Olney: Contenders on the edge weigh big choices

Bryce Harper and the Phillies came into 2019 expecting big things, but things have taken a turn for the worse. Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

St. LOUIS -- Phillies owner John Middleton flew cross-country for face-to-face meetings to chase the player he wanted, and then committed $330 million in lure Bryce Harper in his effort to make the Phillies relevant in October again. You can safely say Middleton's team will be a highly motivated buyer before the July 31 trade deadline.

The Indians will work from a very different place, in measured pursuit of an October playoff berth. They've made the postseason each of the past three years, and as of this morning, they're nine games out of first place in the AL Central, a long shot to catch the Minnesota Twins -- and through the second half, Cleveland will have to manage some pressing roster and budget issues.

For the Phillies and Indians and many other teams, a wild-card berth might be the most likely avenue for reaching the playoffs, given the separation that has already developed in five of the six division races. But each team has its own distinct set of challenges and catalysts that will shape their actions leading up to the trade deadline.