The All-Star break in Major League Baseball signifies the artificial halfway point of the season. No matter where they fall in the standings, a team must take the time to decide where their future lies. Teams can either look to add that final missing piece and make a push for the playoffs, unload expiring contracts hoping to receive equal compensation for future seasons, or do nothing at all. For some teams it can be easy to know what to do. For others, it can be hard to distinguish what their next move should be.
Toronto Blue Jays:
With last season’s addition of the second Wild Card, fewer teams look to be sellers at this time of year. Teams that went into the season with high expectations are far less reluctant to become sellers than others. The Toronto Blue Jays sit at four games below .500, 11.5 games behind the first place Boston Red Sox. The Blue Jays spent the off-season adding R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Melky Cabrera to the roster. It appeared they would run away with the division. Not so fast. The Boston Red Sox have stayed generally healthy and finally have John Lackey pitching up to his contract. The Tampa Bay Rays are still young and well-rounded while the Baltimore Orioles might be entering a new age of excellence. Let’s not forget about the New York Yankees. Despite starting the season with Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson on the disabled list, the Yankees have hung in there and are true contenders in the playoff picture. At this point the Toronto Blue Jays do not have much else they can do other than stay the way they are. Poor pitching performances and an offense that swings from its heels have contributed to this disappointment. Perhaps this year was just a sample of what this roster can do. For now I say they should ride it out and hope to somehow play .800 baseball if they expect to climb into the playoffs this year.
For the last several seasons the Philadelphia Phillies have been the team to watch at the trade deadline. Landing big pieces like Cliff Lee in 2009, Roy Oswalt in 2010, and Hunter Pence in 2011, Phillies are accustomed to buying rather than selling on July 31st. Last season it changed. Shane Victorino was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for practically nothing and Hunter Pence went to the San Francisco Giants where he went on to win his first World Series ring. The Phillies rest at .500 unsure of which direction the team is headed in. Injuries to Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, and most recently Ben Revere have this current roster looking much different than what we expected. The National League may be the weaker of the two leagues, but it is still no easy stroll to October. The National League Central is stuffed with a three team battle between the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, and Pittsburgh Pirates. It is very likely that all three of these teams make the playoffs, one taking the division and the other two battling it out in a one-game playoff. The Phillies will have a long way to climb in the National League East. They would have to catch the Atlanta Braves all the while hoping the Washington Nationals continue to struggle. The Phillies have proven in the past that they can come from behind, but this season is not theirs. Right now their best bet would be to sell. The minor league organizations are empty and trading players like Jonathan Papelbon, Michael Young, or even fan-favorite Chase Utley could help replenish the farm system. The Phillies need to get worse before they can get better. If they don’t sell now there may be nobody willing to buy in two weeks.
The Colorado Rockies are a surprise this season. This is a team we always expect to see great offensive numbers from and they have not disappointed. Carlos Gonzalez is having another outstanding season and should finish somewhere around 35-40 home runs. When he’s not injured, Troy Tulowitzki has lived up to and possibly beyond expectations. Michael Cuddyer though is the one who has outperformed himself. Cuddyer has a .330 batting average along with 16 home runs this season. All of this can be expected from the team. The real surprise with the Rockies comes from two of their pitchers, Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin. The Rockies spent part of last season working with a four-man rotation limiting starting pitchers to only 65 pitches per game. Now with two legitimate starters in De La Rosa and Chacin, the Rockies have found themselves as a potential playoff team. The National League West is the second most even division in baseball after the American League East. The Los Angeles Dodgers are finally playing good baseball and although they have fallen off in the standings, the San Francisco Giants have won two of the last three World Series and can be a spoiler down the stretch. If the Rockies want to contend they are going to need to take the division away from the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks, something I believe they can do if the right pieces are added. There has been talk about the Rockies trading Cuddyer away. I feel they should keep him and go for the division. The Colorado Rockies need to be buyers. An improved starting rotation and one more subpar bat added to this lineup can do a lot. Todd Helton deserves one last run at the playoffs. He may not get the same sendoffs as Mariano Rivera is this season or Chipper Jones did last, but Helton is still one of the best offensive threats in the last fifteen years. The Rockies need to buy. The Toddfather’s loyalty demands it.