The most likely outcome of the American League wild-card chase is that the defending champion Boston Red Sox, who won 108 games a season ago and currently rank 10th in the majors by run differential, return to the postseason. Likeliness is not the same as certainty, however, and as Boston continues to hover around the .500 mark, we have to start looking at the race as it is, not as it ought to be.
While the derby can still tighten, right now we're basically looking at a cluster of mediocre clubs vying to play on the road in the eventual coin-flip game. The AL has four teams -- the Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays -- that currently carry a 92 percent or better probability of playing into October. (That's based on my current power rankings and latest run of schedule simulations.) If this holds up, the Red Sox and those close to them in the standings will be playing for that final slot.
In recent seasons, teams have been kind of lackluster when it comes to bolstering rosters for what figures to be moderate wild-card contention. The notion that if you get in, anything can happen seems to be passé. Now it's more like, if all you're guaranteed is one game, then why bother?
Let us take an idealized view of this race and assume every team in the running would badly like to snag that precious road wild-card opportunity. Given what we know now, how aggressive should these teams be in adding to their rosters leading up to this year's trade deadline? I've rated each of these teams from 1 to 10 subjectively, and listed that rating with their current win forecast and their chances to win a wild-card slot. The rating should be looked at as if 5 is a neutral score -- a team that does basically nothing before the July 31 deadline. Ratings above that represent buyers, and below that sellers.