Mike Bauman

As Deadline approaches, it's a seller's market

Close races, expanded Wild Card gives more teams hope for playoff run

As Deadline approaches, it's a seller's market

With little more than two weeks remaining until the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, potential buyers appear to outnumber potential sellers by a landslide margin.

Maybe it's parity. Maybe it's widespread prosperity within the game. Certainly, two Wild Card berths in each league does not hurt.

Which clubs will be buyers, trading for high-priced talent in an attempt to win now? And which clubs will be sellers, trading established players for prospects in an attempt to build for the future?

The status of some clubs will surely change between now and the end of July. But for the moment, the abundance of buyers is actually good news for the sellers, who may not have all that much competition in the sales area.

Look at the American League. In the AL Central, at the break, no club is further than 5 1/2 games out in the AL Wild Card race. In the AL East, no club is further than six games out of the Wild Card race.

Why would any of those clubs deal away key players when they are a hot streak away from being in the midst of postseason contention?

In the AL West, Seattle is seven games back in the Wild Card, 7 1/2 out of first in the division race. Oakland is eight games out in the Wild Card, 8 1/2 back in the division race.

The Mariners have been building toward legitimate contending status for some time, but have been confounded by a disappointing offense this season. It is difficult to see them, with as much pitching strength as they have, changing course at this date.

Could it be possible then that the only actual seller in the AL would be the Athletics? What a bonanza situation for Oakland general manager Billy Beane.

The Royals have a sizable lead in the Central. The Angels and the Astros are not being threatened by anybody in the West. But the postseason possibilities have become more expansive. And with the AL East seemingly up for grabs, that doesn't do anything to deepen the pool of sellers, either.

In the National League, the shortage of sellers is not quite as drastic. The Phillies have the worst record in baseball. We apologize for not mentioning Cole Hamels' name earlier in this story.

Milwaukee is solidly in the sellers' category. Colorado, too, has a home on the sales side of the equation. Cincinnati could very easily be a seller, particularly in the NL Central, a division that might produce three postseason teams.

Two more clubs -- Miami and San Diego -- have records that would put them in the sellers' category. But both went to considerable effort and expense in the offseason to remake their rosters in hopes of a rapid turnaround. An admission of defeat could be extraordinarily difficult or premature -- or both.

That leaves us, in mid-July, with five clubs out of 30 that can be safely categorized as sellers. That leaves 83.3 percent of the Major Leagues as buyers.

If these circumstances don't change over the next two weeks, there are going to be some clubs seriously disappointed in their attempts to make major improvements before the Trade Deadline.

On the other hand, this many teams in contention, even this many teams with reasons to believe that they are in contention, is another indication of the overall strength of the game and the current level of competitive balance. The fact that a large majority of teams consider themselves buyers offers clear evidence that the game's reformed economic system is functioning exactly in the way that it is supposed to function.

This might not make for a plethora of dramatic Deadline deals. But it makes for a better sport.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.