Predicting Which Teams Will Be Most Active at 2022 MLB Trade Deadline
The Aug. 2 trade deadline is less than two months away, which means baseball fans and observers should have a much more realistic sense for trade possibilities.
The contenders and pretenders are clearer even more than they were a week ago.
Teams with a chance to make the new 12-team playoff format are more likely to be buyers before the deadline. Reality is setting in for the others, at least the ones who were actually trying.
So let's predict which teams will be the most active at the deadline.
Nationals trade rumors have centered around Juan Soto, whom the team's general manager Mike Rizzo has been adamant about not trading.
But they should still be expected to operate in a similar fashion to last year, when they offloaded proven veterans in exchange for prospects.
Consider Josh Bell and Nelson Cruz as two obvious potential trade pieces for the Nationals. Bell is slashing .300/.371/.419 with five home runs and 31 RBI through 57 games. He's in the final year of his deal.
Cruz was traded a week before last year's deadline and should draw interest even though his production as a designated hitter has clearly dipped.
The Nationals should view Cruz the same way the Minnesota Twins viewed him a year ago. The question is whether there is a contender, like Tampa Bay last year, that wants him.
He still hits the ball fairly hard.
San Diego Padres
The Padres are closer to contender status than they were in a disappointing 2021, but they still need an impact bat.
Credit to their pitching staff for being one of the best in baseball. Only three teams have a lower WHIP. Only six teams have more strikeouts, and only five have allowed fewer home runs.
Meanwhile, on offense the Padres are well below the league average OPS, sandwiched between the non-contending Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. Only four teams have fewer home runs.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is expected to return from his wrist fracture soon, but that shouldn't keep San Diego from seeking outside help to address its offensive shortcomings.
James Clark of the East Village Times reported earlier this week the Padres are in "exploratory talks" with the Kansas City Royals to trade for Andrew Benintendi.
MLB insider Robert Murray reported the Padres have shown interest in Chad Pinder, who may not be available for trade but used to play for San Diego manager Bob Melvin in Oakland.
With Willson Contreras set to reach free agency after this season, it would surprise no one if the Cubs parted ways with their star catcher.
He's one of the few holdovers left from their 2016 World Series team, which was blown up ahead of last year's deadline. Contreras and the Cubs avoided arbitration Thursday by reaching an agreement that ESPN's Jesse Rogers reported was for $9.625 million.
The fact they have not progressed closer to a long-term deal shows the writing on the wall for Contreras' eventual departure.
He will be the top offensive catcher of this upcoming free-agent class, so the question is who wants to risk renting him for half a season before it's really time to pay up this offseason.
Aside from Contreras, the Cubs' most obvious trade candidate is David Robertson. The 37-year-old closer is on a one-year deal, and plenty of teams will be interested in a reliever with a 1.66 ERA.
By the end of the month, when Jake Meyers is expected to return to the big leagues after rehabbing from a torn labrum, the Astros are going to be crowded at center field.
Some time later than that, whenever Lance McCullers Jr. comes back, the Astros will have seven viable starting pitchers.
All the while, they have clear holes in their lineup at catcher and first base. It's not that every catcher has to hit like Willson Contreras. But Martin Maldonado at times this season has simply been a non-competitive bat in the lineup, regardless of position. And somehow, Jason Castro is even worse at the plate.
They could use more offense from the catcher position, and Contreras just so happens to be in a lame-duck situation with the Cubs.
The Astros are also not getting nearly enough from the reigning AL batting champion Yuli Gurriel, who turned 38 on Thursday.
Gurriel's OPS is .618. He's slashing .218/.267/.351. All of those numbers are easily his worst since arriving to the big leagues in 2016.
So the Astros could use offensive help from the catcher and first base positions. Josh Bell and Contreras are on expiring contracts with non-contenders.
Ever since it became clear the Reds were not trying to be competitive in the near future, it's been a wait-and-see game as to when they would get rid of their remaining proven talent.
That's where starters Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle come into play. MLB insider Peter Gammons reported the Reds are "willing to talk" about trading Castillo and Mahle.
Why wouldn't they be? Cincinnati is battling the Washington Nationals for the worst record in the National League. It's not like the Reds are going anywhere important, anytime soon.
They started selling even before this season when they waived Wade Miley and traded Tucker Barnhart, pitcher Sonny Gray, Amir Garrett, Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker.
One would have to imagine the Reds intend to finish what they started by tearing down this roster completely.
New York Mets
Injuries have debilitated the Mets' starting rotation, and they could certainly use some depth.
A legitimate postseason run seems like a reality for the Mets after their heavy spending this past offseason. They held a seven-game lead over defending World Series champion Atlanta as of Thursday, when PECOTA projections gave them a 96.9 percent chance of making the playoffs.
But to capitalize, they will need insurance. Max Scherzer and Tylor Megill have not pitched since May, while Jacob deGrom has yet to take the mound this season.
Andy Martino of SNY reported earlier this week that the Mets "will not merely be looking at late-inning relief help over the next two months, but quality pitching more generally, even though they expect to have Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Tylor Megill back."
Frankie Montas trade watch started well before the season when it was clear the A's were having a fire sale. The question has never been if, but when Oakland will trade him.
After trading away Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, Montas is the next logical step as Oakland rebuilds.
He's one of the top arms in baseball. Montas ranks in the top 10 in strikeouts and innings pitched.
B/R's Zachary D. Rymer recently ranked potential landing spots for the A's pitcher, with the Mets topping the list.
Teams should be willing to give up high-level prospects for an accomplished talent like Montas, who also has another year of arbitration after this season.
New York Yankees
With the best record in baseball, the Yankees are clearly in win-now mode, with no glaring weaknesses.
But don't expect the Yankees to stand pat, and they have some valuable assets that should garner interest on the trade market.
MLB.com's Bryan Hoch mentioned left-handed pitching prospect Ken Waldichuk as an appealing potential trade chip this summer for the Yankees.
The Brewers are another team linked to Royals outfielder Andrew Benintendi. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has mentioned Benintendi as an interesting fit for teams looking for a left-handed bat, like the Brewers and New York Mets.
While Benintendi is a left fielder, he's spent time in center before, albeit the last time was in 2019. It's center field where the Brewers could really use a boost offensively.
Lorenzo Cain is having by far the worst season of his career.
Only two teams are worse in wRC+ than Milwaukee from the center field position: the lowly Reds and A's.
Los Angeles Dodgers
It's incredible how the Dodgers have remained one of the top three teams in baseball despite lackluster performances from some of their best players, such as Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy, who was activated from the 10-day injured list on Thursday.
Depth has been the strength of this team throughout its run over the past decade.
With that in mind, expect the Dodgers to pursue a position player and a bullpen arm at the deadline.
Reliever Tommy Kahnle was placed on the 60-day injured list on May 28 after initially going on the 10-day injured list in mid-May with forearm tightness. Couple Kahnle's injury with Blake Treinen's uncertain return timetable (shoulder), and the Dodgers could use some bullpen reinforcements.
Infielder Edwin Rios suffered a right hamstring tear while running out a ground ball last week, and manager Dave Roberts has said he will be out at least several weeks.
Kevin Pillar is likely out for the season with a left shoulder fracture. As great as the Dodgers are, they have some holes to fill.