Divorces That Need To Happen During 2022 MLB Trade Season

Zachary D. RymerMay 28, 2022

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 23: Manager Mark Kotsay #7 of the Oakland Athletics takes the ball from Frankie Montas #47 taking him out of the game against the Texas Rangers in the top of the eighth inning at RingCentral Coliseum on April 23, 2022 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Once a Major League Baseball season reaches Memorial Day, "it's still early" no longer works as an excuse. Teams that have been racking up losses need to face reality and accept that they should part ways with key players ahead of the trade deadline.  

Since this crucial point of the 2022 season is now just two days away, we've highlighted six breakups that simply have to happen.

We avoided including players who are only in their first or second seasons with a given team. This is instead about players who have been franchise mainstays, guys whose departures would therefore be more bitter than sweet.

There are some caveats, though. While we hypothetically could have included Juan Soto, we can't say we'd be thinking about trading him if we were Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. A better idea would be to extend him, no matter the cost.

We're also not going to suggest teams sell low on certain trade chips. Sure, the Pittsburgh Pirates could look to move Bryan Reynolds, but with his offensive production under water and club control until 2025, they can wait. 

As for the players who did make the list, let's start in Baltimore.

Trey Mancini and the Baltimore Orioles

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 12: Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Trey Mancini (16) comes off the field in between innings during an MLB game against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 12, 2022 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2022 Stats: 43 G, 185 PA, 3 HR, 0 SB, .287 AVG, .357 OBP, .372 SLG, 114 OPS+0.9 rWAR

Contract Status: Under club control through 2022

We can't summarize how unpopular a Trey Mancini trade would be with Baltimore Orioles fans better than Dan Connolly of The Athletic did when he wrote this in March:

It’s gonna piss off a chunk of an already disgruntled fan base. It’s gonna appear cold—dealing away an inspirational cancer survivor and 2021 Comeback Player of the Year months after winning the award.

But as they're once again in the American League East cellar at 19-27, the Orioles aren't exactly making the most of Mancini's walk year. At this rate, it only makes sense for the two sides to stay together if they agree on an extension that would keep him in town beyond 2022.

Even if the Orioles are interested in doing so, here's an honest question: Why would Mancini want to?

Setting aside whatever affinity he has for the franchise, the city and the fans, the Orioles have turned Oriole Park at Camden Yards into a horrible fit for his right-handed power. The left field wall is now about a mile away from home plate, and its effect on Mancini is clear:

  • Home: 0 HR, .346 SLG
  • Road: 3 HR, .395 SLG

"Nobody likes it," Mancini said of OPACY's new dimensions to Nathan Ruiz of the Baltimore Sun. "No hitters like it, myself included."

Clearly, the Orioles would be doing Mancini a solid if they moved him to a contending team that also has a ballpark more conducive to his hitting style.

Michael Fulmer and the Detroit Tigers

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 26: Michael Fulmer #32 of the Detroit Tigers delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins in the eighth inning of the game at Target Field on April 26, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Tigers 5-4. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
David Berding/Getty Images

2022 Stats: 17 G, 3 GF, 16.2 IP, 12 H (1 HR), 15 K, 8 BB, 3.24 ERA, 116 ERA+, 0.4 rWAR

Contract Status: Under club control through 2022

Following a splashy offseason that included $235.5 million worth of investments in free agents, the Detroit Tigers surely didn't expect to be 16-28 and in fourth place in the AL Central.

Them's the breaks, though, so it's not too early for them to be thinking about finally offloading Michael Fulmer.

The 29-year-old's name obviously doesn't carry as much weight as it did back when he was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2016 and an All-Star in 2017. He had Tommy John surgery in 2019, and he's been working exclusively out of Detroit's bullpen since last May.

Further, it's fair to question how much value Fulmer even has right now. His numbers are more good than great, and it's a red flag that his average fastball is down 2.1 mph from last season.

Fulmer's metrics, however, suggest he deserves better than the results he has. He notably bears a whiff rate in the 88th percentile and a hard-hit rate in the 84th percentile, both of which he largely owes to a slider he's now throwing 55.8 percent of the time.

Cashing in Fulmer as a rental reliever probably isn't what the Tigers envisioned back when he first broke in as Justin Verlander's co-ace. But if they can make their future even a little brighter by trading him for a prospect or two, they should do it.

Willson Contreras and the Chicago Cubs

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MAY 16: Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs hits a grand slam during the first inning of a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on May 16, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

2022 Stats: 36 G, 149 PA, 6 HR, 1 SB, .260 AVG, .389 OBP, .480 SLG, 146 OPS+, 1.5 rWAR

Contract Status: Under club control through 2022

Similar to the Tigers, the Chicago Cubs came into 2022 on a high after loading up on talent during the winter. Yet, it's been similarly for naught as they've opened at 18-26.

To be fair, the Cubs did have a positive run differential (plus-seven) before taking a 20-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday. One could read that as an indication there's a turnaround in their future, but we simply can't sanction that delusion.

Perhaps the Cubs have been more competitive than their record suggests, but they've done so while playing one of the easiest schedules of any National League team. It includes nine games against the lowly Pirates, and the North Siders have actually lost five of those.

Thus, the Cubs will likely go into sell mode at the deadline for a second successive year. And this time, there will be no reason to keep Willson Contreras.

Even Contreras is geared up for this fate, telling Gordon Wittenmeyer of NBC Sports Chicago that he knows the trade rumors are "going to come." The Cubs could stil; hypothetically preempt his looming free agency by extending him, but the 30-year-old also said he hasn't heard anything from the club in that regard.

Meanwhile, Contreras is having the best offensive season of any catcher by a sizable margin. Even if he is indeed a rental, other teams would surely be willing to pay a pretty penny for him if the Cubs put him out there.

Ian Happ and the Chicago Cubs

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 24: Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs watches the flight of the ball in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on April 24, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images)
Matt Dirksen/Getty Images

2022 Stats: 42 G, 166 PA, 5 HR, 2 SB, .275 AVG, .386 OBP, .442 SLG, 135 OPS+, 1.6 rWAR

Contract Status: Under club control through 2023

This one, on the other hand, is debatable.

Even in what was otherwise an unremarkable 2021 season, Ian Happ still set new career highs with 148 games played and 25 home runs. He's now trafficking in the best on-base percentage of his career, and it's no accident. He's tightened his approach to achieve the best walk-to-strikeout ratio he's ever had.

It's hard to let players like this go in a vacuum, but doubly so when they're still more than a year from free agency. Contrary to Contreras, the Cubs should arguably hold Happ and do what they can to ensure he's part of a contender in 2023.

If ever there was a good guy to sell high on, though, it's Happ.

For all the promising spurts he's had throughout his six seasons with the Cubs, consistency has had a way of eluding him. In 2018, for example, he was hot in the first half (.832 OPS) and then ice-cold in the second (.653). He flipped the script last season, going from a .626 OPS in the first half to an .886 OPS in the second.

There's sense in trading a guy like that while his value is up. And if the Cubs time it right, they might even be able to turn a year-and-a-half of Happ's services into major league or major league-ready talent.

Luis Castillo and the Cincinnati Reds

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 14:  Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the first inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 14, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

2022 Stats: 4 GS, 20.2 IP, 18 H (2 HR), 18 K, 5 BB, 4.35 ERA, 107 ERA+, 0.5 rWAR

Contract Status: Under club control through 2023

Things are going about as well as anyone could have expected for the Cincinnati Reds after they spent the offseason completely dismantling their roster. Which is to say, things are not going well at all at 15-30.

One question now is when they'll start making trades, with another being whether they'll move both of the right-handers atop their starting rotation. 

The Reds may have missed their ideal trade window with Tyler Mahle. He had oodles of value over the winter, when he was fresh off posting a 3.75 ERA over 180 innings in 2021. But now? A lot less as he's struggling with a 6.32 ERA through his first 10 starts in 2022. 

Luis Castillo's value has also taken some lumps since he was also in demand during the offseason. He missed the first month of the season with a bum shoulder, and he hasn't exactly put up impressive numbers since his return.

And yet, those numbers are misleading.

Castillo has been effective in all four of his starts, allowing no more than three earned runs in any of them. He's also been adding velocity to his fastball as he goes, starting at 94.9 mph in his first start but now sitting at 96.4 mph in each of his past two outings.

It'll likely take a more prolonged hot stretch for the Reds to have any hope of cashing Castillo in for a package similar to what a year-and-a-half of Jose Berrios got the Minnesota Twins last summer. But even if they can't necessarily plan on that, they certainly shouldn't plan on actually keeping the 29-year-old.

Frankie Montas and the Oakland Athletics

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 21: Starting pitcher Frankie Montas #47 of the Oakland Athletics throws against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 21, 2022 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

2022 Stats: 10 GS, 57.2 IP, 41 H (6 HR), 66 K, 15 BB, 3.12 ERA, 114 ERA+, 1.0 rWAR

Contract Status: Under club control through 2023

In ranking Frankie Montas as his No. 1 trade candidate, Jon Heyman of the New York Post summed it up well in writing: "What’s he still doing there, pitching before crowds of 2,500?"

At 19-29, the Oakland Athletics are indeed having a better season than the Reds even after they similarly took a hatchet to what was a pretty good roster. But that's hardly a good season either, and Heyman's dig at the club's attendance is tragically not hyperbolic. The A's are the only team drawing fewer than 10,000 fans per home game.

As for Montas, he's still doing his thing after pitching to a rock-solid 3.37 ERA over 187 innings last year. Namely, he's firing mid-90s fastballs and making major league hitters look like little leaguers with that splitter of his:

Rob Friedman @PitchingNinja

Frankie Montas, Dirty 87mph Splitter. ✌️ <a href="https://t.co/5G4KJATcOt">pic.twitter.com/5G4KJATcOt</a>

The A's rarely do extensions in the first place, so that discussion is barely worth having even without considering what one for Montas would cost. But we'll bite anyway and theorize that he would have to get a fair deal more than the franchise-record $66 million Eric Chavez got way back in 2004.

So, enough already. The A's need to trade Montas, and they need to trade him yesterday.