Major League Baseball's 4 p.m. ET Thursday non-waiver trade deadline is fast approaching, and teams must make last-minute decisions about where they stand. Are they sellers? Or are they buyers? Are they willing to part with key assets to build toward the future? Or are they willing to make a large offer to secure that missing piece for a possible playoff push?
It's an interesting time of summer, when teams take deep looks at their resources and their postseason chances. One question stands at the center of all discussion: Just how good are they?
For some, the answer is clear. For others, debate remains.
Clarity will come in the next few days. Contenders will solidify their identities for the regular season's closing months, with some securing trade targets and others left to wonder what could have been.
Here's a closer look at potential sellers, buyers and players likely to be dealt before the deadline expires.
Stats through July 27
FIVE LIKELY SELLERS
Philadelphia Phillies: With hopes for contention in the National League East long gone, it's time to build for the future. The Phillies entered the All-Star break at 42-53 and have lost six of 10 games to begin the second half. Outfielder Marlon Byrd, right-hander A.J. Burnett, right-hander Kyle Kendrick and reliever Antonio Bastardo are the most likely to be moved. Left-hander Cliff Lee likely will be held on to until an August deal can be made. Expect left-hander Cole Hamels to stay with the Philles unless they receive an offer they can't refuse.
San Diego Padres: Like the Diamondbacks, the Padres will continue to sell because of the dominance enjoyed by the Dodgers and Giants at the top of the NL West. San Diego was 41-54 at the All-Star break, and even with five wins in nine games from July 18-27, it should concentrate on gaining parts for the future. The Padres already sent third baseman Chase Headley to the Yankees, and look for outfielder Chris Denorfia to be dealt, too. Reliever Joaquin Benoit and right-hander Ian Kennedy likely won't go unless a potential suitor blows away San Diego with an offer.
Minnesota Twins: The Twins are clear sellers at the deadline with an 11-game deficit in the American League Central to the Detroit Tigers. First baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales already was traded to the Seattle Mariners, an obvious sign of Minnesota's intentions. Outfielder Josh Willingham, right-hander Kevin Correia and catcher Kurt Suzuki could be on their way out of Minneapolis as well. Suzuki was thought to have the potential to sign an extension with the Twins, but discussions reportedly haven't reached a stage where a breakthrough is on the horizon.
Texas Rangers: The Rangers' free fall means they will continue to be active sellers at the trade deadline. At 41-64, they're 24 1/2 games back of the Oakland Athletics in the American League West. They already traded right-hander Joakim Soria to the Detroit Tigers, and outfielder Alex Rios and reliever Neal Cotts could be the next players to go. It's a sign of the times for a franchise that will miss the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since clinching three consecutive postseason appearances from 2010 to 2012.
Boston Red Sox: General manager Ben Cherington has made it clear the defending World Series champions are open for business. Right-hander Jake Peavy was dealt to the Giants, and with Boston in last place in the American League East with a 48-57 record, rumors have intensified about left-hander Jon Lester. Reliever Andrew Miller is reportedly being shopped. Outfielder Jonny Gomes and reliever Burke Badenhop also could draw interest by the deadline.
FIVE LIKELY BUYERS
New York Yankees: They're just four games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East at 54-50, and the AL's second wild-card spot remains very much in play with a one-game deficit to the Toronto Blue Jays. General manager Brian Cashman has already been active with the acquisitions of McCarthy and Headley, plus the additions of relievers Jeff Francis (from the Athletics) and Chris Capuano (Rockies). The Yankees see opportunity in Derek Jeter's final season within an average AL East. They should be shopping.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Starting pitching is the main need for the Dodgers in their attempt to hold off the Giants in a two-team National League West race. After Sunday, the Dodgers held a 1 1/2-game lead in the division. Should the Tampa Bay Rays place ace left-hander David Price on the market, Los Angeles has the prospects to make a deal. Outfielder Matt Kemp could be moved, possibly in a trade with the Red Sox for Lester. This much is known: The Dodgers are a threat for anything.
San Francisco Giants: The Peavy acquisition showed the Giants' desire for starting pitching with right-hander Matt Cain on the disabled list with elbow inflammation in his throwing arm. They also could seek help in center field, depending on their faith in Angel Pagan to stay healthy with a bulging disk problem in his lower back. Second base also could be an area of need if the Giants decide recently added Dan Uggla isn't the answer. He has hit .152 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 51 games this season.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals, in their attempt to overcome the Brewers in a tight National League Central race, could bolster their chances by adding a starting pitcher. The question remains how good of one. It seems that general manager John Mozeliak may prefer a starter who could stabilize the rotation over a possible anchor acquisition to complement ace right-hander Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals had considered Peavy before the Red Sox dealt him to the Giants. St. Louis has been linked as a possible landing spot for Price, but the cost for him may prove too high for Mozeliak's liking.
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles should see opportunity to take control of an average American League East. They fared well on a tough post-All-Star break West Coast swing, winning two of three games against the Los Angeles Angels and three of four over the Mariners after dropping two of three against the Athletics to begin the trip. Baltimore has shown a tendency to be aggressive at the trade deadline under general manager Dan Duquette, as evidenced by the acquisitions of right-hander Bud Norris, reliever Francisco Rodriguez and right-hander Scott Feldman last year. Look for pitching to remain a heavy interest in the days before the deadline.
Alex Rios, OF, Texas Rangers: With the Rangers going nowhere, Rios has long been mentioned as a trade possibility. He has hit .299 with four home runs, 43 RBI, a .754 OPS and an on-base percentage of .328. Rios' play has fallen off of late -- he hit .261 in June, and he's hitting .293 in July after posting averages of better than .300 in April and May -- but he still has a history of power despite his home run total this year.
Chris Denorfia, OF, San Diego Padres: Denorfia is expected to provide value to someone because of his success against left-handed pitching. He owns a .302 career batting average and an .813 OPS against southpaws. Overall, he has hit just .244 with one home run, 16 RBI and a .616 OPS this season. Still, he provides versatility within a lineup, and though he wouldn't bring the haul Headley did, the Padres could receive a pleasing return for him.
Josh Willingham, OF, Minnesota Twins: In 2012, he hit a career-high 35 home runs, so Willingham has a history of power. Though he's not performing at that same level this year -- he has hit .219 with 10 home runs, 29 RBI and a .782 OPS -- the 2012 American League Silver Slugger Award winner could provide value for someone in the final months of a three-year, $21 million deal.
A.J. Burnett, SP, Philadelphia Phillies: Burnett could stabilize the rotation for a contending team. He's 6-9 with a 3.86 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 22 starts this season. He has been solid in five July starts, with a 1-2 record and a 3.74 ERA with 34 strikeouts. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been linked to him, and he has a history there, having pitched with them in 2012 and 2013.
Emilio Bonifacio, OF/IF, Chicago Cubs: He's coveted for his versatility as a proven utility man. With the Cubs far in the National League Central basement, he could bring value to a franchise looking to gain assets for a late-season rally. He has hit .268 with one home run and 16 RBI this season. A strained rib cage muscle kept him out from July 13-20.