- Posted: 11:48 AM, July 13, 2012
For this actual entry, though, let's look at the five teams in baseball that kick things off as fence-sitters on the July 31 non-waivers trade deadline.
Most teams will play another 18 or so games by July 31. That's one-ninth of the season. It's a small sample, but an impactful one, given the timing. It will determine, for many teams, whether they buy, sell or do neither.
If you look at last year's standings at the break, you can see that the Rays, Twins, White Sox and Mariners are among the clubs that would've fallen in this category. Tampa Bay, Minnesota and the Chisox all opted to stand pat at the deadline, thinking they still had a chance - and the Rays were right. Seattle played extremely poorly after the break - the Mariners lost their first 12 games of the second half, giving them a 17-game losing streak overall - and wound up trading Doug Fister to Detroit.
So that's your background. Here are your five fence-sitters for 2012.
1. Milwaukee. The Brewers are 40-45 and trail the Braves (46-39) by six games for the National League's second wild-card. There are five more teams -- the Mets, Cardinals, Giants (all 46-40); Diamondbacks (42-43) and Marlins (41-44) -- standing between Milwaukee and Atlanta.
And in Zack Greinke, the Brewers have someone who would undoubtedly bring back a significant return in a trade.
Owner Mark Attanasio is not one to give up easily, though. He'll be making the call on what to do here. So the Brewers' first nine games out of the break -- three home games each against Pittsburgh and St. Louis, followed by a three-game visit to Cincinnati -- will tell their story.
2. Arizona. The Diamondbacks' making Justin Upton available is fascinating. Upton is such a talented player, and he has such a reasonable contract. He could bring back a huge return. Would the D-Backs actually pull the trigger and trade Upton even if they're still in the race?
Four games behind the Braves, they visit the Cubs for three games and the Reds for four before returning home for a 10-game homestand against the Astros (three games), Rockies (three) and Mets (four). That's nine games against clubs with losing records and eight against teams with winning records. There is ample opportunity to make up ground.
3. Boston. The dysfunctional Red Sox are 43-43, just 2 1/2 games behind Baltimore (45-40) for the second American League wild-card. They should have Jacoby Ellsbury back tonight, and Andrew Bailey, Clay Buchholz, Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia are among those whom the Red Sox hope to have back this season.
It won't be easy for them, not opening the second half with three games in Tampa Bay followed by a homestand against the White Sox (four games) and Toronto (three). If things go very poorly -- they have a road swing through Texas (three games) and New York (three) starting July 23 -- they could find themselves deciding whether to cut bait and focus on next year. Their most tradeable asset? It could be David Ortiz, who seems to be growing increasingly unhappy in Beantown and might approve (as would be his collectively bargained right) of a rental somewhere else.
4. Toronto. If the Red Sox fall into this category, then why shouldn't the Blue Jays, also at 43-43? There isn't the same pressure on the Jays and manager John Farrell to make the playoffs this season as there is in Boston, yet a strong burst out of the gate should have general manager Alex Anthopoulos thinking about buying instead of selling relievers like Francisco Cordero (who isn't pitching well) and Darren Oliver. Their big test figures to come next week, with three games each in New York and Boston.
5. Oakland. The A's, like the Red Sox and Blue Jays, are 43-43. They entered the season with zero expectations to compete, so any slippage at all could result in the trading away of assets like Bartolo Colon, Brandon McCarthy and Grant Balfour, all of whom are in their walk years. Oakland opens a three-game set with the Twins tonight in Minnesota before returning home for a critical six games with Texas (two) and the Yankees (four).
--Have a great day.