When it comes to what's going to happen at baseball's non-waiver Trade Deadline, we know absolutely nothing. And yet, with all the information out there, it sometimes feels like we know too much, doesn't it?
That doesn't mean this period can't genuinely shock the senses. For instance, Jose Quintana's move within city limits seemed off-limits … until it wasn't.
With that in mind, here are five things I'd like to see between now and 4 p.m. ET Monday that would qualify as a surprise.
1. The Tigers do actually trade Justin Verlander
The likely scenario: Verlander stays where he is. While trade discussions involving the Detroit ace have definitely picked up, this is still one of the more difficult trade equations in this market. The Tigers have to get value back for Verlander, something (eventually) tangible that they can point to and explain to their fans as worthy cause to deal a homegrown, potentially Hall of Fame-caliber player.
That's tough to do with the amount of money (Verlander is owed at least $65 million between now and the end of 2019) involved here, and absorbing just what's left of Verlander's 2017 salary might not be enough to significantly move the needle. Verlander also has the right to veto any trade to a team that is not to his liking. And while his stuff is still great, his stats aren't, so that only adds to the complication of getting a deal done.
The fun scenario: Literally any scenario in which Verlander gets to pitch for a World Series contender.
Verlander is having a subpar season, with a 4.50 ERA and 96 ERA+ a year after finishing second in the AL Cy Young Award voting (which itself sparked an epic tweet from Kate Upton). But Verlander's stuff is still remarkably sharp given the innings toll he's taken on in his career. His average four-seam velocity this month (96 mph) is more than half a tick higher than it was last month, and he was touching 99 in his last start.
The dude's a horse who is one of the greatest pitchers of his time, and, while there is always something to be said for the franchises icon who spends his whole career with a single club, many of us would rather see Verlander expend his remaining quality innings for a viable contender than a Detroit club that has some painful years ahead of it. If he is dealt, the Dodgers and Cubs seem to make the most sense.
2. The Indians acquire Zach Britton
The likely scenario: The Astros have the prospect pieces and the need to bring Britton to their bullpen. If the Orioles do, indeed, make a move involving their superstar closer (that's no given, considering their standings situation), that feels like a likely landing spot, though the Dodgers also make a lot of sense if they don't prioritize starting pitching in the wake of the Clayton Kershaw injury.
The fun scenario: While the Astros or Dodgers possibilities are fun enough, they wouldn't exactly catch us off-guard. What would qualify as a surprise is if the Indians, who just lost Boone Logan to a lat injury and are very much in "World Series or bust" mode, added an uber lefty to their 'pen for the second straight summer.
Can you imagine what a bullpen featuring both Britton and Andrew Miller and a reliable right-hander (in the vein of a Cody Allen) would look like? I mean, I can't even fathom such a thing. The Indians could form a package around pitching prospect Triston McKenzie.
3. The Red Sox and Orioles work out an intra-division Manny Machado blockbuster
The likely scenario: Having promoted Rafael Devers, who homered for his first Major League hit Wednesday, and acquired Eduardo Nunez, the Red Sox feel confident enough in the potential of their third-base situation that they don't make any other non-bullpen moves before the Deadline, knowing they can keep their eyes and ears open in the waiver trade period.
The fun scenario: Labeling Nunez a "utility" man in the release announcing the trade proves prescient, and Devers' callup is merely a pre-swap showcase. The Red Sox use Devers as the key piece to pry Machado from an Orioles team that, while on the fringes of the postseason hunt, ultimately knows it doesn't have the starting pitching pieces to seriously qualify for October advancement nor the finances to keep Machado beyond 2018.
Though the O's are far more likely to explore a less-limited market for Machado in the offseason (if then), Devers, who would be just one piece of a multi-player package, makes too much sense for them as a long-term replacement for Machado. With Machado's bat beginning to show signs of life, the Red Sox shore up their offensive black hole and become a clearer World Series contender, while the Orioles, despite trading one of their signature stars, accelerate their path back to contention.
4. A significant swap between two contenders
The likely scenario: The buyers trade prospects for big-leaguers, and the sellers trade big-leaguers for prospects. Just the way God intended.
The fun scenario: A big leaguer-for-big leaguer trade that helps two clubs in the thick of things.
The whole "buy vs. sell" dynamic is an overly simplistic way of compartmentalizing clubs in what is a complicated process. The reality is that you can buy and sell at the same time. There are some swaps that make a semblance of sense for two also-rans, which would be the case if the Marlins and Phillies, for instance, worked out that much-reported idea involving the salary of Giancarlo Stanton (probably not happening this month). There are times when a contender has to rob Peter to pay Paul, which is what happened when the A's dealt Yoenis Cespedes to get Jon Lester at the Deadline in 2014. There are prospect-for-prospect deals, as evidenced last week by that interesting deal in which the Cardinals and Mariners swapped Marco Gonzales and Tyler O'Neill.
But a trade between two contenders involving big-league pieces? That's awfully unusual. Remember that Yasiel Puig-for-Ryan Braun deal we were promised (it darn near happened at last year's Deadline)? Does it still merit consideration for two clubs in contention -- the Brewers getting a little younger, the Dodgers a little more stable? Or while we're at it, how about Puig and Andrew McCutchen in the center of a swap between the Dodgers and Pirates?
To be fair, I'd settle for a three- or four-team swap in which out-of-contention clubs are used as intermediaries to get two contenders the big-league pieces they need, a la the famous 2004 deal in which Nomar Garciaparra went to the Cubs and the Red Sox landed Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz (and won it all, of course).
Basically, anything that veers off the traditional "bad team sells asset to good team" transaction would be awesome.
5. The Mariners land Sonny Gray
The likely scenario: Gray goes to the Yankees or Astros, clubs with excellent October odds who are in clear possession of the prospect pieces to land him.
The fun scenario: The Mariners go all-in on a Wild Card run.
The Mariners are like … well, nearly every club in or loosely in contention in that they've been linked to Gray in reports. But it's hard to take those reports all that seriously given that they're only shot at October would come via the Wild Card and given the overall state of their farm system. But if any club should be aggressive in pursuit of the one-and-done round, it's the one with a postseason drought dating back to 2001.
The A's reportedly want a young center fielder in any Gray trade, and it just so happens that the M's No. 1 prospect -- their one so-called "untouchable" -- is center fielder Kyle Lewis. This is the time for an M's team with an aging core, and this narrow lane to October is one worth charging toward. Put Gray in a rotation with Felix Hernandez and James Paxton and, by golly, now you have a club capable of ascension, should you survive that little round of Wild Card roulette.
And even if you don't, you've got Gray under control for two more years, aligning nicely with the King Felix contract. The danger is that Lewis becomes the next Adam Jones, the trade piece the M's short-sightedly punted on in the Erik Bedard trade way back when. But as we see time and again, prospects are prospects, and who knows what the future holds for a guy who hasn't played above Class A ball?
Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor, MLB.com columnist and MLB Network contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.