It's time to get down to the nitty-gritty. We've heard all the rumors, pictured players in a variety of different uniforms and discussed how pennant races would be impacted by one potential move after another. But with the hours dwindling away until the non-waiver Trade Deadline, contenders are now faced with some major decisions.
By 4 p.m. ET today, we'll have a much clearer picture of what the rest of the 2017 season will look like.
(Yes, teams can still make post-Deadline trades in August involving any players who clear revocable trade waivers.)
• Trade waiver explanation
MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of Monday's news with a special edition of MLB Tonight that begins at 1 p.m. ET and will be simulcast on MLB.com through the Deadline.
How will the Yu Darvish saga end? Will somebody blink in the Sonny Gray standoff between the Yankees and Athletics? Will the Orioles deal their two big relievers?
These are just a few of the many questions we hope to have cleared up by this afternoon. We got some trade action Sunday, with the Rockies acquiring catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the Rangers for a player to be named and the Cubs adding Tigers left-handed reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila for prospects, and here's what to watch for as the clock ticks toward this year's Trade Deadline.
Where will Darvish wind up?
This has been one of the biggest questions for about a week, when the Rangers let it be known they planned to move their four-time All-Star. An impending free agent, Darvish is a pure rental, albeit one who has the potential to turn a good team into a great one -- and a great one into a champion.
The Dodgers remain the odds-on favorite to land Darvish, though a source said Sunday that Los Angeles was focused more on upgrading its bullpen than its rotation. Texas is said to be enamored by outfielder Alex Verdugo, the Dodgers' No. 2 prospect, though it's unclear whether Los Angeles is willing to part with him, even for a pitcher of Darvish's stature.
The Indians have spoken with the Rangers about the possibility of trading for Darvish, sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi on Sunday. The Indians are one of the clubs that would require Darvish's assent to a trade, and while his willingness to accept a move to Cleveland is unclear, the Indians' sales pitch shouldn't be too difficult: They are the defending American League champions and Darvish can be a free agent after the season, at which point he can choose his team for the long term.
Neither the Astros nor the Yankees appear prepared to part with top prospects for Darvish, while the Red Sox and Nationals have indicated they won't make a play for him despite recent injuries to David Price and Stephen Strasburg. But deadlines have a funny way of making teams change their minds, so although the Dodgers look like the favorites, another team or two could jump into the fray as 4 p.m. approaches.
Can't the Rangers just hang on to Darvish, make him a qualifying offer and get a first-round Draft pick back if he signs elsewhere?
Not so fast. In case you've forgotten, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement includes rules regarding the Qualifying Offer. Only teams that receive revenue sharing can receive a first-round pick as compensation, and Texas is not one of those clubs.
That means the Rangers would only be eligible to receive a pick before the third round, likely somewhere in the 70s. The prospects the Rangers would get back in a trade would surely be more valuable than such a pick.
For a complete breakdown of the new rules and how they'll impact the Trade Deadline, check out this Anthony Castrovince piece from the weekend.
And remember: Even if the Rangers do trade Darvish, nothing prevents them from re-signing him as a free agent. In fact, just last July we saw the Yankees send Albertin Chapman to the Cubs for a prospect package headlined by shortstop Gleyber Torres, the No. 3 prospect in the Minor Leagues according to MLBPipeline, only to bring Chapman back over the winter with a five-year, $86 million deal.
Will Gray actually be traded?
Unlike Darvish, Gray is not headed for free agency after the season; his two-plus years of club control make him a far more attractive trade candidate to teams both in and out of the playoff picture.
Teams including the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers, Brewers, Braves and Cubs have been linked to the Oakland right-hander at some point this month, though the Yankees have emerged as the favorites to land Gray by Monday's Deadline. Still, as of Sunday evening, neither Brian Cashman nor Billy Beane were ready to budge on their current offers.
Gray's Sunday start was pushed back to Monday, leading most to believe he'll be traded before the Deadline. Will the Yankees' package, which is believed to be headlined by 19-year-old center fielder Estevan Florial, New York's No. 5 prospect, be enough? There have been some rumblings that the A's could hang on to Gray if they don't like the offers and try to shop him again this winter, but given that he's healthy and pitching as well as ever (1.37 ERA in his last six starts), his value may be as high as it will be.
What about the rest of the starting pitchers?
While the market waits for Gray and Darvish to get dealt, there are other starters that should be in play for the teams that fail to land either of the top two.
Lance Lynn of the Cardinals figures to be the next-best rental after Darvish, while San Diego's Jhoulys Chacin and Clayton Richard, and Toronto's Francisco Liriano and Marco Estrada might also find new teams before they hit free agency this fall.
As for controllable starters, which are currently the most prized assets on the market, the Marlins have been fielding offers for Dan Straily, who has three years of club control beyond this season. There's no rush for Miami to deal Straily, while the same goes for Toronto's J.A. Happ and Atlanta's Julio Teheran, who are under control for another one and three years, respectively.
What about Justin Verlander?
Detroit's long-time ace has been the subject of plenty of speculation this month, especially since the Tigers shipped J.D. Martinez to Arizona for prospects on July 18. But Verlander has two-plus years and more than $65 million remaining on his contract -- not to mention a full no-trade clause -- taking all but a few teams out of play for the former American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner.
Barring a serious injury to a top starter on a contending team, the likelihood is Verlander will finish the season with the Tigers, then be the subject of endless trade talk this winter. Verlander would also likely clear waivers, making an August trade a possibility.
How many relievers will be on the move?
We've already seen more than a dozen relief arms traded this month, including Wilson on Sunday night, though pretty much every contender that plays outside of the Bronx continues to seek bullpen help.
• Red Sox acquire Reed from Mets
San Diego southpaw Brad Hand is a near lock to get dealt. Hand has club control beyond this season, so he ought to bring back decent haul for his team.
The Orioles could make one or two huge moves if they decide to move lefty Zach Britton and/or righty Brad Brach, both of whom are arbitration-eligible for one more season beyond 2017. The Dodgers are said to be very interested in Britton, who would be paired with closer Kenley Jansen to form a lethal 8-9 combination.
Other relievers that could be on the move include Bud Norris, David Hernandez and Yusmeiro Petit of the Angels, Atlanta's Jim Johnson, San Francisco's Hunter Strickland and Pittsburgh's Juan Nicasio and Tony Watson.
Don't hitters get traded, too?
Lucroy, Avila, J.D. Martinez, Todd Frazier, Lucas Duda and Eduardo Nunez have changed teams since the All-Star break, but not many contenders are currently seeking offensive help.
The Brewers are reportedly interested in Curtis Granderson. The Indians are seeking a bench bat, with Asdrubal Cabrera's name being mentioned.
Zack Cozart, Mike Napoli, Jay Bruce and Dee Gordon are also available to varying degrees, though some of them should make it through waivers to become August trade options.
Can we expect any surprises?
If we could predict that, it wouldn't be a surprise, would it? With only a year until their free agency, the Orioles could likely get a haul for Manny Machado, while the Blue Jays could do the same if they traded Josh Donaldson, but chances are neither team will entertain those possibilities until the offseason -- if they consider them at all.
Here's one to consider: Giancarlo Stanton's name has been floated in several rumors, though typically with the caveat of how unlikely it seems that a team would take on the slugger's massive contract. Given his extraordinary July, Stanton has reminded people just how good he can be. It's unlikely that he gets moved by Monday's Deadline … unless he does.