Stop me if you've heard this before: the Braves are in the catbird seat, the Nats are hanging around, and everyone else is pretty out of it. Mid-summer is the bittersweet time of year, however, when the truly done-for teams can restock and build for the future by shipping off useful veterans in exchange for prospects by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. This summer, with three teams crowding the bottom, there figure to be several NL East players packing their bags for greener outfields and higher places in the standings.
Atlanta Braves (51-38)
Would you have picked the Braves to lead the NL East for pretty much the entire first half of the season, and yet produce only one All-Star? Stranger things have happened, sure, but unless first baseman Freddie Freeman can continue to hold off Dodger wunderkind Yasiel Puig in the Final Vote, Craig Kimbrel will be the lone Brave in New York for the Midsummer Classic. Still, outside of Freeman and Mike Minor, there aren't many with legitimate gripes. So far, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts in Atlanta.
The outfield for the ages hasn't yet materialized, though they will likely earn a bit of ignominy, as each Upton brother is almost a lock to hit 100 strikeouts by the All-Star break. Second baseman Dan Uggla more than beat them there, currently sitting with 111, though he does lead the team with 16 home runs. Chris Johnson continues to be a nice surprise, and Brian McCann is mashing like it's 2009 since his delayed debut.
Player of the Week: McCann, C: 6 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, .500 AVG
Miami Marlins (32-56)
Cue Tobias Funke: "Oh my god, we're having a fire...sale." There's no panic, or even disappointment, in Miami -- this is simply how things are done. Ricky Nolasco, the Marlins' most attractive -- and, not coincidentally, highest-paid -- trade chip is out the door and headed for the Dodgers, where he'll join the nightly Yasiel Puig highlight reel in search of more run support and a higher win total. He likely wasn't disappointed to hear the news.
Coming back from LA as payment are three relatively low-level prospects: pitchers Angel Sanchez, Steve Ames, and Josh Wall. All are on the older side for their current minor league level, and none were among the Dodgers' top ten prospects. LA also sent six figures' worth of international free agent bonus pool money, which is probably the best part of the deal for Miami, as it will allow them to take an extra flier on a talented, extra long-shot teenager.
Player of the Weak: Jose Fernandez, SP: 1-1, 14 IP, 15 K, 1.93 ERA, 0.76 WHIP
New York Mets (37-48)
New York's campaigning paid off, as David Wright has taken his deserved place as the starting third baseman for the National League in next week's All-Star contetst. Wright, 30, has done everything asked of him, but has continued to do it mostly by himself; he leads, is tied for the lead, or just off the lead in just about every offensive category. Only Daniel Murphy (.270) is within a cab ride of Wright's .306 batting average.
The other season-long bright spot in Queens, starter Matt Harvey, is in prime contention to start the All-Star game, though he did pick up another blemish on his win-loss record, which now sits at 7-2. Jeremy Hefner has come on strong of late to win a pair of games for himself, and Dillon Gee (6-7) has pitched in nicely. The previously serviceable Shaun Marcom, however, has not; if he was any better than his 1-10 record, he'd likely be headed out via trade, but I'm not sure anyone will take a flier on him.
Player of the Week: Hefner, SP: 2-0, 14 IP, 14 K, 1.29 ERA, 0.64 WHIP
Philadelphia Phillies (44-46)
Domonic Brown is back, quashing the 'fluke' label with a resurgent start to July after scuffling through the middle weeks of June. During that slide, he hit .192 with just three RBIs and no home runs; the Phils were 5-9 in that stretch. In the two weeks since breaking out of that lull he's hit .321, clubbed another four homers, and even managed a half dozen walks. In those hot two weeks, he's lead his team to an 8-5 record. It's not hard to see how the rest of Philly's season is going to go.
You don't want to declare anyone out of it when they're just two games below .500 at about midseason, but with Ryan Howard out for the next 6-8 weeks thanks to knee surgery, let's just say that Philadelphia might not be buyers at the deadline. Infield pieces Michael Young and Chase Utley are prime candidates for a trade, especially Young, signed to just a one-year deal and still a useful bat (.288 avg) at age 36. Utley will be much tougher to part with as a lifelong Phil, but at 34 and with an injury history of his own, the Phillies would be wise to sell relatively high on him, as he likely has so much left in the tank. Cliff Lee would fetch a major return to help infuse youth in an otherwise aged lineup/barren farm system, but Ruben Amaro might choose not to blow up the whole ship just yet -- though he probably should.
Player of the Week: Brown, OF: 6 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, .370 AVG