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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Two Colorado Rockies relievers will embark upon an altitudinally enhanced voyage of discovery this season. Wade Davis is settling in as the team’s new closer, and Bryan Shaw will be his main right-handed setup man, and all it took was a little sweet talk and a guaranteed $79 million over the next three years to convince them to chuck their apprehensions and buy into the program.

Lefty Jake McGee, the other target in general manager Jeff Bridich’s offseason bullpen spending binge, enters the first season of a three-year, $27 million deal with a more familiar orientation. He came to Colorado from Tampa Bay by trade in January 2016, and he has spent the past two years learning all about the flexibility, resilience and other attributes required to succeed in one of the most daunting environments for pitchers in the majors.

A year ago, McGee posted a 4.73 ERA at Coors Field and a 2.64 mark on the road. He decided to re-up regardless.

“Jake McGee is a testament to what’s happening here,” Bridich said. “He came over in trade, and he had no choice but to pitch and figure it out. When he did have a choice, he wanted to come back here. Not only did he want to do that, he wanted to help recruit his buddy Wade Davis. I think that says a lot about the stuff we have going on, and the belief that guys have in each other here.”

As Jake Arrieta, Mike Moustakas and a slew of less acclaimed players at the MLBPA academy for the homeless in Bradenton, Florida, can attest, the offseason was atypically slow, unproductive and unusually stressful for dozens of free agents. Relief pitchers were the notable exception. According to ESPN Stats & Information, 36 free-agent relievers signed deals worth a total of almost $340 million this offseason. That’s less than the total payout of $421 million that 33 free-agent relievers received in the winter of 2016-2017. But that total was skewed significantly by the $228 million allotted to three closers: Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon.

Relief pitchers have come a long way from the days when Scott Sullivan, Scott Proctor and Aaron Heilman were pitched into the ground and never attained that one big payday. McGee, Shaw, Luke Gregerson, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Brandon Morrow, Anthony Swarzak, Joe Smith, Juan Nicasio, Steve Cishek and Yusmeiro Petit all received multiyear contracts in the $10 million to $30 million range this offseason. Those 11 pitchers combined for 25 saves in 2017.

In front offices, it’s generally accepted that any long-term commitment to a reliever comes with a healthy dose of hope. Relievers spend so much time getting loose in the pen — and can be so vulnerable to overuse depending on the manager’s tendencies — that they’re prone to wide variances in performance from one year to the next. As a result, cost-conscious teams have been just as inclined to take a flyer on a kid with a big arm as to throw money at the problem. Exhibit A: Milwaukee’s Corey Knebel, who recorded 39 saves, struck out 126 batters in 76 innings and made the All-Star team for a salary of $538,900 in 2017.

“Teams think that some bullpens can come into their own, based on the unevenness of some guys’ careers,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “You have Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and a bunch of guys who’ve had great careers. But for a lot of relievers, it’s, ‘Great year, bad year.’ That’s been the case for so many of them.”

The Rockies’ $106 million offseason investment in three free-agent relievers is a record outlay for a big-league team, and Bridich took franchise history into account before embarking upon his plan. Curtis Leskanic, Steve Reed and Darren Holmes — currently the Rockies’ bullpen coach — formed the nucleus of a durable and fearless bullpen when Colorado made its first playoff appearance as a franchise in 1995. The Brian Fuentes-Manny Corpas-Jeremy Affeldt-LaTroy Hawkins contingent turned in some impressive work when the Rockies won the NL pennant in 2007, and Huston Street saved 35 games and logged a 154 ERA+ for a 92-win wild-card team in 2009.

Last year, the Rockies took a flyer on former Royals closer Greg Holland, and he performed well enough to make the National League All-Star team before fading down the stretch. The Rockies made an offer to re-sign Holland and appeared close to finalizing a deal before talks stalled and they moved on to Davis.

Bridich factored roster makeup into his decision to splurge on the bullpen. The Rockies have several young position players on the cusp and some talented 25-and-under starters, but they needed a quick injection of stability behind Adam Ottavino, Mike Dunn, Chris Rusin and the other relievers already in the fold. When owner Dick Monfort bought into the plan, Bridich signed veteran catcher Chris Iannetta and went to work fortifying the back end.

“Like any free-agent market, you’re not quite sure how it’s going to end up when you start out,” Bridich said. “I think we’re blessed that Dick gave us the ability to be aggressive. And we needed to be aggressive. As everybody saw, in a slow market, it was the relief pitchers that flew off the board first.

“The prices are different now than they were five years ago, so it’s happened fairly quickly. It used to be the closers that were getting $10-14 million a year. Now other guys in the bullpen are getting those sorts of dollars.”

Blown leads are debilitating for any team, but the idea of a deep, reliable pen is particularly resonant in Colorado. Rockies starting pitchers ranked last in the NL in innings for four straight years from 2012-2015 before ramping up to seventh in 2016 and ninth last season.

“In our park, especially, run-prevention can be very uplifting late in the game,” Black said. “On the other hand, the lack of run-prevention late can be very demoralizing. If you can close out games where you have the lead — or you stay close and come back and win — it’s just great confidence for the group. The position players feel great about each and every game, and they’re not worried about, ‘Hey, here we go again.’ That’s a bad thought: Here we go again.”

Power pitchers and ground ball types are optimal at Coors, for obvious reasons. According to FanGraphs, the Rockies threw the third-highest ratio of fastballs in the majors (61 percent), behind only the Pirates and Padres, and the third-lowest rate of changeups (7.4 percent), ahead of only the Angels and Brewers. But Bridich and Black looked beyond individual repertoire and focused just as much on pitchers with competitive mentalities and iron wills.

They did plenty of legwork in their search. Black called Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona for a scouting report on Shaw and placed another call to Angels pitching coach Charles Nagy, who had worked with Shaw in Arizona. Rockies bullpen coach Steve Foster was well-acquainted with Davis from their mutual tenure in Kansas City. McGee, who pitched with Davis in Tampa Bay in 2011, was happy to make a recruiting pitch.

“We’ve talked about the mental part of the pitcher, and how important that is,” Black said. “The unselfishness when it comes to statistics. It’s about the team first and the ability to turn the page and resiliency both physically and mentally. We’re looking for those qualities in a pitcher. That’s what we’re trying to develop through our system too — that mindset of drafted Rockies and developed Rockies. Once you get to Denver, it’s heads-up. Things are a little different. But if you can pitch and make pitches, it doesn’t matter where you play. And we think this organization is a great place to be.”

Durability is part of the equation. Shaw leads the majors in appearances since 2013, with 378 games. As MLB executives who pay big money to relievers will attest, the numbers cut both ways. Viewed from a glass-half-full perspective, Shaw seems like a good bet to hold up because of his experience and track record. The alternate, more fatalistic flip side: He has logged a lot of mileage in the bullpen, and the wear and tear is destined to catch up to him eventually.

“For me, it’s just being smart, knowing my arm and my body,” Shaw said. “And if I need a day off, communicating that and telling Bud or [Foster], ‘Hey, I’m hanging a little bit today.’ The trainers have good routines for us, and you can get the right work done. If you’re going to go in there and do busywork just to do work, that isn’t beneficial.”

After two seasons of dealing with the demands of life at 5,280 feet, McGee is happy to provide a tutorial for the new guys on some of the challenges that await this season.

“I’ve already told them when you’re on a long homestand and you’ve thrown a few times, you’re going to be a little tired toward the end,” McGee said. “By June or July, your legs are going to be a little out of it. It’s going to happen, and you really can’t do anything about it. You just make the adjustments and go from there. Different pitches move differently at home and on the road. Once you get a feel for that, it makes it easier.”

Nothing will prepare Davis and Shaw for their new adventure except the reality of the grind. The Rockies have placed a historic bet on their bullpen. The coming months will determine if they spent that $106 million wisely.

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Aaron Boone says Joey Gallo will be with New York Yankees on Friday



ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — All-Star slugger Joey Gallo‘s trade to the New York Yankees from the Texas Rangers was completed Thursday, giving the heavily right-handed Yankees a much-needed powerful lefty bat.

Manager Aaron Boone said he spoke with Gallo on Thursday and “welcomed him to the team.”

With switch-hitting center fielder Aaron Hicks hurt, second baseman Rougned Odor and outfielder Brett Gardner have been the only left-handed hitters to see substantial playing time.

“I think we’re a lot better today,” Boone said before the Yankees played Tampa Bay.

Boone said that Gallo will be with the Yankees for Friday’s series opener against the Marlins in Miami.

While he has played right field for Texas, Boone envisions Gallo playing a lot in left for the Yankees, who have Aaron Judge as their regular right fielder.

“We’re excited to add an All-Star,” Boone said.

The Rangers received right-hander Glenn Otto, second baseman Ezequiel Duran, shortstop Josh Smith and second baseman/outfielder Trevor Hauver from New York. Texas also sent pitcher Joely Rodriguez to New York.

New York’s left-handed hitters have struggled this season, ranking last in the majors in average (.197), 28th in home runs (22) and OPS (.633) and 29th in hard-hit rate (33%).

A two-time All-Star, Gallo ranks sixth in the AL this season with 25 home runs, to go with 55 RBIs and a .223 average. He had struggled mightily at the plate since the All-Star break, with no home runs and a .067 average in the 10 games following, before breaking out Tuesday with a three-run shot against the Diamondbacks.

Gallo, 27, is among just eight rostered major leaguers with multiple career 40-homer seasons (2017, 2018).

Gallo is owed $2.2 million from his $6.2 million salary. He is eligible for arbitration next winter and can become a free agent after the 2022 season.

The Yankees began the day 8½ games behind Boston in the AL East and trail Tampa Bay, Oakland and Seattle in the wild-card race for two spots.

Rodriguez, 29, is 1-3 with one save and a 5.93 ERA in 31 relief appearances this season, holding left-handed batters to a .176 average. He is 2-5 with a 5.05 ERA in 81 relief appearances over four seasons with Philadelphia (2016-17) and Texas (2020-21), and he was 3-7 with a 1.85 ERA over 90 relief appearances in 2018-19 for the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Central League.

Duran, 22, hit .290 with 15 doubles, six triples, 12 homers and 48 RBIs this season in 67 games with High-A Hudson Valley.

Hauver, 22, made his professional debut this season with Low-A Tampa, hitting .288 with 17 doubles, nine homers and 49 RBIs in 66 games.

Otto, 25, was 7-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 12 starts and one relief appearance with Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season.

Smith, 23, hit .324 with 12 doubles, nine homers, 24 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 39 games with Low-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Chicago White Sox acquire 2B Cesar Hernandez from Cleveland Indians



The Chicago White Sox have acquired second baseman Cesar Hernandez from the Cleveland Indians for Double-A left-hander Konnor Pilkington, the team announced.

The White Sox have been in the market for a second baseman, and they get one in Hernandez, 31, who is hitting .231/.307/.431 with 18 homers in his second year with the Indians, who trail the White Sox by 8½ games.

“César Hernández provides our club with a valuable combination of a power bat in the middle infield and Gold Glove quality defense,” said Rick Hahn, White Sox senior vice president/general manager. “Adding a player like César gives [manager] Tony [La Russa] a strong and proven option at second base for the stretch run of the season and hopefully into October.”

The White Sox lost Nick Madrigal for the season in June after he had surgery to repair tendon tears in his right hamstring.

The trading deadline is Friday, when Cleveland opens a three-game series in Chicago.

Hernandez hit a two-run homer in Cleveland’s 7-2 win over St. Louis on Wednesday.

The Indians have several young middle infielders in their system, including Andres Gimenez, who came over from the New York Mets in the offseason trade of Francisco Lindor.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report

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Where all 30 teams stand as clock ticks on trade deadline



The MLB trade deadline is a day away. And while several big moves have been made already, other deals are likely being hammered out over phone conversations and videoconferences as you read this.

Will the additions be enough to turn bubble teams into contenders and contenders into favorites? Is your team good enough to go for it, or better off making deadline deals aimed at 2022 and beyond?

In other words: How does each team rank against the field as the hours tick away toward 4 p.m. ET Friday?

Here is what our eight-voter expert panel decided based on what they have learned in the first four months of the 2021 season. We also asked ESPN baseball experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with one Week 16 observation based on what they have seen recently for all 30 teams.

Previous rankings: Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13 | Week 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Opening Day

Record: 63-38
Previous ranking: 1

The Giants are expected to be aggressive before the trade deadline, looking for impact talent for their rotation, the back end of their bullpen and their lineup, with Max Scherzer, Craig Kimbrel and Kris Bryant all linked to them in recent days. But their greatest improvements might come from within. Over the next week or so, if everything goes according to plan, the Giants could get back all of the following players: first baseman Brandon Belt, shortstop Brandon Crawford, second baseman Tommy La Stella, third baseman Evan Longoria and starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez. Their depth is as good as anyone’s heading into the final stretch. — Gonzalez

Record: 63-40
Previous ranking: 3

The addition of relievers Kendall Graveman and Yimi Garcia should give manager Dusty Baker a whole new avenue for running his October bullpen. The beauty of it is that Graveman combines with Ryan Pressly to give Baker a pretty straight-forward veteran duo to nail down late leads. But by freeing righty Cristian Javier to be used more flexibly, Baker can really maximize his staff. Javier is a manager’s dream for an October scenario. He can start, though that would probably be needed only should someone get injured. He can piggyback a starter who has a short outing by going two or three innings to keep the Astros in a game. He can be spotted in a leverage situation. Graveman, the 2021 version of him, is a nice addition in a vacuum, as is Garcia. But the ripples those additions might make for Baker’s overall staff might be just as important. — Doolittle

Record: 62-41
Previous ranking: 2

The Dodgers are aggressive in their pursuit of starting pitching and will pounce on a high-leverage reliever if a deal makes sense, but what they also need to do is get Cody Bellinger going. Bellinger, who made the errant throw that allowed the winning run to score in Tuesday’s loss to the Giants, was batting only .163/.274/.281 through his first 179 plate appearances, with twice as many strikeouts as walks. With Mookie Betts and Corey Seager on the injured list, the Dodgers desperately need a productive Bellinger to hold off the Giants and Padres in the tightly contested National League West. — Gonzalez

Record: 63-40
Previous ranking: 5

Chris Sale continued his road back from Tommy John surgery, making his second rehab start for Double-A Portland on Sunday; he struck out nine batters in 3.2 innings and allowed two runs, a walk and six hits. Sale will make another start for Triple-A Worcester on Saturday and could completely change the dynamics of the American League pennant race if he looks like his old self after taking a year off to recover from injury. — Lee

Record: 60-42
Previous ranking: 6

The Rays continue to find the balance between being the short and long term by adding slugger Nelson Cruz and then trading Rich HIll to the Mets. The addition of Cruz will bolster the lineup with a consistent, strong power-hitting threat. According to Jeff Passan, the team also had preliminary discussions about both Max Scherzer and Kris Bryant, which gives a glimpse into the mindset of Tampa Bay’s front office — they’re going for gold. — Lee

Record: 60-42
Previous ranking: 4

While we wait to see how the White Sox bolster their roster for October, an interesting dilemma looms a few weeks into Chicago’s future: Who will be in its playoff rotation? It’s a question more about surplus than necessity. Chicago’s primary quintet of Lance Lynn, Dallas Keuchel, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodon has been one of baseball’s most productive, durable and consistent units in baseball. Of those five, Keuchel has probably been the least good this season, but he’s the highest-paid member of the rotation and has the most postseason experience. Because of those factors, it seems like Cease needs to end the season with a flurry in order to stake a claim. — Doolittle

Record: 59-45
Previous ranking: 7

The Padres addressed their greatest midseason need early, swinging a deal to acquire Adam Frazier, the major league leader in hits, from the Pirates. Frazier will play second base and the corner-outfield spots, which allows him to easily fit into the same lineup as Jake Cronenworth and gives the Padres the flexibility to not rely too much on Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer and Jurickson Profar, all of whom have struggled to varying degrees. The question now is whether they’ll get into a bidding war with the Dodgers and Giants for a high-end starting pitcher, namely Max Scherzer. Also: Will they be forced to trade Hosmer in order to save money? — Gonzalez

Record: 60-42
Previous ranking: 8

The All-Star break didn’t slow Milwaukee down as its All-Star trio of starters did a number on the White Sox over the weekend. If not for a Lance Lynn two-run single off Brandon Woodruff, the Brewers might have swept the White Sox. In total, Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes and Woodruff pitched 17 innings, giving up just four runs to Chicago. Milwaukee added Eduardo Escobar tin a deal before Friday’s trade deadline, and is clearly the best in the division. The Brewers’ sights are on October. — Rogers

Record: 57-46
Previous ranking: 9

The gap between the Athletics and the Mariners continues to shrink, but the team added outfielder Starling Marte and lefty reliever Andrew Chafin. Marte was hitting .306 with seven homers for the Marlins and will be a big boost for the A’s lineup. The 31-year-old Chafin is having a strong season, allowing just nine runs with a 2.06 ERA and 0.839 WHIP in 43 appearances, and should bolster the bullpen. — Lee

Record: 54-46
Previous ranking: 11

Yes, the Mets need rotation help, even after acquiring Rich Hill. Taijuan Walker is suddenly a concern after lasting one out two starts ago and then allowing six runs and three home runs in his next outing. But … the Mets are last in the NL in doubles, 11th in home runs, next-to-last in runs and stolen bases, last in the majors in overall baserunning runs (14 below average). At least the offense has been better of late, averaging 4.87 runs per game in July as they’ve gotten a little healthier. Given the state of the team’s pitching, however, the offense might need to do even better. — Schoenfield

Record: 50-48
Previous ranking: 10

Toronto possesses the second-best run differential in the division behind the Rays, ahead of both the Red Sox and the Yankees. In order to compete with the rest of the division, the Jays will likely need to add another strong starter to their rotation. Toronto could make a run at the playoffs this year, but this will surely be a team that can contend into the future with a strong, young core. — Lee

Record: 53-47
Previous ranking: 12

The Yankees dropped three of four against the Red Sox over the weekend, with the highlight loss coming after blowing a 4-0 lead in a game in which Domingo German didn’t give up a hit in the first seven innings. Still, GM Brian Cashman clearly believes the team can make a charge at the wild card or even the division, pulling off a blockbuster deal for Joey Gallo on Wednesday night. — Lee

Record: 55-48
Previous ranking: 14

Hot off the Mariners’ biggest win of the season Monday, rallying from a 7-0 deficit to beat the Astros, the Kendall Graveman trade — to the Astros, no less — did not go over well in the Seattle clubhouse. Jerry Dipoto then followed that up by acquiring a much-needed starter in Tyler Anderson, from the Pirates. The Mariners are not going to trade away any of their major prospects, but let’s see if Trader Jerry has more deals in the works to help the club in 2021 as it pursues a wild card. — Schoenfield

Record: 53-49
Previous ranking: 16

Cincinnati would be foolish to add to its team this week unless it can switch out bullpens with another club. The Reds just can’t get over the hump due to MLB’s worst set of relievers. A 5.68 ERA over the past week is further proof nothing has changed post All-Star break. The injury to Nick Castellanos isn’t helping matters. Outslugging their bad bullpen is that much harder without him. — Rogers

Record: 50-50
Previous ranking: 13

How desperate are the Phillies to add rotation help? Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin have started 58 of the team’s 100 games (heading into Wednesday) and combined for a 3.56 ERA. The other starters have combined for a 5.98 ERA. Here’s the odd thing, however: The Phillies are 29-29 in games that Wheeler, Nola and Eflin started and 21-21 in games the other pitchers start. — Schoenfield

Record: 51-51
Previous ranking: 15

Austin Riley quietly continues to have an outstanding season, ranking 23rd in the majors in OPS. He’s hitting .316/.411/.646 in July with season-best monthly rates in walk rate (13.7%) and strikeout rate (17.9%). If he keeps that strikeout rate around 20% like he has the past month, he’s going to keep these numbers going. The defense metrics are also positive (plus-5 defensive runs saved at third base). He’s looking like a future All-Star. — Schoenfield

Record: 50-49
Previous ranking: 17

The soon-to-be-Guardians maintain a daily sparring against the .500 barrier and a membership in the group of six AL teams that have at least some shot at landing a wild-card spot as a road team. Alas, the emphasis is on “some” shot, as Cleveland owns by far the lowest probability among those teams. Thus, the approach at the deadline and for the rest of the season figures to be about positioning for the future. That puts the focus on shortstop Amed Rosario, who in his first year in Cleveland has roughly approximated the offensive production of traded star Francisco Lindor. Lindor, though, has put up career-worst numbers — and yet still has a better OPS than Rosario. Also, Rosario has again put up shaky defensive metrics. The good news for Cleveland is that it has a number of options for replacing Lindor in the long term already in house if Rosario doesn’t stake claim to the position. — Doolittle

Record: 51-50
Previous ranking: 18

The recoveries for both Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon have slowed in recent days, and the Angels don’t necessarily have the time to wait for them. The trade deadline is a day away, the gap between them and the top teams in their division has only widened, and general manager Perry Minasian might have no choice but to part with productive pending free agents to acquire more long-term players in return. At the top of that list is dynamic closer Raisel Iglesias. And the Angels don’t have the bullpen depth to overcome that loss if they trade him away. — Gonzalez

Record: 51-51
Previous ranking: 20

St. Louis might regret not retooling this month, but perhaps the Cardinals really can go on a run when Jack Flaherty returns. Like the Reds, the Cardinals can’t get past a bad bullpen. A recent ninth-inning collapse — the Cubs scored six runs on them — was the latest sign this just might not be their year. There are those 13 games left against the Brewers, but St. Louis might need to win 10 of them to be considered a contender in the division. — Rogers

Record: 50-53
Previous ranking: 21

The Cubs will get a long look at some young players in the second half including in starts from pitchers Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele. Outfielder Greg Deichmann — just acquired from Oakland in the Andrew Chafin deal — could make his debut this September, while the team will quietly talk with its remaining free agents — whomever they might be — in hopes of locking them up. First up is the trade deadline and some veterans moving on. — Rogers

Record: 49-55
Previous ranking: 22

There has been a lot of good stuff in AJ Hinch’s debut season as Detroit’s manager. A surprise midseason run at the .500 mark. The ascension and continued improvement of the Tigers’ top young starting pitchers. And then there’s the offseason find of Rule 5 outfielder Akil Baddoo. Baddoo garnered a lot of attention over the first couple of weeks of the season by following a strong spring with an electric start. He inevitably tailed off and settled into the day-to-day of a long campaign. While we haven’t heard as much about Baddoo since April, he has arguably been Detroit’s top hitter this season, sporting a team-best 134 OPS+ at the age of 22. Baddoo has his rough spots, to be sure, such as virtually no production against lefties. Nevertheless, his has been one of the season’s more underrated good stories. — Doolittle

Record: 46-54
Previous ranking: 19

A 6-16 record in July through Tuesday and the news of Stephen Strasburg‘s season-ending neck surgery and Trea Turner‘s positive COVID-19 test have pretty much sealed the fate on the end of Max Scherzer‘s career with the Nationals, especially because he’s now willing to approve a deal if he gets traded to the right team (apparently, one of the West Coast teams). There are even rumors the Nationals would consider trading Turner, a free agent after 2022. Keep in mind they still owe a ton of deferred money to Scherzer, plus $35 million a year to Strasburg through 2026 and $82 million to Corbin through 2024. The future might be bleak in D.C. — Schoenfield

Record: 44-58
Previous ranking: 23

The Marlins traded Starling Marte to the A’s for Jesus Luzardo, who struggled mightily for Oakland this year (6.87 ERA, 11 home runs in 38 IP), but is a former top prospect, is still just 23 years old and has just 15 career starts in the majors. Given how reluctant teams are to part with top prospects or young players for rentals such as Marte, this is an outstanding roll of the dice by Kim Ng for a pitcher who still has plenty of upside. — Schoenfield

Record: 44-56
Previous ranking: 26

Royals GM Dayton Moore told reporters this week that Kansas City’s approach around the trade deadline will be about setting up the roster for next season. If the Royals were to trade a veteran, such as Danny Duffy, Jorge Soler or Whit Merrifield, the ask would be for near-ready prospects as opposed to younger ones. One increasing factor in that is the persistent rise of elite shortstop prospect Bobby Witt Jr. Witt entered the season with just 37 games of rookie ball on his professional dossier. This season, he has already conquered Double-A and appears to be on his way to breezing through Triple-A as well. Not only does an appearance with the big league club in September seem likely, but you have to figure as Moore shapes a 2022 roster he hopes will return Kansas City to contention, he’ll do so with Witt penciled in as an infield regular. — Doolittle

Record: 43-60
Previous ranking: 24

Disappointed baseball fans in the Twin Cities saw at least a couple of rays of sunshine this week. First, owner Jim Pohlad told The Athletic that the Twins were “absolutely not” considering a full rebuild. And while a decision this week to trade young veterans Jose Berrios and/or Byron Buxton might undercut that message, it’s nevertheless refreshing for a franchise once put on the contraction block to have an owner emphasizing the need to win. As for Buxton, while he has yet to come to an agreement on an extension, he at least made it clear to reporters that his preference is to remain in Minnesota. It has been a deflating season for the Twins, but there is no reason the franchise needs to go into a tailspin in response. — Doolittle

Record: 44-58
Previous ranking: 25

It seems unfathomable, but there has been chatter in recent days that the Rockies ultimately might not trade Trevor Story, even though he is a pending free agent who doesn’t seem to have any plans of returning to Colorado in the offseason. The only reason for keeping Story would stem from the Rockies’ belief that the compensation pick they would attain for extending him a qualifying offer might be more valuable than the return on a trade. Story was batting only .240/.311/.422 through his first 87 games and is under control for only the next two-plus months, but conventional wisdom still states that he will be traded somewhere. — Gonzalez

Record: 38-63
Previous ranking: 28

First it was Adam Frazier on the move. Then Tyler Anderson. Could Richard Rodriguez be far behind? Pittsburgh is retooling under GM Ben Cherington, but the question with the Pirates is will they ever spend again? It’s a yearly topic for the Bucs, who seem miles behind the other four teams in their division. — Rogers

Record: 36-66
Previous ranking: 27

There’s not much to say about the Rangers that they haven’t said on the field since the All-Star break: They snapped a 12-game losing streak on Tuesday, just reinforcing the fact that the roster will look very different come Friday night. Joey Gallo is expected to be dealt to the Yankees as the two sides were reportedly finalizing an agreement Wednesday, and Kyle Gibson will likely be gone, too. Texas is in the hunt for the first pick in next summer’s draft, placing an exclamation point on a horrendous season. — Rogers

Record: 35-65
Previous ranking: 29

After a strong start to the season before hitting the injured list, John Means has struggled since returning to the Baltimore rotation, allowing five runs in five innings against Tampa Bay on July 20 and giving up four runs in 6.2 innings against the Washington Nationals on Sunday. Meanwhile, Matt Harvey has pitched extremely well during his past two starts, going six innings and allowing no runs against both the Nationals and the Royals. — Lee

Record: 32-71
Previous ranking: 30

Caleb Smith, under control through the 2023 season, looked like an attractive trade candidate heading into the deadline. But the 30-year-old left-hander has struggled in July, allowing 21 runs and eight homers in 19 2/3 innings. Still, the D-backs have a plethora of trade options at their disposal. The extent to which they deal will hinge on the front office’s calculations for how quickly the organization can become competitive again in such a difficult division. — Gonzalez

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