The Aug. 2 MLB trade deadline is now less than a month away, and the biggest unknown is what the long shot-but-not-out-of-it teams — Texas, Anaheim, Seattle, Miami — will end up doing.
Their approach to the deadline could add a little more depth to a trade market that is thin compared to last year’s, when big names like Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Jose Berrios, Kyle Schwarber, Joey Gallo, Craig Kimbrel, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Starling Marte were traded.
Our list of 148 players who might be available from a month ago hasn’t changed a whole lot. As Jeff Passan pointed out, the top pending free agents — including Turner, Aaron Judge, Joe Musgrove, Jacob deGrom (if he opts out) and Carlos Correa (if he opts out) — all play for contenders and aren’t going anywhere.
Still, as always, there should still be plenty of wheeling and dealing.
So, let’s take a look at all 30 teams and find one player each team might acquire or trade away with the 6 p.m. ET deadline approaching on Aug. 2.
When you have a chance to break the single-season record for wins, you don’t have a lot of holes — and that’s the case with the Yankees. They have spent most of the season leading the American League in both runs scored and fewest runs allowed, which would match the feat of the 1998 club that won 114 games.
Their recent five games against the Astros — when the Yankees scored just 15 runs, were no-hit once and scored one run in two other games — showed, however, that their offense isn’t quite the lethal attack of that 1998 team. It relies way too much on Aaron Judge.
While Judge has done the work of two men, look at the rest of the outfield:
Joey Gallo is doing a poor man’s impersonation of Joey Gallo.
Aaron Hicks entered Fourth of July weekend with six extra-base hits in 197 at-bats, ranking 200th out of 208 players with at least 200 plate appearances in isolated power (shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa was 208th).
Marwin Gonzalez is more of a backup.
The Red Sox looked dead after a 10-19 start that featured some especially inept baseball, but they got back in the wild-card race with a 20-6 record in June. Nathan Eovaldi, Rich Hill and Garrett Whitlock are all currently on the IL and the Sox have already said Whitlock will return as a reliever when he’s back from his hip injury — so it would seem starting pitching would be the focus. Chris Sale, however, does have one more rehab start before he’s back, and James Paxton just threw a 32-pitch bullpen session, aiming for a return down the stretch.
I also wouldn’t rule out first base, where Franchy Cordero is learning on the job (and not learning too adeptly) and prospect Triston Casas also hasn’t hit enough in Triple-A to warrant a call-up. Let’s give the Red Sox a starting pitcher to hedge against all those health issues going on.
The Blue Jays will almost certainly look to add some bullpen depth, but if they hold any hope of making a World Series run, they need some help in the rotation. Hyun-Jin Ryu is out after Tommy John surgery, there is no way you want Yusei Kikuchi starting a playoff game, and Jose Berrios has been one of the biggest disappointments in the sport — struggling with both home runs and strikeouts. The Jays’ lack of rotation depth was highlighted on Saturday, when Thomas Hatch started in the doubleheader against the Rays and allowed 10 runs. Castillo is the best starter potentially on the market, and the Jays have the farm system quality to swing a deal.
The Rays made a rare youth-for-age deal last trade deadline, trading away Joe Ryan for Nelson Cruz — a trade they probably now regret given that Cruz didn’t really help all that much and Ryan looks like a solid starter for the Twins. This year’s Rays clearly need offensive help … and, hey, Cruz is available! What they really need is an outfielder, as Brett Phillips and rookie Josh Lowe are both flailing below the Mendoza line.
If they’re willing to use Harold Ramirez regularly in the outfield to get an extra bat in the lineup (though we know the Rays love their defense, and Ramirez isn’t up to the Rays’ usual standards out there), they could go after somebody like Walker or Trey Mancini to DH.
The Orioles just completed their first winning month since August 2017, so while they’re stuck in last place in the tough AL East, there is reason for optimism about the club’s future for the first time in half a decade. Therefore, they shouldn’t necessarily be looking to trade away every veteran with a pulse as in the past few seasons (not that they’ve had many of those). Trey Mancini, for example, has trade value and has a mutual option for $10 million in 2023, but he’s a popular player and still a key member of the lineup. They might want to keep him for next season.
Lopez could also be viewed as part of the future, especially since he’s under team control through 2024. But if there’s one general rule that guides front offices at this time of year, it’s that non-playoff teams should always try to cash in on career seasons from veteran relievers. Lopez has certainly been a revelation after spending most of his career as a starter with an ERA on the wrong side of 6.00. Those additional years of team control also mean the Orioles could actually get a nice prospect or two in return — although Lopez’s although Lopez’s may have just dropped a bit after serving up home runs in his past three outings, his first three of the season.
The Twins recently lost five times to the Guardians in a 10-day span — five games the Twins led in the eighth inning or later. Yeah, that Taylor Rogers–Chris Paddack trade has backfired in a big way, especially since Paddack went down with Tommy John surgery (not a complete surprise given his elbow problems in 2021). The Twins will probably look to add multiple relievers, but Robertson would give them a reliable ninth-inning guy. Robertson is now 37 and last pitched a full season back in 2018 for the Yankees, but he has been outstanding for the Cubs. His curveball is as dominant as ever and he’s a guy with plenty of postseason experience if the Twins get there. He might be the top reliever on the board.
Cleveland Guardians: Acquire Orioles’ Trey Mancini
What they really could use is a power-hitting center fielder since Myles Straw has been unable to replicate his 2021 level of performance, but there isn’t really a player who fits that description unless the Pirates deal Bryan Reynolds. Oakland’s Ramon Laureano could work, but his defensive metrics are poor and, frankly, the offense isn’t so good that he’s any more valuable than Straw.
How about going for Baltimore’s Mancini? He could play some first base or some DH (if Franmil Reyes continues to whiff at a historical level), with Josh Naylor going back to the outfield and Steven Kwan getting more time in center field. That’s a lot of moving parts, and the Guardians might balk at Mancini’s prorated $7.5 million salary, but they’re in the hunt and need some offense.
Chicago White Sox: Acquire Reds’ Tommy Pham
It’s been a disappointing season, but they’re in the right division to make a second-half run — and they could do some damage in October with Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Lance Lynn and a better Lucas Giolito (ouch, what’s happened to him?). They have holes all over the lineup, including second base, catcher and outfield. Let’s give them Pham … assuming nobody on the White Sox is in his fantasy football league.
The Tigers are headed for their sixth straight losing season — but, hey, Tigers fans, on the bright side, maybe your team will get the first overall pick next year for the third time since 2018. Unfortunately, Casey Mize’s Tommy John surgery and Spencer Torkelson’s struggles are two key reasons the Tigers are in this mess. Impending free agents include catcher Tucker Barnhart and outfielder Robbie Grossman, but neither has hit his way out of a wet paper bag. The bullpen has actually been superb, so the Tigers could deal from that area (everybody needs relievers), but starting pitcher Pineda might draw the most interest. The 33-year-old just returned from a broken finger, but he could provide a steady back-of-the-rotation arm for a contender.
Kansas City Royals: Trade away Andrew Benintendi
This is one of the easiest calls on the board. The Royals are chasing down the first pick of the 2023 draft instead of a playoff spot, and with Benintendi heading to free agency AND having a good year, he’s one of the few in-demand outfielders out there. While the Yankees make sense, the Blue Jays are also a good fit — as they’re stuck playing either the defensively challenged Lourdes Gurriel Jr. or the lightweight bat of Raimel Tapia in left field. In fact, if the Royals want to expand the deal and aim for a better package, reliever Scott Barlow would help out a Toronto bullpen that needs more depth.
The Astros have a formidable rotation with Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia and the suddenly scorching hot Cristian Javier (plus depth in Jose Urquidy and Jake Odorizzi, with Lance McCullers Jr. eventually returning). The bullpen is toe-to-toe with the Yankees for the best ERA in the majors. That leaves three potential positions to upgrade:
Catcher: But will they risk losing Martin Maldonado’s defense and cohesion with the pitching staff?
First base: Yuli Gurriel isn’t having a good season and hasn’t really been that productive in the postseason in his career (.253/.315/.372, six home runs in 277 at-bats).
If the Astros want to think big, the answers would be (A) Cubs’ Willson Contreras; (B) Nationals’ Josh Bell; (C) Bryan Reynolds. They don’t really have the farm system talent to swing a Reynolds deal, and we’ll see if they want to mess with team chemistry by benching Maldonado or Gurriel. Keep in mind that they’ll get McCullers back, so they could package one of their starting pitchers like Garcia or Javier for offensive help. The more likely scenario is a smaller move, such as adding a lefty reliever to their righty-heavy bullpen.
The Rangers are somehow on the fringe of the wild-card race despite a mediocre rotation (aside from Martin Perez), less-than-stellar play from mega-free agents Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, and a lineup with just two regulars owning an OBP over .300. Their playoff odds are slim — under 10% — so trading away future value for a long-shot chance to improve the team doesn’t make the most sense. Likewise, trading Perez would crush any playoff hopes, although he might be viewed as the top starter available if the Rangers do decide to trade him. Most likely, it’s small potatoes here, like trading one of their four lefty relievers.
Mike Trout is having an MVP-level season, Shohei Ohtani is having another MVP-level season, Taylor Ward might be an All-Star, the rotation has actually been healthy … and the Angels are still under .500. What did Trout ever do to the baseball gods to deserve this? The problem: the infield. Angels third basemen, second basemen and shortstops are all rank low in the majors in OPS. It’s still hard to believe the Angels didn’t sign one of the free-agent shortstops in the offseason. With Anthony Rendon out for the season after wrist surgery, third base is a big hole, so Drury fits here.
It’s been a rough first half as offseason acquisitions Jesse Winker and Adam Frazier haven’t come close to their 2021 numbers while Robbie Ray has only recently pitched like the guy who won the 2021 Cy Young Award. Due to injuries to Mitch Haniger and Kyle Lewis, as well as Jarred Kelenic whiffing his way back to Tacoma, the Mariners have had to use six different left fielders, eight different right fielders and, since Winker has had to play left field, 10 different DHs (who have combined to be the worst in the majors).
Really, the best chance for their slim playoff hopes is Winker hitting and Haniger getting healthy, rather than making a desperate trade for a hitter. They did already acquire Carlos Santana, and he can DH when Ty France returns from his injury, so I’d say it will be a quiet deadline for Seattle … although, Jerry Dipoto is never quiet.
Passan referred to Montas as one of the “Big Three” trade chips out there, alongside Contreras and Castillo. Montas and Castillo both have another year of team control beyond 2022, but Montas is having the better season and has been the more consistent starter of the two over the past two seasons, so should bring the most of any player traded this year. He’s a frontline starter with a 96 mph fastball and a wipeout splitter and slider, a pitcher a playoff team could comfortably roll out as its No. 2 or 3 starter in the postseason
Note: Montas left his start on Sunday after one inning with tightness in his shoulder, so his trade status (and value) is suddenly in a precarious position.
New York Mets: Acquire Willson Contreras
Mets catchers are hitting a woeful .194/.241/.252 with just two home runs. And while the Mets are third in the National League in runs per game, they rank just seventh in OPS and 11th in home runs, relying on a lot of timely hitting to boost the attack. So they really do need another hitter — especially if we assume the rotation will be fine with the return of Max Scherzer this week and the hopeful return of Jacob deGrom (who began his minor league rehab on Sunday).
While this feels like a perfect fit, it’s not necessarily a slam dunk. James McCann and Tomas Nido are well regarded for their defense, while Contreras’ Statcast pitch framing metrics are below average, so the Mets would have to weigh their need for offense versus working in a new catcher. They could also call up top prospect Francisco Alvarez, who is hammering the ball at Double-A, but installing a rookie catcher in the heat of a pennant drive feels even riskier. Best bet: The Mets go hard after Contreras and call up Alvarez for some DH duty, which could improve the offense at two positions.
Atlanta Braves: Acquire Diamondbacks’ David Peralta
The Braves would like to see better results from Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson, but after trading away a lot of their farm system depth to acquire Matt Olson, a splashy frontline starter might be a little expensive — and the rotation is still in good hands with Max Fried, Kyle Wright and rookie Spencer Strider. The easier and cheaper addition is a left fielder, as Adam Duvall has struggled at the plate. Since Olson and rookie center fielder Michael Harris are the only left-handed bats in the lineup, it makes sense to add a lefty hitter to platoon with Duvall. Peralta fits the bill.
Bullpen is a clear need, although don’t rule out an outfielder with Bryce Harper sidelined with his broken thumb. Benintendi would be a nice fit here, allowing the Phillies to move Kyle Schwarber to a DH role and improving the defense. As for the pen, Robertson is the best closer out there, but we put him on the Twins. He would certainly be an option. But if the Phillies want to think bigger and get a long-term option, how about Detroit’s hard-throwing closer? Soto would be under team control for another three seasons. Then again, there are some Jose Alvarado vibes here with his sometimes shaky control.
This is a long shot since Lopez is under control through 2024 and the Marlins aren’t completely out of it, but this team appears to have too many holes to reach the postseason. General manager Kim Ng needs to be realistic about a lineup that (A) Isn’t that good; (B) Isn’t particularly young, with six regulars 30 or older. The rotation doesn’t have as much depth as many seem to suggest either, but the Marlins do have two of the top pitching prospects in the minors — Eury Perez and Max Meyer — to eventually go with Sandy Alcantara and Trevor Rogers. Dealing Lopez could give them some much-needed position player youth.
Washington Nationals: Trade away Josh Bell
Bell is quietly having his best season — even better than his All-Star campaign of 2019, when he started for the NL at DH after a monster first half before tailing off in the second half. His batting average is about 50 points above his career average, so there might be concern that he can’t keep that going, but Bell has become one of the tougher hitters to strike out and the metrics say his average is legit so far. Among those teams that could use a first baseman or DH: Red Sox (near last in OPS at first base), Padres (time to bench Eric Hosmer), Guardians (their DHs have been among the worst in the majors), Mets (for DH), Rays (need offense), Astros (for first base).
Milwaukee Brewers: Acquire Tigers’ Michael Pineda
The Brewers are battling the Cardinals in a tight NL Central race, which isn’t a surprise … but it is surprising that they’ve done it even though the rotation has fallen from second in the majors in ERA in 2021 to middle of the pack in 2022. Brandon Woodruff has returned from the IL with two strong outings, but Freddy Peralta remains out until at least after the All-Star break and Adrian Houser just landed on the IL with a right elbow injury. Eric Lauer, meanwhile, had a great start but finished June with a four-start stretch in which he allowed 20 runs and eight home runs in 21 2/3 innings. All that adds up to the Brew Crew perhaps actually looking to add a low-cost starting pitcher to soak up some innings.
Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright have been a strong 1-2 duo, but Jack Flaherty’s continued health problems have created a dent in the rotation. The Cardinals should get Steven Matz back soon from his sore shoulder, but the rotation depth still feels like the clear need here. The bonus with Mahle is he’s under control for 2023, so he would also help them next season if Wainwright retires or Flaherty can’t get healthy.
Chicago Cubs: Trade away Willson Contreras
The likely NL starter at catcher for the All-Star Game, Contreras is staring down free agency and will likely follow the same path as Bryant, Baez and Rizzo last season — ending his Cubs career with a trade to a contender. Four playoff contenders sit at the bottom in catcher OPS: the Cardinals, Guardians, Mets and Astros. The Cardinals aren’t about to bench Yadier Molina in his final season — not to mention the unlikelihood of a Cubs-Cardinals trade — and the Astros love what Martin Maldonado gives them on defense. The Guardians will be reluctant to pick up any salary, so that makes the Mets the front-runner to land Contreras (although Cleveland has the better farm system to deal from).
Pittsburgh Pirates: Trade away Jose Quintana
What’s more notable is who isn’t listed here: Reynolds. The 2021 All-Star struggled out of the gate with a .194 average in April, but he hit .281/.345/.532 in May and June to get back on track — maybe not another 6.0-WAR season, but he’s arguably one of the top 10 outfielders in the game. If the Pirates did make him available he would easily be the most valuable player to change teams, but he’s under team control through 2025. So while the Pirates are still a long way from contending status, there is no rush to deal him — meaning Quintana is the easy call. He’s pitching well and on a $2 million contract, which makes him attractive to any contender looking for rotation help.
Cincinnati Reds: Trade away Brandon Drury
Pitchers Castillo and Mahle, both under team control through 2023, will be the difficult decisions for the Reds. The Reds could have traded both back in spring training when they traded away Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez and Sonny Gray and officially declared this would be a transition year, but maybe they hold out some hope that 2023 will be better and decide to keep both or one of the two.
Drury, however, is an obvious trade candidate. After spending most of 2021 in Triple-A while with the Mets, he got a chance to play this year only because of the Suarez trade and some injuries early in the season. He might end up representing the Reds in the All-Star Game.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Acquire Athletics’ Frankie Montas
As a reminder:
2021: Acquired Max Scherzer and Trea Turner
2018: Acquired Manny Machado
2017: Acquired Yu Darvish
2016: Acquired Rich Hill and Josh Reddick
The Dodgers don’t always make a big deadline deal, but they will if they have to, and with the Padres breathing down their necks, this is one of those “have to” years. In fact, Montas was sent to Oakland back in that Hill/Reddick trade. With Walker Buehler on the 60-day IL, Andrew Heaney back on it for the second time, and the recent injury histories of Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Dodgers go after — and land — a big fish, just as they did with Scherzer, Machado and Darvish (all this is assuming Montas’ shoulder is healthy). Given Craig Kimbrel’s blown save on Sunday, his third, the Dodgers may also look to one of the top relievers, such as David Robertson. As a wise old baseball guru once said, you can never have too much pitching.
San Diego Padres: Acquire Nationals’ Josh Bell
The Padres have hung close to the Dodgers despite the season-long absence of Fernando Tatis Jr., so they could get a double boost to the lineup if they add a big bat alongside Tatis for the second half. Eric Hosmer had a 1.054 OPS in April, but tailed off to .654 in May and .567 in June. He’s basically unplayable right now — no matter his $21 million salary. Outfield is also an area of need, but with Ha-Seong Kim playing a solid shortstop, maybe Tatis goes to the outfield when he returns, which Tatis himself acknowledged the other day as a possibility.
Of course, it’s probably not as simple as A.J. Preller making one move. Last year, it was Adam Frazier and Daniel Hudson (before they collapsed the final two months). In 2020, it was a flurry of transactions. The long-shot possibility: CF Reynolds … but given that he’s under control through 2025, Pittsburgh’s asking price would have to start with top prospect C.J. Abrams.
Let’s see, the Giants have seen a decline in OPS+ and ERA+ from 2021 to this year, so that suggests they’ll be out looking for pitching help — although with Anthony DeSclafani back from injury, they do finally have their Opening Day rotation back for the first time since the opening weeks of the season. They’ll give DeSclafani a couple more starts to turn things around.
On offense, the hope has to be for Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Darin Ruf to find their 2021 level of play — and this is where we remind you that Belt is 34 and Crawford and Ruf are 35. With Joey Bart in the minors, Contreras is also a possibility. For now, we’ll give the Giants Greinke, but they could go in almost any direction.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Trade away David Peralta
Originally a pitcher in the Cardinals organization, Peralta was plucked by the Diamondbacks out of the independent leagues a decade ago and he has had a nice run in his nine seasons in Arizona, twice hitting .300 and once hitting 30 home runs. He has been in trade rumors for a couple of years now and is finally in the last year of his deal. He can still help a team on offense as a platoon bat and left fielder or DH.
There isn’t really much of value here that would interest playoff contenders — maybe veteran relievers Daniel Bard and Alex Colome. Iglesias isn’t a difference-maker, but he could help a team like the Angels (shortstops hitting under .200) or even the Yankees (Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s defensive metrics). From the Rockies’ perspective, trading Iglesias would allow the team to call up Ezequiel Tovar, who is putting up huge numbers at Double-A Hartford. Let him play the final two months of the season to get some experience heading into 2023.