AL contenders look to upgrade rosters
Sunday's looming Deadline may alter several postseason races
Sunday's non-waiver Trade Deadline continues to creep up, leaving clubs around baseball with two primary queries to explore: What do we need? And what will we have to surrender in order to get it?
In the spirit of looking out for No. 1, here's a look at nine contending American League teams and what they're in search of as the Deadline approaches.
As always, relievers -- names like Mike Adams, Kyle Farnsworth, Koji Uehara and Heath Bell -- are at the top of many teams' wish lists. Outfielders -- Michael Cuddyer, B.J. Upton, Hunter Pence and, of course, Carlos Beltran -- are common, as well.
In the AL Central, with as many as four teams vying for the top spot, the Twins and White Sox must quickly decide whether to become buyers or sellers. The Tigers, in need of starting pitching, and the Indians, searching for outfield assistance, are certainly looking for a leg up heading into the dog days of summer.
Some soul-searching is taking place in St. Petersburg, where the Rays -- despite a 53-48 record -- are a distant 10 1/2 games behind first-place Boston in the division and 8 1/2 behind Wild Card-leading New York.
Will the misfortune of being a talented team in a loaded division turn the Rays into sellers? As rumors fly with Upton's and Farnsworth's names attached, it appears so. They must also consider, of course, that the Yankees and Red Sox are perennial buyers.
In the AL West, it looks like it will be a two-team race down the stretch, with the Angels -- always in the thick of things -- attempting to keep pace with the defending AL champion Rangers.
Below are the nine AL contenders and what they're looking for as the Deadline nears.
63-38, two-game lead in AL East
Boston is interested in a right-handed or switch-hitting outfielder. J.D. Drew's shoulder injury reinforces that need. With the AL's top record, most any move would be just a tweak, but the club could also add a quality setup reliever or attempt to upgrade at shortstop.
And with nagging injuries to Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, don't be surprised if the Red Sox go out and bolster their rotation.
61-40, two games back in AL East, 6 1/2-game lead in Wild Card
The Yankees want a top-notch starting pitcher, but can't find the right price for those who interest them. They like Ubaldo Jimenez and James Shields, but may not be willing to part with what it might take to get Jimenez, while the Rays aren't willing to deal Shields inside the division.
It may just be a rare occurrence of the Bronx Bombers not getting what they want.
59-45, three-game lead in AL West
Manager Ron Washington said he agrees with general manager Jon Daniels and "definitely" wants to add a reliever. Texas wants a right-handed power guy, and Washington called it a "priority."
There have been talks about Beltran, but the Rangers' outfield is loaded and Beltran may not waive his no-trade clause to move to the AL.
55-48, two-game lead in AL Central
General manager Dave Dombrowski has made no bones about it: he is searching for a starting pitcher. With Justin Verlander clearly leading the way in the rotation, the Tigers have not yet seen another starter prove entirely dependable behind Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer, who each have double-digit win totals but ERAs of at least 4.35.
Bottom line, if a club has a live arm available, chances are Detroit has scouted him.
52-49, two games back in AL Central, nine games back in Wild Card
Cleveland, one of baseball's biggest surprises this season, badly needs outfield and offensive help with the absence of Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore.
Michael Brantley is more of a spark plug at the top of the order than an RBI man, so names like Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp, Ryan Ludwick and Upton have been mentioned.
48-55, seven games back in AL Central, 14 games back in Wild Card
Dropping three out of four against the Tigers this weekend certainly didn't help the Twins in the division race, but it might be unwise to count Minnesota out just yet.
The Twins, like others, are looking for a reliever or two. It may not put an end to the see-saw between Joe Nathan and Matt Capps in the closer role, but the club would no doubt like to see some stability.
50-52, 4 1/2 games back in AL Central, 11 1/2 games back in Wild Card
Chicago's mid-week series against the Tigers (followed by another against the Red Sox) is critical in determining its likely fate in the division race.
A report this weekend from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had the White Sox closely linked to Cardinals outfielder Colby Rasmus. The left-hander has driven in 14 more runs than two of the three White Sox regular outfielders (Juan Pierre and Alex Rios) combined, so it would be a run-producing upgrade.
53-49, 10 1/2 games back in AL East, 8 1/2 games back in the Wild Card
Despite a record that would have them right in the thick of it in the Central, the Rays' playoff hopes seem bleak, and it may quickly turn them into sellers. Other teams are looking hard at Shields and Upton, but it remains to be seen how closely Tampa Bay is listening.
56-48, three games back in AL West, 6 1/2 games back in the Wild Card
The Angels are looking for relief help. They'd love to get their hands on a power-hitting third baseman, too, but it's unlikely. They don't have much to offer, as Mike Trout is basically off-limits and the rest of the Halos' best prospects are not ready to contribute.