Every team in the Majors faces pressure to win. With Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline approaching, that pressure is mounting.
These are the five teams in each league under the most scrutiny to make something happen before the Deadline:
Chicago entered Wednesday with the best record in the big leagues, as well as the biggest lead (6 1/2 games over St. Louis in the NL Central) of any of the six division leaders. The Cubs also just made the most influential trade of the season by dealing a handful of prime prospects to the Yankees for potential free-agent closer Aroldis Chapman, and they acquired lefty reliever Mike Montgomery from the Mariners on July 20. These are, after all, the Cubs, and a World Series championship drought that dates back to 1908 has created a fan base that is loyal but impatient.
The club is coming off an appearance in the World Series, and it is enjoying bigger ratings than the Yankees in New York City, but there is not much of a honeymoon for sports franchises in The Big Apple. And the Mets' current roster doesn't have a lot of time left together. They have six regulars who are at least 30 years old, and concerns about third baseman David Wright, the face of the franchise who underwent neck surgery, and right-handed starter Matt Harvey, who is out for the season with thoracic outlet syndrome. A 3.30 team ERA that was tied for the best in the Majors entering Wednesday is undermined by an offense that has scored 367 runs, which is 28th in the big leagues.
The Nats are relatively young, as only three lineup regulars and two starting pitchers are at least 30. They have roster control, as several key players are locked up for 2017 and beyond. The expectations, however, are related to the fact that manager Matt Williams was dismissed following the '15 season and replaced by veteran Dusty Baker, even though Washington finished in first and second place in Williams' two seasons. Baker is a proven winner with the Giants, Cubs and Reds. The Nationals are concerned about the inconsistency of 35-year-old closer Jonathan Papelbon, which was revealed by their pursuit of the hard-throwing Chapman.
A huge payroll has expectations that come with it. The fans don't care about an arsenal of ailing arms; they are looking for wins. The infield is aging, including first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (34), second baseman Chase Utley (37) and third baseman Justin Turner (31). Infielder-turned-outfielder Howie Kendrick (32) is also in the 30-plus crowd. Utley and Turner, along with All-Star closer Kenley Jansen, are potential free agents. The Dodgers gambled on filling the rotation over the past two years with Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson and Scott Kazmir, but they were unable to re-sign Zack Greinke.
Well, it's an even-numbered year, so San Francisco is theoretically on pace to return to the World Series. Manager Bruce Bochy has done a masterful job of creating a team mentality, but he also is dealing with a rotation in which Madison Bumgarner is the only member younger than 30. So far, so good. The Giants went into Wednesday having been in first place for the majority of the season, but eight losses in their past 10 games has seen their edge over the Dodgers dwindle to 2 1/2 games.
1. Blue Jays
Toronto won the AL East a year ago, but it underwent a front-office overhaul. The new folks know there is an expectation to build off a winner, but after major packages of prospects were sent to the Tigers (for David Price) and Rockies (for Troy Tulowitzki) a year ago, the depth is missing. Five of the lineup regulars and three of the rotation members are over 30, and the three potential free agents are key figures in Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and R.A. Dickey. The Blue Jays have made two patchwork additions, taking on Melvin Upton Jr. -- once the Padres agreed to pick up $17 million of the $22 million he is owed through next year -- to add defense and speed, and swapping veteran bullpen disappointments, acquiring Joaquin Benoit from the Mariners for Drew Storen.
Detroit changed general managers last August, and when the team got off to a slow start this season, there was a sudden question about manager Brad Ausmus. Things have settled down, with the Tigers back in the postseason battle (5 1/2 games back in the AL Central and 3 1/2 back in the Wild Card race). There is rotation hope as Jordan Zimmermann began a rehab assignment this week, and so did outfielder J.D. Martinez. But this is a starting rotation with four members over 30 and a 34-year-old closer in Francisco Rodriguez, which adds to the thought that this roster is running out of time. It will be interesting to see how general manager Al Avila responds to emotions of his first Trade Deadline as the decision maker.
The Yanks do live under a microscope and they did just trade the strong left arm of closer Chapman to the Cubs, but they still have the left-right, late-inning combo of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. And they have won eight of their past 10 entering Wednesday, all against teams with better records. Life in the Bronx means rebuilding isn't an option, and it has the Yankees in a challenging roster situation in which seven of the nine regulars are on at least 30. Are they confident enough in Miller and Betances that they could deal one of them to add an impact bat? New York is 12th in the AL in runs scored.
Texas pulled a late surprise a year ago with the acquisition of Cole Hamels, and the club still has a deep enough system that it could make a similar deal for someone like James Shields, who already was traded from the Padres to the White Sox this season. Hamels is, after all, the only member of the Rangers' rotation with a victory in the past month, and the staff has a 6.20 ERA in July. Support for a new stadium with a roof would be boosted by the first World Series championship in history for a franchise that began as the Washington Senators in 1961.
The O's didn't bring a lot of expectations into the season, but with a two-game division lead going into Wednesday and having spent most of the season atop the AL East, the attitude has changed. It hasn't been easy. The Orioles' rotation's 4.94 ERA is 11th in the AL, and the farm system does not have enough depth to make an eye-opening move. They do have only a few potential free agents -- including Matt Wieters, Pedro Alvarez and Mark Trumbo -- but the lineup features five players over 30. Only the Yankees and Mariners have an older lineup.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.