(CBS Chicago) -- With August just days away, it's becoming easier to differentiate between the contenders and the pretenders. Also looming is MLB's trade deadline. Friday is teams' last chance to fill any needs going into the pennant race and, ideally, the playoffs. On the flipside, teams with expiring contracts and dwindling postseason hopes can unload players who may not be in their longer-term plans.
This week's Baseball Report looks at the looming trade deadline, the Baltimore Orioles' sweep of the Washington Nationals, and the slipping away of Trevor Bauer's career.
MLB Trade Deadline
The trade deadline for Major League Baseball is July 30. And many players could be changing teams. Some bigger names possibly on the move in the coming days include Chicago Cubs outfielder and third/first baseman Kris Bryant and Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story. Minnesota Twins centerfielder Byron Buxton and Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer's names have also come up.
As of Monday, the Cubs are two games below .500 and nine games off the pace in the National League Central. Three teams are in front of them in their division alone. And given how they've floundered this season, that seems unlikely to change. Bryant, however, has seen a bit of a resurgence since his injury-riddled 2020 season. The National League MVP from 2016, the year the Cubs won the World Series can play any spot in the outfield, as well as first and third base. He's slashing .266/.353/.500, with 17 HRs and 50 RBI in his 316 ABs. He will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, but has the versatility in the field and power at the plate to help a contender now.
The Rockies came into the season destined for the National League West cellar. They've exceeded expectations, or the Arizona Diamondbacks are worse than expected. Either way, the Rockies have struggled in a division where they've been looking up at the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Diego Padres since April. Rockies shortstop Trevor Story could find himself with the Yankees in New York by the end of the week. Story, another pending unrestricted free agent, is turning in stats a little below his career averages. But his slashline of .242/.313/.425 -- as opposed to .273/.339/.521 -- won't scare away suitors.
The Twins came into the 2021 season looking to contend in the American League Central. They have not come anywhere close. While the Chicago White Sox are cruising along in first, the Twins, at 42-58, continue to sink. Buxton is one of MLB's better outfielders, when he can get on the field. The problem for the Twins, and the risk for another team, is that he's often injured. Buxton is signed through 2022 in Minnesota, though he reportedly turned down a contract extension. So he could be on the move. The Philadelphia Phillies have shown interest, if the Twins choose to part ways with their talented outfielder.
The Nationals sit below the Phillies in the competitive National League East. While they have hinted at contending from time to time, that seems to be over. Slugger Kyle Schwarber has been laid up with a hamstring injury, and the Nats have drifted from relevance. Most recently, they were swept by the Baltimore Orioles, proud owners of MLB's second-worst record. Nationals ace Max Scherzer is having another solid season in what's surely a Hall of Fame career. He has 142 strikeouts and a 2.83 ERA in 105 innings pitched. The Houston Astros and Dodgers could both use pitching help in their respective pennant chases, not to mention the playoff experience Scherzer brings to the table. The Dodgers, in particular, lost a big piece of their rotation when Trevor Bauer was placed on administrative leave in early July.
Orioles Sweep Nationals
Baltimore, sitting at 34-64, last in the American League East, has had very little to celebrate this season. After a year off to recover from cancer, Trey Mancini is healthy and back in form. Catcher Adley Rutschman is a little closer to his MLB debut. And this past weekend the Orioles swept the Nationals in a three-game series at home. It was their first sweep of the Nationals at Camden Yards since 2010 and their second sweep in the last month.
On Friday night, Pat Valaika homered two times, as the Orioles picked up four runs off of starter Patrick Corbin en route to a 6-1 win. It was only their second victory in 11 games.
Matt Harvey gave up just one hit over the course of his six innings of scoreless ball. It was his second consecutive start in which he didn't allow a run in six innings. Then the Orioles held on for the 5-3 win.
Sunday's game come down to a Ramon Urías groundball that scored the winning run in a close play at the plate. The Orioles also managed three solo home runs to help complete the sweep.
The Orioles host the Marlins for two games, starting tomorrow. They'll then travel to Detroit for four games against the Tigers.
Trevor Bauer's Career In Jeopardy
After winning the National League Cy Young Award last season, Bauer joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in the offseason on a three-year, $102 million contract. Now, he may never play baseball again. MLB placed the pitcher on administrative leave earlier this month, soon after sexual assault allegations came to light. Pasadena police is also investigating the assault allegations.
Bauer is accused of choking and punching a woman and sexually assaulting her while she was unconscious. The pitcher denies the allegations and says the encounters were consensual. The incident in question took place earlier this year.
MLB's policy on domestic violence gives it the right to discipline players, regardless of whether charges are filed. Other players have been put on leave, pending the outcome of the legal process.
Bauer's suspension remains in effect, and could last through the end of the season or longer, depending on MLB's findings. Other Dodgers don't seem to want him back in the clubhouse. According to a Los Angeles Times report, no player has spoken out about the incident or defended the pitcher. They don't want him back.
If the allegations prove true, it seems unlikely another team would sign a player with his history. Criminal charges could make him unavailable regardless.
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