With approximately 40 percent of the schedule in the books, the decision makers in the American League East should have a clear idea of their clubs' direction this season. The Yankees, Rays and Red Sox all consider themselves contenders, while the Blue Jays and Orioles have focused their attention on the future.
With the Trade Deadline approaching, each team will be looking to use baseball's version of the open-air bazaar to their advantage. The needs are unique in each city, and each club continues to gather information in order to make the best possible decisions before Major League Baseball orders all pencils down on July 31.
The question: What is the organization prepared to give up?
With Toronto in rebuilding mode, the Blue Jays' brass must ponder if they are willing to deal their most consistent performers, with Marcus Stroman leading the rotation and Ken Giles, who went on the 10-day injured list on Wednesday with right elbow inflammation, having a banner year out of the bullpen. Teams are also interested in starter Aaron Sanchez, who has battled finger issues on his throwing hand over multiple seasons. The club has control over Stroman and Sanchez until 2021, but Toronto needs to decide whether they are considered to be parts of the team's future.
The question: Are they building around Trey Mancini?
The Orioles are desperate to add talent any way they can, and they may not have as many attractive veterans at the Deadline as they'd hoped. Mychal Givens is having a down year, Andrew Cashner would be just a rental, Alex Cobb has missed most of the season and Mark Trumbo has missed all of it. On his own, the 27-year-old Mancini is probably more valuable than all of them -- he's under team control through 2022 and enjoying a breakout season. Can they hold on to him long enough to be part of a winning Baltimore club?
The question: Add a bat, bolster the bullpen, or both?
The Rays don't have unlimited funds to spend, so they'll have to plot their next moves carefully. They could add another right-handed bat to the lineup, but the most pressing issue is to determine if they are confident in Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo being the top two guys to close out games moving forward. The next month offers a chance to evaluate the hurlers, which will ultimately settle how much they prioritize upgrading the bullpen in July.
The question: Will Nathan Eovaldi get healthy?
Eovaldi had surgery to repair loose bodies in his right elbow in April, and he was supposed to go on a Minor League rehab assignment this week. But now he has biceps tendinitis, delaying his return. The Red Sox need to get a read on the flame-throwing righty to see if acquiring another starting pitcher is a priority. Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello are a nice trio, but this team was built with the idea that the starting rotation would lead it.
The question: Which starting pitcher can they land?
Brian Cashman already knows that he must add at least one starting pitcher to prepare for a postseason run. Since the club did not produce the top offer for Dallas Keuchel, the Yankees must again lean on the trade market. Madison Bumgarner, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Stroman and Max Scherzer have all been linked to the Yankees, with some more realistic than others. The farm system is not as robust as it was two years ago, but New York could center offers around the likes of Clint Frazier, Estevan Florial, Thairo Estrada and Deivi Garcia.