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What’s at stake in the final week of the season

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There are seven days of baseball left in the 2018 regular season. While the home stretch has not been quite as boring as many of us predicted it would be before the year began — really, the consensus had every division race being a total walkover back in March — the drama is still far less than it often is in late September.

Four of the six division races are over, one of the four Wild Cards have been clinched, another is all but clinched and a third is pretty certain as well. While the final day of the season will still feature all 30 teams beginning play at the same time in order to amp-up that last day drama, there is a strong possibility that there will be no drama to amp-up. Here’s where we stand:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Boston and Cleveland have clinched their divisions and Houston is darn close, holding a four and a half game lead — a five-game lead in the loss column — with seven games to play. With four of those games coming against the Orioles, yeah, I feel like they have the West wrapped up. The Yankees have clinched one Wild Card slot and the A’s are one win, or one Tampa Bay Rays loss, from clinching the second.

All that really needs to be determined is who plays where in the playoffs. The Yankees have a one and a half game lead over the A’s for home field in the Wild Card game, though they also hold the tiebreaker. Odds are that game will be played in Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox will have home field in the ALDS against the winner of that game and Houston will host the Indians to kick off their ALDS. All of which is to say, there is little drama in the Junior Circuit.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Things are a tad more interesting here, as the Braves are the only team that has clinched anything. They have the NL East and a playoff berth. Which isn’t to say that things are totally up in the air. There are four playoff spots remaining, yes, but there are only five teams in competition for them: the Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers and Rockies. One of those first three teams will win the NL Central, one of those last two will win the NL West and the other three teams are in a scramble for the two Wild Cards.

At the moment the Cubs hold a two and a half game lead over the Brewers — three in the loss column — and play four games against the Pirates and three against St. Louis.  The Brewers and Cardinals, separated by a game and a half, meet for three in St. Louis starting today and then go on to play Detroit and the Cubs, respectively. The Dodgers lead the Rockies for the division and the Rockies likewise trail the Cardinals for the second Wild Card by a game and a half. L.A. finishes the season with three against the Diamondbacks and three against the Giants. The Rockies close out against Philly and Washington, all at home in Denver.

All of which is to say that, even if this is a game of musical chairs and, mostly, a race for seeding, there is at least some drama and a lot of scoreboard watching to come in the National League.

INDIVIDUAL AWARDS

There is likewise little drama to be had in the individual awards by my reckoning.

AL MVP: I think Mookie Betts sewed it up with his big homer against the Yankees in the division-clinching game last week. It helps that, drama aside, he deserves it, even if Mike Trout it a defensible choice as well. I think Betts will win it and the vote won’t be close.

AL CY Young Award: Blake Snell of the Rays is my pick and I think he’ll also be a fairly easy winner.

NL MVP: Some drama here, yes, as Christian Yelich and Javier Baez are most people’s favorites. It’s not crazy to say that how they do this week, and how their teams do this week, will determine it. Not saying that’s fair, just saying that it’s not crazy to say it.

NL Cy Young: I think people have come around to the notion that, win totals aside, Jacob deGrom‘s stellar season — he currently holds a 1.77 ERA and has not had a clunker of a game all year — is worthy of recognition. He’ll probably get some MVP consideration as well, even if it’s down ballot love.

So that’s where we are. Let’s hope for some National League chaos to keep this last week interesting, but otherwise, it’s just waiting for the playoffs to start.

 

Mariners, Indians and Rays make a three-way swap

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The Indians, Mariners, and Rays are working toward finalizing a three-team trade. The full details have not been revealed yet, and there are conflicting reports as to who is going where, but we know that Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion are involved.

Initial reports have the Mariners getting Edwin Encarnacion from the Indians in exchange for Carlos Santana, with Cleveland also receiving first baseman Jake Bauers from the Rays. Outfielder/third baseman Yandy Diaz will reportedly head to Tampa Bay along with a player to be named later. There has been a conflict in the past few minutes, however as to where Encarnacion is actually going: Seattle or Tampa Bay. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com says it’s Seattle, Bob Nightengale says it’s Tampa Bay. We’ll know soon enough, I suppose.

Santana played for the Phillies last year and was traded to Seattle just a couple of weeks ago. He’ll never have a chance to wear a Mariners uniform and, instead, will go back to Cleveland, where he played his entire career until 2018. Encarnacion has spent the last two years in Cleveland. Santana is owed $35 million over the next two seasons and has a 2021 buyout. Encarnacion is owed $24 million in 2019 if you include the buyout on his 2020 club option.  If Encarnacion is going to Seattle, you have to figure that the Mariners will flip him in mid-season if possible.