With just four days until the August 2 trade deadline, we’re approaching the opening of the floodgates of activity. The first major domino of deadline season fell Wednesday night, when the Royals shipped Andrew Benintendi to the Yankees for a trio of pitching prospects. With that in mind, it’s time for an updated look at the players who could find themselves on the move.
As always, this list is loosely ordered in terms of both likelihood of being traded and value to an acquiring club. Rental players are inherently going to carry less long-term value but are generally likelier to be moved by virtue of their impending free agency. There’s an inherent subjectivity in striking that balance.
Benintendi was our No. 2 trade candidate when we did the first iteration of this list in early July. While many of the players on that list are still likely to switch uniforms, plenty of previously unexpected trade candidates have popped up in the meantime. That leads to a change at the top of the list, with no one else dominating headlines quite like a 23-year-old superstar who’s now on the market.
1. Juan Soto, OF, Nationals
Soto turned down the Nationals latest extension offer, a proposed 15-year, $440MM pact. That at least halted, if not entirely ended, discussions about a potential long-term deal. Washington has been the worst team in the National League without a clear path back to respectability next season. If the front office believes they’re without a clear path to extending Soto, there’s a strong case for dealing him rather than watching him play out much of his remaining arbitration eligibility on bad teams.
None of that is to say the Nationals have to or will trade Soto in the next few days. There’d be almost as much demand for two years of a player of his caliber next offseason. An acquiring team would lose out on a chance to have Soto for a playoff push this summer if the Nationals hang onto him, but waiting until the offseason allows the front office more time to evaluate young players and/or prospects of interest. It’d also open up the number of players available, as 2022 draftees are ineligible to be dealt until after this season (even as players to be named later).
Soto’s trade candidacy is virtually unparalleled in recent memory. He’s won two Silver Sluggers, appeared in two All-Star games and been a key contributor on a World Series winner before turning 24. He’s a career .291/.426/.538 hitter (all stats referenced through play July 27). Even in a bit of a “down” 2022 season by his incredible standard, Soto has the fifth-highest on-base percentage among qualifiers (.400) and has slugged 20 home runs. Even with a $17.1MM salary that’ll see massive jumps in each of his final two seasons of arbitration-eligibility, he’s an absolute financial bargain. Soto’s arguably the best hitter on the planet, and the Nationals would only move him for a haul of controllable talent unlike one we’ve seen in years.
2. Willson Contreras, C, Cubs
While Soto’s a relatively new entrant into legitimate trade rumors, Contreras has looked a lock to go for months. The Cubs and his representatives reportedly haven’t had any extension talks. He’s an impending free agent having a career year on a non-competitive team, carrying a .258/.373/.470 line. An acquiring team could eye Contreras either as an upgrade over their #1 catcher, or as a bat-first player capable of rotating between catcher, first base and designated hitter. He’s making $9.625MM in his final year before free agency.
3. Josh Bell, 1B, Nationals
Bell also falls in the ’rental bat on a non-playoff team’ category. He’s a switch-hitter with far better bat-to-ball skills than most players with his level of power. Bell’s strikeout rate sits at a career-low 13.5%, and he owns a .302/.387/.490 line in what has been arguably the best season of his career. As with Contreras, he’s sure to be the big offensive upgrade for some contender in the next few days. Bell is playing on a $10MM salary.
4. Luis Castillo, SP, Reds
5. Frankie Montas, SP, A’s
6. Tyler Mahle, SP, Reds
This trio has been linked for virtually all of deadline season, with good reason. They’re each on teams that slashed payroll over the winter and have fallen into last place in their divisions. They’re arbitration-eligible through 2023. All three have missed some time with shoulder issues on the year, but they’re each healthy now. Most importantly, they’re all very good, at least upper mid-rotation caliber hurlers. They’re the most likely marquee starters to actually change hands.
Castillo owns a sparkling 2.86 ERA with above-average strikeout and ground-ball rates through 14 starts. He’s consistently been one of the game’s top pitchers in recent seasons, and he’s at peak form heading into the deadline. Going back to June 1, he owns a 2.62 ERA while holding opponents to a .203/.281/.318 line. Montas has an ERA of 3.37 or lower in three of the past four seasons, including a 3.18 mark in 104 2/3 frames this year. Like Castillo, he throws hard, misses bats, gets grounders and generally pounds the strike zone.
Mahle has the spottiest control of the three, but he has every bit their strikeout prowess. He’s been dramatically better on the road than at Cincinnati’s hitter-friendly ballpark, so it’s easy enough to project him being a little more consistent in a friendlier environment. Mahle had a rough start to the season, but he owns a 3.22 ERA since the beginning of June.
7. Ian Happ, LF, Cubs
Happ is making contact at a career-best rate, and it’s translated to arguably the best season of his career (.282/.366/.446). He’s a well-rounded player — a switch-hitter with power, plate discipline and this season’s decent bat-to-ball skills. Happ’s probably limited to left field, but he’s a capable defender there. He’s making $6.85MM and arbitration-eligible through next season, so a trade isn’t a foregone conclusion the way it is with Contreras, but it’s probably the best opportunity for the Cubs to maximize the value of a return.
8. J.D. Martinez, DH, Red Sox
The Red Sox find themselves with an uncertain direction as they near the deadline. They’re 3 1/2 games back in the AL Wild Card race, with two additional teams between them and the final playoff spot. They have a -14 run differential on the season and a 7-17 record this month. That could point towards moving some shorter-term players, but they’re only a year removed from an ALCS appearance and it’s fair to chalk up some of their recent struggles to injury.
If the Red Sox do seriously consider offers on their impending free agents, Martinez would be perhaps the top hitter (non-Soto division) available. He’s no longer the 40-plus home run bat he was during his first couple seasons in Boston, but he owns a .295/.363/.471 line. He’s still a middle-of-the-order fixture who’d draw plenty of interest from clubs looking to add offense, even due what remains of a $19.375MM salary. Nearing age 35, Martinez would be a borderline qualifying offer candidate next winter if the Red Sox hold him.
9. Brandon Drury, INF, Reds
An offseason minor league signee, Drury has been an excellent find for the Reds. He’s hitting .268/.329/.512 with 19 homers while playing all around the infield, primarily at second/third base. An impending free agent, he’s emerged as the most interesting of the Reds rental trade chips. Paired with a thin infield market this summer, Drury should be an appealing target for a number of teams.
10. David Robertson, RP, Cubs
Robertson is probably the top target for clubs looking for short-term bullpen help. The veteran reliever has a 1.83 ERA through 39 1/3 innings with the Cubs, striking out 31.4% of batters faced. He’s issuing a few more walks than one would like, but he’s missing bats, handling hitters from both sides of the plate and has a salary that’s likely to wind up in the $5MM range. Robertson has plenty of late-game experience over his career, so a contender should feel good about plugging right into high-leverage spots in a pennant race.
11. Noah Syndergaard, SP, Angels
Syndergaard might wind up being the best rental starter to move this summer. The Angels have fallen out of the race, and Syndergaard would be ineligible for a qualifying offer as a free agent after receiving one from the Mets last year. He’s not throwing as hard or missing as many bats as he did during his peak days in Queens, but he’s pounding the strike zone and generally keeping the Halos in games. He owns a 3.83 ERA through 80 innings and looks like a possible mid-rotation target for contenders, although his $21MM salary is hefty enough it could deter teams with tight budgetary limits unless the Angels pay down some money.
12. Nathan Eovaldi, SP, Red Sox
The same dilemma the Red Sox are facing with Martinez applies to Eovaldi, who’ll be a free agent at the end of the year himself. The righty’s 4.32 ERA/4.59 FIP through 81 1/3 innings aren’t eye-catching, but that’s largely attributable to one horrible start where he gave up five home runs in 1 2/3 innings against the Astros. His strikeout rate is roughly league average, he’s one of the sport’s best control arms, and he’s inducing a fair number of ground-balls. Eovaldi probably isn’t much changed from last year’s 182 1/3 inning, 3.75 ERA form. He’s playing this year on a $17MM salary and would probably receive and reject a qualifying offer if the Red Sox keep him through the end of the season.
13. Jose Quintana, SP, Pirates
14. Drew Smyly, SP, Cubs
Quintana and Smyly are each having decent seasons as impending free agents on non-contenders. They’ll be viewed as possible 5th/6th starter options for a better team. Both southpaws have lower than average walk rates and an ERA below 4.00 despite below-average strikeout rates. Quintana, who’s playing this season on a $2MM salary, is also affordable enough to appeal to virtually every club. Smyly’s a bit costlier, making $4.25MM with a $1MM buyout on a mutual option for next season, but he’s also likely to wind up on the move.
15. Michael Fulmer, RP, Tigers
16. Mychal Givens, RP, Cubs
17. Andrew Chafin, RP, Tigers
18. Matt Moore, RP, Rangers
19. Chris Martin, RP, Cubs
A host of potential impending free agents (Chafin’s contract contains a $6.5MM player option for next season), this quintet fits the middle relief/setup archetype of which contenders are in need each deadline season. Chafin and Moore are left-handers; Fulmer, Givens and Martin throw from the right side. Moore’s missing plenty of bats during his first year after converting from the rotation to the bullpen. Chafin and Martin have excellent strikeout and walk numbers. Fulmer and Givens each have elevated walk rates but an ERA below 3.00.
20. Whit Merrifield, 2B/OF, Royals
Merrifield has been a fixture on these kinds of lists for years, and it seems the Royals are more willing than ever to deal him. It’s not a great time to do so, as he has a mediocre .242/.293/.347 line on the season. Yet Merrifield has a long track record as a prototypical leadoff type, and he’s still making plenty of contact. Capable of playing second base and right field, he’s at least an appealing utility piece for a contender. Merrifield is making $7MM this year and under contract for $6.75MM next season.
21. Carlos Rodon, SP, Giants
The Giants are, in some respects, the NL analogue to the Red Sox. Fresh off a 107-win campaign, they’d certainly anticipated heading into deadline season as buyers. For a while, it seemed as if they would, but they’ve lost seven straight games to fall two games under .500. San Francisco has a positive run differential and a clearer path back to the postseason than Boston — they’re 3 1/2 out of the final playoff spot with only one team in between — but they have to give serious thought to moving some players, particularly if they fall further back over the weekend.
Rodon is likely headed for free agency after the season, having recently reached the innings threshold necessary to trigger the opt-out clause in his contract. There’d be no shortage of suitors for a pitcher with a 3.18 ERA and a 31.4% strikeout rate, his second straight year with top-of-the-rotation production. Rodon would have plenty of appeal; it’s just a question of the Giants’ willingness to move him, which would more or less require conceding the unlikelihood of a playoff berth in 2022. They’re reportedly not yet at that point.
22. Joc Pederson, LF, Giants
23. Wilmer Flores, 2B/3B, Giants
If the Giants do go that route, there’d be little reason not to follow through by looking for suitors on Pederson and Flores. They’re each impending free agents who’d draw plenty of interest. Pederson is playing on a $6MM contract; Flores is making just $3.5MM. The former is a platoon corner outfielder, but he’s popped 17 homers and carries a .244/.319/.496 line on the season. Plenty of teams could use a left-handed hitting outfielder with that kind of production. Flores has some infield flexibility and a history of hitting left-handed pitching very well. He owns a .245/.326/.437 overall mark on the year.
24. Trey Mancini, 1B, Orioles
The Orioles have kept right around the Wild Card mix, entering play Friday three games back. That progress seems like it’ll dissuade the front office from trading away controllable building blocks like Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins. Still, actually reaching the playoffs this year seems unlikely, and Mancini is headed for free agency with just a mutual option remaining on his deal. The O’s wouldn’t get an enormous return, since Mancini has slumped of late and is down to a fine but not overwhelming .268/.345/.401 season line. The club might just deem it better to hold Mancini, a beloved clubhouse and community presence, for the stretch run. He’s playing the year on a $7.5MM salary, plus a $250K buyout of next year’s option.
25. Donovan Solano, 2B/3B, Reds
26. David Peralta, OF, D-Backs
27. Ben Gamel, OF, Pirates
28. Tommy Pham, OF, Reds
A collection of solid rental bats on non-contenders, there’s a good chance for all four of Solano, Peralta, Gamel, and Pham to be dealt. Solano offers the most defensive value of the group, as he’s capable of playing second or third base. The other three are strictly corner outfielders. Solano has missed much of the year to injury but mashed in 27 games since returning. Gamel and Peralta are all solid left-handed bats who could shoulder the larger side of a platoon. Pham’s a right-handed hitter with excellent plate discipline and a capable contact/power combination.
29. Sean Murphy, C, A’s
30. Ramon Laureano, CF, A’s
The A’s sell-off has been well-chronicled. Aside from Montas, Murphy and Laureano are their two most valuable trade chips. They’re each quality defenders at up-the-middle positions (Murphy at catcher, Laureano in center field), and both have slightly above-average offensive numbers. With both arbitration-eligible through the end of the 2025 season, Oakland doesn’t have to force a deal on either player. Murphy could be the likelier to go, since the A’s have top catching prospect Shea Langeliers playing well in Triple-A.
31. Nelson Cruz, DH, Nationals
Cruz has looked like a midseason trade candidate from virtually the moment he signed with the Nationals last offseason. Washington would certainly listen, but the 42-year-old slugger looks as if he’s finally tailed off. He’s hitting only .231/.317/.347, and he carries a .229/.304/.385 line going back to last year’s trade from the Twins to the Rays. That’s not appealing output from a player with no defensive value, particularly one playing this season on a $15MM salary. Still, Cruz’s long-term track record and high regard as a clubhouse presence could get him a shot with a contender, particularly if the Nats are willing to kick in some money to facilitate a deal.
32. Scott Barlow, RP, Royals
33. Joe Jimenez, RP, Tigers
34. Joe Mantiply, RP, Diamondbacks
35. Kyle Finnegan, RP, Nationals
36. Anthony Bass, RP, Marlins
37. Gregory Soto, RP, Tigers
Everyone in this group is controllable beyond this season, and some of them will surely stick with their current clubs past the deadline. Yet they’re all good but not elite late-game arms on teams unlikely to make the postseason in 2022. It’s easy enough to envision their teams selling relatively high on anyone in this tier, with Barlow and Jimenez probably the likeliest to move.
38. Christian Vazquez, C, Red Sox
Aside from Contreras, Vazquez could wind up being the top rental catcher on the block. As with Martinez and Eovaldi, whether he moves will depend on the approach the Boston front office takes to their recent skid. Owner of a .281/.326/.432 season line with a strong defensive reputation, Vazquez would be an appealing target for teams searching for catching help. He’s playing out the final year of his deal on a $7MM salary.
39. Dominic Smith, DH, Mets
40. J.D. Davis, DH, Mets
There’s been plenty of speculation about the Mets moving one of Smith or Davis, neither of whom is hitting at the level the Mets have wanted out of the DH position. New York’s acquisitions of Daniel Vogelbach and Tyler Naquin have been the firmest indication at least one of Smith or Davis was likely to move. Smith, as a left-handed hitter, seems most displaced by the Vogelbach pickup, but the Mets reportedly remain on the hunt for further offensive upgrades. If they land another bat, perhaps both Smith and Davis could be dealt. Both hitters are arbitration-eligible through 2024.
41. Joey Gallo, OF, Yankees
42. Miguel Andujar, 3B/OF, Yankees
On the topic of struggling New York players probably displaced by a trade pickup, the Yankees would seem to be particularly motivated to move Gallo after the Benintendi deal. The blockbuster acquisition of last summer’s deadline hasn’t panned out, with Gallo hitting at just a .160/.293/.371 level in pinstripes. At his best, he’s a prodigious power bat with strong baserunning and defense, but he’s looked lost at the plate for virtually a calendar year. It may be tough for New York to find a taker. Gallo, who’s making $10.275MM, is in his final year of arbitration-eligibility. His recent struggles mean he’s not a great solution for a contender looking for an immediate corner outfield upgrade. Yet his impending free agency reduces the interest of a buy-low for a non-competitive club, with no long-term contractual control if he does turn things around in a new setting.
Andujar, meanwhile, is reportedly being shopped by the Yankees. The former AL Rookie of the Year runner-up hasn’t gotten much of an opportunity in the Bronx since shoulder surgery wiped out his 2019 season, but he’s expanded his defensive profile by learning left field and first base, and he continues to rake in the minors. Andujar requested a trade earlier this summer, and given his Triple-A production it seems likely that a club with some available corner playing time will give him a real look.
43. Pablo Lopez, SP, Marlins
44. Tarik Skubal, SP, Tigers
45. Zach Plesac, SP, Guardians
46. Jose Urquidy, SP, Astros
Reports this week have suggested the clubs for all four of these hurlers are open to offers. That’s not to say any of them is especially likely to go. Lopez is controllable through 2024, Plesac and Urquidy through 2025, Skubal through ’26. The Guardians and Astros are in the thick of the playoff race. The Marlins and Tigers are not, but they’re also going to try to compete next season. It seems more likely than not that each of these pitchers remains with their club beyond next Tuesday, but each team has valid reasons for listening.
The Astros and Marlins each have an enviable collection of rotation depth and could view dealing a controllable starter as the best way to land some offensive help. The Guardians have a strong pitching development pipeline and a solid number of upper minors young arms. The Tigers rotation has been decimated by injury this year, but Skubal’s amidst a breakout season on a team that’s 19 games under .500.
47. Martin Perez, SP, Rangers
48. Chad Kuhl, SP, Rockies
49. Daniel Bard, RP, Rockies
Perez, Kuhl and Bard are impending free agents on 2022 non-contenders. They’re fairly straightforward trade candidates amidst decent seasons, but they seem less likely than the rentals above them on the list to change hands. The Rangers and Perez have expressed mutual interest in a contract extension. The Rockies seem to hope for the same with Kuhl and Bard, and Colorado general manager Bill Schmidt has already pushed back against the possibility of a major sell-off. The Rox held onto a few notable impending free agents despite having little chance of making the playoffs last summer, and they could well do so again.
50. Garrett Cooper, 1B, Marlins
The generally underrated Cooper earned an All-Star nod this season with a .279/.347/.426 showing. He’s a consistently productive right-handed hitter, and he’s playing this season on an affordable $2.5MM salary. Cooper landed on the injured list earlier this week, but he’s expressed confidence about returning when first eligible next Wednesday. He could still draw some interest, but with an additional season of arbitration eligibility, the Marlins don’t have to make a deal.
51. Blake Snell, SP, Padres
The Padres luxury tax dilemma has been covered a few times on MLBTR’s pages. The Friars have virtually no financial breathing room for midseason additions if they don’t want to exceed the $230MM base tax threshold. Dealing from their rotation surplus to free some money for upgrades elsewhere on the roster has looked like a possibility for a while. Snell, who has a 4.75 ERA and a $10MM CBT hit for the Friars, looks like the likeliest option for that kind of move. He’s under contract for next season and still striking out plenty of batters, but his overall performance in San Diego has been a bit disappointing.
52. Brad Keller, SP, Royals
Keller’s a stable back-of-the-rotation arm. He owns a 4.04 career ERA and a 4.18 mark this season while generally working as a source of about league average innings. Keller doesn’t miss bats, but he’s posted a ground-ball rate north of 50% in four of his five MLB seasons. He could appeal to a rotation-needy team with a strong defensive infield. Keller’s making $4.825MM and arbitration-eligible once more.
53. Michael A. Taylor, CF, Royals
Taylor has been one of the sport’s best defensive outfielders throughout his career. He’s never consistently produced enough at the plate to be more than a soft regular, with swing-and-miss issues his primary undoing. Taylor has dramatically cut his strikeout rate to 22.9% this season (right around league average), and his .279/.350/.402 line is a career best. Defensive metrics have been more mixed on his work than they’ve been in years past, but most clubs are still likely to view him as a plus defender. He’s making $4.5MM both this year and next, and a thin center field market could lead K.C. to sell high.
54. Lou Trivino, RP, A’s
Trivino’s ERA is ghastly, checking in a hair below 7.00. The right-hander has a strong 27.9% strikeout rate and a hefty 52.7% grounder rate, though, and today’s front offices will be willing to look deeper than the ugly run prevention mark. Trivino has had plenty of success keeping runs off the board in years past, and he’s spent some time as Oakland’s closer. Clubs will surely expect the .456 batting average on balls in play against him to come down, and he could still draw attention from teams looking for middle innings help. Trivino is making $3MM and arbitration-eligible through 2024, but the A’s are certainly willing to listen given their competitive window.
55. Jose Iglesias, SS, Rockies
Iglesias has had a decent bounceback year after signing a $5MM contract with the Rockies in Spring Training. He’s no longer the plus defender he was at his peak, but he’s continued to play shortstop in Colorado and could probably bounce all around the infield for a contender. Iglesias is a high-contact bat who would fit well in a utility role. He’s an impending free agent.
56. Rafael Ortega, CF, Cubs
Ortega is a journeyman outfielder who has played fairly well since getting a look with the Cubs last summer. He’s a .267/.346/.419 hitter in about a full season’s worth of playing time over the last two years. Ortega’s not a great defender in center field but he can moonlight there, and the thin market at the position could make him a fallback target for clubs looking to bolster the outfield depth. He’s not yet arbitration eligible (although he’s likely to get there this offseason as a Super Two player), but the Cubs aren’t going to view him as a core piece of the rebuild since he’s already 31.
57. Christian Walker, 1B, D-Backs
The D-Backs are reportedly open to offers on Walker, although the extent of their urgency to move him is unclear. He’s controllable for two and a half seasons but already 31. Walker has been a slightly above-average hitter in three of the past four years. He has plenty of power, posts big exit velocities and crushes left-handed pitching. He’s also a low-OBP slugger who is limited to first base — although he rates excellently at the position.
58. Michael Wacha, SP, Red Sox
59. Rich Hill, SP, Red Sox
Wacha and Hill are each impending free agents who could move if the Red Sox sell some short-term pieces. They’re each having decent seasons. Wacha is carrying a 2.69 ERA through 13 starts; Hill, as he has for the past couple seasons, has been right around league average. They’d each be higher on this list were they not on the injured list at the moment — Wacha due to shoulder inflammation, Hill with a knee sprain. Hill began a rehab assignment on Thursday, and Wacha doesn’t seem far behind. Despite the injuries, they could still attract some interest as they near returns from the IL.
60. Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH, Angels
Insert the old adage about saving the best for last here. The Angels have reportedly at least listened to offers on Ohtani, the reigning MVP who has captivated baseball’s global fanbase with his dominance as a hitter and pitcher alike. As with Soto, it would take an overwhelming haul of prospects in order for Ohtani to actually be traded. Unlike Soto, Ohtani feels quite unlikely to be moved — hence his back-of-the-list ranking — but teams will still try.
Ohtani, 28, is earning just $5.5MM this season and will receive a sizable raise on that number in arbitration this winter. He can be a free agent following the 2023 season. Given the team’s futility during the Ohtani/Mike Trout era and Ohtani’s outspoken desire to play for a contender, it’s fair to wonder whether the Angels have a realistic chance of extending him. Asked by The Athletic’s Sam Blum just last night about his desire to stay with the Angels long-term, Ohtani side-stepped the heart of the question and concluded his reply by stating: “…Right now, I’m an Angel, and that’s all I can really focus on at this point.”
Would a team part with its top four or five prospects to add Ohtani for the next two pennant pushes? Would Angels owner Arte Moreno actually green-light the deal even if a trade partner were willing to do so? A trade seems so hard to imagine and, at the same time, perfectly logical and defensible for an Angels team with an awful farm system, crowded payroll and dwindling control over the 2021 AL MVP. He’s going to be extremely hard to pry away, but that won’t stop teams from trying.
Potential Salary Dumps of Note
- Eric Hosmer, 1B, Padres: $20.625MM salary in 2022, $13.625MM salaries from 2023-25
- Wil Myers, OF, Padres: $22.5MM salary in 2022, $20MM club option ($1MM buyout) for 2023
- Patrick Corbin, SP, Nationals: $23.42MM salary in 2022, due approximately $59.8MM between 2023-24
- Madison Bumgarner, SP, D-Backs: $23MM salaries in 2022-23, $14MM salary in 2025
Controllable Impact Players Unlikely To Move
Others of Note
Astros: Jose Siri
Pirates: JT Brubaker
Cardinals: Edmundo Sosa
*Denotes player currently on the injured list