Will David Ortiz earn a stay in Boston? Will the New York Yankees have enough to hang on to the American League East? Can Ted Lilly save the Dodgers' fanbase from the McCourt divorce?
The 2010 trade deadline came and went Saturday afternoon with a flurry of both major and minor activity. Now, for players, general managers, owners and coaches alike, the proof is in the pudding.
The decisions made over the past few weeks, and the performances delivered over the next few months, will decide the fate of many a baseball personality.
Whether it's a contract extension, a pink slip, a postseason berth, or a playoff collapse, much is at stake.
Rosters largely set, teams are now hunkering down for the stretch run. Here are the top 10 big leaguers on the brink as their teams scramble toward October.
After another slow start, David Ortiz has once again become Big Papi. Still, his early season slumps have created enough uncertainty about his offensive prowess that Papi's 2011 club option won't be exercised.
Ortiz will have to settle for less money in 2011 and beyond, but he still wants a multi-year deal in Boston.
If Ortiz is to achieve such a contract, even at a more modest rate, then he will have to prove to Theo Epstein and the Red Sox Nation that he can constitute a reliable and forceful presence at designated hitter for the duration.
If he doesn't continue on a tear, Ortiz may not play again in Boston past this September.
Before 2010, Carlos Pena looked certain to win a big contract in free agency, which he hits this year.
Yet, Pena struggled mightily early in the season, much like David Ortiz, and his 23 homers don't entirely compensate for a .212 batting average.
If Pena wants to get paid out for more than a one-year $8 million contract, he'd do well to get that average way up. Pena needs to go on a tear. It's crunch time, and for the second-place Rays, there could never be a better time.
Brian Sabean yet again failed to pull the trigger on a big deal to bring a much needed big bat to San Francisco.
As pitching and prospect rich as the Giants are, they should have made a deal for a Corey Hart, a Prince Fielder, or an Adam Dunn. Yet, here they are, having stood pat.
Sabean has frustrated many Giants fans with his usual "next year" routine. If San Francisco and its dominant rotation fail to make the World Series, it should be a disappointment.
Sabean might not get the ax, but the Giant faithful should lose all confidence in their organization's seriousness when it comes to going all the way.
While most commentators have chosen to make the Yankees one of the big winners at this year's trade deadline, something seems amiss in that analysis.
The Yankees pursued Cliff Lee and were willing to part with Jesus Montero to obtain the Cy Young winner and soon-to-be free agent. Losing out at the eleventh hour to the Texas Rangers, Brian Cashman proceeded to refuse trading Joba Chamberlain to acquire Dan Haren.
Joba Chamberlain had better be worth it. In a year in which two major Yankee icons have passed away, including the legendary George Steinbrenner, the Yankees certainly want to make it a championship season.
Yet Cashman's additions of the likes of Lance Berkman fell far short of what he could have done to make a World Series berth all but certain. With A.J. Burnett a wreck and Phil Hughes' durability uncertain, Cashman really needed a starter, perhaps more than he realized.
Should the Yankees falter in the playoffs beyond the starts of C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, and Chamberlain doesn't put it all back together, Cashman's unwillingness to pull the trigger on Haren should come back to haunt him.
It's just a matter of pride, power, and pinstripes, but when you spend that much money and have an All-Star team, you better realize that winning is an imperative.
After failing to make a deal shipping David DeJesus and his career year to Boston before the star outfielder landed on the disabled list, Dayton Moore was still able to shed Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel.
Aside from Tim Collins, whose AA numbers are dominant, did Moore really get enough in return?
If Moore can't deal Guillen through waivers, he really could be the biggest loser of all general managers in 2010.
In an interview with ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein described an "empty feeling" being unable to acquire bullpen help or outfield depth at the trade deadline. Surely many in Red Sox Nation feel the same and are legitimately concerned to see the Sox part with a reliever and add none.
More than anyone in baseball, Epstein values his farm system talent, and he has generally been loathe to part with his prospects. In the case of Clay Buchholz, this attitude has paid huge dividends. However, as the Red Sox find themselves trailing in a three-team race for the AL East, Epstein's failure to pull off even a single impact deal could portend much greater failure for the Sox in 2010.
Certainly, Epstein's job isn't at stake. His pride, the Nation's pride, and his reputation as a golden boy general manager are, however, very much at stake. If the Sox fail to make the postseason, do not doubt that the sports commentators will overwhelmingly point to Epstein's quiet trade deadline as a key culprit.
The Reds hold a $12.75 million club option on Aaron Harang. With a 5.02 ERA, his highest since 2003, and a 1.56 WHIP, his highest since his rookie season, Harang isn't giving the Reds much reason to pick up that option.
While Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto, and Travis Wood have done their part as starters to get the Reds atop the National League Central, Harang and his poor numbers have seemed a detriment.
Harang needs an excellent second half, of he'll be an unexpected free agent this winter.
Oh, the Mets, those beloved losers with a mammoth payroll. Twin sister of the Cubs! Oh, Omar Minaya, piloting a Big Apple frigate into continual obscurity!
The Mets desperately needed pitching, both starting and relieving, at the trade deadline, were they to have a shot at dragging themselves from the depths of the National League East and back into contention.
Whether because the Mets' farm system is bankrupt, or because Omar Minaya is incompetent, or both, New York's other team couldn't make a deal before the non-waiver trade deadline.
Although first basemen are a dime a dozen, Minaya was unwilling to part with Ike Davis, and Johan Santana is therefore again left to fend for himself as a one-man rotation.
Philadelphia gets Roy Oswalt, Atlanta gets Kyle Farnsworth and Alex Gonzalez, Florida knows its place, Washington acquires Wilson Ramos, and the Metropolitans stand disturbingly pat.
Minaya has been on the hot seat a long time, and, not to be inflammatory, but the guy should just be fired.
Bud Selig has infuriated many owners and general managers around Major League Baseball by allowing a bankrupt Texas organization to repeatedly take on payroll.
Should the Rangers win it all, Selig will seem an astute physician of ailing clubs. Should the Rangers fall short after all these moves, Selig's allowances will be viewed as failed, unfair excesses.
Either way, the other owners don't look to be very happy with Selig, and how he leaves the Texas franchise could have a significant impact on his legacy.
Joba Chamberlain stopped at least one big trade this summer. Dan Haren could have been a Yankee if the struggling young gun had been made available. Chamberlain was deemed too valuable, too great an investment to deal. Well, Joba, the pressure's on now.
If Chamberlain fails to regain his once dominant stuff, his reputation and career, the Yankees' rotation and playoff hopes, and Cashman's acumen could all be on the line.