- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN Insider
The strongest American League teams have gotten even stronger in recent days. The Royals added two All-Star players in three days in Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist; Kansas City's front office has its players' backs, writes Sam Mellinger, and the Royals won again Tuesday to improve their record to 61-38.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Angels picked up three outfielders in about 24 hours, making deals for Shane Victorino, David Murphy -- who got word of the deal as the Indians prepared to play Tuesday's game -- and David DeJesus (who commented on the trade here).
The Astros landed one of the best pitchers available, Scott Kazmir, and are talking about doing more. The Yankees are engaged and prepared to make a move, perhaps for one of the top relievers being discussed, Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel.
Maybe this is why teams are approaching the second wild-card berth differently. Yes, it's true that the Texas Rangers were within five games of a playoff spot as of Wednesday morning, but the cold reality is that they are one of seven teams vying for that spot because the Royals, Yankees, Angels and Astros have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, both in the standings and with their deal-making. Hope for the Rangers requires beating out six other teams for a shot at being the road team in the winner-take-all one-game wild-card game against either the Angels or the Astros.
With the trade of Murphy, the Indians effectively waved the white flag, and the White Sox must make a similar decision with pitcher Jeff Samardzija in the hours ahead. The time has come for general managers to declare their true intentions.
Here are the teams most under pressure to make a deal with a little more than 48 hours to go before the trade deadline:
1. Detroit Tigers: They're 4 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the race for the second wild-card spot, and after Tuesday's loss to the Rays, they are four games below .500 and have eight losses in their past 11 games. They need to vigorously pursue one of two paths: either move David Price and Yoenis Cespedes, or add a starting pitcher.
Keep in mind that Tigers general manager David Dombrowski has a long history of trade discussions with Reds general manager Walt Jocketty, and the two of them worked out a trade of Alfredo Simon in the winter.