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HOF coverage, trade auditions highlight weekend

6 former players enter Cooperstown; Nats evaluating Deadline strategy
MLB.com @castrovince

Happy #HugWatch season, everybody!

With the non-waiver Trade Deadline mere days away (it's Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET), our eyes are glued not just to the games, but to the goodbyes. Baseball is the rare sport in which swapping season sometimes plays out in real time, with the involved players removed from games and embraced by their newly former mates. As explained in this piece, #HugWatch appears on Twitter whenever a deal is unfolding, and these next few days will bring us the height of hug-watchery.

Happy #HugWatch season, everybody!

With the non-waiver Trade Deadline mere days away (it's Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET), our eyes are glued not just to the games, but to the goodbyes. Baseball is the rare sport in which swapping season sometimes plays out in real time, with the involved players removed from games and embraced by their newly former mates. As explained in this piece, #HugWatch appears on Twitter whenever a deal is unfolding, and these next few days will bring us the height of hug-watchery.

Here's what we're watching this weekend, between embraces:

1. Hall pass
For just the second time since the inaugural class of 1936, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will welcome in six living players at once this weekend.

Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell will all have their day on the dais Sunday, and MLB Network's live on-site coverage -- which will begin at 11 a.m. ET, continue with the induction ceremony at 1:30 p.m., and be simulcast on MLB.com and available via MLB At Bat -- will bring you the speeches, the smiles and, yes, the shedding of tears.

This Hall class would give you the makings of a pretty decent ballclub -- Jones, Thome and Trammell making up 75 percent of the infield, Guerrero in right, Morris on the hill and Hoffman waiting in the bullpen to close it out. Sure, that leaves us with some other spots to fill, but, with a record 59 Hall of Famers expected to attend this year's Cooperstown festivities, something tells us we could round out a pretty quality squad, if we had to.

Video: Vladimir Guerrero to enter the 2018 Hall of Fame

2. National emergency
The Nationals have three games remaining before the Deadline, all against the Marlins at Marlins Park this weekend. According to multiple reports, the front office is using these remaining games as a final determining factor in how to approach the Deadline. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported the Nats won't move franchise face Bryce Harper ahead of his impending free agency, but pending free-agent relievers Ryan Madson, Shawn Kelley and the recently acquired Kelvin Herrera could be dangled if the Nats don't show some serious signs of life this weekend.

There will be several compelling "auditions" taking place this weekend, especially by starting pitchers perceived to be on the block (Chris Archer pitches today for the Rays and Matt Harvey is on the bump for the Reds on Saturday). But nothing's more gripping than a team audition, and that's basically what we have here.

Going into the year, nobody expected the Nats to be here, far back in the National League East and on the Deadline fence, but, beset by injuries (Stephen Strasburg made one start in his return from shoulder soreness before he went back on the disabled list with a pinched nerve in his neck) and ineffectiveness, this club has simply not added up to the sum of its parts. The Braves and Phillies are young teams, and sometimes youth catches up with clubs late in a season. But it's already pretty late in this season, and the Nats are now the ones with something to prove.

At least they've got the right guy on the mound tonight. Max Scherzer opposes Pablo Lopez at 7:10 p.m. ET.

3. Bucco banter
Pittsburgh had its longest winning streak since 1996 snapped at 11 games on Wednesday in Cleveland, but the Pirates' four-game series with the Mets that continues today (Ivan Nova opposes Jason Vargas at 7:05 p.m. ET) is a pre-Deadline opportunity to convince their front office that this is not a team to be torn down and, in fact, might be one worth augmenting.

When the Pirates lost 31 of 45 in a stretch that ended earlier this month, it was pretty much impossible to take them seriously in the standings. But now that they're back above .500, with a young rotation that has begun to gel and an aggressive lineup that has been plenty productive of late, well, maybe they can hang in the NL Wild Card race, at the least. The Pirates really don't have valuable expiring assets to deal anyway (suffice it to say a Jordy Mercer trade wouldn't be a franchise-changer), and they're probably better off keeping the controllable likes of Corey Dickerson and Josh Harrison than dealing them for marginal returns now.

The Pirates are proof that a long season can have wild swings and sways. A strong weekend here could sway the front office to add, rather than subtract.

4. Rising up
June 16 wasn't really that long ago. It just kind of feels that way when you look at the Rockies and A's.

Both of those clubs were under .500 entering play on June 16. In the time since, the A's have a Major League-best .794 winning percentage and the Rockies have a .625 mark that's the second best in the NL. Lost causes six weeks ago, they're now both in the thick of the postseason hunt, which makes their Interleague set at Coors Field this weekend (lefties Kyle Freeland and Sean Manaea oppose each other in tonight's 9:40 p.m. ET opener) an appealing affair.

Both of these clubs have pursued bullpen help -- the A's nabbing Jeurys Familia and the Rockies acquiring Seunghwan Oh. The Rockies' 5.26 relief ERA has been the club's biggest bugaboo this season (ironic, considering the club invested $106 million in Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee over the winter). An A's team with an American League-high 28 comeback wins this year will try to get to the Colorado 'pen.

5. Marin-ate
Oakland's rise in the AL Wild Card standings has come at the expense of the Mariners. Once on pace not only for the franchise's first postseason berth since 2001 but also its first 100-win season since that same year, the Mariners have hit a bit of a jarring July, losing 10 of 18 this month and averaging an MLB-worst 3.17 runs per game along the way.

A weekend series in Anaheim (beginning with tonight's 10:07 p.m. ET opener pitting Wade LeBlanc against Andrew Heaney) against an Angels team that has already started selling pieces (catcher Martin Maldonado went to the Astros on Thursday) is an opportunity for the Mariners to get their season back on track. While the offense is obviously an issue, the Mariners also need more from Felix Hernandez, who, going into Saturday's start, has a 5.14 ERA.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.