MLB Power Rankings: Whose Trade Deadline Stance Has Changed the Most Since 2018?

Emma Baccellieri
Sports Illustrated
MLB Power Rankings: Whose Trade Deadline Stance Has Changed the Most Since 2018?
MLB Power Rankings: Whose Trade Deadline Stance Has Changed the Most Since 2018?

After a week away for the All-Star break, welcome back to SI’s MLB Power Rankings. With the trade deadline closing in, this week’s edition focuses on the teams who have changed their situation the most since last year’s deadline. (For the last ranking, click here, and for more on this format, here.) Rank on!

30. Detroit Tigers (29-63; Last Time: 29)

29. Baltimore Orioles (29-66; Last Time: 30)

The Orioles’ position as a team is not meaningfully different from what it was in July 2018. They’re still bad—notably so, though not quite notably enough to be historically so. What’s the difference, then? Last year, Baltimore had plenty of pieces to trade: Manny Machado, Darren O’Day, Kevin Gausman, Jonathan Schoop, Brad Brach. And as a result of that big sale, this year, they’re left with… Andrew Cashner (already gone), Mychal Givens (maybe), and, if you really squint and look hard for other possibilities that might make sense, Trey Mancini. That’s just about it. The Orioles’ deadline outlook this year doesn’t feel much different, but it should end up being a whole lot quieter.

28. Toronto Blue Jays (36-62; Last Time: 26)

27. Miami Marlins (36-58; Last Time: 28)

26. Kansas City Royals (36-62; Last Time: 27)

25. Chicago White Sox (42-51; Last Time: 22)

The White Sox, somewhat similarly to the Orioles, aren’t in a materially different position now than they were last year. They’re a bad team who is still, generally, pretty bad. But they’ve shown serious flashes of improvement, with considerable leaps forward from some individual prospects, and it seems like the future might not be now, but it’s probably… next year? Which is likely enough to ensure that the team won’t be selling right now. It’s not as if they were particularly big movers last year—Joakim Soria was their only significant deal—but this year, expect even less.  

24. Seattle Mariners (39-60; Last Time: 23)

There was hope for Seattle at last year’s deadline. Not security, certainly, but the team was just three or four games back of Houston in the AL West, and a wild-card spot seemed comfortably within reach. So their pick-ups were small—really just picking up Adam Warren from the Yankees and Sam Tuivailala from the Cardinals—but they were there, a clear attempt to bolster pitching depth down the stretch. It, uh, did not work, just as nothing the team has tried this year has worked. There’s no hope for Seattle now. Instead, expect them to sell whoever they can: Roenis Ellias, Domingo Santana, Mike Leake.

23. New York Mets (44-52; Last Time: 24)

22. Pittsburgh Pirates (45-50; Last Time: 20)

In 2018, Pittsburgh was teetering right on the edge of buy-vs.-sell when it made a big push to contend by picking up Chris Archer and Keone Kela. It didn’t work. This year, its position isn’t necessarily much different, but the team has hit a skid in the last few weeks, and while it’s only four games out of the wild-card race, that has much more to do with the crazy state of the National League than it actually does with the Pirates. It’s hard to imagine them buying—let alone making a blockbuster move like they did in 2018—and, in fact, there are already rumors of them selling: Jordan Lyles, Melky Cabrera, Corey Dickerson.

21. San Diego Padres (46-50; Last Time: 21)

20. San Francisco Giants (48-49; Last Time: 25)

19. Cincinnati Reds (43-51; Last Time: 18)

18. Colorado Rockies (46-50; Last Time: 13)

It’s hard to figure out just what is going on here, but it’s probably not going to end up in a repeat of last year’s playoff spot. (GM Jeff Bridich’s recent description of the whole situation as “objectively, just really bad baseball” pretty much covers it.) The Rockies have been bad. There’s a lot to be fixed. And there’s a case to be made for trying to fix it—they’re only four games back of a wild-card spot, and this team really shouldn’t be this bad. But there’s probably a bigger case to be made for the opposite—everyone is four games back of a wild-card spot in the National League, so in this situation, it likely makes more sense to try selling and gearing up for next year. But, uh, selling… who?

They have two free-agents-to-be in Mark Reynolds and Chris Ianetta, but it’s hard to imagine either pulling back much in a deal. And they’d probably love to move Wade Davis or Ian Desmond’s contracts, but that doesn’t seem particularly feasible. It’s a tricky deadline for a front office to navigate, but in any case, it should feel starkly different from last year, when the team boosted its relief pitching to make a postseason run.

17. Los Angeles Angels (50-48; Last Time: 19)

16. Philadelphia Phillies (50-47; Last Time: 14)

15. Milwaukee Brewers (51-47; Last Time: 15)

14. St. Louis Cardinals (49-46; Last Time: 17)

13. Arizona Diamondbacks (49-48; Last Time: 16)

The Diamondbacks were buyers in 2018, albeit rather modestly, picking up Eduardo Escobar, Jake Diekman, Brad Ziegler, and Matt Andriese. At the time, though, they were flirting with first place in the NL West. This year, they have no chance of that, thanks to the Dodgers, and they’re crammed on the edges of a crowded wild-card race. In all likelihood, they’re selling: Robbie Ray, David Peralta, Adam Jones, and maybe even Zack Greinke.

12. Texas Rangers (50-46; Last Time: 8)

11. Washington Nationals (51-44; Last Time: 11)

Remember how wacky the Nationals’ deadline was in 2018? The Bryce Harper trade rumors? Seemingly making a commitment not to sell, then shipping off Brandon Kintzler, anyway? The 2019 deadline stands to be much more conventional for them, however. It doesn’t get more classic than a contender looking to pick up relief help.

10. Cleveland Indians (55-40; Last Time: 12)

Cleveland was a straightforward buyer last year, a first-place team who picked up Brad Hand, Adam Cimber, and Leonys Martin. This year, it’s… a little more difficult. Cleveland’s now a second-place team holding on to a wild-card berth—and recently beginning to close the gap on first place, too—which would seem to bolster its case as a buyer, but there have been virtually no serious rumors linking the club with anyone in that capacity. Instead, it seems that the front office is shopping Trevor Bauer, which would feel a little more straightforward if there had been more than one other stable member of the rotation this year. Regardless—2019’s definitely different, if nothing else.

9. Boston Red Sox (53-44; Last Time: 10)

At 2018’s deadline, Boston’s postseason odds were 99.9%, as they had been for weeks at that point. The Red Sox were on pace for a historically great record, which they achieved; they were buying (Ian Kinsler and Nathan Eovaldi), but without much sense of pressure or expectation, more of a leisurely shopping trip than a hurried errand run for necessities. And that’s the difference between them and the 2019 Red Sox, who are also buying, but with far more urgency and far less security. (Current postseason odds: 54.4%, and that’s after rebounding from below the 50%-mark last week.) They’ve already begun by picking up Andrew Cashner, but expect more—particularly in the bullpen—to come.

8. Atlanta Braves (58-40; Last Time: 6)

7. Chicago Cubs (52-44; Last Time: 9)

6. Oakland Athletics (55-42; Last Time: 7)

5. Tampa Bay Rays (56-43; Last Time: 5)

4. Minnesota Twins (59-36; Last Time: 3)

And here’s the most dramatic change. The Twins’ position as sellers was clear in 2018; they’d been below .500 since the last week of April, with any hopes for resurgence pushed off to 2019. Accordingly, they traded away Brian Dozier, Ryan Pressly, and Eduardo Escobar (whose goodbye tweet remains a work of art). Now? Their playoff position is all but guaranteed (their postseason odds have been above 95% since late May), they’ve established themselves as one of the best teams in baseball, and there’s no question about their situation now. Madison Bumgarner? Will Smith? Marcus Stroman? They’ve been linked to all of them. The Twins are winning, and they’re buying.

3. Houston Astros (61-37; Last Time: 4)

2. New York Yankees (62-33; Last Time: 2)

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (64-35; Last Time: 1)

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