MLB Power Rankings – Trade Deadline Edition – Who’s Sitting Pretty At #1?

The professional sports Trade Deadline is a modern invention and a place where fan fiction often passes for truth. It is an actual hype beast. And it’s a stunning amount of fun. 

The annual hype surrounding the MLB trade deadline is unmatched in any American professional sports league. And it’s actually worth the hype too, which is rare. 

My first flame of trade rumor fascination (CC Sabathia in 2008) has catalyzed this year’s enrapturing. Right now, the vast, varied speculation regarding Max Scherzer’s potential new destination is the best baseball storyline that isn’t about pitchers using sticky stuff – especially because he’s clean.

The perennial and wildly outlandish anticipation every time we approach this thunderous July deadline exists in large part because any one of these big trades could become what every true baseball fan loves watching: a tectonic roster decision, move, shapeshifting wherein the one big name in the one new city becomes exactly the One Big Piece that is or was always The Difference between hopeless obscurity and a postseason birth. 

Do you remember the mountainous, flamethrowing stallion in his prime, CC Sabathia, when he got swapped for a bundle of young prospects all the way back on July 7, 2008? I do. I can’t forget it. Or how about the Aroldis Chapman move that sent the Cuban cannonader away from the Bronx to the Cubs? Chapman was absolute lights out and most certainly the right move until, can you believe it, Game Seven of the World Series against Cleveland when he blew a save. And this was a rebuilt Cleveland Indians team that first signaled their commitment to a major rebuilding process exactly when they traded Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers way, way back in 2008. 

This stuff just writes itself sometimes. And I love it. We all do. Sabathia in 2008, if you remember, would go on to dice and dominate damn near every single opposing lineup of hitters the rest of the way and snap a twenty-six-year playoff drought for the Brewers. Despite the monumental blunder, Chapman, who, during every round of the playoffs, absolutely helped more than any bullpen piece snap the dreaded 108 year World Series curse and drought for the Cubs.

So, where will Max Scherzer land? And will he write history as one of the very few totally clean, excellent pitchers in this controversial year?

To both questions, my answer is, I don’t know, which is excellent, really. All this is one long way of saying – exactly what I say every week – these current MLB power rankings may look nothing next week like what we have right now: big picture bullet points galore. Onward! 

1. Houston Astros: Despite blowing a seven-run lead in what was the single greatest Seattle Mariners come from behind win in a wild season for Seattle, which has been punctuated by improbable late innings wins, this Houston lineup is a better offensive unit than any of the squads that either played in the World Series, won a World Series, or got close. The ‘Stros put up a combined 31 runs against a very strong Seattle pitching staff that has been ultra dominant against just about everyone else. (Besides the San Diego Padres.)

2. San Francisco Giants: Hey! They get the Astros next! Maybe a World Series preview? Maybe not. Nonetheless, this is an excellent ball club. The Giants have the best record in baseball.

3. Boston Red Sox: This team is good. Very, very good. I’ve got the Red Sox lined up to make a big splash at the trade deadline. They’ll pick up one of several remaining superstars if someone else doesn’t: something like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, or Max Scherzer.

4. Tampa Bay Rays: They get away with it every single year. Don’t they? It certainly seems like it: constant playoff contention that most every one of us can’t see coming before the Rays make yet another post-season run. Picking up the Twins’ super slugger and former Mariner, Nelson Cruz, was a brilliant swap decision for a team that not only strikes out all the time but sits in the bottom third of team batting average. 

5. Los Angeles Dodgers: Maybe we know enough to say we know more than enough already, but I’ll expand on what we’re all thinking: we’ll know a lot more about the now three times team leave extended ace and potential return of reigning Cy Young Award Winner Trevor Bauer if LA ponies up and picks up a gunslinger before the trade deadline.

6. Chicago White Sox: Not exactly a big trade at the deadline. But it almost felt the same when the southsiders got previously injured and power-hitting Eloy Jiménez back from the Injured List. He homered for the first time all year earlier this week. That’s a good sign.

7. San Diego Padres: Right now, the powerhouse Slam Diego Godres are fourth in ERA. They might still want to add to the rotation, though. Because for some reason, I don’t trust they have enough. For instance, if I had to bet San Diego against either the Dodgers or Giants in a seven-game set? I’d take LA or San Francisco. Without skipping a beat, I’d pick against the Friars. Therefore, just maybe, this is where Max Scherzer pushes a team from Wild Card losers to World Series Champions?

8. Milwaukee Brewers: Their record makes them seem way, way better than they actually are. Want to know how I know? Their top three starting pitchers all had some of the highest and most notable spin rate reductions when the new sticky stuff rules went into place. 

9. Seattle Mariners: You can’t fix stupid. But here we go anyway. Stating the obvious, maybe, but there was too much blathering, sensationalized toxic gossip, and shortsighted bull-ish right after the Kendall Graveman trade in the Seattle Times this week, and all over Mariners Twitter. Graveman was very good, one of my favorite bullpen pitchers ever. And how can you not love his comeback story last season? Yet I don’t know if you watched the games against Houston? But please compare the clear, documented trajectories of the major pieces in the swap that was hardly well-considered and still harshly, roundly criticized because armchair GMs have to do something, shout/say something even if it’s nothing (and that includes the bonehead who started, penned the noxious fire in newsprint this week); Abraham Toro? Homered in 4 straight games. Two of which were for the Mariners. As well as one bomb in the game before he was traded, against Seattle. Graveman, who doesn’t and will never hit homers, set his beard on fire while in quarantine several months after deciding it unwise – for undisclosed reasons – he gets vaccinated against Covid, and then missed two weeks because someone near him tested positive. Post-shave, less dominant, not to mention his first earned run this season was during his lone AAA game appearance, Graveman started giving up big runs more often, then lost his closer job to Paul Sewald. Case closed.

10. Oakland Athletics: They’re good, yet they lost three of four and gave up some serious ground to other AL West Wild Card hopefuls, Seattle. But Wednesday, they smoked San Diego on the road, 10-4.

11. New York Mets: They’re still seventh in ERA. And they seem like the leading contender to pick up Scherzer before the deadline, despite all the chatter about other teams in hot pursuit of the one big piece.

12. New York Yankees: Picked up Joey Gallo Wednesday evening. Gallo in the mix with Judge and Stanton? Get outta here. That’s lethal. And then, late Thursday, they picked up Anthony Rizzo. 

13. Cincinnati Reds: All of the talk surrounding the Reds this year has been about how they plan to outslug every single one of their opponents eventually. And, well, Joey Votto has homered in six straight games. 

14. Los Angeles Angels: No, they’re not going to the playoffs. Not without a healthy Mike Trout back in the lineup. They’re just above five hundred. And Shohei Ohtani leads baseball with 37 home runs. 

15. Toronto Blue Jays: Two games above five hundred with a plus eighty-five run differential. And they have to play division games against the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees down the stretch. One word: yikes. 

16. Cleveland Indians: Strange how good they seemed when they stole wins from Seattle. Now they can’t finish games. Wonder how much of this current team will remain on the roster after they finish the season in dead last behind the Tigers and the Twins? Oh, right, of course, IF that happens (I think it will).

17. Philadelphia Phillies: Right now, they’re at five hundred. 51-51. And they’re only 3.5 games behind the division leaders NY Mets in the NL East. I’m saying there’s more than a good chance they run the table if Jacob deGrom can’t stay healthy and the Mets don’t pick up Scherzer.

18. Atlanta Braves: Same story as the Phillies, oddly. One game below five hundred, third in the division, and only four back of the Mets right now, but eleventh in runs and seventh in slugging percentage.

19. St. Louis Cardinals: Maybe the blockbuster Nolan Arenado trade wasn’t nearly as big a deal as we thought it was at the start of the season?

20. Detroit Tigers: They’re astonishingly hot right now. And no one is talking about it. Wednesday, they became the first team ever to win a baseball game after giving up seven home runs. Beat the Twins 17-14. 

21. Chicago Cubs: It’s a full-blown Everything Must Go sale at Wrigley.

22. Washington Nationals: They’re not good. Why else are we talking about the One Big Piece, Max Scherzer, pitching anywhere but DC? 

23. Kansas City Royals: Did you know they were 8-2 over their last 10 games? Nope – because they’ll lose more than 10 games in a row at some point before the end of the year.

24. Miami Marlins: Did you know right now they’re fifth in ERA? Nope – because they trade away all of their great players at the deadline just like they do every year, they don’t eventually win a World Series. 

25. Colorado Rockies: They only just eclipsed the double-digit mark for wins on the road. Current record away from Coors Field: 11-38.

26. Minnesota Twins: The skeleton in the Twin Cities is actually strong. Even if it all blew up in their face and nothing ever actually fleshed out.

27. Pittsburgh Pirates: Are we even surprised anymore to learn that the Bucs are major talent sellers at the trade deadline?

28. Baltimore Orioles: They’re last in both ERA and WHIP right now.

29. Texas Rangers: To be blunt? The Rangers won the Joey Gallo trade.

30. Arizona Diamondbacks: This is the rare example of it being a very, very bad thing when we say, First Team to One Hundred. Because in this case, we mean losses. Maybe they make some trades? Who knows?

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About Jackson Pappin 51 Articles
Jackson Pappin is a freelance writer. A 2018 WSU Edward R. Murrow College of Communication alumni, he writes fiction, journalism, columns, essays and poetry. His work has been published in Anastamos, The Oregonian, The Spokesman Review, The Seattle P.I. Reader Blogs, The Daily Evergreen, The Central Circuit, LandEscapes and at the Spectra Art Gallery. His writing is available at