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MLB trade deadline: What should we make of the NL East?

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The National League East has been a bit more interesting that expected, and that affects the 2015 MLB trade deadline.

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The Mets are in first place in the National League East.  The Nationals can't seem to put together any long stretch of good baseball. The Marlins are sort of under-performing and the Braves and Phillies are exactly who we thought they would be.

Predictions are never supposed to be taken as anything more than an expert's educated guess on a subject matter. However when most pundits in baseball picked the Washington Nationals to win the World Series in 2015, it felt different. This was a team that had everything going for them. A feared rotation that had three legitimate number one aces, and a potent lineup anchored by Bryce Harper.

Injuries and luck matter.

However, injuries to Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister have tested the depth of the rotation, and subsequently caused the bullpen to have to work more than they anticipated. Ian Desmond hasn't found any consistency at the plate, and injuries to Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmermann have forced the Nats to give significant playing time to guys like Michael Taylor and Clint Robinson.

With this combination of factors, along with an 11 game winning streak in the beginning of the season, the Mets have sat atop National League East standings. While they lost Zack Wheeler to Tommy John surgery, and been forced to sit David Wright for almost the entire year, they've still managed to win games.

Buying, selling, or holding?

Both the Mets and Nats are obvious buyers as the trade deadline nears, with the Mets probably feeling that they need to do just a little bit more to stay ahead of the Nationals. New York has been linked to the Brewers, as they're desperately looking for some offense. Relief pitching has been the target for the Nationals, and they may have set their sites as high as Aroldis Chapman of the Reds.

Philadelphia has been a seller since the season began, but they still are holding on to their biggest trade chip in Cole Hamels. The Braves find themselves somewhere in the middle, and could buy if the division race continues to be this close. Miami however, may have played themselves so far out of that, that they will start to focus on 2016.

Heading into 2015, Miami felt that this was the year for them. A young core of players, mixed with outside acquisitions should have been enough to compete for a wild card spot, but things haven't gone as smoothly as they hoped. Mat Latos forgot how to pitch and injuries have kept them from putting anything good together for a long stretch of time. They also now have to deal with a manager who's learning his craft as he goes.

★★★

Baseball is a cyclical sport. There are ups and downs throughout the season. And that is sure to happen going forward. The National League East hasn't played out quite the way some envisioned in the offseason, and that's what changes the complexity of the trade market.

Teams like the Mets are going to be buyers. Teams like the Nationals, whose roster looked flawless, are still going to need a piece. And some teams that were expected to be competitive, just fall off the map entirely. But that's baseball, it can all change in a matter of minutes.