The MLB playoffs expanded this year to include one extra team per league, meaning six of the 15 teams in the American League and National League get in. The expansion, theoretically, should keep more teams interested in a playoff push and, theoretically, interested in upgrades at the MLB trade deadline.
However, in addition to those completely out of the race, there are a few on the cusp of contention that could be sellers. Here is a look at a few of them, with some MLB lines for a playoff spot:
Boston Red Sox
With Tuesday’s 8-3 loss to Cleveland, the Boston Red Sox fell behind the Baltimore Orioles and into last place in the American League East. They’re 49-49 just weeks after sitting 11 games over .500, the result of an atrocious 7-18 stretch of baseball that has included losses of 28-5, 14-1, 13-2, 12-5 and 10-5.
The Sox are still within 3½ games of a Wild Card spot, so it might be hard to justify a fire sale to some fans. But they’ve been carved up by everyone in the vaunted AL East, going 12-29 against divisional foes. The recent loss of left-hander Chris Sale, whose return was considered a de facto trade deadline addition, let a lot of air out of the bag.
Boston is still at +125 to make the playoffs at our sportsbook. Perhaps the fact that they are 13-6 against non-AL East teams that are currently in a playoff spot is a sign for some that they can contend.
Outfielder/DH J.D. Martinez and starter Nathan Eovaldi are among those who will be free agents after the season and there are several teams that would be salivating at the prospect of adding them to a roster. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who is expected to opt out of the remaining three years of his contract and test the market this offseason, would land a haul of prospects, although team president Sam Kennedy said recently there have been no discussions of trading him.
With Rafael Devers and Trevor Story sidelined, the Red Sox are playing without their leaders in batting average, home runs, RBIs, runs and stolen bases. And Sale is among several arms on the injured list.
Many will come back soon, as will leadoff hitter Kike Hernandez and valuable utility man Christian Arroyo. But it remains to be seen if it’s enough for this team to even marginally contend in October.
Los Angeles Angels
Like the Red Sox, the Angels looked like contenders at one point in the season, but a 14-game slide in May sent them reeling. Manager Joe Maddon was canned and it has morphed into another wasted season in the Mike Trout/Shohei Ohtani era.
Trout isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but the Ohtani rumors have bubbled up in recent weeks. He’d net an incredible haul of prospects and MLB-ready talent in return but, holy mackerel, would that be a tough decision to sell to Angels fans.
Realistically, the team has several veteran relievers that are sure to find homes elsewhere. Ryan Tepera and Aaron Loup top that list. Noah Syndergaard, who signed a one-year deal after things fizzled for him in New York amid injuries, is a top candidate to be shipped. Fellow starter Michael Lorenzen could also help another team with some back-end depth.
The Angels have some incredible talent at the top end of their organization. Their cupboard is a bit bare below, and gathering up some young talent at the deadline is an easy call.
They’ve indicated they don’t intend on trading away much of their major league talent and are content trying to win with the team they have. However, that team is 10 games below .500 and seven back of a playoff spot, and the Rockies look to be on target for their 10th losing season in the last 12.
Remember, this was the team that held onto Trevor Story and his expiring contract at last year’s deadline, despite everyone thinking they should’ve shipped the star shortstop.
Maybe a soft sell is in order. The organization is not rife with talent at the minor-league level and obtaining a few prospects for someone like Jose Iglesias or one of a handful of relievers on expiring deals seems to make sense.
Colorado isn’t even included in our list of teams with MLB odds of making the playoffs. It’s admirable that the organization is loyal to the guys in the clubhouse and isn’t willing to go through a complete overhaul. But at some point something needs to change.