December 5, 2023

July has it all. Trade talk! Draft! Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony! All-star game! Regular games! Perugi Statues (Pirates hand out at PNC Park on July 24th)!

Well, actually, I know what you need. You need to know what’s going on before it happens. That’s why we offer this free and public predictive service. Just know that while the weather may be hot, my forecast is not. Regardless, here’s a swing at a few things that could (at least, conceivably) happen between now and the end of the month.

The Braves will sweep the Mets (July 11-13), and the NL East race will heat up.

There may not be a better, more significant series on the July schedule than this one in Atlanta a week before the break. The Mets have been the East class all season, but despite expectations to the contrary, they have struggled with a particularly difficult June schedule and the continued absences of Max Scherzer and Jacob Degrom. The softer schedule and suspended Scherzer’s comeback are big reinforcements for the Mets, but the Braves, even while navigating the weak spots of Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. And the pool of tears that Freddie Freeman left in Trust Park, the heat in the East increased with the month of the beast.

Big question: What impact will DeGrum’s return to the Mets and Mike Soroka’s return to the Braves (both likely back in July) have on this race? It’s clear that NL East won’t be decided by three matches in July, but this series will be a great gauge of the incredible preparation that awaits us in the second half.

Three house in the derby.
Perhaps that’s not so daring, because Pete Alonso, unlike few before him, seems to have mastered the art of derby, with a calm and collected rhythm, amazing stamina and a healthy amount of vanity. But while we’ve had three-time derby champion Ken Grevey Jr. (1994, 1998-1999), no one has won three times in a row.

Alonso will do just that, completing a late treble that will see him conquer not just three derby fields but three different playing fields at Dodger Stadium, Coors Stadium, and Progressive Field. Bring in the polar force.

The Astros will acquire Wilson Contreras.
The deadline to trade isn’t until August 2, but the swaps will start this month.

The Astros are cool again, because of course they are, and the latest series against the Yankees was proof that we could be in for a fun October. But for the Astros to win another AL flag and another World Championship title, they may need an upgrade behind the board. Martin Maldonado and Jason Castro are both respected veterans whose work with the show’s crew is not to be underestimated. But their italics.

It’s a delicate balance for a serious contender to add a new catcher mid-season, and there’s a reason big deals of this kind are rare. But with Michael Brantley dealing with a shoulder problem and Yordan Alvarez day in and day out after a frightening collision with teammate Jeremy Peña, there are ways to cash in on Contreras as hodgepodge catcher/DH.

The National League will win the All-Star Game.

This is another example of predictive persistence, and one of these years we’ll get it right. Not only has NL lost eight consecutive All-Star games; She has only three wins since 1996 and six since 1987. Exhibit or not, this is an embarrassing track record for the top stars of the ring.

But even without knowing the exact composition of the rosters, we have reason to believe that NL could exit the All-Star schneid this summer. The game is taking place at Dodger Stadium for the first time since 1980, and this dates back to an era when the AL league was annually embarrassed at this point. At the time, NL was in the midst of an extension of what would become an 11-game winning streak All-Star. Between 1960 and 1987, NL was defeated only four times! Obviously, this stuff goes in cycles, and it says here that the return of an All-Star game to Chavez Ravine will be paired with NL’s return to excellence in the show.

The Yankees will acquire Brian Reynolds.

The pirates refrained from trading Reynolds last winter and obviously don’t have to trade him now. It’s under their contractual control until 2025, and Buccos have shown in recent weeks that they have the seeds for a very interesting lineup. But the Yankees have the seeds of a 2022 World Championship winner, and the 27-year-old Reynolds, whose enthusiasm has heated up after a slow start to the season, is well-suited to back the Stadium Yankees who got a shocking performance from Joey. Gallo and helping to isolate the Bronx Bombers against the possible off-season departure of Aaron Judge.

Reynolds would let Aaron Hicks or Judge hit the right field, and his combination of batting skills, base ability, and speed would take this impressive lineup to another level. If it means building a business package around top prospects like Oswald Peraza and Jason Dominguez, so be it. The Yankees have every reason to seize this moment.

Triple Draw for the first time in NL West!

With the Dodgers banging and Fernando Tates Jr. still two weeks away from swinging the bat, don’t put him in the Giants’ crosshairs to make the NL West race more exciting than it already is. San Francisco had not been closer than three games in the West since mid-May and the rotation behind Carlos Rodon and Logan Webb was questionable. The Giants had a tough schedule early in the season, but the split against the humble Tigers this week didn’t inspire much confidence. On paper, there’s not a whole lot of reason to expect the Giants to enjoy their midsummer surge… but that’s probably why it does.

These aren’t quite the “cockroaches” of 2010, 2012 and 2014, but the modern style giants had a way of exceeding our expectations. I expect the Giants’ head of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, to be proactive in the commercial market (Contreras would fit in just as well here as they do in Houston), but it’s also worth noting that Alex Wood, Alex Cobb, and Anthony Disclavani all projected ERAs more than a full point less than Actual ERA, so maybe luck is ahead and the Giants will get the kind of results we’ve come to expect from this rotation set as a whole.

The Guardians will acquire Luis Castillo.

Maybe that’s not the way things are, but this inclusion is just a way of indicating that a surprising competitor with one of the lowest payrolls in the game and an excess of ready or semi-ready players, should not be discounted in this marketplace. We’ve seen the front office led by Chris Antonetti create a huge splash of talent that can be controlled under similar circumstances (2011 with Ubaldo Jimenez and 2016 with Andrew Miller). Rotation has always been a strength for Cleveland, but this year it has been a bit disappointing, as it ranked 19th on the ERA’s majors list. Shane Pepper is the only member of the unit to have an ERA+ that is much better than the league average.

Castillo is in control until 2023, and his numbers are better than they were in the 2019 All-Star season, with above-average spin rates, barrel spin and fast ball. He would be highly desirable on this deadline, but the Guardians would certainly have the chops to be the best bidder if they were willing to build a deal around an interesting young player like Gabriel Arias, Brayan Rocchio or Tyler Freeman.

Frankie Montas will be acquired by The Rays… and we truly I mean this time.
Here I expected Rays to jump the Montas market in May. did not happen.

I insisted the deal still makes sense and will take place in June. did not happen.

Admire my persistence, laugh at my stubbornness, or laugh at my incompetence if you have to, but the captain must disembark his ship…even if that ship is not really worth saving. In fact, at this point, the pressed Rays need more than a spin, with Shane Baz recently returning and Shane McClanahan performing AL Cy Young. They would be suitable for contreras, for example. The team that may need Montas the most at this point is the Cardinal, given that Jack Flaherty is back on the shelf after a short and uninspiring return to their rotation. Again, though, consistency is important in baseball, even if that consistency is about incorrect predictions. Frankie Montas will be trading to Rays in July, because his market obviously can’t go into August…

Rangers will be in a cut-off phase at the end of the month.
Texans have entered the month with two games under 0.500, and even after the big signings of Corey Seeger and Marcus Simin, very little was expected of the rebuilding of the ball club this season. Despite this, the Rangers are a respectable 29-26 since the start of May, and had they done better in one-off matches (ages 4-15), their season would take on a completely different tone.

It could happen this month, if only because their 21-game schedule against other .500 sub-teams gives them the chance to hang out in a playoff race (not an AL West race, mind you…that’s over) for longer than anyone expected . Meanwhile, the Rays, Red Sox and Blue Jays are enjoying a healthy dose of games against… each other this month, potentially tempering their winning totals and allowing a team like the Texans to slip into the athletic mix. Rangers could be an interesting side in the trade deadline, having already tried to speed their way up to compete in the free agency in their last off-season.

Kumar Ruker will be drafted by Padres…and will debut shortly thereafter.
It would be great to see just how far Rucker rises a year after he reached 10th and contract talks between the two sides have collapsed over concerns about the health of his right arm. After playing well at independent ball last month in front of some eager eyes (including the eyes of San Diego GM AJ Preller, who flew cross-country for Rocker’s professional debut in Troy, New York), Rocker could go in the top half of the first round. once again.

Padres enjoys the pick in 15th overall, an organization that isn’t afraid to roll the dice. With the club embroiled in a bitter battle for NL West and every incentive to return to October of this year, you can’t get past Padres to speed up the rocker schedule and capitalize on his live arm by putting him in a relief role. Well, that certainly won’t happen by the end of July, but it’s conceivable by the end of the season.

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