Why are the Twins, Braves and Angels smiling?

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Because they have some of the easiest second-half schedules among contenders.  That according to Buster Oleny who breaks it all down in his latest column.

Really the Reds and Cardinals have the easiest schedules left, but considering they’re competing with each other for the NL Central title, the cake schedule doesn’t really give either of them an advantage. At least not against one another. Each of them will have an advantage in the wild card race against the runners up in the East and the West, however. And here you thought the Pirates, Astros, Cubs and Brewers had no place in the playoff conversation.

Outside of the NL “cupcake” Central, the Twins get some help from the scheduling gods, with seven more games against sub-.500 teams than the White Sox have, and three more home games as well. The Braves have one more game against losers than do the Mets, but they also have six more home games. Given that both the Braves and Mets have done much better at home, this really works in Atlanta’s favor.

On the other end of the spectrum are the Dodgers, who play 58 of their 74 remaining games against winners, 11 more than the team with the next toughest go of it, the Rockies. The Padres have an easier time overall, but their schedule is backloaded, with several tough series in September.  Think it’s a coincidence that San Diego is thinking about putting Mat Latos on the disabled list right now?  He may not be that badly hurt, but given that he has an innings cap this year, better to have him fresh, healthy and available in September than July or August.

But before we get too far down this schedule = destiny road, let’s remember something: unlike football, baseball really is a game of any given Sunday (and Monday thru Saturday too). Anybody beats anybody, and what matters more than schedule, I believe anyway, is health.

So this is all fun, but ultimately the teams who suffer the fewest key injuries are the teams who will be the best off.

Dodgers acquire Matt Kemp in five-player trade with Braves

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The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.

Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.

Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.