By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
Into the second half of the season now, the trade talk has been brewing since the beginning of the month. Much of the conversation is what teams will be buyers and what teams will be sellers. With the new playoff format introduced back in 2012 adding a second wild card team, more teams would appear to be in the race with that wild card spot available. Speculation and rumor rules the day as we go through the next week about what teams will fall into each category.
There are plenty of trade targets and hot names seemingly available (Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist to name a few) and obvious selling candidates (the Phillies, Brewers, Rockies all come to mind). I’m not going to add my voice based on who I think should be in which category, rather I’m going to base it on the history of where playoff teams were on deadline day (July 31st) in the past.
I looked at the last 15 years (2000-2014) just to get an idea of what place within their division the playoff teams were as of July 31st. Of the 126 teams to make the playoffs in that time span (not including one-game playoffs before the 2nd wild card) 68 teams were in 1st, 39 teams in 2nd, 17 in 3rd and 2 have been in 4th/last place in their division on deadline day. In other words, if your team is in last place in its respective division (looking at you Red Sox, White Sox, Mariners, Phillies, Brewers, and Rockies) they should be sellers based on history. That would also tend to eliminate those in 4th (Tampa, Cleveland, Oakland, Miami, Cincy, Arizona) there’s not a high chance of you making it either. Those qualifications alone would make 10 teams sellers at this point.
Now, I know what you are thinking, “Ryan that’s including many years before this new WC system was implemented.” That’s true, and three seasons is a small sample size to extrapolate too much from, but let’s take a look in context based on the past 3 years. Of the teams that have finished as one of the two wildcard teams the furthest out that a team has been was St. Louis back in 2012 who was 4 games back of the 2nd spot in the wildcard. Every other wildcard team since 2012 has been in either the 1st or 2nd wild card spot. So, let’s use that 4 games back of the final wild card spot as a barometer shall we?
Using that and looking at the current standings 5 teams currently outside the playoffs would be in position to get themselves in: Giants, Mets, Orioles, Blue Jays, Tigers. Everybody else outside of either of the wildcard spots or the division leader would be “sellers” in that case. Well that doesn’t seem fair. But it’s the truth based on how the results have played out so far in this new system. The 2nd largest deficit as of July 31st to make the WC? Baltimore in 2012 1.5 games out of the 2nd WC spot. So, more than likely you have to be in the middle of those two numbers. You either have to be leading the wild card race or in the 2nd wild card spot by the deadline to make the playoffs. Also of note, in the past three years, the largest deficit overcome to win the division? 3.5 games by the Oakland Athletics in 2012.
Fans of teams outside of those spots right now shouldn’t get too depressed considering we’re still 10 days away from the deadline. If your favorite team is out of those spots they’ve got a week and change heading into the deadline to make up ground.
All of that is to say this: Look at the standings currently for your favorite team. If you’re more than 4 games out of the second WC spot (difficult to make up more than 4 games in 10 days) than you should consider your team as a seller. Based on that, here are my buyers and sellers as of right now:
Buyers: Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays, Royals, Twins, Angels, Astros, Nationals, Mets, Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants
Sellers: Rays, Red Sox, Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Rangers, A’s, Mariners, Braves, Marlins, Phillies, Reds, Brewers, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies
Again this is based on records and where these teams are as of right now in the standings. Does that mean a team like the Mariners or Padres who have spent a TON of money will have a fire sale? No it doesn’t. But, based on the history of this 2 wild card system they shouldn’t consider themselves playoff contenders either. The Tigers are an interesting case, I have them as sellers right now not because of the spot in the standings (are within 4.0 of the 2nd wild card spot) but, Miguel Cabrera is still out and they’ve lost 5 of their last 7 going back to the last series before the break.
The deadline, if past years are any indication will be fun as always. There’s sure to be at least one blockbuster deal. If your team is out of the running, well, football training camps start up this weekend.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him. Agree/Disagree? Thoughts, comments, complaints? Email or tweet him.