The MLB trade deadline is right around the corner, and with a bevy of teams still lurking on the fringe of contention, the upcoming week will go a long way in determining whether a number of clubs are buyers or sellers.
At the conclusion of play Sunday, 20 teams were within five games of a playoff spot, and the American League East, American League Central and National League Central were still up for grabs.
Meanwhile, the three runaway division leaders—the Houston Astros, Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers—could be gearing up to make splashy deals in an effort to solidify their standing as World Series contenders.
For now, just remember these rankings are fluid and that teams rise and fall based on where they were ranked the previous week. If a team keeps winning, it will keep climbing—it's as simple as that.
With that in mind, here's a look at where all 30 teams stand:
Baltimore Orioles (Up 6 Spots)
The Baltimore Orioles were in a free fall down the rankings with a 3-10 stretch of games heading into last week, but they righted the ship with a four-game sweep of the Texas Rangers.
It sounds like that might be enough for the team to bypass the idea of selling at the deadline.
"Whatever we do, we are going to try to help the club. I still like a lot of our core players. I don't believe all this stuff that says we have half the club on the market. Because we have a lot of baseball left to be played," Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette told Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com.
Maybe that's just posturing on his part, but for the clubs lining up to make a run at relief ace Zach Britton, that was not what they wanted to hear.
As it stands, the O's are seven games back in the AL East and 3.5 back with six teams to pass in the wild-card race.
One of their biggest issues this year has been winning away from Camden Yards, as they've gone 17-30 on the road versus 30-21 at home.
With a road trip to Tampa Bay and Texas this week, it looks an awful lot like make-or-break time for Baltimore.
Chicago Cubs (Up 4 Spots)
The Chicago Cubs are an MLB-best 8-1 with a plus-23 run differential since the All-Star break. They swept the Atlanta Braves and then took two of three from the rival St. Louis Cardinals last week.
Willson Contreras delivered the big blow Sunday night, and he's been Chicago's best hitter since the break, batting .324 with three doubles, four home runs and 11 RBI since taking over the cleanup spot.
Manager Joe Maddon praised Contreras while talking with reporters following Sunday's win:
"He's just playing his butt off, literally, right now. Everything he's doing is pretty darn good. He plays with enthusiasm, also. You gotta feel that in the stands.
"There's sometimes he might get overenthusiastic. I prefer toning people down as opposed to pumping them up all the time. He's doing everything. He's hitting fourth, he's catching, he's handling a really good pitching staff, he's throwing people out, he's blocking the ball really well, and he's hitting homers, so God bless him."
The addition of Jose Quintana has provided an obvious spark, and the left-hander was solid in his Wrigley Field debut. With Kyle Hendricks set to make his first start since June 4 on Monday, things are finally looking up for a starting rotation that had been the team's biggest weakness for much of the year.
The Crosstown Classic against the Chicago White Sox awaits this week, as the Cubs look to seize control of the NL Central.
Milwaukee Brewers (Down 7 Spots)
While the Cubs have gone 8-1 since the break, the Milwaukee Brewers are heading in the opposite direction. They're 3-7 in the second half and 1-7 in their last eight games.
The two teams are in a virtual tie atop the Central, which has left the Brewers with some tough decisions to make ahead of the trade deadline.
By all accounts, this was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Brew Crew, as they've worked hard in recent years to build one of the deeper farm systems in the majors.
Do they mortgage some of that young talent to make an ahead-of-schedule push for the postseason, or do they ride things out with the group of guys they have and continue focusing on the future?
The team has been linked to Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler (per Buster Olney of ESPN), Miami Marlins closer AJ Ramos (per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports), Philadelphia Phillies reliever Pat Neshek (per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports) and Atlanta Braves starter Jaime Garcia (per Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com) in recent days and several other starting pitchers before that.
Whether Milwaukee decides to pull the trigger on a big move could hinge on how it performs this week. It's not an easy road, as it'll visit the Nationals and host the Cubs.
Texas Rangers (Down 5 Spots)
To their credit, the Rangers bounced back nicely from a four-game sweep at the hands of the Orioles to do some sweeping of their own over the weekend against the Rays.
However, with a 48-50 record and the deadline fast approaching, the losing week did little to provide any clarity for how the club should approach the rapidly unfolding trade market.
The American League West race is essentially over, as the Astros hold a 17-game lead and are showing no sign of slowing down.
That leaves a cluttered wild-card race as Texas' only hope for reaching the postseason, and while it sits just 2.5 games back, it'd still have to pass five teams merely to pull into the No. 2 spot.
It's a tough pill to swallow after the Rangers entered the season with World Series aspirations, but it looks like Texas' best course of action would be to flip Yu Darvish for a prospect haul and start looking ahead to next season.
Whether general manager Jon Daniels agrees remains to be seen.
Tampa Bay Rays (Down 4 Spots)
Tampa Bay reached new heights last week when it pulled into the No. 6 spot in these rankings, but the climb stopped there.
"The Rays were swept by the Rangers at Tropicana Field, right out of any momentum they had from a successful western trip—three blown leads in as many days, three crushing losses," Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Bay Times wrote. "Suddenly, the losing streak is four. Suddenly, it feels like the edge of a cliff."
A tad melodramatic? Maybe, but that's late July baseball for a team on the fringe of contention: One bad week—or even series—can mean the difference between buying and selling.
More times than not, the Rays stand pat regardless of their position on July 31. That's life as a small-market team reliant on homegrown talent and bargain-bin additions.
This year could be the exception, though.
"While still operating under the proviso of being 'responsible,' they seem willing to take on some salary and part with some good—though not their elite—prospects and maybe a player off the current roster," Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote, listing an "impact reliever and maybe a bat" as the likely targets.
A pair of division foes in the Orioles and New York Yankees await this week as the Rays mull things over.
MVPs of the Week
AL MVP: 2B Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles
Stats: 13-for-30, 2 2B, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 8 R
Jonathan Schoop was Baltimore's lone All-Star representative this season after a huge first half, and he's kept things rolling post-break.
The 25-year-old showed good pop last year, when he slugged 38 doubles and 25 home runs, but he hit just .267/.298/.454 in the process.
He's improved to an impressive .307/.353/.552 line so far this season, and he's already tallied 21 home runs and 70 RBI thanks to a terrific performance last week.
NL MVP: 3B Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
Stats: 11-for-24, 1 2B, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 9 R
Nolan Arenado last week enjoyed perhaps his best single-game performance in what has already been an impressive career.
In his fifth MLB season, Arenado recorded his first five-hit game and his first three-homer game in one fell swoop against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old plated 13 runs to help the Colorado Rockies to a 5-1 week and increase his MLB-leading RBI total to 86 as he looks to pace the majors in that category for the third consecutive season.
At some point he has to start getting the national attention he deserves, right?
Stats of the Week
Let's dive into some of the better nuggets from around the league.
We'll start with the Dodgers, who broke a record previously held by the 1906 Cubs—the team that recorded the best winning percentage (.763) in modern baseball history.
We also have the Pirates, who swept the Brewers last week with four straight comeback victories.
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, they're just the third team in MLB history to record a four-game sweep against a first-place divisional opponent (or league opponent before 1969) with all four games being comeback wins, joining the 1924 Pirates and 2006 Astros.
Meanwhile, the season of home runs continued, as Bryce Harper and Aaron Judge both "broke" Statcast with tape-measure shots.
Judge's teammate Brett Gardner might not reach quite the same distances when he goes over the fence, but the Yankees are 14-0 this year when he homers. And with No. 17 on Sunday, he also tied his career high.
A few more quick tidbits from around the Twitterverse:
The previous record holder was Sam McDowell, who notched 103 strikeouts in 10 straight starts in 1965 and again in 1968, per Elias.
Nothing like a Tom "Flash" Gordon mention to kick-start your Monday.
And finally, was I the only one surprised to learn that Jose Altuve had never had a hitting streak of more than 15 games?
He's gone 34-for-68 (.500) during his current streak, raising his batting average from .327 to .358. Going back a bit further, he has a hit in 28 of his last 30 games and a .452/.511/.702 line in 141 plate appearances during that span.
I'll say it: Judge is amazing, but Altuve would deserve the AL MVP Award if the season ended today.
Must-See Upcoming Matchup
Sonny Gray vs. Minnesota Twins (Sunday)
Expect a small army of scouts to make the trip to Oakland on Sunday for what could very well be Sonny Gray's final start in an Athletics uniform.
That is, if he hasn't already been traded by then.
Gray is no stranger to hearing his name pop up in trade talks, but there appears to be some real momentum toward a deal getting done this time. In fact, Olney on July 17 listed him among a group of players "whose trades are considered imminent by baseball officials."
The 27-year-old's stock plummeted last season, a trying year in which he was beset by injuries, and he followed that up by getting a late start to the 2017 campaign.
However, he's apparently healthy now and has been rolling of late, going 4-1 with a 1.62 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and .155 opponents' batting average in his last five starts.
Under team control through the 2019 season, he won't come cheap, but he could be the missing piece for a squad like the Astros.
This matchup also marks a scheduled start for Bartolo Colon, provided he doesn't hang it up following Monday's outing at the Dodgers. If he's still in uniform, that could be worth the price of admission in itself.
Looking for someone to yell at about where your favorite team was slotted in the latest rankings? I'll meet you in the comments section.