Welcome to the final two weeks before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, as every baseball team attempts to better position itself for the future.
For some teams, the future is defined as the next 3 1/2 months. As Athletics general manager Billy Beane has said, there are seasons when an executive looks at his club and concludes it has a chance to win a championship.
"That doesn't happen every year," Beane said, "but when it does happen, you have to go for it."
Different GMs have different opinions about what defines "going for it." Some will be all in, completely and thoroughly.
When the Tigers sent their top pitching prospect -- a kid named John Smoltz -- to the Atlanta Braves for veteran Doyle Alexander in 1987, Detroit knew there was a risk involved.
Smoltz punched his ticket to Cooperstown with 210 victories and 154 saves during 20 seasons in Atlanta. But the Tigers got exactly what they wanted out of the deal. Alexander went 9-0 down the stretch to help Detroit make the playoffs.
That trade didn't get the Tigers to the World Series, but it sent a message to every player, fan and reporter in Detroit that they were all in.
That's what the Red Sox were thinking in 1990 when they traded a kid infielder named Jeff Bagwell to the Astros for veteran reliever Larry Andersen. Boston didn't even make the playoffs that year, and Bagwell hit 449 home runs during a 15-year career with Houston. Still, the deal was valid as the Red Sox evaluated their team. They believed they had a chance to win and were willing to risk the future for the present.
"As long as we get the player we want, I don't really care what we give up," Orioles manager Earl Weaver once said.
Weaver meant that it's OK to play strictly for today and to take a chance.
Detroit's current GM, Dave Dombrowski, has traded an assortment of highly regarded prospects through the years to position his team for a championship. He hates doing it and will talking about surrendering gifted young players "keeping me up at night."
But when Dombrowski's clubs are in a win-now mode, he's going to go for it. And that aggressive attitude is one of the reasons he's one of the best ever at his job.
This Trade Deadline is fascinating because so many teams are still in contention. When play resumes on Friday, 17 of 30 teams will be within 3 1/2 games of a playoff berth. There will be so many clubs hoping to tweak their roster that contenders could very well end up dealing with contenders.
Anyway, here's a brief look at some of the players to keep an eye on.
1. Price -- The Rays' ace has been the living, breathing definition of a No. 1 starter, and he's also a year away from free agency. To teams that need pitching -- and that's roughly every contender, from the Cardinals and Mariners to the Angels and Dodgers -- he would be a huge boost for the stretch run.
Will Price be traded? That's perhaps the more interesting question. Tampa Bay has only two weeks to make that determination, and it needs to make a run to get within shouting distance of the leaders.
Also, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman will have one other assessment to make: As he positions his team for 2015, is Tampa Bay good enough to win the World Series? On Opening Day this season, the Rays were widely seen as one of the five best teams in baseball. Could they get back to that point with a season of good health and a couple of additions?
Friedman will not discount his asking price. He'll want a large package of high-level prospects, and if he doesn't get what he sees as value for Price, he'll begin again after the season.
They're one of the few clubs with the Minor League depth to swing this kind of deal, and even though pitching isn't their No. 1 need, the opportunity to add a Price would dramatically alter the pennant race.
2. Kemp -- The outfielder is only 29 years old and three years removed from a 39-home run, 126-RBI season. Back then, in 2011, Kemp was one of the five best players in the game, a Gold Glove center fielder who finished second in the National League Most Valuable Player Award voting.
Now the question is what Kemp is capable of contributing. He missed 145 games in 2012-13 and has undergone ankle and shoulder injuries. Kemp seldom plays center field anymore, and his .760 OPS this season is down 226 points from his 2011 numbers. He has five years and $107 million remaining on his contract.
The Dodgers could use pitching and surely will explore the market for Kemp. The Red Sox have the young pitching to get a deal done, and if the Dodgers will pick up some of the $107 million, there could be a match.
Kemp has an .802 OPS since June 1, and if he can stay healthy, he could be an impact pickup. But he has missed so many games that he is a large gamble at a big price.
3. Street -- Like Price, Street is among the very best at what he does. Also like Price, he would make any contender better. So while it's logical to see Street fitting nicely with the Tigers or Orioles, he would make sense for the Dodgers, Giants, Nationals and Cardinals, too.
4. Phillies -- I applaud them for keeping the band together as long as they did. This core group changed baseball in Philadelphia with five straight division championships. While there are people criticizing the length and size of some of the deals, what would they have said if the club had allowed Rollins, Utley, etc., to walk?
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. might have the chance to dramatically reshape his club going forward. That is, if Rollins and Utley are willing to give their approval to trades and if Lee gets healthy anytime soon. If Amaro works some magic, he could put the Phils in a nice spot going forward.
5. Beltre -- The Rangers believe they're going to be good enough to win the World Series in 2015, so they wouldn't be anxious to trade a 35-year-old third baseman who is hitting .337. Beltre is also still a first-rate defensive player and a tremendous teammate. GM Jon Daniels has a 20-year-old third baseman, Joey Gallo, in Double-A, and while he's still young and very raw, Gallo has generated scary good power numbers.
Favorites: Angels and Royals.
6. Zobrist -- If the Rays trade him, it would indicative that they see themselves as out of the race and that they are ready to make significant changes. Zobrist has been invaluable for Tampa Bay. He plays shortstop, second base and the outfield well. Zobrist's career OPS is a respectable .786. He's so versatile and has played in so many big games that he's one of those guys who could end up being the most important guy traded.
7. Peavy, Uehara, Dunn, Gomes -- These are the long shots. Peavy is interesting because he has strung together three straight solid starts and could find a nice market. Uehara was critical to the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2013, but he has been less effective this season. Dunn is still big-time impact player, a high-strikeout, high-on-base guy. Gomes could be a nice pickup, since he's hitting .306 against left-handed pitching and is as solid a clubhouse guy as there is.