On Friday MLB action resumes after an interesting All-Star break, and there are plenty of fluid storylines we’re staying tuned into.
A number of divisions remain up for grabs, and some second- and third-place teams are poised to make runs into the playoff picture. Some major pieces could find themselves on new teams as well.
Here are the nine storylines to watch going forward in the second half of the MLB season:
1. Can the A’s stave off the Angels?
Entering Friday’s action, the Athletics hold a 1.5 game advantage over the second-place Angels. Oakland loaded up for the regular-season stretch by adding Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija, but the Angels have some reinforcements as well.
Jason Grilli, Joe Thatcher and Joe Smith are now helping to close out of games for Los Angeles, and Garrett Richards is back in the picture. If the team can add another arm, the A’s may feel less confident as the fall nears.
2. Will David Price get dealt?
He’s the biggest name on the trade market, and if the Rays continue to plummet out of contention you’d have to think the organization will try and get compensated for the ace.
The asking price will be high for Price, and rightfully so. Similar to the Kevin Love situation in the NBA, the Rays don’t have to deal him or can elect to wait into next year, but they’re better off getting the most for him right now.
The Yankees, Giants and Cardinals are among the clubs to keep an eye on.
3. Matt Kemp wants to play every day or be traded
The 29-year-old Kemp has raised his batting average to .269 and his OPS to .760 since May 2. Of course, he’s one of MLB’s best five-tool players.
The Red Sox showed interest in the Dodgers’ outfielders earlier this year, and Los Angeles had similar intrigue in the Sox’s relievers. The Mariners may also make a play.
4. Phillies unloading?
Lee is expected to return to the big leagues before the trade deadline, perhaps to showcase he’s healthy and can help out a contender. He seems the most likely to change uniforms.
5. Who will emerge from the AL East?
The Blue Jays are four games back of the Orioles for the AL East lead, and the Yankees are a game back of Toronto. At this point, it’s anybody’s division to take.
Which team will make a move to separate from the rest of the pack? Will the Yanks make a big trade? Can the O’s hang on? Or will the Jays make the playoffs for the first time in 21 years?
6. The MVP awards
Let’s be real: Mike Trout is already the AL MVP. But the race is more open on the NL side. Troy Tulowitzki is the odds-on favorite, but like other contenders like Giancarlo Stanton, their teams are not in a pennant race.
Andrew McCutchen has a chance to repeat as MVP, especially if Pittsburgh can make a surge in the Wild Card race. Right now, it’s an interesting race to keep an eye on.
7. The Cy Young race
Masahiro Tanaka was in the mix for both the AL Cy Young and the AL Rookie of the Year until he got injured. Now the Yankees are optimistic he can be back at the end of August.
Tanaka’s injury opens the door for King Felix Hernandez to earn yet another Cy Young and Jose Abreu to take home Rookie of the Year honors. In fact, Abreu has a chance to break Mark McGwire‘s rookie home run record of 49. He’s 20 bombs away.
They should send Tanaka a fruit basket or something.
8. Jeter’s last hurrah
Derek Jeter‘s final home game at Yankee Stadium will be Sept. 25 against Baltimore, and his last regular-season game — potentially the last one ever if the Yankees can’t make the playoffs — will be three days later at Fenway Park.
What a sad day for not only Yankees fans but baseball as a whole. One of the best to ever lace up the cleats and take the field, Jeter fittingly ends his career against his team’s arch-nemesis, Boston. Of course, expect the Fenway crowd to give Jeter a standing ovation.
9. Can St. Louis make a run?
The NL Central race is the tightest in baseball, with the Brewers up one game on St. Louis and 1.5 up on Cincinnati. However, doesn’t it feel like the Cards should be the favorite?
The big issue is whether the team can weather the Yadier Molina injury. Not only has Molina been a main contributor on offense, but he’s a major asset to the pitching staff. I’m not counting out the Cards.