The clump of teams in contention in the AL hasn't really moved too much. Aside from the White Sox and probably the Athletics, everyone else could probably squint their way into thinking they are contenders.
OK, so the Tigers being seven out and having to leapfrog so many teams probably makes us three non-contenders, but seven isn't that huge a gap, you know?
In the middle there are still a group of teams that could sell veteran pieces in front of the trade deadline, but also might have to wait until the last minute. Hell, some might even morph from assumed sellers into buyers. Let's take a look:
Blue Jays: OK, so they are eight games under .500 and seemingly a broken team. But they've had a ton of injuries to the rotation and actually have a winning record since the pathetic 6-17 start. Plus, they are 6 1/2 games out of the second wild-card spot. I realize that's not a small margin and there are lots of teams to jump, but remember this same nucleus has gone on ridiculous runs in the past. The Jays have six games before July 31. What if they win them all? It's possible. If that happens, they are 52-54 and probably only, say, three or four games out. They can't sell then, right? So they have to wait, right? RIGHT?
Orioles: The other AL wild card team from last year has played much better baseball since getting drubbed by the Cubs right out of the break. The pitching has actually started to look much better and a healthy Zach Britton brings lots of certainty to the bullpen. They are 4 1/2 games out of the second wild card with four games until July 31. Again, what if they win all of those? Now the Orioles are 52-52 and probably only two or so out. They can't justify selling then, right? RIGHT?
(OK, I'll stop doing the "RIGHT" schtick now before it gets annoying -- and, yes, I know that I'm already too late for that).
Angels: Three games under .500 and with a majorly flawed roster, but the Angels are just four games out. They have five games until July 31. Once again, let's envision them winning all five. Then, look at their post-deadline schedule. They have a nine-game homestand against the hapless Phillies, A's and fellow wild-card hopeful (and possibly depleted after a quick sell-off) Orioles. It's feasible to say the Angels are in great shape heading into Seattle for a four-game series starting Aug. 10. Like everyone else here, they can't sell until they see how the next several games unfold.
Rangers: They lost five straight through last Thursday and the Yu Darvish trade rumors really started to pick up. They've won four of five since, though, and sit only 3 1/2 back of the second wild card. They have four games before July 31. Taking all four of those means they are red hot and two games over .500. Depending upon how everything else goes, they might only be a game out or even have a hold of the playoff position. The flip side is, of course, losing all of those and then being something like six or seven out with four or five teams in between. I know lots of people think the Rangers should sell, but right now they have to wait.
Mariners: The Mariners are saddled with the longest playoff drought in MLB and a veteran-laden team. They aren't selling. It's just that they aren't 100 percent obvious contenders, either. They have zero shot at the AL West and sit 2 1/2 games back from the second wild card. They have four games before trade deadline day and a lot of games against wild-card hopefuls afterward. We also know general manager Jerry Dipoto is unbelievably aggressive in making trades. These guys will be fun. Ignore them at your peril.
Then you have the Twins (three back of K.C. and 4 1/2 out in the AL Central) and Rays (one back of K.C. and three back in AL East) trailing the Yankees and Royals for the two wild-card spots. Due to the divisional implications, these are obviously not sellers. At least not right now. Maybe the next four days changes everything? That's what makes this so fun.
Quite simply, the next four to five days are going to be among the most fascinating of the season. They'll have great implications on the Official Power Rankings, too, which is really the only thing that actually matters.
If you wanna yell at me, hit me up via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@MattSnyderCBS). Just remember that if we disagree, one of us is either stupid or biased -- probably both, actually -- and it's not gonna be me.
|Yes, they are totally fine without Clayton Kershaw for six weeks. They are actually on pace to win 112 games.||--||43-17|
|If any current player can ever hit .400 in a season (Hint: No one can), it'll be Jose Altuve. He's a bad, bad man with the stick.||--||29-31|
|Arbitrary endpoint fun: The Nationals have lost three of their last five. The Nationals have won eight of their last 11.||--||26-34|
|Here come the champs? It certainly looks like it. Many will think this is aggressive. It is. But the Cubs are 9-2 since the break, the starting pitching is coming around and the offense is becoming more well-rounded. Plus, just look at the personnel. It's there. A big second half could well be in store. By the way, who was the idiot who said the team didn't look fixable during the All-Star break in this very space? I need to give him a piece of my mind.||6||34-26|
|Here come the (AL) champs? The Tribe has now won five straight after a down stretch. An extra-inning walk-off grand slam is a rallying cry, too, right?||4||35-25|
|The D-Backs are 4-7 since the break and have a brutal schedule coming up. Starting Thursday, they have a 10-game road trip to St. Louis, Chicago (Cubs) and San Francisco before facing the Dodgers, Cubs and Astros at home (before two games at Houston). Even if you consider the Giants games easy, that's off-the-charts tough through Aug. 17.||1||25-35|
|The are starting to really falter on the road. The Rockies have lost 15 of their last 18 away from Coors Field. For those curious, they've won seven of their last nine in Coors.||--||26-34|
|Has the ship been righted? The Yankees are 7-4 since losing the first game out of the All-Star break. That's not a scorching pace, but it's good baseball.||3||33-27|
|Here come the (2015) champs? It certainly looks like it. They're so streaky, though. They plummeted in last week's rankings thanks to having lost seven of their last eight. Since then, they've gone 7-0.||9||26-34|
|The Red Sox have lost 12 of their last 18 games and still hold a lead in the AL East. I'm looking forward to hopefully breaking out the "AL Least" moniker in the near future.||6||24-36|
|I broke the Rays by not ranking them fourth last week (I really think I missed that one, in hindsight), because they immediately went on a five-game losing streak.||5||40-20|
|Big win on Tuesday against a good team, though that team was starting Edwin Jackson. The Brewers have still seen their 5 1/2 game lead shrink to a 1/2 game in just over a week (and they actually have lost more games than the Cubs on the season). Given the difference in talent on the big-league rosters, this is major trouble.||4||29-31|
|The Mariners have an ace and his name isn't Felix. In July, James Paxton is 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA and 38 strikeouts against six walks in 33 1/3 innings. On the season, he's 10-3 with a 2.84 ERA. (Funny thing is, King Felix had been throwing the ball very well until the sixth inning on Tuesday night, too. He just profiles better as a two now).||--||27-33|
|Thanks to a ridiculous hot streak, they threw themselves back into the NL Central race. Now having lost three of four, can they maintain their standing as a contender?||--||19-41|
|Rookie Paul DeJong has 13 homers in just 48 games. That's a 162-game pace of 44 homers.||--||30-28|
|The Braves have had to play the Diamondbacks, Cubs and Dodgers since the All-Star break and they've gone 6-6. That's pretty impressive, actually.||--||35-25|
|Rougned Odor has 20 homers and an on-base percentage below .260. That's hard to do. In the modern era, only two players have ever hit at least 30 homers while having a sub-.260 OBP: Tony Armas (1983) and Dave Kingman (1986). (See the Blue Jays comment for a similar nugget containing another notorious power-only guy!)||--||22-38|
|This might be the weirdest team we've seen in a while. Every pitcher who has made at least 14 starts is below average by ERA+. Only two regular position players are above average in OPS+ (Mike Trout, obviously, and Andrelton Simmons). Trout missed several weeks with an injury. Bud Norris is the closer. And yet, they are in contention.||1||26-34|
|The Jaime Garcia trade gives me faith in new general manager Thad Levine. It improves the rotation but he didn't have to cough anyone up from the long-term prospect pieces. So he added on the periphery while realizing he shouldn't go all in just yet.||7||36-24|
|Here come the (2015 NL) champs? They've won six of seven! Nah. Even I can't pull this one off.||4||26-34|
|They've won six of nine, which is nice, and Kevin Gausman has put together back-to-back good outings. But are the Orioles gonna play themselves out of "sell" territory and then tread water in mediocrity? A really interesting group to watch.||4||25-35|
|Jose Bautista has 16 home runs and isn't even slugging .400. That's tough to do. In the modern era, only three players have ever hit at least 25 homers without reaching .400 in slugging: Aaron Hill (2010), Tony Batista (2003) and Rob Deer (1991).||1||32-28|
|Please keep that fun, young, exciting, awesome, (insert another superlative) outfield together, Marlins. Lord knows I don't ask you for much.||--||31-29|
|It shouldn't matter much. It's not like I'm a Tigers fan. But I really, REALLY don't wanna see Justin Verlander in another uniform.||4||23-35|
|Just rip off the band-aid and trade Sonny Gray already, Billy. Jeez.||3||36-24|
|Hunter Renfroe has 20 home runs. It sounds really awesome to have 20 before the end of July, but there are actually 38 players with at least 20 so far this year. Yowza.||2||37-23|
|The win Tuesday night was the Giants' first all season in a game that Madison Bumgarner started. Sure, he had the injury, but it was his seventh start.||2||29-31|
|They were already bad and now they've gone 2-10 since the All-Star break. At least Zack Cozart has his donkey, though.||2||31-29|
|They've lost 13 of their last 15 and keep trading away useful veterans. It's gonna get uglier (NOTE: I am fully behind the rebuild and think Rick Hahn is doing a great job -- I'm just pointing out how bad the 2017 version of the White Sox are right now).||2||35-25|
|Thanks to injury, Howie Kendrick has only played in 38 games this season, but have you noticed what he's doing? Probably not, given the missed time and his team being the Phillies, but he's hitting .343/.396/.457.||--||28-32|