If it seems like it’s getting late early in baseball, well, it kind of is, as MLB‘s July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is just over four weeks away.

That’s not a whole lot of time for teams to figure out whether they’re going to be buyers or sellers, and this year’s deadline promises to be as unpredictable as any that we’ve encountered in recent seasons.

That’s for two reasons primarily. First, nearly every team believes that it still has a legitimate shot at making a run at a playoff spot, regardless of what its current record may be.

Perhaps the more important (and market-stymieing) reason is that teams are absolutely petrified to move prospects.

Nobody wants to be the general manager that traded players “X” and “Y” for, say, Johnny Cueto only to have those two become perennial All-Stars for Cincinnati while Cueto is playing elsewhere, having departed that GM’s club as a free agent after the season.

Fear is a powerful tool, one that can undermine even the most intelligent front-office personnel.

Still, none of that precludes us from making predictions as to what role each team will wind up occupying as the deadline draws near. For buyers, we’ll look at what (and who) they might target in a trade while examining the trade chips of would-be sellers.

Before we get started, a spoiler alert: It’s going to be a seller’s market this year.

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