The Milwaukee Brewers currently have a little cushion in the NL Central divisional race, but the defending champion Chicago Cubs have come out swinging in the second half.
Newly-acquired Jose Quintana tossed seven lights out innings on Sunday, the Cubs' lineup totaled 27 runs in its three-game sweep of Baltimore, and Chicago picked up a game on the Brewers in the standings.
So where do the Brewers go from here? They are not looking to make a short-term trade, but it is still important to take advantage of postseason opportunities when they present themselves. After all, Milwaukee has only made the playoffs four times in its history.
GM David Stearns is in the midst of a tricky balancing act, as he looks to make moves with an eye towards 2017 and 2020, when the Brewers' current crop of youngsters will be in their prime.
Even though they missed out on Quintana, Stearns has reportedly kicked the tires on several deals with the goal of upgrading the pitching staff.
- ESPN's Buster Olney included Oakland's Sonny Gray in his list of players likely to be traded, saying the Brewers were one of six teams who "could be involved in the bidding." Gray owns a 3.04 ERA since June and is under team control through 2019.
- FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal connected another name to the Brewers: Toronto starter J.A. Happ. Rosenthal admitted it is unlikely the Blue Jays move Happ due to his friendly contract and their desire to win in 2018. Happ has a 3.54 ERA this season.
- MLB's Jon Morosi did not directly link any names to Milwaukee, but did say the Brewers will look around for relief help to pair with all-star closer Corey Knebel. San Diego's Brad Hand seems like a good trade candidate, though the Padres are reportedly asking for quite a bit in return. Two relievers - the A's Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson - are already off the board after a trade to Washington over the weekend.
At the very least, Stearns is doing his due diligence. He is in a position of power - the Brewers are in first place, and any success this season is essentially gravy - so Milwaukee does not need to make a noteworthy deal this month.
But as the city puts its support behind this team, it sure would be nice to see a smart, splashy trade that could propel this ball club towards October. The hot stove figures to get only hotter over the next two weeks.