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MLB Trade Deadline Divisional Preview: AL West

With three playoff contenders in the West, it’s the team that is going nowhere that has what the others need.

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MLB: Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

While there isn’t much of a divisional race, the AL West is more competitive than it was projected to be. The Astros are still the clear favorites, but the Seattle Mariners have made things interesting with their improbable run. Oakland has a shot at a Wild Card spot. The Angels’ season has been disappointing, but they’re still above .500. Only the Rangers are guaranteed to be sellers. While they don’t have the impact player the Orioles do with Manny Machado, the Rangers can nevertheless greatly influence how things go in the West.

The Astros are running away with the division, and they currently have the highest odds of winning the World Series. Houston doesn’t need to add any pieces, but there are options out there for them upgrade their roster. The Astros have been linked to J.T. Realmuto following the injury to Brian McCann. Considering McCann is in the final year of his contract and Realmuto would be under team control until 2021, it makes sense to pursue the Marlins’ catcher.

Mark Sheldon of reported the Astros are interested in Raisel Iglesias. Astros relievers rank second in the majors in ERA at 2.78 and first in FIP and xFIP at 2.85 and 3.11 respectively. The addition wouldn’t be a necessity, but more bullpen depth is never a bad thing. Depending on how the Astros want to continue with Ken Giles, Iglesias could fill the vacancy his absence has created.

Beneath the Astros are the Athletics and the Mariners who are each contending for a Wild Card spot. Before play on Sunday, the Mariners were on pace to win 98 games despite have a run differential of -1. The Mariners don’t have to give those wins back and with the right additions, they could ride their hot streak into a Wild Card berth.

Ordinarily, it might not be wise for a team to sell their future for one-game playoff, but the Mariners are a special case. For one, they can pitch James Paxton in the Wild Card game, who can be competitive against the Yankees or Red Sox number ones. For another, they own the longest play-off drought of any major sports team in North America, so there’s a little more urgency.

The Mariners could stand to upgrade their rotation behind Paxton. Mike Leake and Wade LeBlanc both have K/9 marks under 7 and Leake has the lower DRA with 4.43. Seattle could pursue J.A. Happ or Michael Fulmer.

If the Rays decide to trade Nathan Eovaldi, he would be a clear upgrade over all their starters, except Paxton. Jon Morosi relayed that the Mariners and Rangers have spoken about Cole Hamels, and Devan Fink has gone over why Hamels makes sense for the Mariners.

If the Rangers don’t trade Hamels, it will be a missed opportunity. The Rangers are firmly in last place, and considering the right-hander is in his final year, Texas needs to get something for him. Even with Hamels’ struggles this year, he’s one of the best starters available on the market. Though, that says more about the field than it does about Hamels, the Rangers have been blessed with more time to sell high on their ace.

The Rangers may also consider dealing Keone Kela or Jake Diekman if presented with the right offer. Diekman is in a contract year, so he’s more likely to go, but Kela has two more years of team control. The Rangers would need the right offer to part with their closer. It’s possible they make a deal for either with another divisional rival: the A’s.

Because of their recent hot streak, the A’s are just three games out of the second Wild Card spot. It should be no surprise then that Billy Beane is preparing to buy.

The A’s are also looking for bullpen help, whereas the Astros are looking for depth, the A’s are looking to pave over some serious holes. Blake Treinen, Ryan Buchter, and Lou Trivino represent a nice start to their bullpen, but after that, things start looking grim. They recently DFA’d Santiago Casilla and called up Ryan Dull, Jeremy Bleich, and JB Wendelken. If they can’t address this issue with internal options, they’ll need to make a trade.

The A’s are also in need of starting pitching to back up Sean Manaea. The A’s are under less urgency than the Mariners and unlikely to sell any worthwhile pieces for a “rental” like Hamels, but they could target someone under team control like Jake Odorizzi.

That leaves us with the Angels who are caught in the middle. The Angels won the offseason after acquiring Shohei Ohtani, but injuries have held the team back from reaching their full potential. The Angels are just above .500, but they could wind up selling because of the strength at the top of their division. If they do decide to trade, Jon Morosi reported that Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney have interest from the Yankees. Both are under team control, so the Yankees’ would have to part with major league-ready talent like Clint Frazier.

Unless the Rays or the Blue Jays make a surprise run, one of the Wild Card teams will come from the AL West, so what these teams do will have an impact come October.

Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score, McCovey Chronicles, and BP Wrigleyville. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.