Updating the Lists of Buyers and Sellers

A month ago, I looked at the teams that looked to be buying, selling, or still making up their mind as we headed towards the trade season. Now that trade season is officially here, and some things have changed in the last month, let’s take a look at where things stand with two two weeks before the deadline.

First, let’s just look at the changes in playoff odds for every team since the last time we looked at who would be buying and selling.

Playoff Odds Changes Since June 18th
Team Old Playoff% New Playoff% Change
Brewers 9.3% 31.0% 21.7%
Royals 7.1% 22.8% 15.7%
Rays 22.5% 34.8% 12.3%
Rangers 18.5% 26.3% 7.8%
Angels 6.4% 13.1% 6.7%
Cardinals 18.3% 24.9% 6.6%
Red Sox 88.0% 94.6% 6.6%
Twins 6.5% 12.2% 5.7%
Braves 0.3% 4.8% 4.5%
Pirates 4.3% 8.1% 3.8%
Mariners 14.0% 16.9% 2.9%
Nationals 98.4% 99.6% 1.2%
Cubs 83.2% 83.5% 0.3%
Astros 99.8% 100.0% 0.2%
Dodgers 99.8% 100.0% 0.2%
Marlins 4.5% 4.5% 0.0%
Reds 0.1% 0.1% 0.0%
Padres 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Phillies 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
White Sox 0.1% 0.0% -0.1%
Giants 0.5% 0.0% -0.5%
Indians 95.4% 94.7% -0.7%
Mets 9.7% 8.9% -0.8%
Athletics 6.0% 3.9% -2.1%
Tigers 14.2% 10.5% -3.7%
Diamondbacks 83.5% 77.8% -5.7%
Orioles 11.4% 2.9% -8.5%
Blue Jays 35.6% 18.5% -17.1%
Yankees 74.6% 48.7% -25.9%
Rockies 88.0% 56.6% -31.4%

Most teams are generally about where they were a month ago, with only six teams seeing double-digit percentage point changes, with three rising and three falling. The Brewers keep playing far better than our projections expect, and also are now benefiting from Arizona and Colorado’s regression, which opens up a Wild Card path in addition to their chance to hold off the Cubs in the NL Central. With the two NL West surprises sliding backwards, the NL now looks like it has six teams fighting for five spots, with a seventh (STL) potentially able to get in the mix if they play as well as our projections think they might.

Over in the AL, TB (12-9 since 6/18) and KC (12-10) haven’t really played themselves back into the race as much as they’ve been competent enough to benefit from the Yankees and Blue Jays (both 9-14) problems. As crazy as it sounds, the Rays currently have the AL’s third-best record at 49-44, as a .527 winning percentage now puts you in the top tier of the American League. The AL Wild Card race is basically a fight over who is less mediocre, and the collision of not-good-but-not-terrible teams means that there will probably be a bunch of front offices who see that they have a chance to make the postseason despite a team that is not playing like a playoff team right now.

So, with those changes factored in, let’s break down the buyers, sellers, and bubble teams once again.

Definite Buyers
Team W L % xW POFF
Astros 62 30 0.674 103.3 100.0%
Dodgers 64 29 0.688 106.9 100.0%
Nationals 55 36 0.604 94.9 99.6%
Indians 47 43 0.522 89.7 94.7%
Red Sox 52 41 0.559 90.4 94.6%
Cubs 46 45 0.505 88.5 83.5%
Diamondbacks 53 39 0.576 87.8 77.8%
Rockies 53 41 0.564 85.3 56.6%
Brewers 52 42 0.553 82.7 31.0%

Yes, our playoff projections have both the Astros and Dodgers at 100% playoff probability in mid-July. Obviously there’s some rounding in there, as these teams haven’t mathematically clinched, but our simulations don’t see many realistic scenarios where these teams lose enough in the second half to play themselves out of the postseason; the bar for a Wild Card berth is just too low in each league to imagine these teams not clearing that mark, at least. In the case of those two teams, both will be looking to add, but since the rest of the regular season doesn’t matter all that much to them, any additions they make will be to design their roster for the postseason, which might make them a bit more cautious than other buyers.

The other teams in this mix are the ones I’d expect to be more aggressive. Washington already added two bullpen pieces and probably aren’t done; they have a strong hold on the NL East but are clearly in win-now mode with Bryce Harper headed for free agency after next season, and they want to take advantage of their shots with him while they can. The Cubs already added Jose Quintana, and I doubt they’re finished adding either. The Indians, Red Sox, and the three surprising NL contenders all have strong enough shots at the postseason to require mid-season upgrades, though I imagine David Stearns is going to avoid pushing too far in on this year, since they know that this is earlier than they were planning on being good.

You’ll note that there are only three AL teams in that definite buyers club, despite the AL having five playoff spots up for grabs. That’s what a mess this Wild Card race is; all of the teams in the mix for that spot could feasibly play poorly enough over the next two weeks to force a change in plans.

Before we get to the teams in the middle, let’s look at the ones we know for sure are selling at this point.

Definite Sellers
Team W L % xW POFF
Tigers 41 49 0.456 78.1 10.5%
Marlins 41 49 0.456 77.7 4.5%
Athletics 42 50 0.457 75.9 3.9%
Orioles 42 49 0.462 75.1 2.9%
Reds 39 52 0.429 69.6 0.1%
Padres 40 51 0.440 69.2 0.0%
White Sox 38 52 0.422 65.1 0.0%
Giants 35 58 0.376 69.3 0.0%
Phillies 30 60 0.333 60.0 0.0%

The Tigers and Marlins have effectively the same expected end-of-season record, but the Tigers playoff odds are 11% while the Marlins are at 5%, thanks to the weakness of the American League’s mid-tier this year. Despite some chance of getting back in the race, though, the Tigers are going to sell; they’ve made it pretty clear they want to get younger and aren’t going to bet more on an aging team that is currently playing pretty poorly. The Orioles are the other team joining this group since our last update, since they’ve gone 8-15 since June 18th, and just don’t have enough pitching to hang with legitimate contenders.

The rest of these teams are pretty obvious, and have been sell-off mode for a while now. What the Marlins will move is complicated by their sale process, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up just doing minor moves while saving their big trades for after the new ownership takes over, whenever that happens.

This brings us to the big group in the middle. These teams will likely determine how active the league is over the next few weeks.

Bubble Teams
Team W L % xW POFF
Yankees 47 43 0.522 83.3 48.7%
Rays 49 44 0.527 81.9 34.8%
Rangers 45 46 0.495 80.8 26.3%
Cardinals 44 47 0.484 81.8 24.9%
Royals 45 45 0.500 80.3 22.8%
Blue Jays 42 49 0.462 79.7 18.5%
Mariners 46 47 0.495 79.5 16.9%
Angels 46 49 0.484 78.9 13.1%
Twins 46 45 0.505 78.5 12.2%
Mets 41 48 0.461 79.2 8.9%
Pirates 44 48 0.478 78.8 8.1%
Braves 45 45 0.500 77.7 4.8%

Here are your seven AL Wild Card contenders, plus a handful of NL teams who could maybe talk themselves into a run if they play well for the next couple of weeks. The fact that we have 12 teams that could potentially still go both ways — the Pirates and Mets probably won’t buy, but could maybe decide to not sell if they get hot — muddies the waters, as there are still far more teams evaluating their chances than we normally see this time of year.

The Royals have publicly said they’re going for it, or at least not selling, given that this is their last hurrah with this group of homegrown talents. The Rays and Yankees are probably in good enough spots that they likely won’t sell either, even if they struggle the next few weeks, so there are probably something like nine potential sellers in here.

The problem for both the definite buyers and sellers is that there’s a lot of talent in this group. Do you want to make a move an available starting pitcher if you think Yu Darvish could still become available? Do you pay the price for Zach Britton knowing that, if Toronto keeps struggling, you could maybe get Roberto Osuna instead? Until these dozen teams officially declare which way they’re going, we might not see a ton of activity; there are just too many teams that seem to not be entirely sure what they want to do yet.

So, yeah, the next week or so probably matters a lot. One of these twelve teams will probably catch fire and move up the standings quickly, and several will probably play poorly enough to convince their GM to officially hang the for sale sign in the window. With this many teams still hanging around the periphery of the playoff races, I would expect that this week might be a lot of wait-and-see, with next week being truly crazy once everyone figures out what they’re doing.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Curacao LL
5 years ago

I think the playoff odds are kind of sketchy.

Today, the Indians at 89.4% with two teams only two games back seems big.

The Cubs at 73%, 4.5 GB, is ridiculous.

At the all-star break, the Dodgers were ‘100%’ to win their division with a 7.5 game lead. ‘100%’ (even 99.9%… 999 times out of a thousand) seems awfully big. Even 10.5 up (now) 99.9% feels high.

Wish the guy compiling the odds would take bets near those numbers.

5 years ago
Reply to  Curacao LL

Don’t forget in-division games. Cubs & Brewers face-off 10 more times. Standings can change real quickly.

Roger McDowell Hot Foot
5 years ago
Reply to  Curacao LL

Weird! My intuition sometimes varies from the best available quantification in ways I can’t articulate too!

Aaron (UK)
5 years ago
Reply to  Curacao LL
5 years ago
Reply to  Aaron (UK)

That’s because the bookies base their odds on what the (idiot-)population thinks, not on the best available information

5 years ago
Reply to  bunslow

A lot of people seem to think that bookies just set the line such that the unwashed masses pile up equal money on either side and then live off the vig, but that’s not really true. They are actually much better than the average bettor when it comes to predicting outcomes, and they regularly exploit this information advantage.


Joshua Millermember
5 years ago
Reply to  coopatroopa

It’s amazing to me how many people don’t realize this, the house always wins for a reason, there are really really smart people that are making the odds and they use just as much analytics and computing power as this site and others (i.e. fivethirtyeight).

Pirates Hurdlesmember
5 years ago
Reply to  bunslow

People that think the Vegas bookies are idiots are mistaken. The success of the system is evidence of that.

david k
5 years ago

I don’t think anyone is saying the BOOKIES are idiots, but the post above is saying the bookies base their odds on how they think the BETTING PUBLIC AT LARGE would bet, and if the betters go by emotion, historically good teams, etc. and not based on the best projections, then the bookies are going to base their odds more on how people will BET.

baseball bettormember
5 years ago

Vegas bookies actually are not very smart at all as keep in mind they are also playing with around a 5+% edge and it’s even higher in the futures market where it’s nearly impossible for them to lose money. It’s actually the offshore bookies who set and truly control the sports betting markets with their large limits and along with lower juice and it’s the Las Vegas books who mainly just copycat them. With all that said it’s the public betting money that really sets and moves the odds meaning they are the one’s who control the market. Just take at look at Pinnacle Sports (#1 sports book in the world) model as they are top bookie with highest limits all while holding the lowest hold/rake/vigorish and yes the no vig market has proven to be the best predictive tool.

Curacao LL
5 years ago
Reply to  bunslow

Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Asian betting markets are incredibly predictive tools.

5 years ago
Reply to  Curacao LL

Your response shows you have 0 clue what these odds represent.

Curacao LL
5 years ago
Reply to  n_scheffel

Enlighten me.
This should be fun.

Fan gaff
5 years ago
Reply to  Curacao LL

What is an “Asian betting market”? are you talking about Macau? because that city is what sets this vague “market” you speak of. And bookies setting lines in Macau are no different than Vegas. The lines may be slightly different but that because is of who is betting.

Curacao LL
5 years ago
Reply to  Fan gaff

@Fan gaff:
Not Macau. There is some decent betting there, and it somewhat reflects the Asian market 2-5 minutes late, but Macau is technically still part of China, even if it is an SAR — and Beijing occasionally takes a dim view of illegal gambling when it suits them, so…

I’m talking about the clearinghouses in Malaysia and Indonesia, and to a lesser extent the Phillippines. Huge minimum bets where the various syndicates and medium-sized bookies around the world do battle. 98% of the sharp soccer money and maybe 3/4 of the sharp US-sports money ends up here directly or through intermediaries. The groups (Billy Walters, Star Lizard, …) and books (Ladbrokes, Pinnacle,…) don’t need to call around to get $5K or $10K at a time and risk wrecking the market before they get what they need — call Asia and get it all at once.

Fan gaff
5 years ago
Reply to  Curacao LL

I think as you try to explain this you realized you don’t really know enough about it.Macau books set the lines for the entire Eastern world, including Indonesia, Philippines & Malaysia. Those countries have syndicates and all that but it is a fraction of the money that changes hands everyday in Macau, and 98% of the sharp “soccer” money. BULLSHIT. The UK bookies have something to say about that.

I live in Vegas, and Billy Walters (while a real person) is a lie. A storyline Vegas perpetuates to get people to gamble.

5 years ago
Reply to  Curacao LL

Can I try?

Those odds place more weight on projections than on what has happened on the season up to that point.

Projections show Cleveland’s baseball team to be MUCH better than the Twins or Royals, so even though there is only 2 games between 1st and 3rd, the odds reflect that thinking. It’s like saying “Cleveland will eventually play to it’s potential and the Twins/Royals will eventually tumble”.

Same with the Cubs and Brewers. Milwaukee has a nice lead but projections show Chicago to be better, so in the long run they peg them to take first place.

W/L can be deceiving. As much as I would like to, the Rays are probably not the third best team in the AL and the Giants aren’t the second worst in all of MLB.

Granted, eventually what has happened takes over to what projections say, but with 70 games to play, we’re not there yet. You can disagree, I think the Yankees % is high and the Mariners low, but in the end, it’s all projections, projections, projections.

Curacao LL
5 years ago
Reply to  Cartulo


I think we understand each other. I agree the Indians and Cubs are the beter teams, and should be the favourites to win the Centrals–I just think the projections rely far too much on preseason wisdom. As the number of games remaining drops, the current season’s results need to count for more.

The claim on the Indians, at 89.4%, is that “if the rest of the season was played out from here in 1,000 parallel universes, the Indiands would win about 894 times.” For the Cubs, 735 times out of 1,000.

The Dodgers, when they were up 7.5, 999+ times out of 1,000.

This doesn’t pass the smell test. These favourites are all likely to win, but the numbers seem inflated.

If the commentariat here wants to believe in them, that’s fine. I was just moaning that I wished I cou;ld bet against them.

I don’t know exactly how the algorithm was constructed, but I can only assume the programmer took a half hour’s break to listen to Hillary Clinton’s inaugural address.

5 years ago
Reply to  Curacao LL

I’m guessing the downvote you got was from the Hillary part, since everything else you said made perfect sense.

FWIW, I don’t think those numbers are high, if anything, I would give Cleveland and Cubs higher odds. Royals and Twins are flawed teams, and even if you don’t buy too much into Cleveland, their regression should give them an easy banner. Milwaukee is arguably better than KC or Minnesota, but still, Cubs have lot of games to make up a small difference against a lesser club.

That being said, if I were allowed to bet (recovering gambling addict) I would definately agree with your logic. In this sport anything can happen, and taking a chance that the Brewers hold on, with the lines reflecting these projections, that’s a nice bet. I’ll figure i’ll lose, but it would still be a good bet (does that make sense?).

Joeys Bat Flipmember
5 years ago
Reply to  Cartulo

Uh, nope. The downvotes (or mine, anyway) is a reflection of the fact that Curacao LL has presented nothing beyond his intuition to explain WHY the odds feel too high to him. If he’s going on something other than his gut reaction on this (e.g. look at the ROS player projections. Who seems too high to you? Look at strength of remaining schedule, etc), then an interesting commentary will follow.

Simply yelling “that looks too high, and the proof is in Macau” is totally unhelpful.

Doug Lampertmember
5 years ago
Reply to  Joeys Bat Flip

The ROS projection treats the remaining games as independent. They are not. It would be surprising if a projection that ignores this were the best possible projection.

I have no idea how significant this error is, but it’s there.

Trades especially are non-random based on current performance and projection, and are ignored by FG projections till after the trade.

5 years ago
Reply to  Curacao LL

Cubs are ar 83, not 73. But that is my quibble too.

5 years ago
Reply to  Curacao LL

You probably want the coin flip mode they have then.


Jetsy Extrano
5 years ago
Reply to  Curacao LL

Eh, it’s fair to say that calling the Dodgers 99.95+% is too much. Any given player could suffer catastrophic injury (naming no hypothetical names), and the projections don’t attempt to account for random changes like that in talent level.

5 years ago
Reply to  Jetsy Extrano

But they only need to go like 20-52 ROS and they probably get a wild card spot.

5 years ago
Reply to  Curacao LL

It isn’t 100% for the Dodgers to win the division, it’s 100% to make the playoffs. Right now they are 17.5 games ahead in the race for the second wild card. That’s where the 100% comes from….

Jason Bmember
5 years ago
Reply to  Michael

Yeah but they didn’t factor in the possible plane crash!

GEORGE: You know Keith, what I’ve always wondered, with all these ball clubs flying around all season don’t you think there would be a plane crash? …

But if you think about it…26 teams, 162 games a season, you’d think eventually an entire team would get wiped out.

It’s only a matter of time!

5 years ago
Reply to  Curacao LL

This comment did not age particularly well.