Consider this Part II of my trade deadline preview, or where I play grumpy old man and suggest this deadline may end up being a little anticlimactic.
Yes, we'll see the usual slate of middle relievers traded and we've seen a couple of interesting deals since last night, with Eduardo Nunez going to the Giants and Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea going to the Marlins. But those are likely low-impact moves as Nunez isn't even guaranteed to start for the Giants once Matt Duffy returns from the disabled list and Cashner has actually been a below-replacement level pitcher the past two seasons. The most intriguing name in that trade is Josh Naylor, Miami's first-round pick last season, who went to the Padres.
Part of the reason for my skepticism is that we have so many teams still in the playoff hunt, meaning we have many buyers and few sellers and the sellers don't have enough good players to move.
In the American League, six teams are within 6.5 games of the second wild-card spot, so you have 11 teams who can legitimately claim to hold playoff hopes.
The sixth team is the Royals and they're 49-52. I don't expect them to make a run with that rotation, but they are the defending World Series champs and in 2014 they were 48-50 and still reached the postseason. That's not exactly apples to apples because they were 48-50 on July 21 and 4.5 out of a wild-card spot. By July 30 they had climbed up to 54-52 and were 3.5 out. They didn't actually make any big moves; they got hot in August and September and others teams faded.
Point is: The Royals may be reluctant to be sellers (like with Wade Davis) since 2014 will serve as a strong reminder not to give up.
In the National League, the Cardinals and Marlins enter Friday tied for the second wild card at 55-47. The Mets are 1.5 back and the Pirates 2 out. The Rockies are fringy contenders at 5 back and the big name they could trade -- Carlos Gonzalez -- is signed through 2017 and probably a part of next year's plans. So that's nine teams in the playoff chase, including the Rockies, who I wouldn't classify as buyers but aren't really sellers, either.
That leaves just 10 teams looking to trade players to the contenders.
The Padres have already dealt their biggest assets in Drew Pomeranz and Cashner; sorry, I don't see anybody taking Matt Kemp's contract off their hands, even if the Padres pick up a large portion of the $18.25 million he's owed the next three seasons (which doesn't include the $3.5 million the Dodgers are paying each season). I guess the Twins still have Ervin Santana. The Phillies have Jeremy Hellickson and Jeanmar Gomez, hardly difference-makers. The Angels don't really have an impact value to trade. The biggest names likely to be traded are Jonathan Lucroy and Jay Bruce.
Also, two of the three National League division races seem fairly secure, with the Cubs leading the Cardinals by 6.5 games and the Nationals leading the Marlins by 5 games. FanGraphs gives the Cubs a 94 percent chance to win the division and the Nationals a 91 percent. As Dave Cameron of FanGraphs tweeted about that Marlins-Padres trade:
Last year's first round pick for a half season of a league average starter to bump your odds of making the WC game? Yuck.
— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) July 29, 2016
In other words, I wouldn't expect the Mets, Cardinals or Pirates to trade one of their top prospects for a minimal return who is unlikely to boost the team to the division title. Even Bruce, who has 25 home runs and leads the NL with 79 RBIs, projects as only a minor upgrade. Baseball-Reference values him at 1.0 WAR so far and FanGraphs at 0.9; his defensive shortcomings take away some of the value his bat provides. Do you want to give up a top prospect for a guy who may be worth just an additional win the rest of the way?
Of course, I should also point out that on July 31 last year, the Blue Jays were 6 games behind the Yankees and won the AL East. The Rangers were 7 games behind the Astros and won the AL West. So you never know. There are also incentives for some teams to win a title that has long eluded them: Do the Indians, who haven't won the World Series since 1948, trade one of their top prospects to get Lucroy, Bruce or Andrew Miller? Do the Rangers, with a title in their franchise history, make an offer the White Sox can't refuse for Chris Sale? Do the Astros, 0-for-54 in their history, make some sort of unforeseen big addition, or are they content with the call-up of Alex Bregman and signing of Yulieski Gurriel?
I hope we get a surprise deal or two. It's fun when we get a busy deadline. I just don't think that's going to happen this year.