting categories in the MLB, and they’re continuing the hot hitting in the second half of the season, averaging 5.32 runs-per-game thus far. Their pitching was looking better too, but they’re now in the midst of a three-game skid that’s proving you have to succeed in more than one category to secure these key victories late in the season. I don’t think they’ll make it, though, because their pitching still isn’t good enough, and because they’re already a bit behind in the race. I think Nolan Arenado will continue to crank in the runs, and the Rockies can still give their fans something to look forward to down the road, but they won’t be making the postseason in 2016.

 

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MLB Trade Deadline Grades: National League

Another season, another high-octane trade deadline for the MLB, with players moving from coast to coast to help teams address what they most need heading into the postseason. Every year, we see teams make moves that take a team from a decent team to a World Series contender, as well as trades that leave us scratching our heads. Here, I’ll give out grades to the teams that participated in the deadline based on my personal opinions of the moves made. As for my thought process going into the grades, I’m not solely looking at the teams who were buyers looking to make a postseason push, I will also give my MLB trade deadline grades on if selling teams got a fair return for the players dealt. The teams will be listed in alphabetical order.

Arizona Diamondbacks (B)

The D-Backs didn’t do a whole lot this deadline. Their only move sent Tyler Clippard to the Yankees in return for prospect Vicente Campos. Campos was the number 14 prospect in the Yankees organization, returning from Tommy John surgery and posting a 3.27 ERA throughout double and triple-A ball. There’s not really a lot more to say about Arizona’s move. They’re not set up to make a postseason run this year, but they didn’t bring much to the table in terms of trade interest.

Atlanta Braves (B-)

The Braves and the Padres swapped contract dumps on the July 30th move that brought Matt Kemp to Atlanta and sent Hector Olivera to the Padres. I think the Braves definitely win out on that move, as Olivera’s off-the-field issues continue to plague him, only playing in 30 games this year for Atlanta. Aside from that move, Atlanta only made one other offer, however, acquiring shortstop prospect Travis Demeritte for pitchers Lucas Harrell and Dario Alvarez. With the current mentality of the Braves organization, I was thinking we’d see a few more moves from them to deepen their prospect pool, especially with the projected value held by guys like Nick Markakis or Julio Teheran, but it was fairly quiet deadline in Atlanta this year.

Chicago Cubs (A)

The Cubs recognized that the only real area of concern was their bullpen coming into the deadline, so they went out and grabbed three relievers to help shore it up. Obviously the big move was getting Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees, and while they did give up a decent amount of prospects, this Cubs team is already so young that it doesn’t need to worry about that so much right now. They also grabbed Mike Montgomery from Seattle, another lefty for a bullpen that only had two left-handed throwers before the deadline. Then, for good measure, they got Joe Smith from the Angels in the final hours of the deadline. They didn’t have to give up too much for Smith and Montgomery, so overall a good deadline that helped Chicago where they needed it most.

Cincinnati Reds (B)

I thought that Zach Cozart would be on the move along with Jay Bruce, but in the end Bruce was the only guy who ended up leaving Cincy. He’s had a strong season this year, which certainly helped increase his value in the eyes of teams with ailing offenses, like the Mets. The Reds get a couple of prospects for him, which is never something to scoff at when you’re rebuilding a team. I think if they got a few more prospects for Cozart they would have done better, but that’s just the way the deadline cookie crumbles.

Los Angeles Dodgers (B)

They couldn’t find a way to get Yasiel Puig out of the organization, but other than that it was a solid deadline season for the Dodgers. While Rich Hill is on the DL right now, if he’s able to return in workable condition he could provide a real boost to LA’s rotation. Hill was 9-3 in 14 starts with the A’s before heading to the DL on July 20th. Picking up Josh Reddick for the outfield also gives their offense a boost with Yasiel Puig now headed to the Minors.

Getting Jesse Chavez and Josh Fields could help out their bullpen, although neither of their stat lines are too inspiring. Fields has a 6.89 ERA in 15.2 innings with the Astros, although he does have a 20/3 K/BB ratio. Chavez has a 4.57 ERA in 41.1 innings with Toronto this year. Still, an offensive upgrade and a starter who could get wins with a weak A’s team bode well for a Dodgers team hot on the heels of the sputtering Giants.

Miami Marlins (C)

The only thing the Marlins actually got out of this deadline was Andrew Cashner, and I don’t think he’s nearly enough to help this team out on the mound. Originally, Cashner came to Miami with teammate Colin Rea from San Diego. Rea, however, found himself on the DL after lasting just 45 pitches in his first start with the Marlins, and was returned to the Padres. Cashner did turn in a quality start against the Cardinals in his first start with Miami, but the Marlins also gave up Josh Naylor (among others) who was one of the better prospects in the organization. With the Marlins really just hoping for a wildcard berth at this point, the Cashner move will not be enough for Miami.

Milwaukee Brewers (A-)

They did it, the Brewers were finally able to sell big-name catcher Jonathan Lucroy and reliever Jeremy Jeffress as a buzzer-beater deal to the Texas Rangers. In return, the Brewers got two of the top three prospects in the Rangers organization, OF Lewis Brinson (#2 and #21 in the MLB according to MLB Pipeline) and reliever Luis Ortiz (#3 and #63 in the MLB). They also get one more player from the deal, who will be announced at the end of the season according to GM David Stearns. The Brew Crew also got some good prospects from the Giants for reliever Will Smith. Milwaukee received the Giants top prospect, Phil Bickford, along with pitching prospect Andrew Susac in return for one of their better relievers this year.

New York Mets (B-)

The Mets acquired Jay Bruce in a move that GM Sandy Alderson hopes will kickstart a Mets offense who is the worst in the MLB since the All-Star break. New York has averaged just 2.9 runs per game since the break, and are in a precarious position in the divisional and wildcard races. Bruce is currently the best run producer in the NL, with 80 RBIs in 2016. He also provides some insurance in the outfield if Yoenis Cespedes doesn’t return next year.

But the Mets also went out and got (back) Jonathon Niese from the Pirates and sent (back) Antonio Bastardo along with some cash to offset his $6.5 million salary next year. The Niese move doesn’t bring a lot to the table, in my mind. Assuming he fills in for Logan Verrett, who replaced Matt Harvey in the rotation after he went to the DL, it won’t be much of an upgrade. Niese has a 4.91 ERA in 21 starts for Pittsburgh this year, while Verrett has a 4.86 ERA in 10 starts for the Mets (4.20 if you include 18 relief appearances).

Pittsburgh Pirates (C+)

My problem with the Pirates is that they tried to play both sides of the buyer/seller spectrum this deadline. With the way the NL playoff picture is shaping up, they either had to fully commit to building towards the future or try and make some additions for a comeback playoff run. I think them selling Mark Melancon should have been their sign to commit to next year. They got Felipe Rivero, who is a strong arm out of the pen, but they still lacked in starting pitching. Somehow they got Ivan Nova from the Yankees for two guys to be named later (apparently the Yankees, despite some good early moves, are still new to this whole “selling” thing).

But then making two more moves for bullpen guys, Antonio Bastardo and Drew Hutchinson, doesn’t make sense to me. Hutchinson has been optioned to the Minors while Bastardo, who hadn’t looked great in the pen for the Mets, gets them another reliever as opposed to a starter. I don’t think Hutchinson was worth what they gave up (Francisco Liriano and prospects Harold Ramirez and Reese McGuire) and they just replenished a bullpen with different names that will probably yield the same results.

San Diego Padres (A-)

Aside from the Kemp/Olivera trade, I think the Padres actually did well in the prospect game. Anderson Espinosa (who was acquired in the Red Sox Pomeranz deal) is seen as the top prospect in the Padres organization by many, and hopefully he lives up to the expectation. As of now, he’s 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA in 12.2 innings with single-A Fort Wayne. The kid is only 18, so give him time to mature before recoiling at the numbers tied to a “number one prospect.”

Although they got Hector Olivera and all of the off-field issues he brings, they did dump off rather hefty Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton contracts. In addition to that they ended up with one of the Marlins top prospects for Andrew Cashner (it would have been even sweeter had Rea not been injured and returned for Luis Castillo). The Padres were able to right some of the wrongs that came about in 2015, so I score it as a win for A.J. Preller.

San Francisco Giants (B-)

The Giants do what they always do at the deadline, make a few small moves that they feel will make a huge difference as the postseason nears. I don’t think that they focused on the area that most needed work, though: the offense. The Giants got Matt Moore from Tampa on the last day; he’s a cheap back of the rotation starter with potential upside: I can’t fault the Giants for the move. They also acquired reliever Will Smith from the Angels and infielder Eduardo Nunez from the Twins. Nunez isn’t the impact bat that I feel the Giants needed to grab to help their faltering offense. Still, none of these moves are going to break the bank for the Giants, and if Moore is able to play up to his expectation he could provide an anchor the Giants didn’t have at the back of the rotation.

St. Louis Cardinals (B+)

The Cardinals are in a solid spot to make a wildcard currently, as the Cubs have all but won the division at this point, so they’re playing the hand they’ve been dealt this year. They could have tried to make some big moves to try and bolster the order or the rotation, but that really isn’t the Cards style. I like the move for Zach Duke, he’s been solid with the White Sox this year, and Charlie Tilson isn’t a prospect who will make a massive splash in the Majors. The Pirates and Marlins didn’t get any stronger, so they remain a comfortable pick for the postseason this year.

Washington Nationals (B)

The Natioanls didn’t get the big-name bullpen help they wanted, like Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller, but Mark Melancon is a good improvement for a struggling Jonathan Papelbon. They also didn’t do anything hasty and give up Lucas Giolito, who probably pulled some decent offers.

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