Trade deadline season is upon us, as you might have noticed. July 31st is now a mere 11 days away, and we're already having #HUGWATCH scares on Twitter. Just yesterday, we had ourselves a brief Justin Upton #HUGWATCH. It was an exciting time and we all got quite excited. Then Jon Heyman had to come out and say that Upton was lifted for medical reasons and ruin all our fun. This year's trade season has been ridiculously droll thus far, but things should hopefully start ratcheting up soon. Since 'tis the season and the playoff race is starting to feel quite a bit more real, let's take a gander at what the rest of the AL East is up to and how they could potentially spoil all the wonderful fun happening in the Bronx right now.
Baltimore Orioles: 4.0 games back
Those pesky Orioles are like a fungus that just won't die. They employed Delmon Young in a meaningful playing capacity for a fair portion of the season and they're not languishing in Phillies-dom. As someone who covers the Yankees, I'm certainly one to talk because Stephen Drew exists, but now we're confusing arguments and facts and that's just not fun, is it? Regardless, the Orioles are experiencing their usual slough of middling pitching, useful offense and endless Seven Nation Army chants. Adam Jones is doing Adam Jones things, Manny Machado has turned into a terrifying Adrian Beltre clone, and Jimmy Paredes is this year's BABIP Dragon-riding freak in the tradition of Nate McLouth and Steve Pearce. Oh, and this is one of the years Ubaldo Jimenez acts like a useable pitcher. This is a very typical Orioles team. However, because their offense hasn't been as torrid as it has been in the past, they're hanging out in second place.
Starting pitching will always be a need for Baltimore, because they're quietly awful at/have bad luck with developing their own arms. Kevin Gausman has been up and down all year, Dylan Bundy has been shut down again, and Hunter Harvey is done for the year. Chris Tillman having a 4.96 ERA isn't helping matters either. So as usual, they're probably going to make their usual Scott Feldman/Bud Norris acquisition. Based on the market, I'll say maybe they wind up with Mike Leake and he absolutely wrecks the Yankees in a few starts against them, as is traditional with these mid-level starters the Orioles always snap up.
Tampa Bay Rays: 4.5 games back
The Rays are doing that thing where they plug guys off the street into their rotation and they pitch well. I hate it when they do that. Seriously, they turned Erasmo Ramirez into a decent pitcher. Jim Hickey is an evil pitching wizard and you should fear him.
Anyways, Chris Archer has hit his ceiling and has an argument for the AL Cy Young Award, and Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore are back. Paired with a useful Nate Karns and a Jim Hickey-infused Ramirez, the Rays have themselves a rotation. As usual. Their bullpen is also terrifying.
And as usual, the offense is bad. Evan Longoria has only hit nine homers, Steven Souza is feast or famine, and Grady Sizemore has suddenly become a fixture in the lineup. Were it not for the random emergence of Logan Forsythe as a bat, this would be a sad state of affairs. Tampa has been in a bit of a funk and they're trending in the wrong direction.They could theoretically grab a bat (Justin Upton? Old friend Ben Zobrist?), but with the division being so tightly packed it may be in their best interest to not get too nuts as their farm is starting to show signs of life again. Tampa is a .500 team and they're playing like it.
Toronto Blue Jays: 4.5 games back
Once upon a time there was a team that scored all the runs and had none of the pitchers. This team was generally considered a fascinating group of men that could be truly terrifying if they got even just one good starter and a reliever or two. That team was the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays.
The Jays are basically the Mets in a mirror universe. Their rotation is legitimately bad, but their offense makes grown men run home crying. Sticking Josh Donaldson in a hitter's paradise and in the same lineup as Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion has gone exactly how you think it would. Justin Smoak and Chris Collabello may or may not now be good at hitting. Russell Martin is still frustratingly good. Kevin Pillar has become a defensive genius. The Blue Jays should be a hilariously unstoppable juggernaut.
But you see, here's the thing. The starting rotation consists of Mark Buehrle, Felix Doubront, the bad version of Drew Hutchison, what's left of R.A. Dickey and Marco Estrada. Their wunderkind Marcus Stroman is out for the year, and Daniel Norris is trying to figure out that whole control thing. Aaron Sanchez is going to the bullpen when he comes off the DL. Their closer came straight out of A-ball, and the rest of the bullpen is a disaster. The anti-Mets, everyone!
Obviously, they're supposedly hot on the trail of Cole Hamels and Johnny Cueto. Should they actually come up with one of them, it would be huge. But will it be enough to mitigate the rest of the blahness of the pitching staff? Stay tuned.
Boston Red Sox: 8.0 games back
Oh Boston. Did you really think sticking Hanley Ramirez in the outfield would go well, or that signing Wade Miley and Rick Porcello to those extensions so quickly were good choices? Did you think having Porcello as your figurative best starter was a good choice? Oh Boston. How you amuse us.
Father Time may finally be getting to David Ortiz, and the rest of the team isn't doing too hot either. Well, except for Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, who look like a pair of potential thorns in the Yankees' side for a long time to come. However, they went on a bit of a run before playing .500 baseball for the last ten games, so now there are theories circulating that they could buy themselves a shiny new Cole Hamels and make a run at the Wild Card. Or they could simply realize that they're not a good baseball team and sell off some stuff. Anybody want half of a Mike Napoli? Justin Masterson? Anybody?
Yeah, Boston's a mess. Makes you wonder why Ben Cherington is as loved as he is. Weird stuff.
Baltimore and Toronto look like the biggest threat to make the Yankees sweat down the stretch. They both have potent offenses that have been dragged down by their pitching, and if those pitching staffs get tune-ups the Yankees could be in for a real fight. The last few months will be spent playing a lot of games in-division and the standings could get quite tight before all is said and done. Baseball!
Nicolas Stellini is a staff writer at Pinstripe Alley, where he writes about the Yankees and covers the Double-A Trenton Thunder. His national coverage can be found at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.