With the 2020 MLB trade deadline now in the rearview mirror, what you see on big league rosters is what you’ll get as baseball takes its turn into the stretch drive. As Major League Baseball clubs shook up their squads, we saw considerable moves up and down this week’s rankings.
The biggest moves up were by the Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies, who both made six-slot leaps in our rankings. That reflects where they are in the MLB standings. The Toronto Blue Jays of Buffalo aren’t just threatening to enlist in the AL playoff field, they’re threatening the New York Yankees for the No. 2 spot in the AL East. Meanwhile, the Phillies shored up their bid to seize the NL East crown from the Atlanta Braves. The big losers of the week? The injury-wracked reigning champs, who fell seven slots in the topsy-turvy National League, where every team save the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates might have a chance to reach the postseason.
In addition to the results of this week’s voting on the rankings, we asked MLB senior columnist David Schoenfield for his evaluation of all 30 teams coming out of the trade deadline.
Playoff probability: 100%
Week 4 ranking: 1
The Dodgers didn’t do anything other than trade away Ross Stripling, but they are so good and so deep that the only move of consequence would have been acquiring Mike Clevinger or Lance Lynn, and given what the Padres gave up to get Clevinger and that Lynn remained with the Rangers, let’s not dump on the Dodgers’ front office. They still have the best team in baseball.
Playoff probability: 99.9%
Week 4 ranking: 3
They acquired OF Brett Phillips and LHP Cody Reed and traded away DH Jose Martinez, but it’s all about somehow keeping up this level of play, even though 11 pitchers are on the injured list. Josh Fleming, a fifth-round pick from Webster University, is the newest pitcher to make an impact, with two runs allowed and two wins in his first two starts.
Playoff probability: 99.9%
Week 4 ranking: 2
Worried about a bunch of potential doubleheaders in September after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 (the A’s are shut down through Wednesday), the Athletics acquired starter Mike Minor after adding infielder Tommy La Stella. Minor led the AL in bWAR in 2019, and La Stella is the toughest player in the majors to strike out. Plus, he can play second base or take over some DH duties from the struggling Khris Davis.
Playoff probability: 98.9%
Week 4 ranking: 9
The big Mike Clevinger blockbuster brought back a lot of interesting players — but not the difference-making outfielder the team desperately needs. Indians outfielders have a collective .556 OPS, 29th in the majors. In the long term, the team got more depth; in the short term, the team isn’t really any better and is maybe less likely now to win the World Series.
Playoff probability: 98.6%
Week 4 ranking: 4
It’s a bit of a surprise that the Yankees didn’t make a move — not even a small one to add pitching depth — but the key to the Yankees’ ultimate success is just getting the lineup healthy. They’re still eighth in the majors in runs per game, but this is a team that expected to lead the majors in runs. The Yankees can still do that when it matters in October.
Playoff probability: 94.4%
Week 4 ranking: 5
The Twins are hitting just .236/.312/.401 — a huge decline from last year’s .270/.338/.494 production. Their 2020 home run pace would be 221 over 162 games, compared to 2019’s record of 307. The Twins didn’t make any additions, however, so they need the current crew to hit better to hold off Cleveland and Chicago in the AL Central.
Playoff probability: 96.4%
Week 4 ranking: 6
With a .208 average against lefties, the Cubs added a couple of right-handed bats in Jose Martinez and Cameron Maybin while acquiring lefty relievers Andrew Chafin and Josh Osich. This team improved just a bit around the edges. The big improvements have to come from Javier Baez (.202/.246/.371) and Kris Bryant (.177/.271/.323).
Playoff probability: 98.1%
Week 4 ranking: 11
They were involved in some rumors to add pitching but made only a minor move in acquiring center field Jarrod Dyson from the Pirates. Rookie Dane Dunning fanned 14 in 9⅓ innings in his first two starts, so maybe he can be an impact starter behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. (Dylan Cease has a 3.00 ERA, but it’s a bit of a mirage, as he has a 6.19 FIP.)
Playoff probability: 95.6%
Week 4 ranking: 8
The Braves were in on a few players, but the only addition was Tommy Milone from the Orioles to help a rotation that is 1-10 with a 7.23 ERA in games Max Fried hasn’t started. Rookie Ian Anderson just had a good MLB debut, but otherwise it’s Milone, Robbie Erlin and Josh Tomlin at the moment. This is not what the Braves expected a couple of years ago when they had all these highly rated starting pitching prospects.
Playoff probability: 97.5%
Week 4 ranking: 10
A.J. Preller was like a puppy handed a bucket of tennis balls to play with. He was very excited about this trade deadline, acquiring nine new players while trading five of the team’s top 14 prospects plus some useful players such as Cal Quantrill, Josh Naylor and Ty France. But he got the biggest name of the deadline in Mike Clevinger, who helps in 2020 and is under team control for two more years. The Padres now look like the second-best team in the NL, with a lineup that matches up with that of the powerful Dodgers.
Playoff probability: 99.0%
Week 4 ranking: 7
The Astros remained quiet, in part a reflection of a farm system that has been thinned by trades in recent years and in part because of the desire to not give away even more depth with George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick all heading into free agency. Note that Framber Valdez has been terrific (2.35 ERA, 40 K’s, 9 BBs, 2 HRs in 38⅓ IP), so a healthy Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Valdez and Lance McCullers Jr. makes for a worthy playoff rotation.
Playoff probability: 79.0%
Week 4 ranking: 18
With Matt Shoemaker, Nate Pearson and Trent Thornton all on the IL, the Jays acquired three starting pitchers in Taijuan Walker (who won his first Toronto start) and then Robbie Ray and Ross Stripling on Monday. Ray (7.84 ERA) and Stripling (5.68 ERA) have both struggled, so these are rolls of the dice, but these pitchers are also former All-Stars.
Playoff probability: 64.9%
Week 4 ranking: 19
As expected, the team with MLB’s worst bullpen ERA (6.73) added a bunch of relievers: Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree and David Hale a week ago and David Phelps from the Brewers on Monday. Meh. Even with Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto performing at a high level, the Phillies look like they did in March: a .500-ish team.
Playoff probability: 58.7%
Week 4 ranking: 15
There were crickets from St. Louis as the Cardinals stood pat. They need their outfielders to start hitting (.211/.302/.392), and we’ll see if the pitching can keep performing this well. The staff ranks fourth in the majors in ERA but 25th in strikeout rate.
Playoff probability: 41.0%
Week 4 ranking: 13
The Rockies made a trade! Actually they made two, adding reliever Mychal Givens and outfielder Kevin Pillar. Pillar isn’t the defensive standout he was a few years ago, but with Garrett Hampson not hitting and David Dahl injured, the Rockies needed a center fielder. Odd note: Through Sunday, Nolan Arenado has just nine strikeouts in 138 PAs but is hitting just .268. His expected batting average is .250, as his quality of contact hasn’t been good (30th percentile in hard-hit rate and a lot of fly balls). All seven of his home runs have come at Coors Field. Hmm.
ICYMI: Pillar to provide OF depth
Playoff probability: 49.3%
Week 4 ranking: 14
The Reds made a big investment in the offseason to win now and snap a streak of six straight losing seasons, so it’s no surprise that they decided to keep Trevor Bauer and add closer Archie Bradley from the Diamondbacks and outfielder Brian Goodwin from the Angels. One four-game winning streak and they’ll be looking good. Goodwin should get a chance to play, as Reds outfielders are hitting .212/.309/.402.
Playoff probability: 56.6%
Week 4 ranking: 17
In a late flurry of minor deals, the Mets acquired Todd Frazier, Robinson Chirinos and Miguel Castro. These trades are not going to move the needle. The Mets are sixth in the majors in wOBA (that’s good!) but 20th in runs per game (not good!). The problem? A .217 average with runners in scoring position. If the Mets can turn that around over the final 30 days, they can make the playoffs, even with a shaky pitching staff.
Playoff probability: 52.4%
Week 4 ranking: 16
The big rumor with the Brewers was that they might trade Josh Hader, but he stayed put, with only reliever David Phelps traded away. The Brewers entered Monday just 1.5 games out of a playoff spot — a minor miracle, given that Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun, Eric Sogard, Omar Narvaez and Justin Smoak are all hitting under .200. In fact, of the Brewers’ nine players with the most plate appearances, only Orlando Arcia is hitting above .232. Yuck.
Playoff probability: 16.1%
Week 4 ranking: 12
They’re in 14th place in the NL and could have traded away some veterans, such as Asdrubal Cabrera, Kurt Suzuki and Howie Kendrick, but they have house money to play with. It isn’t in their nature to concede, and even without Stephen Strasburg, they still have no reason to give up on the season.
Playoff probability: 22.5%
Week 4 ranking: 21
They traded for Starling Marte but dealt Jonathan Villar to the Blue Jays, so that seems like a bit of a wash. The Marlins needed a center fielder, and Marte has a team option for 2021. Isan Diaz, who earlier opted out of the season, is now looking to rejoin the club; perhaps that made Villar expendable.
Playoff probability: 9.6%
Week 4 ranking: 20
Arizona essentially punted on 2020, trading away Starling Marte and Archie Bradley — which is interesting because both players are under contract for 2021 (Marte has a team option) — plus Robbie Ray. The rotation was the hoped-for strength of the team, but it has a 5.12 ERA. With Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar so far not matching their big 2019 numbers, it’s easy to wonder where the Diamondbacks sit heading into 2021. They might need to do a lot of tinkering.
Playoff probability: 39.3%
Week 4 ranking: 27
They’ve probably overperformed for their talent level, so even though the Giants are right there in the playoff hunt — hey, everybody except the Pirates is in the hunt in the NL — it’s no surprise that they didn’t do anything. They could have traded Kevin Gausman, but they weren’t going to get much for him. Why not keep him and see if they can sneak in as the seventh or eighth team? A Giants-Dodgers three-game playoff series would be fun; the rivals have never met in the postseason.
Playoff probability: 2.0%
Week 4 ranking: 24
They’ve gone 3-11 since that 12-8 start, so it made sense that the Orioles turned into minor sellers, trading away pitchers Tommy Milone, Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro. Maybe the one surprise is that with 2019 No. 1 pick Adley Rutschman set to arrive perhaps in 2021, the O’s kept catcher Pedro Severino, who is hitting .309/.380/.505. Severino has been around a while, but he’s still just 27 years old, so maybe the O’s think he’s a late developer at the plate, as often happens with catchers.
Playoff probability: 20.6%
Week 4 ranking: 28
They were quiet other than trading Cameron Maybin — as they should have been. It’s still about the future for the Tigers, seeing what Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Spencer Turnbull can do down the stretch and continuing the rebuild in the offseason.
Playoff probability: 1.8%
Week 4 ranking: 23
They moved Tommy La Stella, Brian Goodwin and Jason Castro but decided to keep Dylan Bundy and couldn’t find a taker for Andrelton Simmons, who will head into free agency. With David Fletcher looking like he can handle shortstop, it seems unlikely that the Angels will attempt to re-sign Simmons, so not trading him seems like a lost opportunity.
Playoff probability: 1.7%
Week 4 ranking: 22
Maybe the biggest surprise of the day was Lance Lynn remaining in a Rangers uniform. Lynn has another year on his deal, but it’s easy to wonder if this is similar to the Mike Minor scenario last year, when the Rangers failed to cash in on Minor’s big season. Lynn has been outstanding and will certainly help in 2021 … but this roster seems to be a long way from being a playoff contender next season.
Playoff probability: 2.6%
Week 4 ranking: 26
The Royals cashed in Trevor Rosenthal and flipped Brett Phillips for shortstop prospect Lucius Fox, but this is still a team in a transition/rebuilding period. The long-term issue is still where the offense will come from. Jorge Soler, Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier are the Royals’ three good hitters, but two of them are bad defensive players, and all three are at least 28. There are no premium young hitters on the roster or at the top levels of the minors.
Playoff probability: 2.8%
Week 4 ranking: 25
The only question now: Will this be the worst team in Red Sox history? Probably not. Even as bad as the Sox have been, six teams in franchise history have had worse winning percentages (five of those coming between 1925 and 1932 and the other in 1906). At the minimum, though, this is probably the worst Red Sox team in 88 years.
Playoff probability: 0.7%
Week 4 ranking: 29
Well, that was a fascinating trade with the Padres. Jerry Dipoto flipped Austin Nola and Austin Adams — two players he picked up for free — into a top 100 prospect in Taylor Trammell, plus interesting talent in Ty France, Luis Torrens and Andres Munoz. Trammell isn’t a sure thing, but that’s the kind of high-upside play the Mariners should take.
Playoff probability: 0.4%
Week 4 ranking: 30
From 1965 through 1980, the Pirates had just two losing seasons — and they finished 80-82 in those two “bad” seasons. They’ve had just two spurts of excellence since then: the 1990-92 teams that won three straight division titles under Jim Leyland and the 2013-15 run with three straight playoff appearances. The Pirates had been mediocre since then, but now they’re just bad, and it’s impossible to know when they’ll be good again.