With the trade deadline fast approaching, the chances for Major League Baseball's top contenders to bolster their World Series hopes is dwindling.
While there are many of the usual suspects on top of their respective divisions like the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants, a few teams such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, who finished 34 games back last year and the Cleveland Indians, who finished 25 back, are still keeping their playoff hopes alive late into the season.
Let's take a look at who the top contenders of 2011 are and how possible trades could affect their playoff hopes.
Currently coming in at No. 8, the Detroit Tigers are in a good position to make the playoffs this season.
Given that the wild card in the American League always goes to the second place team in the AL East, the Tigers will have to finish first in the AL Central in order to make the post-season.
Detroit is sitting in first, but they’re sitting just above .500, giving the Cleveland Indians, who are just 2.0 games back, a very real possibility of overtaking them. Even the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins are still in it, sitting 3.5 and six games back respectively.
The majority of the trade talks in Detroit are centered around obtaining right-handed pitcher Hiroki Kuroda of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kuroda currently holds a 3.19 ERA in 20 games this season.
Ubaldo Jimenez has also had his name surfacing. The righty from the Colorado Rockies currently had a 6-9 record with a 4.20 ERA and 1.34 WHIP.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, both Jimenez and Kuroda seem more likely to head to the Yankees.
Erik Bedard, however, is also putting together a great season evidenced by his 2.82 ERA and may very well end up in Detroit.
Coming in at No. 7 are the Milwaukee Brewers who are currently sitting in first in a very tight National League Central.
It would appear that the wild card is likely to go to the second place team in the NL East, therefore the only team to make the postseason is going to have to finish first.
Despite the talent of Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks, the St. Louis Cardinals are currently just a half game back, while the Pittsburgh Pirates are just 1.5. Even the Cincinnati Reds, despite being below .500, are just 5.5 games back.
The Brewers have been eyeing Jamey Carroll who has been playing well since joining the Los Angeles Dodgers. Carroll is batting .291 with a .363 OBP this season.
Milwaukee has also been eyeing other utility players with decent bats in Jerry Hairston Jr. and Clint Barmes.
Coco Crisp of the Oakland Athletics has also been of interest to the Brewers. Crisp is currently batting .266 with a .316 OBP.
At No. 6, the Texas Rangers are currently the team to beat in the American League West. The Los Angeles Angels are just two games back, however.
Unfortunately for Texas, their efforts to obtain Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets were outdone by the San Francisco Giants. The right fielder has put up great numbers this season, batting .289 with 15 homers, 66 RBI, and a .391 OBP.
The Rangers still have a shot at closer Heath Bell of the San Diego Padres, however. Bell has a 2.40 ERA this season with 29 saves.
Also from the Padres, Mike Adams has also been a person of interest to the Rangers, which makes sense given his impressive 1.17 ERA. In 46 innings of work, Adams has 47 strikeouts and has given up just 24 hits.
On the Oakland Athletics, the Rangers have been eyeing Grant Balfour, who is 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA and Andrew Bailey, who has a 2.25 ERA this season.
All the players the Rangers have been looking are high quality and would certainly help bolster their bullpen.
At No. 5, the San Francisco Giants have a decent 3.5 game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West at the moment.
The 2010 World Series Champs are looking to repeat and have taken a big step towards that by obtaining Carlos Beltran.
Beltran’s .289 average, .319 OBP and .513 SLG along with his 66 RBI and 15 home runs will be a welcome addition to San Francisco’s struggling offense.
While Beltran may be the biggest move for the Giants, the organization is also looking at Ramon Hernandez of the Cincinnati Reds who is hitting .308 with a .368 OBP, .502 SLG and 10 home runs.
With San Francisco addressing their offensive needs, their chances in the playoffs are certainly improving.
Coming in at No. 4, the Atlanta Braves are sitting a full five games back of the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East, but they still currently hold the second-best record in the NL and are the favorite to win the wild card.
Like many teams, the Braves lost out on Carlos Beltran. They did pick up catcher Wil Nieves, however.
The Braves are still in search of some offensive assistance and have been eyeing Hunter Pence, who holds a .308 average, .355 OBP, 468 SLG, 62 RBI, and 11 home runs.
All-Star Carlos Quentin has also had his name come up in recent trade rumors. The Chicago White Sox outfielder currently has 20 home runs and a .872 OPS.
Lastly, Ryan Ludwick may be another option for the Braves. His average is just .240, but he has 11 home runs and 62 RBI this season.
Like usual, the New York Yankees are hanging around the top of the American League East and come in at No. 3. Currently, they are sitting in second place, three games behind the Boston Red Sox but are in comfortable control of the wild card.
Still, the Yankees are always active before the trade deadline and are looking high and low for additional pitching, both in the relieving and starting roles.
Mike Gonzalez of the Baltimore Orioles is a possibility, although his numbers are disappointing this season. He has just a 5.66 ERA and 1.69 WHIP.
Gio Gonzalez seems unlikely, but Randy Choate of the Florida Marlins would be a great fit. Choate currently has a 1.31 ERA and 0.97 WHIP.
Craig Breslow of the Oakland Athletics is also rumored to be drawing interest from the Yankees with his 3.28 ERA.
Two of the most popular trade names this season have been the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Hiroki Kuroda and the Colorado Rockies’ Ubaldo Jimenez. The Yankees are currently the favorites to pick both of these right-handers up as well.
In the tight American League East, the Boston Red Sox are currently on top. However, even if they were to slip to second, they’d likely take the wild card anyway.
Much like the Yankees, the Red Sox are never satisfied with their current position and have been very active this season as the trade deadline approaches.
Hiroki Kuroda and Ubaldo Jimenez are both possibilities for Boston, but they’ll likely have to outbid the Yankees for those arms.
Rich Harden of the Oakland Athletics is a possibility to help bolster the Red Sox bullpen. Harden holds a 4.63 ERA in 23.1 innings of work this season.
Despite an abysmal 4-14 record, Jeremy Guthrie has the attention of the Red Sox as well. His 4.33 ERA and 1.34 WHIP are decent, but his record isn’t aided by the fact that he’s playing for the last place Baltimore Orioles.
Lastly, Aaron Harang who is currently 9-2 with a 3.45 ERA may join the rotation in Boston.
Perennial contenders and easily No. 1 on this list, the Philadelphia Phillies hold the best record in baseball and are most likely to win the World Series this year given their stellar pitching staff.
Like many of the teams on this list, the Phillies missed out on Carlos Beltran as a much-needed bat in the lineup. Instead, they are looking to Hunter Pence and Carlos Quentin as potential replacements.
With Colby Rasmus going to the Toronto Blue Jays, the Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton may be a possible choice for the Phillies, although his .227 average isn't very appealing. Still, Upton has 15 home runs and 53 RBI this season.
With Philadelphia's pitching staff having the lowest WHIP in baseball and the second lowest ERA, an additional bat may be all the team needs to ensure another World Series Championship.