The trade deadline has officially passed. Teams gunning for a playoff spot have made the moves to beef up their rosters to put the best possible product on the field.
As new acquisitions adjust to their new homes, here's a look at the teams in the best position to win their division, as well as the teams with the best chance to win their league's wild-cards.
The only division where the race isn't really close, the Yankees have a very comfortable lead over second place Baltimore. The rich only got richer when New York snagged Ichiro and Casey McGehee at the deadline. Not to mention, Joba Chamberlain returns off the disabled list and Andy Pettitte is on the road to recovery. Look for the Yankees to cruise to another division crown.
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Surprisingly, the preseason favorite, the Detroit Tigers, are not running away with the Central. However, they are in position to take control of first place. Look for them to do so with their deadline acquisitions, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, providing help along the way. Already led by Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince Fielder, the powerful Tigers should overtake the White Sox and comfortably win the division.
It seems like this division is baseball's version of Clash of the Titans. Three teams, including the very surprising Oakland Athletics, are battling for the division title. The favorite to come out on top is the Texas Rangers, who trot out one of the most dangerous lineups in all of baseball. Playing in a hitter's ballpark, the Rangers have four players who could potentially hit 30 or more home runs this season. Combine that with a solid pitching staff, and Texas looks to be a lock to win the West.
The Los Angeles Angels will lock up one of the AL Wild-Card spots. Led by Albert Pujols and rookie phenom Mike Trout, the Angels have an all-around roster both too good and too deep to not make the playoffs. Oakland, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and Boston all have a chance to grab the second wild-card spot. Detroit should win the Central so that would leave the White Sox battling for the wild-card. Look for the arms in Oakland and the newly energized White Sox to give the strongest push for that last spot. However, with a Tampa Bay team that seems to go on a magical run at the end of every season, and a Boston team that is finally getting healthy, this race could be wide open till the very end. When the dust settles, look for the more experienced Tampa Bay Rays to find a way to grab the final spot.
In perhaps the most surprising race in the majors, the preseason favorite, the Philadelphia Phillies, were sellers at the deadline, and the upstart Washington Nationals sit atop the division. The Atlanta Braves, who are always in the picture, are a close second. Although the Braves gained two arms with the earlier signing of Ben Sheets and the trade for Paul Maholm, they may still have a hard time catching the Nationals. Washington trots out one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, ranking first in ERA, quality starts, WHIP, and batting average against. The trio of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann can match-up with any other trio in baseball.
Although the surprise Pittsburgh Pirates were the big buyers at the deadline -- acquiring a veteran arm, Wandy Rodriguez, and a veteran bat, Travis Snider, the Cincinnati Reds still look to be the favorites to come out of the Central. Still a young team, the Pirates have many players who are playing meaningful baseball in August for the first time in their career. With a lineup that sometimes struggles to put up runs, if nerves get the best of this young bunch, they will fall short of catching the Reds when it's all said and done.
After a series of moves to add depth to their lineup, the Los Angeles Dodgers are now the clear front-runners to win the NL West. With the addition of power-hitting infielder Hanley Ramirez and speedy switch-hitting outfielder Shane Victorino, the Dodgers look poised to pass San Francisco and win the division. Compounded with the Giants not making any major moves at the deadline and an inconsistent Diamondbacks team lingering in the race, look for L.A. to be in the driver's seat from here on out.
In the first season where there will be two wild-card teams, the race will be close to the end. Pittsburgh, Atlanta, St. Louis, L.A., and Arizona all realistically have a chance of grabbing a spot. With L.A. looking to be poised to make a surge and take the West, that leaves Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis battling for two spots. Look for St. Louis to grab a spot with a solid pitching staff and one of the better offenses in baseball -- even without Albert Pujols. As good of a story as the Pirates have been, look for them to fall short as a veteran Atlanta Braves team will find ways to win down the stretch and secure their spot in the playoffs.
This year's playoff push should prove to be one of the best in recent memory. With a variety of teams both young and experienced battling, this season's postseason picture is larger than ever.
So with the trade deadline now in the rear view mirror, and most teams done making changes to their roster -- let the races begin.