Whew. That was an incredible Trade Deadline season. Now that the dust has settled following the blockbuster deals that went down last week, the question arises for each of the 30 clubs: "What now?"
With the help of each MLB.com beat writer, here's a look at the key question each team will have to answer as it opens the season's stretch run toward October:
American League East
Blue Jays: Do they have a trademark run in them?
Back in 2015, when the Blue Jays loaded up at the Trade Deadline, they reeled off 11 straight wins in early August, completely redefining their season. The 2021 Blue Jays need the same thing.
This roster is talented enough to pull it off, but inconsistencies have cut streaks short in '21. Between the lineup, rotation and bullpen, the Blue Jays seem to have two working at all times, but rarely three. If they can hit their stride together, though, that’s what this club needs to make a charge in the AL Wild Card and AL East races. Their major Deadline addition of José Berríos should help both the rotation and the bullpen, while the additions of Adam Cimber, Joakim Soria and Brad Hand make this bullpen look much stronger. The Blue Jays have said all along that they feel they have a season-defining run in them, but that needs to happen soon. -- Keegan Matheson
Orioles: Do they extend Trey Mancini?
The Orioles held onto their stars at the Deadline, not seriously entertaining offers for Cedric Mullins, John Means, nor Trey Mancini as they continue to consider them long-term pieces. The action required for Mancini to fit that bill is an extension, given he is under club control only through 2022. The time for talks to open may be this winter, after both sides have long expressed mutual interest, at least publicly, without formally engaging in talks. The big question is whether GM Mike Elias considers the Orioles’ window of contention close enough to make that kind of long-term financial commitment. He’s yet to sign any player to a contract longer than one year during his tenure as GM.
“I hope he’s here as long as possible,” Elias reiterated Friday. “Ultimately, we’re going to take things as they come, like baseball teams do in the Major Leagues, and look at stuff and keep talking. But he’s a very special part of this team, and he’s going to continue to be so, and we’re happy about that.” -- Joe Trezza
Rays: Do they have enough pitching?
The Rays addressed their biggest need for a right-handed power bat well before the Trade Deadline by acquiring Nelson Cruz from the Twins. They traded veteran left-hander Rich Hill to the Mets to make room in the rotation for highly touted 21-year-old Luis Patiño. They essentially swapped high-leverage relievers with the Mariners, sending out Diego Castillo and bringing in JT Chargois. But the only other moves they made were relatively minor, so they’re now counting on the arms they have -- as well as the young prospects coming up and injured pitchers coming back -- the rest of the way. Their bullpen should be fine as several key relievers begin to return soon. But what about the rotation? They have young arms like Patiño, Shane McClanahan and Josh Fleming along with the more experienced Ryan Yarbrough and Michael Wacha, plus the hope of a healthy Chris Archer and eventually top prospect Shane Baz. But with Tyler Glasnow expected to undergo Tommy John surgery soon, do they have the front-of-the-rotation arms it takes to win a postseason series? -- Adam Berry
Red Sox: How good will Sale be?
Citing a buyer’s market, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom opted not to make any impact additions to the rotation or the bullpen prior to the Trade Deadline. This makes the level of Sale’s performance upon his return to action that much more important. The way the Red Sox are constituted, they need Sale to pitch like an ace to have a realistic chance of making a deep October run. Boston’s rotation has been spotty in recent weeks, but Sale could take a little pressure off of everyone. Then again, that could put a lot of pressure on Sale, who hasn’t pitched a Major League game in nearly two years due to Tommy John Surgery. Sale could make his 2021 season debut as early as Aug. 12. -- Ian Browne
Yankees: Can they pitch enough?
The Yankees have addressed the flaws in their lineup, adding left-handed balance with Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo. They should score more runs -- now, do they have the pitching to go all the way? Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery have been strong contributors, while Domingo Germán, Jameson Taillon and Nestor Cortes Jr. have shown flashes of brilliance. The trade for Andrew Heaney, plus the pending returns of Luis Severino and Corey Kluber, could change the landscape of the Bombers' rotation and reduce stress on an overtaxed bullpen. -- Bryan Hoch
Indians: Is it time to look toward 2022?
The Indians moved five players off their 26-man roster, including Cesar Hernandez, Eddie Rosario, Jordan Luplow, DJ Johnson and Phil Maton. Luplow and Rosario had been on the injured list and Johnson had only made one appearance for the Indians in his limited time on the big league team, however the club only got one Major League-ready piece in return in Myles Straw. Does that mean the team’s focus is already starting to shift toward '22?
“Well, I hope not,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “I think we've been pretty open with the fact that we're looking for a couple of things this year. We knew we were going to have a young roster, but our belief and hope was that those young players could continue to develop and compete at the Major League level at the same time. We're hopeful that can continue in the second half.”
Entering play on Sunday, the average age of Cleveland’s active roster was 26.6. And adding 25-year-olds Bobby Bradley and Eli Morgan on Monday won’t cause that number to creep up any higher. The team is inexperienced, but it’s been that way all season so far. The club understands that it will have its work cut out for it, attempting to cut down a huge deficit in the AL Central standings and a sizable deficit for the second AL Wild Card spot. But that doesn’t mean the Indians aren’t up for the challenge to try to remain contenders in 2021. -- Mandy Bell
Royals: How do they build toward 2022?
The Royals’ second half of the season is all about finishing 2021 off on the right foot to make sure they’re in the best position they can be for '22. It starts with the pitching: Can the Royals' young staff continue its development at the Major League level? That includes pitchers like Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, Daniel Lynch, Jackson Kowar and Carlos Hernández, all of whom figure to be a key part of the rotation or bullpen next season. The Royals want to see some of their young prospects transition into the Majors to start to build the foundation as the organization looks toward the future. And can they go on a little run to better their position in the AL Central down the stretch? That could help the roster and confidence in the clubhouse as next season becomes the focus. -- Anne Rogers