Now that the MLB trade deadline has come and gone, we have now reached the point in which the marathon of the 162-game season diverts into an eight-week sprint to the finish.
What we have now, aside from the Cubs' seemingly insurmountable lead of eight games in the National League Central, is five other divisional races.
The Orioles have a one-game lead over the Red Sox in the American League East; the Indians have a four-game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central, and the Rangers are up 5.5 games over the Astros in the AL West. In the NL, the Nationals have a five-game lead over the Marlins in the NL East and the Giants are holding onto a slim two-game lead over the Dodgers.
If the season were to end today, the Wild Cards in the AL would both come out of the East, with the Blue Jays and Red Sox slightly ahead of the Astros and Tigers. The Mariners are in the race but are 3.5 games behind the Astros.
In the NL, the Wild Card would go to the Dodgers and the Marlins. St. Louis, just a half-game behind, is in a tight race with three other teams -- the Mets, Pirates and Rockies.
It's looking like the Wild Card races could be some of the tightest and wackiest of all time.
1. Chicago Cubs (64-41 overall record, No. 1 ranking last week) -- The Cubs have vastly improved their bullpen with the additions of lefty Mike Montgomery, closer Aroldis Chapman and righty Joe Smith. However, it seems like it will come down to how good Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey can be at the top of the rotation.
2. Washington Nationals (62-44, No. 3) -- By trading for Mark Melancon, the Nationals added the closer they needed for a price they found more palatable than the overwhelming cost of Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman. The real question is when is Bryce Harper going to show up?
3. Cleveland Indians (60-43, No. 5) -- The Indians are all in, as evidenced by the trade for Miller, who will do for them what he did for Baltimore in 2014. It's too bad they couldn't consummate a deal for catcher Jonathan Lucroy, because aside from all the offensive question marks they have, nothing stands out as a negative besides what they have gotten out of Yan Gomes (disabled list), Chris Gimenez and Roberto Perez at catcher. Acquiring outfielder Brandon Guyer from Tampa Bay was a nice pickup. But their success down the stretch could come down to getting outfielder Michael Brantley back.
4. Baltimore Orioles (59-45, No. 2) -- The Orioles made three additions during the last couple days in signing right-handed pitcher Logan Ondrusek for the bullpen, acquiring lefty Wade Miley to stabilize the middle of the rotation and reacquiring utility man Steve Pearce. They aren't big moves, but combined, they all help this gutty, character-driven team. But if first baseman Chris Davis doesn't show up at the plate, they'll have problems scoring enough runs.
5. Texas Rangers (62-44, No. 7) -- The Rangers tried and tried to improve their starting pitching, but in the end, they got better in the back of the bullpen and offensively. They improved their bullpen by acquiring former Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress. Offensively, they added outfielder/designated hitter Carlos Beltran and catcher Lucroy. There are more ways than one to skin a cat, and general manager Jon Daniels was very creative at bettering his team without hitting the right nail on the head.
6. Boston Red Sox (58-46, No. 4) -- President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is taking hits from the media and Red Sox nation for not dealing for a big-time starting pitcher. However, he improved the bench by acquiring Aaron Hill and shored up the back end of the bullpen by adding Brad Ziegler and Fernando Abad. And, let's face it, he did spend $30 million a year during the offseason to get the biggest fish in the sea -- lefty David Price. All eyes are on lefty Drew Pomeranz, but the deciders may well be right-hander Steven Wright and lefty Eduardo Rodriguez.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers (59-46, No. 9) -- The Dodgers made an almost game-changing (until the Giants last two trades) deal with Oakland by acquiring lefty starter Rich Hill and right fielder Josh Reddick. They also got creative with their attempts to add some late-inning velocity with right-handers Josh Fields and Jesse Chavez.
8. Toronto Blue Jays (59-47, No. 10) -- A year ago, the Blue Jays picked up shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Price. This year's additions of right-hander Scott Feldman and lefty Francisco Liriano hardly scare anyone. And last week's pickup of outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. seems like an odd fit.
9. San Francisco Giants (61-44, No. 8) -- The Giants got a nice haul in versatile infielder Eduardo Nunez, lefty reliever Will Smith and lefty starter Matt Moore. They are going to the mat with the Dodgers for control of NL West.
10. St. Louis Cardinals (56-49, No. 11) -- I'm not sure acquiring reliever Zach Duke is a big enough move to make up what they'll need to do down the stretch.
11. Miami Marlins (57-49, No. 12)
12. Houston Astros (56-49, No. 6)
13. Detroit Tigers (57-48, No. 17)
14. New York Mets (54-51, No. 14)
15. Seattle Mariners (52-52, No. 16)
16. Colorado Rockies (52-53, No. 19)
17. Pittsburgh Pirates (52-51, No. 13)
18. New York Yankees (53-52, No. 15)
19. Kansas City Royals (50-55, No. 18)
20. Chicago White Sox (51-54, No. 20)
21. Philadelphia Phillies (48-59, No. 22)
22. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (47-58, No. 23)
23. Milwaukee Brewers (47-57, No. 27)
24. Oakland Athletics (47-58, No. 21)
25. Tampa Bay Rays (42-62, No. 28)
26. Minnesota Twins (41-64, No. 26)
27. San Diego Padres (46-60, No. 24)
28. Cincinnati Reds (42-62, No. 29)
29. Arizona Diamondbacks (43-63, No. 25)
30. Atlanta Braves (37-68, No. 30)