Updating the Lists of Buyers and Sellers by Dave Cameron July 17, 2017 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.