Could the Oakland Athletics actually win the American League West? That seems preposterous considering the big-money Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels reside in that division. However, Oakland has been the American League’s best team in July.
The A’s did lose Sunday in Baltimore but that was only their third defeat since the all-star break and fourth overall this month. Things should continue to go well considering Oakland begins an 11-game homestand Monday night against Tampa Bay and the A’s are eight games over .500 at home. Cuban rookie Yoenis Cespedes (.305, 14 HRs, 54 RBI) has carried the offensive load. Since the break he is hitting .443 with five home runs and 18 RBI.
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But even with Cespedes crushing the ball, this team is still subpar offensively. Thus, I wouldn’t put any faith in the A’s unless they somehow land a big bat before Tuesday’s trade deadline. Oakland got catcher George Kottaras from the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday, but he’s hitting just .209 this year. There are reports the A’s could try and land shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Blue Jays or third baseman Chase Headley from the Padres. Oakland is currently +1200 to win the West, with the first-place Rangers at -600 and the Angels at +300.
Speaking of the Rangers, look for them to make a big move ahead of Tuesday’s deadline after the Halos got Zack Greinke, a guy that Texas had also targeted, from Milwaukee. Reportedly Texas is talking with the Phillies about bringing back Cliff Lee. The Phils appear set to go into sell mode and would love to get out from the $95 million or so remaining in Lee’s deal now that Cole Hamels has been signed to an extension. Philly has to shed some salary to avoid paying the luxury tax this offseason (Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino also could be dealt). Texas also could look to Boston and bring Josh Beckett back to his native state.
One player who seems sure to be moved by Tuesday is the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster, who was dealt to Atlanta last week but didn’t waive his no-trade clause because he felt blindsided by the news (hard to believe, but whatever) when it was leaked before the team told him. Dempster wants to pitch for the L.A. Dodgers because his buddy Ted Lilly is there and because L.A. is close to his second home in Phoenix. The Dodgers know they are in a good position and have been low-balling the Cubs on a Dempster offer, but look for one side to blink by Tuesday (deadline is 4 p.m. Eastern).
The Cubs really have to deal Dempster, who is scheduled to start Tuesday vs. Pittsburgh, because now it’s unlikely that the slightly-injured Matt Garza goes anywhere until this offseason. Adding Dempster could make the Dodgers the NL favorites after getting Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins. Currently L.A. is at +400 to win the NL pennant on Sportsbook.ag, behind the Reds, Giants and Nationals (all +350).
The Dempster-to-Braves trade could be revisited considering Atlanta lost out on Greinke. The Nationals also could get involved because of Stephen Strasburg’s innings limit. Another Cubs starter, Paul Maholm, seems likely to be traded by Tuesday as well.
One team I am curious to see about making any possible trades is the Cincinnati Reds. The team’s Hall of Fame broadcaster, Marty Brennaman, said he would shave his head if the team won 10 games in a row. On Sunday, the Reds did so with a 7-2 victory against the Rockies. Cincinnati has won 17 of its past 19 games and somehow the club is 11-2 since NL MVP candidate Joey Votto went down with an injury. The only other team to win 10 in a row this season is the Yankees.
The schedule has played a big role in Cincinnati’s run to the top of the NL Central. That 10-game run has come against the likes of Arizona, Milwaukee, Houston and Colorado. Only the Snakes are a decent squad. The Reds are combined 25-8 this season against five of the NL’s worst teams: the Astros, Brewers, Cubs, Padres and Rockies. Cincinnati still has 27 games left against the Padres (starting Monday), Astros, Brewers and Cubs.
Cincinnati, the -400 favorite to win the Central (that’s a lock), is the only team to use the same five starters all season and the bullpen leads the majors with a 2.53 ERA. This month, fireballing closer Aroldis Chapman is 12 for 12 in save chances and has not allowed a run in 13 1/3 innings while striking out 30 and walking two. Votto is due back in a couple of weeks so it’s unlikely the Reds make a big move. They could use a leadoff man and, thus, might trade for Phillies outfielder Juan Pierre. Reds leadoff hitters have an MLB-worst .246 on-base percentage and .508 OPS.
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