25 Post-All-Star Break Predictions for Trade Deadline, Playoff Races and More
You can't predict baseball, but it sure is fun to try.
The MLB All-Star break is finally over, which provides the perfect opportunity to look into the future and forecast what will happen between now and the end of the season. From where David Price will end up to which superstar is on his way to yet another MVP season, there are all sorts of trade and award predictions to follow.
There are also predictions not only for which clubs will land playoff spots, but also for the team that will win it all.
Jose Abreu Will Hit 50 Home Runs to Break the Rookie Record
Jose Abreu has easy power that allows him to hit the ball out of any park at any time. Already, the 27-year-old has gone yard 29 times for the Chicago White Sox.
Abreu has the pop to finish the season with an even 50 home runs and to topple Mark McGwire's rookie home run record of 49 in the process. All those home runs will also lead to Abreu winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
Madison Bumgarner Will Hit Yet Another Grand Slam
Madison Bumgarner is a back-to-back All-Star thanks to his work on the mound. He's pretty good in the batter's box, too.
The 24-year-old ace has swatted two grand slams in 2014 and owns a higher slugging percentage (.550) than Yasiel Puig, Giancarlo Stanton and Paul Goldschmidt, as Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area points out.
One more slam will make the San Francisco Giants left-hander the only pitcher ever with three, per the Baseball Almanac.
Masahiro Tanaka Won't Throw Another Pitch in 2014
For now, Masahiro Tanaka has dodged Tommy John surgery.
The right-hander has a small tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow but will attempt to rehab the injury for six weeks rather than undergo surgery, per Brendan Kuty of NJ.com.
Kuty spoke with Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, who unsuccessfully attempted the same type of rehab program earlier this season. As Wieters explained, it will be easy enough for Tanaka to figure out whether the dreaded Tommy John procedure is needed.
"If he starts throwing, if you feel it at all, you probably know where you need to go from there."
Perhaps Tanaka will be luckier than Wieters. Still, it appears as though the 25-year-old and the New York Yankees are only delaying the inevitable.
Felix Hernandez Will Win His Second AL Cy Young Award
Plenty of AL pitchers are having remarkable seasons, but none of them is quite like the one that Felix Hernandez is producing.
The All-Star Game starter owns the lowest ERA (2.12) in the league, has the best WHIP (0.90) and is second only to David Price in strikeouts (154). Hernandez has only been getting better as the season wears on. In the last month, the right-hander has posted a 1.66 ERA for the Seattle Mariners.
Hernandez could end up winning the second Cy Young Award of his career.
The Texas Rangers Will Trade Adrian Beltre to a Contender
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Texas Rangers "may be willing to trade just about anyone" during this train wreck of a season. As Heyman goes on to clarify, that "anyone" may not actually include starter Yu Darvish and third baseman Adrian Beltre.
The front office needs to reconsider that position—at least as it relates to Beltre. The trade market is extremely light on impact hitters, and by moving the 35-year-old, the club could exploit that weakness.
When a contending club invariably loses a key bat, the Rangers could offer Beltre in order to land some arms to rebuild their depleted rotation.
The Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals Will Win the AL Wild-Card Spots
The Los Angeles Angels play in the wrong division.
The AL West club has the second-best record in baseball but is also stuck in the first wild-card spot. That's exactly where the Angels will end up at the end of the season.
Meanwhile, it's only a matter of time before the Kansas City Royals overtake the Seattle Mariners in the wild-card race. The Mariners offense is one of the worst in baseball, as the team's .677 OPS ranks last in the AL. Ultimately, that inability to score runs will cost the Mariners a trip to the playoffs.
The New York Yankees Will Acquire Cliff Lee from the Philadelphia Phillies
The New York Yankees need pitching.
It won't be easy for the team to do so via trade because New York's farm system is so dismal. That's why Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies is such an ideal target. By offering to take Lee and his considerable salary* off the Phillies' books, the Yankees should be able to acquire the lefty for a reasonable price in terms of prospects.
Of course, the Yankees will need to get Lee's permission to be traded before they can acquire the veteran ace, as Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports notes.
*Note: Lee makes $25 million this year, the same amount in 2015 and has a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016 with a $12.5 million buyout.
The Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates Will Land the NL Wild-Card Spots
Entering the second half, the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals are locked atop the standings in the NL East. That's a race that should drag on throughout the season, but ultimately, Washington's superior rotation will allow the team to separate from Atlanta. That will leave the Braves needing to settle for the top wild-card spot in the NL.
The league's second wild card will end up going to a dark horse. The Pittsburgh Pirates are sitting in third place in the loaded NL Central but are actually just 3.5 games out of first. The Pirates are also just three games out of a wild-card berth. With Andrew McCutchen powering the offense, Pittsburgh will climb the standings down the stretch.
The St. Louis Cardinals Will Overtake the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central
The Milwaukee Brewers stumbled into the All-Star break. The squad lost eight of its last 10 contests, and the Brewers' lead over the St. Louis Cardinals dropped to just a single game. That advantage will evaporate altogether in the second half.
The main reason why the Cardinals will overtake the Brewers is that St. Louis' loaded farm system leaves the team ideally positioned to pull off an impact trade.
The St. Louis Cardinals Will Acquire David Price
There's no question that David Price will cost a fortune in terms of prospects.
The St. Louis Cardinals, though, are just one of a handful of teams that have the minor league talent to make such a deal happen. Adding the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner would also redefine the playoff race in the NL. The combination of Adam Wainwright and Price atop the rotation would immediately give the Cardinals the best one-two punch in baseball.
Billy Hamilton Will Win the NL Rookie of the Year Award
Unsurprisingly, Billy Hamilton has been racking up stolen bases this season.
The Cincinnati Reds center fielder has 38 steals, which ranks third in baseball. What is more unexpected is just how productive Hamilton has been at the plate. He is batting .285 on the season and hit .333 in his final 10 contests entering the break.
In a relatively weak rookie class, Hamilton should beat Chris Owings of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Gregory Polanco of the Pittsburgh Pirates for NL Rookie of the Year honors.
Clayton Kershaw Will Win the NL Cy Young Award
This prediction doesn't exactly qualify as going out on a limb.
Clayton Kershaw has been absolutely dealing during the first half of the season. The left-hander has piled up 11 wins in just 14 starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is the owner of a 1.78 ERA. That mark would be the lowest in baseball if the lefty was eligible for the league leaders.
For Kershaw, winning the Cy Young Award this year would be the second year in a row and the third time in four seasons.
The Los Angeles Angels Will Acquire Huston Street
The Los Angeles Angels are in the market for bullpen help, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (subscription required).
One option whom Bowden suggests is Jonathan Papelbon of the Philadelphia Phillies. The disgruntled closer recently told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer that it's a "no-brainer" that he'd prefer to pitch for a contender.
A far more economical reliever for the Angels to consider is Huston Street, whom Bowden describes as another target. Street makes $7 million this year with a $7 million team option for 2015. Meanwhile, Papelbon earns $13 million and has a vesting option for the same amount next year.
Bob Melvin and Don Mattingly Will Be Named Managers of the Year
Bob Melvin always makes the right decisions.
The Oakland Athletics skipper is constantly shuffling his lineup to maximize the production from each position player on the roster. Melvin also has a knack for knowing just when to pull his starters. This season, the results speak for themselves, as he has guided his squad to the top record in baseball.
For Melvin, this will be the third time in his career that he's won this honor.
For Don Mattingly, the 2014 season will mark the first time that he's earned such a distinction. While he's often an easy target for criticism, Mattingly has actually done an impressive job of managing an array of outsized egos. This will also be the second year in a row that he leads the Dodgers to the top spot in the NL West.
Miguel Cabrera Will Win His Third AL MVP Award in a Row
Miguel Cabrera is the most dangerous hitter on the planet.
Admittedly, the right-handed slugger has connected on just 14 home runs on the season, but his power hasn't deserted him. Cabrera has clubbed 34 doubles to lead the AL and has driven in 75 runs to top all of baseball.
A monster second half will keep the Detroit Tigers in first place and lead the first baseman to his third AL MVP Award in a row.
The Boston Red Sox Will Ship out Jon Lester
Trading Jon Lester would certainly be an unpopular move, but it would also be a shrewd one.
The left-hander is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, and there's no guarantee that the Boston Red Sox will win the bidding war that's sure to ensue. The Red Sox are buried in the AL East, and dealing Lester would bring back a major haul. An outfield prospect who's nearly ready for the majors should be at the top of the team's list of targets.
Tony La Russa Will Ax Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers
The Arizona Diamondbacks have the worst record in the NL.
With Tony La Russa now running the operation at Chase Field, all those losses will result in general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson getting pushed out before the end of the season. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, there's already speculation that Towers could end up back with the San Diego Padres as a senior adviser.
The New York Mets Will Deal Bartolo Colon and Also Trade for a Young Shortstop
New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is going to be busy over the next couple of weeks.
According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, the team has made Bartolo Colon "available" on the trade market. While the steady veteran won't bring back much of a return, the Mets will be able to get out from under Colon's contract when a contender inevitably loses a starter between now and the deadline and decides to give Alderson a call.
As Rubin notes, the Mets are also on the lookout for a shortstop of the future. Either the Chicago Cubs or Arizona Diamondbacks could help New York solve that problem, as both organizations have a surplus of shortstops.
The Baltimore Orioles Will Claim First Place in the AL East
It's been awhile since the Baltimore Orioles have finished in first place in the AL East. The last time that it happened was way back in 1997.
That drought will end in 2014, as the Orioles are the most well-rounded team in the division. The offense is anchored by All-Stars Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones. Even if Baltimore doesn't make a move to acquire a starter before the deadline, the O's have just enough pitching to hold onto the top spot in the East.
The Los Angeles Dodgers Will Trade Matt Kemp to the Seattle Mariners
It sounds like Matt Kemp wants to get traded.
At least that was the impression that his agent Dave Stewart gave, via Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports:
Whatever they want to do we're favorable to, as long as it gives him an opportunity to play every day. He'd like to eventually go back to center field. He's not opposed to right or left. But his hope at some point is to get back to center.
A return to center field isn't going to happen anytime soon, and really, the last thing that the Los Angeles Dodgers need is a disaffected Kemp.
That's where the Seattle Mariners enter the equation. The M's are in desperate need of a bat, and Kemp would fit the profile.
Any deal would have to be highly creative, but the Dodgers could potentially get out from under a major financial commitment and ask for bullpen arms and prospects as well. Trading Kemp would also open up a spot for Joc Pederson, who has been torching the Pacific Coast League.
A Big-Name Player Will Get Suspended for PEDs
Last year, Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta were among the prominent players to earn 50-game suspensions for using PEDs. Back in 2012, Melky Cabrera and Marlon Byrd were two of the highest-profile players to get banned.
So far this season, Alex Colome of the Tampa Bay Rays is the only big leaguer to get nabbed for performance enhancers. Before the season is over, there's sure to be at least one star who earns an unpaid 50-game vacation.
Bud Selig Will Stick Around for One More Season
I originally made this prediction at the end of June, and I'm standing by it.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig is all set to retire in January, but as you might have noticed, there's been almost zero buzz regarding just who will be succeeding him. The biggest obstacle to replacing him is finding a candidate who can gain the support of a majority of the owners.
According to Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times, 23 out of 30 owners will have to vote in favor of the new commissioner. That will be an extremely challenging task to accomplish, and for that reason, I expect Selig to hang around for another season as the process plays out.
Andrew McCutchen Will Win the NL MVP Award for the Second Year in a Row
After winning the NL MVP Award a season ago, Andrew McCutchen has been even better in 2014.
The center fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates is hitting .324 with a .995 OPS. McCutchen is also a perfect 15-for-15 on stolen base attempts.
And then there's his power.
The 27-year-old has swatted 28 doubles, five triples and 17 home runs. That gives him 50 extra-base hits, which is tied with Jose Abreu for the third-most in baseball. As predicted earlier, McCutchen will lead the Pirates to the second wild-card spot and will win the NL MVP trophy for the second year in a row.
Billy Beane Will Pull off Another Big Move
Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane has already pulled off the deal of the season in landing Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs.
The executive isn't done just yet, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN. Bowden cites rival GMs who say that "Beane continues to be aggressive in his search to upgrade at second base."
Finding that upgrade won't be easy, as the position-player market is light. Despite the lack of apparent options, Beane will still manage to find a creative solution.
The Los Angeles Dodgers Will Edge the Oakland Athletics in the World Series
Bleacher Report's National MLB Columnist Scott Miller likes the Oakland Athletics to win the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers this fall.
I agree that those will be the clubs representing the AL and NL in the Fall Classic, but I see the final result as being reversed. The Dodgers will take home the World Series trophy in seven games, and the electric Yasiel Puig will win the MVP award after hitting three home runs.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.