There’s no turning back now.
Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline officially passed Tuesday, with some of the league’s best teams making a flurry of moves to gear up for the stretch run while others stayed eerily quiet.
You’ve likely read some hot takes about the deadline’s winners and losers, but we won’t truly know who made the shrewdest moves until October, when midseason acquisitions will be asked to prove their worth when it matters most.
So, which clubs have the inside track to the Fall Classic as of Aug. 1? With the trade deadline dust finally settled, we’re hitting the reset button to identify the five teams best positioned to win the 2018 World Series. Don’t @ us.
1. Houston Astros
Yes, the Astros are scuffling right now, and their decision to trade for suspended closer Roberto Osuna appears imprudent on multiple levels. But the defending champs still boast a fearsome lineup and a downright scary rotation featuring three pitchers — Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton — with sub-3.00 ERAs. If their top arms stay healthy, they’ll be nearly impossible to beat in a seven-game series.
2. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox’s failure to acquire bullpen help might come back to haunt them this fall. Other than that, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has positioned the best team in baseball nicely for the home stretch. Nathan Eovaldi shores up the rotation and could be used out of the bullpen in the playoffs, while Ian Kinsler provides improved infield defense and veteran leadership. Boston has the talent to punch a World Series ticket if it can exorcise its postseason demons from 2016 and 2017.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are going all-in, as the additions of All-Star shortstop Manny Machado and talented second baseman Brian Dozier can attest. They could have benefited from adding another reliever outside of John Axford and will miss Corey Seager in the playoffs, but they’re finally rounding into form after a slow start to the season. In a weak National League, they easily could win the pennant for the second consecutive year.
4. New York Yankees
New York’s bullpen should be a serious weapon in October with Zach Britton in the mix. As crazy as it sounds, the Yankees’ biggest challenge might be just reaching the playoffs: With Aaron Judge currently injured, they’ll have a tough time catching the Red Sox in the American League East and may have to survive the one-game wild-card playoff to advance to the real postseason. If they get in, though, watch out.
5. Chicago Cubs
It’d be foolish to sleep on the 2016 World Series champs, who stocked up on pitching by landing starter Cole Hamels and reliever Brandon Kintzler. The Cubs are gearing up for another fall run, and you could argue only the Dodgers stand in their way of another World Series appearance. Rematch of the 2017 NL Championship Series, anyone?
Dark horses: Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers
The Indians filled a need in the outfield by landing Leonys Martin and have a weak AL Central division pretty much locked up. The surprising Brewers are intent on proving they’re for real after landing Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop before the deadline. Milwaukee is in a dead heat with Chicago in the NL Central and could surprise some people if it punches a postseason ticket.