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Separating contenders from pretenders in the pack

Lorenzo Cain's Royals are back in the playoff race and have the talent to break away from the pack. Charlie Riedel/AP Photo

With the non-waiver trade deadline rapidly approaching, baseball is nearing its Big Crunch. In physics, the Big Crunch is the term given to one of the theories about the universe's ultimate fate. The trade deadline is baseball's Big Crunch, and though it isn't as severe an effect as the whole universe crunching into a very hot, dense ball, baseball's version comes rather more quickly -- in just a week. For front offices of teams on that contender/pretender bubble, a similar very hot, dense ball will be felt in a lot of stomachs.

Separating pretenders from contenders is one of the trickiest parts of this time a year. For teams such as the Astros and Dodgers, there's little question that they're contenders. Nor do the Padres or Giants have any delusion that they will advance past their Oct. 1 season finale. But for the almost half of baseball teams teetering on the edge, the question of who will still be relevant in two months is one they need to answer now. So let's crown some of those currently borderline teams that are most likely to firmly establish their October credentials.

New York Yankees: Yes, the Yankees have been only 21-26 since the end of May. And yes, Todd Frazier is more a complementary talent right now. And yes, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle shore up the bullpen, and no, they can't replace Michael Pineda in the rotation or fix first base. However, even with these obvious flaws, we're talking the team with the second-best run differential in the American League.