Tread very lightly today and tomorrow. That’s about the best advice I can give you when it comes to the Trade Deadline. The big, splashy players available at the Deadline usually cost young, Major League talent, so teams may be losing some pieces from their everyday lineup to make a huge move. In other cases, teams are going to have their lineups altered by selling off some of their better bats and arms.
As I talked about last night on The Run Line (HOUR 1 | HOUR 2), I wish the Trade Deadline was a league-wide day off. It isn’t until tomorrow, but the day before can be a very tough, very emotional day for players, coaches and friends and family. These two days are very uncomfortable and, while a lot of people write this off as a business and feel like the players are making enough money to deal with it, they’re just human beings when it comes to the Trade Deadline.
There are 10 games today, so 20 teams are in action, including the Nationals, who have three hitters firmly on the trade block. Other teams in action like the Giants and Red Sox have no idea if they’ll be buyers, sellers or neither. Players will say the right things, but they’re all thinking about it. It’s a tough betting day.
July was a tough betting month as the first one in the red this season. Hopefully August brings better fortunes. The last day for the MLB article will be August 25, as football then takes hold.
Lastly, in lieu of the best bets article tomorrow, I'll be doing a running blog for the Trade Deadline that will start right after this goes up. There are way too many things happening and too many players impacted, so I'll write about the transactions and the betting impact as they break on Monday and Tuesday as opposed to a picks piece tomorrow.
Diamondbacks/Braves: Merrill Kelly would have had an uncomfortable week if not for the two-year extension he signed right before the season started. He was outstanding against a really good Braves lineup yesterday over seven innings, but Atlanta walked it off on Austin Riley’s double with a 1-0 win. Kelly had 15 whiffs and eight strikeouts. I’m not sure if the Braves will make any lineup moves, but a bat-to-ball contact dude might not be a bad idea.
Arizona only scored four runs over 21 innings in this series after a nice sweep of the Giants at home.
Cardinals/Nationals: What a find Andre Pallante has been for the Cardinals. He fired eight shutout frames with eight strikeouts against a Nationals bunch sitting on pins and needles. The Cardinals could use another starter, but Pallante has given them some impressive length in the rotation after starting the season as a reliever. In 54.1 innings as a starter, he has a 3.98 ERA, though he is a bit of a regression candidate with a .289/.342/.417 slash against and a 77.6% LOB%.
Phillies/Pirates: The Pirates had a little surge in June and early July where they looked like a competent baseball team, but they’re now 1-8 since the All-Star Break after getting swept in a four-game series by the Phillies. To be fair, they had lost six straight games by one or two runs prior to Sunday’s blowout loss in which JT Brubaker gave up seven runs on 12 hits.
Pittsburgh is off today, but the only non-contenders they’ll face the rest of the way are the Diamondbacks on the road and then division opponents Cincinnati and Chicago. Brutal schedule the rest of the way for a bad team with limited prospect upside.
Mets/Marlins: The most surprising result yesterday was this one, not because the Mets won, but because Pablo Lopez was rocked. Lopez only had five whiffs and just one strikeout in his 2.2 innings with six runs allowed on 12 hits. I’ve mentioned how Lopez simply hasn’t been all that sharp for a while now and he now has a 4.76 ERA with a 4.43 FIP in his last 14 starts covering 75.2 innings. He’s not the same guy he was.
The Mets swept this series 19-7 and have won six in a row with Jacob deGrom coming back on Tuesday and Max Scherzer going tonight. Miami has scored 35 runs in 11 games since the All-Star Break and scored just 83 runs in 28 July games.
Cubs/Giants: The Giants scored all four of their runs in one inning and rode a dominant start from Carlos Rodon to a 4-0 win on Sunday Night Baseball in advance of their series against the Dodgers. The Cubs are off today, which led to more dugout hugs with Willson Contreras, who is assuredly going to be traded. Several bullpen pieces will go as well. I’m not terribly surprised it was a flat effort from Chicago and I’d expect we get another one on Tuesday after the trades finally happen.
Tigers/Blue Jays: The Blue Jays may have gotten an in-house Trade Deadline acquisition with the improved Jose Berrios. A whole shaker of salt is needed here because he faced the Tigers, Cardinals without Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, Royals, Phillies, A’s on the road and Rays, but in six July starts, Berrios posted a 2.00 ERA with a season-low .295 wOBA against. He had allowed wOBAs of .363, .366 and .359 in the first three months.
He cut his Hard Hit% down to 37.4% and his Barrel% to 7.1%. He consistently threw more curveballs and had more swing-and-miss, especially in three of his last four starts. I’m not sold yet, but at least he looks like a decent pitcher as opposed to what he was.
Royals/Yankees: Clay Holmes gave up a three-run bomb to Salvador Perez in the top of the ninth that gave the Royals an 8-6 win over the Yankees. Over his last eight appearances, Holmes has only allowed runs in two of them, but does have eight walks against nine strikeouts and has allowed a lot of hard contact. With Michael King out for the year, the Yankees bullpen is showing some cracks. They can address it at the Trade Deadline if they wish or they can hope that guys get back on track. We’ll see.
Guardians/Rays: If my violent swings with the picks aren’t enough evidence of baseball’s crazy variance, we also saw the Guardians beat Shane McClanahan in a game started by Bryan Shaw, who could be considered the worst reliever in baseball. He hasn’t been very good as an opener either, but Cleveland scored a big win. I’m constantly impressed by how this team just finds ways to hang around despite honestly not being very good. I’d love a big Deadline splash, but it’s not really their standard operating procedure.
Meanwhile, the Rays scored three runs with Cleveland’s bullpen game and have only scored 32 runs in 10 games since the Break with a 3-7 record.
Mariners/Astros: Seattle salvaged Saturday’s game, but continued to have issues with the Astros in this series. Julio Rodriguez is also on the IL now with a bruised wrist. Ty France also missed yesterday’s game with a wrist issue. Fortunately, the Mariners won’t see the Astros again until possibly October, but I am a little concerned about their short-term lineup with Rodriguez out and France hurting.
A’s/White Sox: If you want to bet any White Sox futures, now is the time to do it. After a big win on Sunday to take two of three from the A’s, they’ll now play a 14-game stretch against the Royals, Rangers, Royals and Tigers. While I am higher on Texas than the market, the Rangers hit lefties well and will get Johnny Cueto, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito. None of those guys throw left-handed. This soft patch of the schedule is one Chicago needs to take advantage of and I think they will.
Rangers/Angels: Saturday’s bullpen melt from Texas was downright infuriating with the way things have been running, so of course they won on Sunday just to spite me. Reid Detmers had 24 swings and misses over his outstanding seven innings of work before the Angels pen returned Saturday’s favor. Detmers struck out 12 and threw an immaculate inning (nine pitches, nine strikes). Yet the Rangers found a way to win, because of course.
Shohei Ohtani was 2-for-2 with a triple and two walks. Detmers struck out a dozen. The Angels lost anyway. Another day, another example of how bad most of this roster is.
Brewers/Red Sox: Boston salvaged Sunday’s series finale with a 7-2 win, but is still just 3-7 since the second half started and now the Red Sox face the Astros for three. Aaron Ashby had 16 whiffs in just 4.2 innings, but the Milwaukee defense let him down with five unearned runs in the fifth. Milwaukee will be a buyer and there are some areas of need on the ballclub.
I think this Brewers team may be worth a World Series futures look because their pitching has the chance to be dominant in October and they can plug in some platoon bats over the next day and a half. I like where this team is going.
Orioles/Reds: We need to talk about Nick Lodolo. The Reds left-hander threw seven excellent innings yesterday with one run allowed on four hits and he has had a nice five-start run. He was hit hard by a Cardinals team that hits lefties very well, but he has 35 strikeouts in 23.2 innings over his last five starts with a 3.42 ERA and a 3.29 FIP. He’s only allowed two barrels and a Hard Hit% of 37.9%. I really like what I’m seeing from the kid and his .406 BABIP should be on the way down.
I still hate the Reds bullpen, but Lodolo is a guy worthy of 1st 5 consideration, especially against teams that haven’t really seen him.
Twins/Padres: I guess it’s not fair to say that the Twins stink, but the Twins really aren’t very good. They’re .500 against everybody not named the Tigers or Royals and have lost four of their last five. I’m just really not impressed with this team. They went 10-12 in July and were outscored by 18 runs. They’ve had back-to-back losing months after a 30-21 start. I think they need to be one of the most active teams at the Trade Deadline. We’ll see if it happens.
Weather: Nothing today except for a chance of rain in Cleveland. Given all of their postponements and doubleheaders to date, I wouldn’t be shocked if they have to play two against Arizona tomorrow or Wednesday. If the game gets played, winds will be blowing out to right center field on a humid evening. The other game with helping winds is between the Royals and White Sox with a nice breeze out to right center.
Injuries: Lots of updates and new injuries from the weekend, so keep an eye on those. Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. This is also a good resource at FanGraphs (sort by date) HERE.
Mets (-240, 8.5) at Nationals: I can normally explain just about any line move, but I’m having a hard time with this game. We’ve seen a little bit of Nationals interest to pull the line down, but we’ve also seen heavy over money to move the total from 7.5 to 8.5. Given the situation for Washington with Juan Soto and Nelson Cruz as trade possibilities, and Josh Bell absolutely getting traded, I’m not sure I understand propping up an over bet.
Furthermore, a totals move here suggests a high projection for the Mets offense against Patrick Corbin, which makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is expecting the Nationals to have success against Max Scherzer. But, smarter people than me move numbers, so I guess we’ll just wait and see.
Mariners at Yankees (-180, 9): This is another move that surprises me. We’ve only seen small amounts of money on the Mariners, but with Julio Rodriguez out and Ty France possibly out, it’s hard to justify taking Seattle. On the other hand, Domingo German isn’t very good. But, Marco Gonzales is also one of the league’s biggest regression candidates. There’s a lot going on with the line and the matchup here.
Royals at White Sox (-160, 9): The wind seems to be blowing up this total for the Royals and White Sox. Chicago hasn’t hit right-handed pitching most of the season and the Royals don’t project to really hit anybody well, but we’ve got 9s painted across most of the market after a move up from 8.5.
Diamondbacks at Guardians (-155, 9): If you’ve picked up anything from this article, I hope it has been the parts about reading the market. Cal Quantrill is a guy that the market has consistently and repeatedly bet against. He’s taking money today for the interleague matchup between the Guardians and Diamondbacks. That should sound alarm bells in your mind. Influential market movers tend to be modelers grabbing early numbers based on their simulations and calculations. This would imply that Quantrill pitches well against Arizona or that the Guardians project well against Zach Davies.
What I’ll Be Watching
Tarik Skubal: Did the All-Star Break give Skubal the break that he needed? Armed with the stress of being the only Opening Day starter in the rotation, Skubal really struggled through June and into early July. From June 7 to July 13, Skubal posted a 6.86 ERA with 33 runs allowed in 42 innings over eight starts. He also gave up seven home runs. In his two starts since the Break, he’s allowed three unearned runs on just five hits over 12 innings to the Athletics and Padres. His full-season numbers are still strong with a 3.67 ERA and a 2.98 FIP, but I’m wondering if the rough patch is truly behind him.
He hasn’t allowed an average exit velocity over 89.7 mph in his last seven starts, so he’s had a lot of bad luck in the mix. The Twins haven’t named a starter for today, so there really isn’t a line to bet, but Skubal’s start should tell us a lot here.
Hunter Greene: This should be a really good matchup for Greene. As mentioned above, the Marlins have been putrid offensively for a month now. Greene has a 5.59 ERA with a 4.59 xERA and a 5.18 FIP. His game results are all over the place, as there’s very little consistency to his performances. He did allow just two runs over 6.1 innings to the Marlins last time out, but pitched around nine hits. The one thing I will say for Greene is that he walked at least four batters in four of his first seven starts, but has only done it once in 12 starts since. It’s odd to me that his home and road numbers look almost identical given the bad home park factor, but he’s going to a good pitcher’s park here, so let’s see how he fares.
Monday Best Bets
Shop around for the best lines! I’m using a market consensus number that should be widely available to most, but every cent matters, so do the best you can to get the best line possible.
VEGAS LINES | ODDS BY STATE | MLB MATCHUPS
Orioles (+ 145) over Rangers: I’ll take the chance on the Orioles at the big plus-money price today. Jon Gray certainly has the flashier numbers with well over a strikeout per inning and a 3.62 ERA, but Spenser Watkins has allowed one or two runs in eight of his 13 starts. He’s had a couple of ugly blow-ups and one appearance in which he faced the Rays and gave up three runs without recording an out, but he has allowed just five earned runs in five starts since returning to the team on June 25.
In that five-start span, Watkins has only allowed one home run and just five walks. Walks were an issue earlier in the season, but we’ve seen the Orioles really do special things with several of their pitchers over the course of the season and Watkins has been one of them. He draws a Rangers lineup that ranks 27th in wOBA against right-handed pitching on the season and just about league average in wOBA since June 1, just one spot ahead of the Orioles.
I’ll give Baltimore the benefit of the doubt in close, low-scoring games with their bullpen. This total is down to 7.5, which implies another close, low-scoring game. The Orioles pen now leads MLB in fWAR and has a 3.05 ERA with a 3.58 FIP. Texas is 20th in fWAR with a 3.79 ERA and a 4.04 FIP.
The handicap to me is that I think Watkins can effectively cancel out Gray and keep this game close. I’ll take Baltimore’s bullpen in the mid-140s. I also think their offense is a tad underrated. Texas is 5-23 in one-run games, so they haven’t been overly comfortable in close contests. Baltimore is 15-18 and also four games over .500 against teams not in the AL East. They’re worthy of the underdog gamble here. I’ve got a small lean on Royals/White Sox Under and may play it if I get -105 or better later today, but the Orioles are the only play for now. I’ll just be refreshing Twitter for trade news today.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.