With the trade deadline a few days away, there are some pretty obvious buyers and sellers. The Yankees, Mets, and Diamondbacks are trying to add talent and improve their chances of making the playoffs, while the Mariners, Pirates, and Braves are selling off talent and looking to the future. For most clubs, whether to buy or sell is a pretty obvious thing, requiring a glance at the standings and an honest evaluation of their own abilities.
For three teams, however, they are apparently having problems with the honest evaluation part.
Houston Astros, 49-56, 12.5 GB in NL Central, 10.5 GB in Wild Card
Inexplicably, the Astros are apparently looking to add talent for the last two months of the season in an effort to… finish 79-83? I’m not sure. They’ve already acquired Randy Wolf as a rental starting pitcher for the remainder of 2008, and according to the rumor mill, they’re actively looking to pick up another player or two to reinforce their roster.
The Astros have the 10th best record in the NL, and I’m pretty sure they’re aware that only four teams make the playoffs. They’d have to leapfrog over at least six teams (probably seven) currently ahead of them, and all of those teams are better than they are. No matter what kind of playoff odds estimator you want to use, the inevitable conclusion is that Houston has no better than a 1-in-1000 chance of making the playoffs this year. They have about an equal chance of finishing with the worst record in baseball, and yet, somehow, they’ve decided to be buyers. Inexplicable.
Colorado Rockies, 48-59, 6 GB in NL West, 12.5 GB in Wild Card
Yes, the Rockies made a miracle run last year and ended up in the World Series. But you konw why it was a miracle? Because it doesn’t happen two years in a row. Despite the fact that they play in a sad division where .500 puts you in contention, it’s still a massive uphill battle for the Rox in ’08. Consider that, as of this writing, only 3 National League teams have worse records than the Rockies. Yes, two of them happen to be division rivals, but generally speaking, the 13th best team out of 16 isn’t gearing up for a playoff run in August.
They have no shot at the wild card whatsoever, so they’re resting their entire hopes and dreams on the division. And while 6 games back with two months to go might not sound like an obstacle that can’t be overcome, you have to put it in the perspective of having to beat out both Arizona and Los Angeles. With 55 games to go (compared to 57 each for the D’backs and Dodgers), the Rockies would need to see something like this play out for them to take the NL West title:
Los Angeles: 30-27
That would put the Rockies at 83-79, a game ahead of both of their rivals. The odds of the Rockies playing .636 baseball for two months while neither Arizona nor Los Angeles can do better than .500 are about 1 in 15. Not nearly as horrible as the Astros odds, but you simply don’t put any significant resource into a 1-in-15 longshot.
Detroit Tigers, 53-52, 6.5 GB in AL Central, 7 GB in Wild Card
Preseason favorites of many, the Tigers fell flat on their face coming out of the gates as their pitching disintegrated and their offense failed to live up to expectations. They’ve rebounded since the slow start, going 30-20 since the beginning of June, and crawling to within sight of the division lead. However, despite their mini-surge, they still stand a significant ways behind both the White Sox and Twins. With Chicago establishing themselves as at least Detroit’s equal in terms of talent level, overcoming a 6.5 game deficit in two months while also hoping that the Twins regress (and don’t promote Francisco Liriano) is a bit much to hope for. Their odds are the best of the bunch we’ve profiled, coming in at about 1-in-9, so they at least have enough of a shot to avoid a firesale. 1-in-9 doesn’t justify continuing a raid of a farm system that has been depleted in a win-now effort, however. At some point, the Tigers have to be willing to say that this is the team they built, and this is the team they’re going to live with. You can’t keep throwing good money after bad.