Welcome to trade deadline day. We finally got a rush of action on Monday, so let’s see if the momentum holds into what should be a busy day. The deadline comes at 6 p.m. ET, so that gives Padres GM A.J. Preller a few extra afternoon hours to swing a deal … or three.
Of course, much of the drama surrounds Juan Soto, the 23-year-old star for the Washington Nationals — the team with the worst record in the majors. Soto remains on the trade block, and San Diego is one of the favorites to land him, but the pressure is on Nationals GM Mike Rizzo to make the right deal, a trade that may determine the fortunes of the franchise over the next six or seven years if he can hit a home run.
As always, don’t underestimate the impact of the trade deadline. Look at the deals the past World Series champions made going back to 2015:
2015 Royals: Acquired Johnny Cueto (pitched eight innings to win Game 5 of the ALDS and threw a complete-game victory in the World Series) and Ben Zobrist (hit .303/.365/.515 in the postseason)
2016 Cubs: Acquired Aroldis Chapman (2-0 with four saves in the postseason, although he did blow that lead in Game 7 of the World Series)
2017 Astros: Acquired Justin Verlander (4-1 with a 2.21 ERA in six postseason appearances)
2018 Red Sox: Acquired Nathan Eovaldi (2-1 with a 1.61 ERA over 22 1/3 playoff innings, his one loss coming in a six-inning relief appearance in that 18-inning World Series game)
2019 Nationals: Acquired Daniel Hudson (1-0 with four saves and got the final three outs in Game 7 of the World Series)
2021 Braves: Acquired Eddie Rosario (NLCS MVP), Jorge Soler (World Series MVP), Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall
Only the 2020 Dodgers didn’t have to make an impact deal, so there is the strong likelihood that one of deals made Monday or today will help determine your 2022 World Series champion. Also, beware of those minor trades. Back at the 2016 trade deadline, the Astros traded reliever Josh Fields to the Dodgers and acquired a young minor leaguer who had yet to play a professional game for the Dodgers — a guy named Yordan Alvarez.
Starting with Soto, here are 10 players who could be traded:
1. Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals
The San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals are viewed as the favorites, but don’t overlook the Texas Rangers as a sleeper team to acquire Soto, even though they aren’t in the playoff chase this season. MacKenzie Gore’s elbow injury hurts Preller’s potential trade package, but there’s still shortstop C.J. Abrams and outfielder Robert Hassell to headline a trade if Gore’s injury scares off the Nationals.
Not only is Preller always hyper-aggressive on the trade market, as we saw with his acquisition of Josh Hader on Monday, keep this in mind: Since he took over as GM before the 2015 season, the Padres have yet to make the playoffs in a full season. The pressure is on, especially since the Padres ran the second-highest payroll last season and are in the top six this season. Even with the imminent return of Fernando Tatis Jr., the Padres will still be looking to add offense. Heading into August, their outfielders were hitting .219/.299/.345 — only the Reds, A’s, Marlins and Tigers had a lower OPS from their outfielders.
As for the Rangers, no, they aren’t going anywhere in 2022, but the signings last offseason of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien suggest they can’t wait any longer to end their rebuild and start winning, not when those two will be making $61 million next season. They’ve built a deep farm system, although without a top guy that is the equal of Abrams or Hassell (or Diego Cartaya of the Dodgers or Jordan Walker of the Cardinals). Most of their top performers have been some of the younger guys in Class A ball, so the Rangers would likely have to overwhelm Rizzo with a long list of prospects to strike a deal.
Prediction: Dodgers. They beat the Padres out for Max Scherzer last year. With Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy both struggling, Andrew Friedman wants more offense, even if the Dodgers do lead the National League in runs. And you have to wonder: Was Preller’s acquisition of the left-handed Hader a look ahead to the postseason, when the Padres might have to navigate a Dodgers lineup featuring Freddie Freeman and Soto?
The bottom five teams in catcher OPS are the Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros, Cleveland Guardians, Cardinals and New York Mets — all playoff contenders. On Monday, the Astros acquired Christian Vazquez, a better defensive catcher than Contreras, and you know the Cardinals aren’t going to bench Yadier Molina. The Mets, despite a major league-worst .523 OPS from their backstops, also like the defense that James McCann and Tomas Nido provide.
Maybe the Rays make the most sense. Mike Zunino is out for the season after thoracic outlet surgery, and now backup Francisco Mejia is on the injured list and out for at least a couple weeks with a shoulder issue. They’re down to Christian Bethancourt (acquired from the A’s) and Rene Pinto as their catchers. Yes, there are concerns about how well Contreras handles a pitching staff, but the Rays also need offense, and Contreras is hitting a solid .252/.365/.453.
It’s also possible that a team will acquire Contreras more with the idea of using him as a DH and part-time catcher. The Padres are a possibility here, as are Seattle Mariners (their DHs are hitting .153/.249/.275 entering Monday, worst in the majors).
Prediction: Mariners. Luis Castillo was a great pickup at an extremely high cost, signaling the Mariners are all-in in trying to make the playoffs in 2022. However, Julio Rodriguez just landed on the IL after getting hit on the wrist, and Ty France isn’t 100% with a sore elbow. So a below-average offense is suddenly even more hobbled. Oh, they also need a backup catcher. Contreras could DH and catch a couple times a week.
3. Josh Bell, 1B, Washington Nationals
Bell has quietly had a nice season for the Nationals. In fact, entering Monday …
Bell: .302/.385/.493, 142 wRC+
Soto: .243/.403/475, 147 wRC+
Now, that doesn’t mean both players will hit this way the rest of the way — Soto is coming off a big July when he hit .315/.495/.616 with six home runs. But there is a chance that with Bell you’re getting 90% of Soto at the plate for the final two months without ripping apart your entire farm system.
Among playoff contenders, the teams with the worst production at first base are the Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, Astros and Padres. The Astros added Trey Mancini on Monday, and the Giants presumably will run with Brandon Belt. The Mariners should consider Bell as a potential DH, as could the Guardians, if they’ve tired of Franmil Reyes’ .254 OBP.
Prediction: Padres. Bell’s situation is pretty clearly tied to Soto’s, meaning Rizzo might be in discussion with the Padres about both players. The call here is if Soto lands with the Dodgers, then Bell ends up in San Diego.
The top rental reliever available, Robertson, 37, hadn’t pitched a full season since 2018, but he’s 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA and 14 saves, holding batters to a .162 average and the Statcast metrics to back it up (he’s in the 89th percentile in swing-and-miss rate). Batters are 4-for-65 against his curveball and slider.
There’s talk of the Cubs potentially packaging Contreras and Robertson together in order to get a better prospect — with the Mets making a lot of sense in that scenario, as they could use a reliever after trading Colin Holderman in the Dan Vogelbach deal. The Philadelphia Phillies are always looking for bullpen help. The Mariners have worked their top relievers pretty hard of late, and Diego Castillo just landed on the IL with shoulder inflammation.
Prediction: Mets. The Mets have to do something, right? Their bullpen really doesn’t run much deeper than Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo and Adam Ottavino, so Robertson might fit in as the eighth-inning guy in front of Diaz. Plus, he has plenty of postseason experience.
5. Ian Happ, OF, Chicago Cubs
He’s not a free agent until after 2023, so there’s no guarantee he gets traded. He’s hitting a solid .279/.360/.436, and while he’s played left field this year for all but 12 innings, he does have experience in the past in center field — for a team willing to stretch him defensively. The Dodgers and Padres could both also look at Happ as the backup plan to Soto.
Prediction: Phillies. When Bryce Harper returns, that might set up an outfield of Kyle Schwarber in left, Happ in center and Nick Castellanos in right with Harper at DH. Yes, that’s a bad idea, but that hasn’t stopped the Phillies before.
He’s on a one-year deal, so there’s no reason for the Angels to keep him. But he’s also making $21 million, or about $7 million over the final two months, and hasn’t been particularly great. He’s had 64 strikeouts in 80 innings and averages just 5.3 innings per start despite pitching on five or more days of rest all season. He’s now a 94-mph-sinkerballer when he used to throw triple digits, and his overall swing-and-miss rate on all his pitches is in just the 30th percentile. He’s basically a pitch-to-contact guy now. The Angels will probably have to pick up some of the money in order to get a decent prospect in return.
Prediction: Phillies. Hey, the money might not matter to the Phillies, and Syndergaard could conceivably line up as their No. 3 starter in a playoff rotation behind Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola.
7. Nathan Eovaldi, SP, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are trying to play it both ways — trading away Vazquez on Monday, but then acquiring Tommy Pham — so it’s not clear what they’ll end up doing with Eovaldi, who heads into free agency after the season. He’s been homer-prone this year (18 in 81 1/3 innings), and in four starts since missing more than a month with lower back inflammation, he’s allowed 19 runs in 19 1/3 innings (but allowed just two unearned runs over 6 1/3 innings on Monday against the Astros). In other words, it’s also not exactly clear what Eovaldi might bring if the Red Sox do trade him, although his postseason experience might be of interest to some teams.
Prediction: He stays in Boston. Are the Red Sox going to make the playoffs? Probably not; they’re 12-29 within the division with 35 more games to go against AL East opponents. But they’re also not so far out of the wild-card race that they should surrender the season. If Eovaldi was guaranteed to bring a nice return, a trade might make more sense, but his recent string of starts has hurt his value.
The same theory applies to Martinez, except he’s having a solid season at the plate. As a DH-only player, however, his trade value is somewhat limited. Those teams we mentioned before — Padres, Mariners — are possibilities. Heck, even the Dodgers have been running out Jake Lamb as their DH lately.
Prediction: He also stays in Boston. After the Vazquez trade, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters, “Moving him is going to impact the club. We’re aware of that. We’re trying to help the club. We still want to make the postseason.” Yes, he also said the “picture is incomplete.” So trades might happen … or they might not.
Mahle has a 4.40 ERA, but much better peripherals, with a 3.61 FIP and just 12 home runs allowed in 104 1/3 innings. He also is under team control through 2023. After depleting their roster of Castillo, Pham, Sonny Gray, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez since spring training, it’s easy to assume Mahle is next. But, you know, they need somebody to start next year. They may also be trying to package Mahle with Mike Moustakas’ contract — he’s owed $18 million next year with a $4 million buyout of his 2024 contract. (Man, how bad was that deal?)
Prediction: Minnesota Twins. After the Cardinals acquired Jose Quintana on Monday night, that leaves the Twins as the contender with the most obvious need of a starter. They’re 18th in the majors in rotation ERA and 26th in innings.
10. Carlos Rodon, SP, San Francisco Giants
After losing their first seven games coming out of the All-Star break, the Giants have fallen to fourth place in the wild-card race behind the Padres, Phillies and Cardinals — but not out of it. Rodon started the season on fire, went 1-4 with a 5.67 ERA in May, had a 1.25 ERA in June, and went 2-2 with a 3.89 ERA in July. When he’s on, he’s as dominant as any pitcher in the game. But the consistency hasn’t quite been there, and teams are wary of what happened in the second half last season with the White Sox — when he barely pitched due to arm fatigue.
To further complicate things, he can make $22.5 million next year in the second season of his two-year deal, but he also has an opt-out clause. If he stays healthy the rest of the way, he probably opts out; if not, he’ll let that $22.5 million kick in.
Prediction: He stays with the Giants. Like the Red Sox, this shouldn’t be a franchise punting on its playoff hopes. Plus, with Logan Webb and Rodon fronting a playoff rotation, the Giants could surprise in October … if they get there.