Also-rans can look forward to some big names on the free-agent market this winter.
With half of the 30 teams pretty much eliminated from postseason competition, 1999 is quickly becoming the focus of many clubs.Who's available?
Randy Johnson, already 3-0 with a 0.72 ERA since Houston acquired him from Seattle on July 31, heads the preliminary list compiled by management's Player Relations Committee.
Other top pitchers available are San Diego's Kevin Brown and Todd Stottlemyre, acquired by Texas from St. Louis at the trading deadline.
Mike Piazza, traded from Los Angeles to Florida and then to the Mets, could be the top hitter on the market. He also could fetch the highest price. Before the Dodgers traded him, he was seeing a contract worth at least $100 million over seven seasons.
Teams seeking to file a hole at first base have Boston's Mo Vaughn (who will decline to exercise his half of a mutual option for 1999), and Baltimore's Rafael Palmeiro to choose from.
The Orioles' Roberto Alomar is the top second baseman on the market. Teams willing to take a chance might look at Carlos Baerga, whose star has dimmed since the Mets acquired him from Cleveland two years ago.
Ken Caminiti of San Diego and Robin Ventura of the Chicago White Sox head a deep class at third base that also includes the Yankees' Scott Brosius.
Outfield may be the deepest position of this free-agent class. It includes Bernie Williams of the Yan-kees, Henry Rodriguez of the Cubs, Dante Bichette of the Rockies, Brian Jordan of the Cardinals and Ellis Burks of the Giants.
Free agency probably will lead to a major turnover in Baltimore's roster. In addition to Alomar and Palmeiro, Harold Baines, Eric Davis, B.J. Surhoff, Jimmy Key and Pete Smith are eligible to leave, and the team must decide whether to exercise options on Jesse Orosco, Arthur Rhodes and Lenny Webster.
Baines, Davis, Palmeiro, Alomar and Surhoff have the top five batting averages on the team, the three highest home-run totals and four of the top five RBIs totals.
St. Louis, to a slightly lesser extent, also appears headed to a make-over, with Jordan, Delino DeShields, Willie McGee, Tom Pagnozzi and Bobby Witt eligible to leave.
Teams will have to make decisions in the next few months on whether to hold onto players with options. The Red Sox, heading to the AL wild-card berth, will have to decide whether to exercise the 1999 options on pitchers Steve Avery and Bret Saberhagen.