As we take a look at Week 13 of the MLB.com Power Rankings presented by The All-New Chrysler 200, we have one eye on the pending Trade Deadline, which will be here before you know it -- a little over a month from now.
Sure, there's plenty of time between now and then for things to change. But right now, a look at the standings tells us that there are roughly six teams that do not have at the very minimum a semi-realistic shot to make the postseason. It's been a rough go for the Phillies, Marlins, White Sox, Rockies, Brewers and A's (although you never know with them -- they could have a run in them).
Those are the only teams that are eight games or more back in the Wild Card race. All others are within a reasonable distance, with some obviously in better positions than others. We're not putting the Red Sox in the same class as the Cubs, of course, but 24 teams do have one thing in common -- they're not out of it.
That's what makes the Trade Deadline so intriguing. Buy? Sell? Stand pat? The Reds, for example, are having a subpar year, six games under .500 in one of the league's toughest divisions. But they're 6 1/2 back in the Wild Card standings. They could bring in a haul at the Deadline with the veterans they may want to deal. Will they? Should they?
This may be the most angst-ridden Trade Deadline in history for general managers. For fans, that's part of the fun.
Biggest rise: The Orioles moved up six spots from 14th to eighth. Frustrations seemed to be boiling over at the beginning of June after they dropped three of four to the Astros, but since then, they've gone 17-5 and grabbed a share of first place in the division after sweeping Sunday's doubleheader. They took advantage of a month during which they played several sub-.500 teams -- the Indians, Red Sox and Phillies -- and won each series.
Biggest drop: Three teams dropped four spots: the Astros (two to six), Cubs (eight to 12) and Rangers (11 to 15). What does this mean? Not much, honestly. All three are very much contenders -- the Astros and Rangers have very real chances to win AL West, and the Cubs have to be considered a front- runner to grab one of the two NL Wild Card spots. In the last 10 games, all three have either been very average, or well below. Hence, the drop.
The MLB.com voting panel's top five:
The Cardinals were the first to 50 wins this year and the fastest to that round number since the White Sox did so 10 years ago (and subsequently won the World Series). They've lost three in a row just once all season and have win streaks that have reached as high as eight (once), five (four times) and four (twice). But here's a more staggering stat -- before Sunday, they'd lost once at home in the month of June. And it's almost July.
The Royals are such a balanced team that it seems as if they dip into a different area of strength every game. Some days, it's their power in the middle of the order. Other days, they can ride on the back of a strong outing by their starting pitcher. And then there are always the old favorites that make the Royals the Royals -- defense, and a rock solid bullpen.
Now that July is almost here, the Dodgers will likely be at the forefront of just about every trade rumor that involves a starting pitcher. Their need for one isn't a new concept; they've known for two-plus months that they need reinforcements if they're going to have a chance in October, assuming they get that far.
The Nationals haven't quite reached the point where they're running away with the NL East division, but it's coming -- probably sooner than later. There's really nothing shocking about what they've been doing lately, or all month for that matter. When Max Scherzer and Bryce Harper are playing better than even we could have imagined, that's a pretty good indication of where this team is headed.
They have the second-lowest team ERA in the NL at 2.92, two of their starting pitchers are in the top 10 at 2.01 (A.J. Burnett) and 2.16 (Gerrit Cole), and they have arguably the league's top closer in Mark Melancon, who has 24 saves and a 1.72 ERA. It'll be hard to catch the Cardinals, who have an eight-game lead in the division, but the Pirates, generally known to come on in the second half, once again establishing themselves as one of the league's elite teams.