We can stop saying there’s still “plenty of time” in the 2018 MLB season. The All-Star break has passed. The trade deadline is here. Most teams have hit the 100-game mark in the past week or will hit it soon. We know what most teams are at this point.
And we know the Red Sox are definitely the best team in baseball right now. While the Red Sox-Astros-Yankees trio in the AL will make for great October baseball, the Red Sox have started to add some distance between them and the others. They have a five-game lead in the AL East over the Yankees, for instance.
The Red Sox are further setting themselves up for fall success by landing starter Nathan Eovaldi on Wednesday in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. It comes not even 24 hours after the Yankees — who also need starting pitchers — acquired reliever Zach Britton from the Orioles. A pre-emptive strike from the Red Sox, perhaps?
Keep in mind, the power rankings are fun. But October is what really matters.
1. Red Sox (71-32; last week: 1)
The Red Sox continue to widen their lead in the AL East, which is no small feat considering the Yankees have the third-highest win total in MLB. Not only that, but Boston is quickly closing in on the best run differential in baseball. They trail the Astros by just a few runs for that title.
2. Astros (67-37; last week: 2)
The Astros may trail the Red Sox in the win column, but the two teams are evenly matched. Houston’s 113 wRC+ ties them with Boston for the second-best offense in MLB. The Astros hold the edge in pitching, where they have the best starter ERA and the second-best reliever ERA in baseball.
3. Yankees (64-35; last week: 3)
The Yankees may have lost out on Manny Machado, but their fans shouldn’t be upset. By wRC+, the Yankees already have the best offense in baseball. With the bullpen dominant once again — hello, Zach Britton — the one area the Yankees desperately need help is in the rotation. Their 4.10 ERA from their starters ranks 16th.
4. Mariners (60-41; last week: 5)
The Mariners continue to win tight games, but is it sustainable? The team is 20 games over .500, but has the eighth-best run differential in the American League.
5. Cubs (58-42; last week: 4)
The Cubs may have the best run differential in the National League, but they are far from a juggernaut. The team doesn’t have a top-40 starting pitcher in the NL, according to fWAR. That hasn’t been a huge issue in the regular season, but could come back to bite them in October.
6. Dodgers (56-45; last week: 6)
No Corey Seager. No problem. The Dodgers filled a big need by picking up Manny Machado from the Orioles. If Machado performs anywhere close to what he did in the first half, the Dodgers will leap the Cubs as the top team in the NL sooner rather than later.
7. A’s (59-43; last week: 8)
The Athletics just refuse to lose. They continue to put pressure on the Mariners for the second wild-card spot and are closing that gap every day. It looks as though the team intends to capitalize on its recent hot streak. The A’s already brought in Jeurys Familia in a trade and could be looking to make a few more for the postseason push.
8. Indians (54-46; last week: 9)
Cleveland will make the playoffs due to the rest of the AL Central being terrible, but things might not get so easy once the postseason begins. The club did address its biggest weakness, however, bringing in Brad Hand and Adam Cimber to shore up one of the worst bullpens in baseball.
9. Brewers (58-45; last week: 7)
It’s starting to look grim in Milwaukee. The team lost out on Machado and then dropped a few games to the team that acquired him. On top of that, Milwaukee lost pitcher Brent Suter to Tommy John surgery. If the Brewers are going to stay in the postseason fight, they may need to make a move soon.
10. Braves (54-44; last week: 13)
Ronald Acuna Jr. may have figured out the league while he was out with an injury. Upon returning from the disabled list, Acuna has hit .292/.352/.538 in 17 games.
11. D-backs (56-46; last week: 11)
12. Phillies (56-44; last week: 10)
13. Rockies (53-47; last week: 12)
Since it’s almost August, we can rightly talk about the wild card and not seem like a kid talking about Christmas in July. These are, at the moment, your teams hovering around the wild-card spots. (Along with the Braves, who have been flip-flopping with the Phillies atop the NL East.) Each has bigger goals — and they should chase those; because a one-game playoff shouldn’t be the end-all. They’ll all be looking to make their teams better in the weeks ahead.
14. Pirates (53-49; last week: 19)
There’s a good chance you wrote off the Pirates before the All-Star break, but here they are. Aided by a winning streak that reached 11 straight on Tuesday night, the Pirates are back in the mix in the NL. For now, at least. They’re 14-6 in July and six back in the NL Central and three back for the wild card.
15. Rays (51-50; last week: 15)
16. Giants (52-50; last week: 14)
17. Angels (50-52; last week: 18)
18. Nats (49-51; last week: 16)
19. Cardinals (51-50; last week: 17)
It’ll be very interesting to see what happens with these five teams in the next couple weeks — will any of them make a deal at the trade deadline to cement their motives — one way or another — for the final months of the season? With the exception of the Nats (who need to stay in win-now mode as long as Bryce Harper is in uniform), it wouldn’t be a surprise if they all just stood pat and want to see what their teams can do as-is.
20. Blue Jays (46-54; last week: 21)
21. Twins (46-63; last week: 20)
22. Marlins (44-59; last week: 26)
23. Reds (44-57; last week: 22)
24. Tigers (43-60; last week: 24)
25. Padres (42-62; last week: 23)
26. Rangers (42-60; last week: 25)
27. Mets (41-57; last week: 27)
With the trade deadline closing in, it’s looking pretty safe to say the bottom third of our list is clearly in wait-til-next-year mode — or selling mode. The better stories for these teams in the week ahead is which players they’re inclined to move to a contender. Will the Twins ship off Brian Dozier? Will the Red deal Scooter Gennett? Ditto for the Marlins and JT Realmuto and the Rangers and Cole Hamels.
28. White Sox (36-64; last week: 28)
29. Royals (31-69; last week: 29)
30. Orioles (29-63: last week: 30)
Oh, hey, it’s us — the teams that still haven’t hit 40 wins. We’ll get there soon enough. Well, maybe except the Orioles.
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