|He looks like a fucking alien|
Atlanta, Washington and Miami are all within a game of each other, but are also all a few games out of the wild card hunt. If anything shitty happens in the division race, they're a lot more likely to be out of the playoff race entirely. Anything is possible with these three teams as far as the division goes.
Atlanta could possibly consider moving a pitcher even if they aren't out of the race, but I kind of doubt it. Some sort of pitcher-for-outfielder deal could happen, I guess, but I suspect Atlanta tries to add something using their prospect depth more than anything. If they fall out of it, Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang are both free agents, and they could probably sell high on Gavin Floyd too. Sounds kind of wild, but a Colby Rasmus trade isn't entirely out of the question of they don't think he re-signs, and maybe a rental-for-rental trade could happen with Ervin.
Washington pretty much has no impending free agents, and have a reasonably good team right now, which suggests that they won't be making any major selling moves if they start losing. They're more likely to acquire a piece that will help them next year too.
Miami is kind of a surprise contender right now, but they're all really young and under control for several years. Nate Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez are going to anchor that rotation for another few years behind Jose Fernandez, and the rest of the rotation has largely disappointed. They've got some young guys coming through the system right now, so they might end up moving guys for some missing pieces down the road, but I largely expect Miami to either stay put, or to buy something that stabilizes the rotation and make up for the lack of Jose Fernandez. I could see Steve Cishek being traded.
The Mets could really do anything. They've gotten reasonable production out of Wheeler (not happening), Niese and Colon so far, and those guys would all be upgrades over JA Happ if both teams are willing. Colon is signed through 2015 and is 40 years old, which always sounds risky, and Niese is a roughly league-average pitcher signed through 2016 (with club options taking him through '18). Again, the Jays have said that they prefer rentals, but I wonder if they'd listen if discussions started-- The Mets should have Matt Harvey back next year, and need to eventually make room for Syndergaard, deGrom, Montero, and Jenrry Mejia if they want him to start (I feel like I'm forgetting someone from this system too). It's hard to have too much pitching, especially during a rebuild, but I count 8 guys right there, plus Dillon Gee, for five slots. Gee is a pretty strong candidate to move, especially given his low ERA but high FIP/xFIP, but that's more likely a move to a bad team that wants to take a flyer on him.
The Phillies are the most interesting team in the East. They suck so bad, and they're paying so much money to do so. The problem is that they gave pretty much everybody no-trade clauses. They probably don't want to trade Chase Utley anyway, but he just signed his extension this past offseason and has a full no-trade, which, thanks to a provision written in to Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard's deals, gives them full no-trades too.
Cliff Lee is currently hurt, though he's apparently pretty close to rehabbing. Scary thought, acquiring a recently injured (elbow, at that), 35 year-old who is owed about $45MM+ over the next two or three years (vesting option/buyout). Pretty good pitcher though. Oh yeah, he's got full no-trade protection that he'd need to waive.
Cole Hamels is pretty good, but is owed another $100MM or so through 2018 and would cost a ton.
AJ Burnett had a great year last year, and started this year killing it as well, but that's gone to shit. He got beaten up pretty badly throughout the duration of May, though his last two starts have been a lot better. Mind you, those two starts have come against the Padres and the Cubs, but there's still probably something there. Worth monitoring anyway. He's got a bit of a wacky contract situation for next year-- it's a mutual option for $15MM, or a player option for $7.5MM that has some escalators for games started. And of course, limited no-trade.
There's nothing else really interesting there-- maybe Kyle Kendrick? Kind of sucks-- but the Phillies really should be gutting this team and reloading for the future.
I imagine the Brewers will be buyers. They're in first place in the division with a 3.5 game lead, despite a run differential that suggests they should be right around even with STL. STL is still projected to win the divison, but the Brewers have done enough to this point that they'll at least contend. That leaves Cincinnati, the Cubs and the Pirates
It's hard to say what the Reds are up to. They obviously still have some really good pieces, but they've disappointed two years in a row now. That Bailey contract already looks like a mistake, and the Phillips one isn't much better. Injuries have played some part in this, so they might just decide that they're still good and keep it together for next year.
If they do blow it up, they could eat some of Phillips' contract and get something back from the number of teams who are weak at 2B, they could move Latos for a good haul, they could move Chapman for a great haul, and they could move Johnny Cueto for a metric shit-tonne. Mike Leake still has a year of control left and is only 26, and Alfredo Simon could be a good sell-high candidate, given that unsustainable ERA in the 2's.
I don't expect Cincinnati to blow it up, but if they do, it would be fireworks.
The Pirates have Francisco Liriano, a would-be rental that is sure to be moved, and has some decent peripheral stats. He's given up HR's at an unreasonable rate, and his LOB% is way down, which mostly boils down to small sample bad luck. ZiPS and Steamer projections both predict his performance to regress. The only real problem is an increase in walks, but his line drives are down, his groundballs are up, and a 3.48 xFIP is pretty solid.
The Cubs are really the team that everybody is watching right now. Jeff Samardzija might be the prize of the trade deadline, but Jason Hammel, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta are all apparently on the block as well. Samardzija has another year of control, and has pitched his bag off this year so far. He'll cost a shitload, but it may be worth it to a team that is still looking to contend next year. The Cubs are apparently scouting the Jays' minor leaguers, having looked at Daniel Norris recently.
Jason Hammel seems more the Jays' pace at the moment, however. He's on a one-year deal and will be a strict rental. Whatever's left on his $6MM deal is certainly affordable, and he's only under contract for another couple months, so he won't be incredibly expensive in terms of prospects. He's having the best year of his career, and is only getting kind of lucky with batted balls. He's striking out a lot of guys, is walking practically nobody, and even though his groundball rate is down, he's not giving up many HR's.
Edwin Jackson has a really high babip and isn't stranding any runners, but his FIP and xFIP like his work so far this year. I still can't imagine having any interest in that contract though. Arietta has pitched excellently for the Cubs so far, with FIP and xFIP under 3. I'd expect he'd be expensive. Travis Wood has been reasonably good as well, and would probably be a slight upgrade over Happ, but he has 2 arbitration years left, so I don't expect the Cubs to trade him.
The Giants are going to go for their once-every-two-years World Series run, and are expected to buy. The Dodgers are far from out of it, with their roster. Everyone else is fucked.
The Rockies had it going early on, but have since cooled it down severely. Jorge de la Rosa is a free agent-to-be, and is somehow giving up runs at an above-average rate, despite a .251 babip and a somewhat reasonable walk-rate. Of course, a 15.9% HR/FB rate is a culprit, and Coors Field has something to do with that. I'm nowhere near smart enough to try and determine what that could mean pitching out of Toronto, but JdlR could be a reasonable target. He's actually a better pitcher at Coors than away from it for his career, which is sort of weird. Tough case.
Jhoulys Chacin is another interesting guy. He's got one more year of control through arbitration after this one, is still only 26, and had a 4+ WAR year in '13, despite being largely mediocre so far this year. He's been fairly good away from Coors Field over his career, and the Rockies could decide to move him since he's getting more expensive. It would certainly be selling low on him, so a deal seems unlikely there.
The Padres have gotten good production out of both Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner, despite being 14 games out of first place. Both are on pace for 3+ WAR seasons, are getting more expensive, and are on teams that don't really have any chance of winning incredibly soon. There's a Petco factor, mind you.
The problem there is that neither is a free agent until after 2015, so the Padres certainly don't have to trade either this year, even if they don't feel like exploring extensions. I would expect them to look at extending Cashner for sure, but both are certainly trade candidates if someone is looking to control a player through next season. Cashner is younger, and full of upside, while Kennedy is a bit more established as a league-average-or-maybe-a-bit-better pitcher with a ceiling.
Again, we need to be mindful of parks and leagues/divisions (i.e. pitcher vs. DH), but both have very good numbers this year and would be welcome additions. I feel like Kennedy could be had for a respectable price, and that the Padres should listen and build up a young core.
Finally, the Diamondbacks have seemingly been out of it since the first two weeks of the season. Brandon McCarthy is a free agent at the end of the year, and has been his regular old league-average self, complete with a bunch of ground balls and A 22.7% HR/FB RATE?!?!? ARE YOU SERIOUS?
This might be material for another post, or maybe google to see if someone's written it yet, but that's an outrageous amount of HR's and the only real question is whether or not he's throwing a bunch of beachballs. His fastball velocity is up 2 MPH, he's struck out batters at a rate that's better than his career norm while keeping walks really close to what they've been, and he's getting more groundballs than ever. By xFIP, which is better than FIP for samples of half a season, he's been pretty damn good, and his underlying numbers appear to be OK, so I think he'd be worthwhile to take a shot on since there can't nobody sustain 22.7% HR/FB, even in a bandbox like Chase Field or the Skydome, especially since his career rate is less than half of that, and roughly half of his career innings are in extreme hitter's parks (TEX and ARI).
Bronson Arroyo is signed through next year with an option/buyout for '16, which just sounds silly. I doubt the DBacks would trade Wade Miley, as they'd be selling low.
So there you go. As of right now, there aren't really a whole lot of guys that make a ton of sense, but there could certainly be some wiggle room. Jason Hammel is the one sure shot to be traded and to have a nice market, assuming he stays healthy, and the Jays really should be all over that if they want a rental, but Francisco Liriano and Brandon McCarthy are two other names to keep an eye on, especially if their performance starts to match their peripherals. We'll certainly know more over the coming weeks, as teams get larger samples of data to look at, and the playoff picture becomes more pronounced.