MLB Trade Deadline 2022 Big Board: Ranking the Top 25 Available Players

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesFeatured Columnist IVJuly 21, 2022

MLB Trade Deadline 2022 Big Board: Ranking the Top 25 Available Players

0 of 26

    Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

    With the MLB draft, Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game in the rearview mirror, the next milestone on the baseball calendar is the August 2 trade deadline.

    Will Juan Soto actually get traded?

    Which other less gigantic but still huge names could be on the move in the next two weeks?

    Even with MLB expanding its postseason from 10 teams to 12 teams, 30 percent of the league is already hopelessly out of playoff contention. And though there's some scarcity at various positions, nine teams already clearly in the "sellers" camp means a healthy supply of noteworthy names for our trade deadline big board.

    To some extent, a player's contract situation played a factor in our top 25 rankings. For instance, Madison Bumgarner's gargantuan contract almost kept him out of the top 25 altogether, while Brandon Drury on a one-year, $900,000 deal boosts the utility man comfortably into the top 10. The values of guys with multiple years left on their deals are also a little inflated compared to those of the two-month rentals.

    For the most part, though, the player's contract has nothing to do with the rankings. That information—as well as our lists of the logical suitors for each player—is there for talking points. Rankings are more about statistics and what sort of value that player figures to add in what will soon be a new home.


    Ten players who just missed the cut (in alphabetical order): Zach Davies, Mychal Givens, Zack Greinke, Jose Iglesias, Joe Jimenez, Ian Kennedy, Tyler Naquin, Chad Pinder, Garrett Richards, Hunter Strickland.

    Ten players still under multiple years of team control who probably aren't available but who would jump into the top 25 if they do hit the trade block (in alphabetical order): Paul Blackburn, C.J. Cron, Hunter Dozier, Pablo Lopez, Joe Mantiply, Sean Murphy, Bryan Reynolds, Gregory Soto, Lou Trivino, Christian Walker.

Buyer/Seller Assumptions

1 of 26

    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Before we dive into our ranking, it's imperative to first decipher who figures to be buying and selling.

    Eighteen teams are either in playoff position or within 3.5 games of a playoff spot. While it's possible the Giants, Guardians, Red Sox, White Sox or others could crash and burn after the All-Star break and end up as sellers at the deadline, it makes no sense to consider them as sellers today.

    Conversely, nine teams—A's, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Pirates, Reds, Rockies, Royals and Tigers—have no realistic hope of reaching the playoffs this season. They will clearly try to trade any and all impending free agents, and perhaps even a few guys still under team control for multiple years.

    The wild cards are the four teams in between.

    What will the Angels, Marlins, Orioles and Rangers do?

    Our assumption is that the Rangers will sell, and because none of the other three have all that much to offer, the Angels, Marlins and Orioles will either be buyers or trade deadline bystanders.

    But if the Angels decided to throw in the towel on this 39-53 campaign, could we see Shohei Ohtani on the move? He's making $5.5 million this season and is arbitration-eligible for 2023 before he hits free agency. And with all the money the Angels have tied up in Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, signing Ohtani to the megacontract he deserves might not be feasible.

    For all the talk about Juan Soto potentially getting traded this summer, the complete lack of Ohtani rumors has been surprising. He's not on our list, but he would be a no-brainer top-two available player if he is, in fact, available.

25. Kole Calhoun, RF, Texas Rangers

2 of 26

    Tim Heitman/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $5.2 million in 2022, $5.5 million team option (no buyout) for 2023, free agent for 2024

    2022 Stats: .221/.275/.389, 11 HR, 2 SB, 0.0 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Padres, Red Sox, Phillies, Guardians

    Two years removed from clubbing 16 home runs during the 60-game 2020 campaign, Kole Calhoun has been the definition of "replacement level" this season.

    But as he's sort of like a Kyle Schwarber Lite, if and when this streaky hitter gets into a groove, look out.

    In 15 games played from May 13-28, Calhoun triple-slashed .411/.460/.839 with six home runs. While you wouldn't guess it from his batting average, he has 14 multi-hit games.

    And let's face facts: The supply of right fielders is limited on this year's trade block. Yes, Soto is allegedly out there if anyone is willing and able to pay that exorbitant price. But aside from Kansas City's Whit Merrifield—who's more of a second baseman than a right fielder but can play both—Calhoun might be the top right fielder available for the "can't possibly afford Soto" crowd.

    The Red Sox probably could afford Soto if they got creative, but Boston figures to be a good landing spot for Calhoun. The combined forces of Jackie Bradley Jr., Franchy Cordero, Christian Arroyo and Rob Refsnyder in right field simply hasn't been cutting it, and it could cost them a spot in the playoffs if they don't address it.

24. Nelson Cruz, DH, Washington Nationals

3 of 26

    G Fiume/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $12 million in 2022, $16 million mutual option ($3 million buyout) for 2023

    2022 Stats: .242/.324/.361, 8 HR, 3 SB, minus-0.2 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Red Sox, Mets, Padres

    Eventually, Father Time comes for us all, and the 42-year-old Nelson Cruz is finally starting to look his age.

    After he slugged .595 in 2020, that number dropped precipitously to .497 last year and .361 this year. Cruz temporarily got his slugging north of .400 with a hot streak in the first half of June, but he batted .182 with one home run in his final 27 games played before the All-Star Break.

    While there are sure to be teams that would love to buy low for two months of a slugger with 457 career home runs, there's not much of a "buy low" to be found here. Unless Washington agrees to eat a good chunk of his 2022 salary and/or pay the $3 million buyout for next season, Cruz probably isn't going anywhere.

    All the same, the combination of his name and Washington's horrendous record will generate some trade buzz. Maybe a deep-pocketed team in need of a DH will give Cruz one last shot.

23. Chad Kuhl, RHP, Colorado Rockies

4 of 26

    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $3 million in 2022, free agent in 2023

    2022 Stats: 4.11 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 6.4 K/9, 1.1 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Cardinals, Orioles, Rays

    One month into the 2022 campaign, Chad Kuhl was pitching like a bona fide ace for a surprising postseason contender. He had a 1.82 ERA through his first five starts, including four consecutive quality starts.

    Since then, however, Colorado has collapsed, and he has a 5.20 ERA in 12 games started. (Though he did have an out-of-nowhere complete-game shutout of the Dodgers in late June.)

    Translation: The Rockies probably missed the boat on cashing in Kuhl's trade value.

    There will still be interest. He has pitched at least into the fifth inning in 10 consecutive starts, and in spite of the bloated ERA, hasn't gotten mercilessly shelled yet this season. Teams can do (and have done) much worse every fifth day.

    At the very least, he would be a welcome addition at the back end of the Cardinals rotation, which has been a hot mess aside from Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright and Dakota Hudson. And if the Orioles end up as buyers, Kuhl's modest salary for a 4.11 ERA would fit well in Baltimore.

22. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

5 of 26

    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $23 million in 2022, $23 million in 2023, $14 million in 2024, free agent in 2025

    2022 Stats: 3.83 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 6.4 K/9, 0.6 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Giants?

    How much should the contract situation and inherent "tradability" of a player factor into a ranking like this?

    If money weren't a factor, Madison Bumgarner would maybe be a top-10 player on this year's trade block. That's not because he has been anything special this season, but rather because he's durable (leads the majors with 19 games started) and because he is on a rather short list of active pitchers who have logged at least 100 career innings in the postseason—and has done so with an absurd 2.11 ERA, no less.

    If he cost the same as a Jose Quintana ($2M) or a Martin Perez ($4M), teams such as the Orioles, Twins and Mariners would be aggressively trying to get that veteran postseason experience into their rotation.

    But unless the Diamondbacks are willing to eat a decent chunk of the $60 million owed to Bumgarner between the start of this season and the end of 2024, it's hard to imagine any team absorbing this contract.

    The one spot that just might work is a reunion with the Giants.

    If Carlos Rodon turns down his $22.5 million player option for next season in search of a bigger contract (likely) and if the Giants opt to not exercise their $13 million team option on Evan Longoria for 2023 (probable), that $35.5 million plus the $39.45 million coming off the books after Brandon Belt, Joc Pederson, Matt Boyd, Wilmer Flores, Curt Casali, Dominic Leone and Jose Alvarez all hit free agency is quite a bit of spending room for 2023 and beyond.

    San Francisco would likely still want Arizona to retain some of the contract, but there could be something there for a team that recently lost Anthony DeSclafani for the year to an ankle injury and is left hoping that Jakob Junis doesn't implode.

21. Alex Colome, RHP, Colorado Rockies

6 of 26

    Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Contract Details: $4.1 million in 2022, free agent for 2023

    2022 Stats: 2.86 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 6.5 K/9, 0.8 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Twins, Red Sox, Mariners, Dodgers

    For the handful of teams on the hunt for a closer, how about a former one?

    Alex Colome has saved 159 games since the start of 2016, and has done so with a 2.91 ERA. Only Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Edwin Diaz and Craig Kimbrel have racked up more saves during that time, and only Jansen and Chapman have done so with a better ERA.

    Though he no longer holds a ninth-inning job, Colome has yet to allow a home run this season, nor did he give up any dingers in 22.1 innings in 2020. With his modest 2.27 K/BB ratio, that ability to keep the ball in the yard has been huge. (And if he can avoid home runs in Colorado, you've got to assume he can do it anywhere.)

    As far as batting average on balls in play is concerned, Colome has been pretty unlucky this season. His career BABIP is .285, but it is at .336 in 2022. That makes him a candidate to improve in the second half—if he can continue to keep balls in play.

    Colorado's asking price likely won't be much. The Rockies got Colome on a one-year deal after a relatively disappointing 2021 campaign, and barring a very unlikely hot start to the second half against the Brewers, White Sox, Dodgers and Padres, they should be selling this car for parts at the deadline.

20. David Peralta, LF, Arizona Diamondbacks

7 of 26

    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $8 million in 2022, free agent in 2023

    2022 Stats: .236/.301/.444, 12 HR, 1 SB, 1.1 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Yankees, Braves, Guardians, Padres

    Early in his nine-season run with the Diamondbacks, David Peralta was quite the asset. In 2015, he batted .312 and was a top-15 outfielder as far as FanGraphs was concerned. In 2018, he batted .293, hit 30 home runs and barely missed out on another top-15 outfielder grade. He earned a Silver Slugger that year and a Gold Glove the following season.

    But at this point in the almost-35-year-old's career, he has to be platooned with a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder, which puts quite the ceiling on his trade value.

    Against right-handed pitchers, the left-handed Peralta has a good-not-great .255 batting average and .792 OPS, averaging one home run for every 22 trips to the plate. Against lefties, however, he is batting .114 this season and has just one home run in 41 plate appearances.

    Still, positional scarcity will drive interest in Peralta. Aside from Soto, Andrew Benintendi and—if the Cubs are willing to part with him—Ian Happ, corner outfielders who are both available and able to provide "above replacement level" value are few and far between.

    Atlanta is the perfect destination for Peralta. Right-handed Adam Duvall is slugging .569 against lefties compared to just .346 against righties this season. Platoon Duvall and Peralta in left, and that spot is no longer a liability.

19. Michael Pineda, RHP, Detroit Tigers

8 of 26

    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $5.5 million in 2022, free agent in 2023

    2022 Stats: 5.22 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 4.5 K/9, minus-0.2 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Orioles, Marlins, Phillies, Giants, Cardinals

    Brace yourselves for a brief run on Detroit Tigers pitchers, as they occupy Nos. 19 through 17 in our top 25.

    As far as Michael Pineda is concerned, the stats were a whole lot better a week ago.

    Because of injuries, Pineda has only logged 39.2 innings this season. And in his most recent outing, he gave up eight earned runs in two innings, causing his ERA to balloon from 3.58 to 5.22.

    Even though the velocity on his fastball is nowhere near what it used to be, even though his strikeout rate is drastically below his career norm and even though nearly every season of his career includes a "time missed to injury" footnote, Pineda was looking like an intriguing option for a team on the prowl for a relatively inexpensive, back-of-the-rotation arm.

    He still might be an option for those teams, although that dud against the light-hitting Guardians sure was a red flag.

18. Michael Fulmer, RHP, Detroit Tigers

9 of 26

    Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Contract Details: $4.95 million in 2022, free agent in 2023

    2022 Stats: 2.38 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 0.6 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Twins, Blue Jays, Mariners, Angels, Rays, Red Sox, Giants

    With limited exceptions, right-handed middle relievers typically aren't worth much ahead of the trade deadline. They're a dime a dozen.

    But the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year figures to be one of the exceptions.

    Since becoming a full-time reliever in early May 2021, Michael Fulmer has logged 82.0 innings with a 2.30 ERA, better than one strikeout per inning, five total home runs allowed, 23 holds and 16 saves. He was not named an All-Star in either season, but only a handful of non-closers—Devin Williams, A.J. Minter, Michael King, teammate Andrew Chafin and perhaps a couple others—have been more reliable than Fulmer.

    At just a shade under $5 million, he's also one of the more expensive non-closer relievers, but he would be worth every penny to the at least half-dozen teams that have consistently struggled in either the seventh or eighth inning this season.

    While they don't really fit that description, maybe the Mets could bring home their 2011 first-round pick? They traded Fulmer and Luis Cessa for Yoenis Cespedes at the 2015 deadline, which was a fantastic deal for both teams. Now, bring it full circle.

17. Andrew Chafin, LHP, Detroit Tigers

10 of 26

    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $5.5 million in 2022, $6.5 million player option for 2023

    2022 Stats: 2.22 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 10.8 K/9, 0.7 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Astros, Mariners, Blue Jays, Twins, White Sox, Rays

    If the Texas Rangers do not sell and Matt Moore does not hit the trade block, the market for Andrew Chafin could get wild. He's already going to be a hot commodity, but at that point, he would be the only available left-handed reliever of any particular value.

    And plenty of teams are in the market for a lefty with a sub-2.00 ERA dating back to the start of last season.

    Chafin pitched great for the Cubs for the first four months of 2021, got traded to the A's and was even better for another two months, and has been rock solid this season for the Tigers.

    It doesn't matter which side of the plate he's pitching against, either. He's naturally a little more unhittable against lefties, but righties batted .196 against him last season and are at .190 in this campaign. So, whether you're looking for someone to regularly hold down the seventh inning or eighth inning, just slot Chafin in there and don't worry about the matchups.

    One potential snag here in Chafin's trade value is that player option for 2023. If he stays healthy through the end of this season, it's a foregone conclusion that he will turn that down and get more on the open market. But should he suffer a serious injury that requires a significant rehab for part or all of next season, his new team would be stuck paying that $6.5 million bill.

    That's no big deal for one of the dozen or so teams ready, willing and able to embrace a $175 million payroll in 2023, but it might scare off the likes of Seattle, Minnesota and Tampa Bay, which could really use Chafin for the rest of this season.

16. Tommy Pham, LF, Cincinnati Reds

11 of 26

    Elsa/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $6 million in 2022, $6 million mutual option for 2023

    2022 Stats: .242/.329/.391, 11 HR, 7 SB, 1.0 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Yankees, Braves, Guardians, Padres

    Players who were part of that infamous fantasy football league maybe wouldn't be too keen on seeing Tommy Pham every day for the next two to three months. But from a purely "production on the baseball field" perspective, Pham should be a relatively popular name ahead of the deadline.

    Dating back to the start of 2017, Pham has 94 home runs and 92 stolen bases. The only other players in that 90/90 club are Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Jose Ramirez, Trevor Story, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Christian Yelich, with Tim Anderson two homers away and Francisco Lindor two stolen bases away.

    Though he has already bounced around between four franchises during that time, that's an impressive list that Pham is on.

    And unlike David Peralta, there's no need to worry about a platoon. Pham's career splits against lefties and righties are darn near identical. As a right-handed hitter, he naturally sees lefties a little better, but he's a legitimate everyday option in left field for whomever wants to wheel and deal with the Reds.

15. Daniel Bard, Closer, Colorado Rockies

12 of 26

    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $4.4 million in 2022, free agent in 2023

    2022 Stats: 2.02 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 10.6 K/9, 20 saves, 0.6 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Red Sox, Twins

    Wouldn't it be fun if Daniel Bard ended up back in Boston?

    The team's 2006 first-round pick spent 2009 to 2013 with the Red Sox before falling apart and vanishing from the majors. After retiring in 2017, he resurfaced with the Rockies in 2020 and surprisingly became their primary closer a month later.

    In both 2020 and 2021, his save attempts were...adventures. (He had 20 saves with a 5.21 ERA last season.) But now, in spite of a poor walk rate (4.5 BB/9), he's one of the most reliable closers in baseball. He's throwing gas and inducing ground balls at a higher rate (56.6 percent) than ever.

    And the Red Sox could use someone who can be counted upon in the ninth inning.

    Aside from Tanner Houck successfully converting six consecutive save chances in mid-June, it has been a rough season for Boston's bullpen, featuring 19 saves and 20 blown saves. And sitting two games back in the wild-card picture, they simply cannot afford to blow any more late leads.

    Maybe the Red Sox end up with David Robertson and Bard goes to Minnesota, but those are the top two closers on the market and the two teams that definitely need a closer.

14. Matt Moore, LHP, Texas Rangers

13 of 26

    Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $2.5 million in 2022, free agent in 2023

    2022 Stats: 1.73 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, 0.9 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Astros, Mariners, Blue Jays, Twins, White Sox

    Matt Moore's emergence as one of the top middle relievers in baseball has been quite the unexpected development.

    Working predominantly as a starting pitcher, Moore had a 5.26 ERA from 2015 to 2021. He got a minor league offer from the Rangers in mid-March and made two lights-out appearances with the Round Rock Express before getting the call back to the big leagues. And since a minor implosion on Memorial Day, he has gone 19.1 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.

    If he were right-handed, teams would surely want him. But for the best left-handed reliever on the market—especially at a $2.5 million price point—the bidding war could get intense.

    If the Rangers are willing to trade within the division, both the Astros and the Mariners desperately need a left-handed reliever. If they'd rather go outside the AL West, the White Sox also need a lefty, while both the Blue Jays and Twins would gladly acquire any relievers who can get batters out.

13. Ian Happ, OF, Chicago Cubs

14 of 26

    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $6.85 million in 2022, arbitration-eligible in 2023, free agent in 2024

    2022 Stats: .274/.364/.443, 9 HR, 6 SB, 2.2 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Yankees, Braves, Guardians, Padres, White Sox

    The big unknown is whether the Chicago Cubs are willing to part with their 2015 first-round pick.

    As impending free agents, Willson Contreras and David Robertson are definite goners. But Ian Happ is having his best season, and he is still under team control for at least one more season. Even if they don't intend to sign the almost-28-year-old to a long-term deal this offseason, Happ could be a big piece of the puzzle for a team that presumably plans on competing for a playoff spot in 2023.

    If he is available, Happ and his switch-hitting bat, which carries a career .805 OPS, will generate a lot of interest.

    Happ did stumble into the All-Star break, batting .231 with one home run and 27 strikeouts in his last 23 games. But if he starts out the second half in better shape, it's much more likely a team such as the Braves or Yankees would be willing to pay the premium necessary to acquire one-plus years of his services.

    One bonus thing to consider: Though Happ has almost exclusively played left field this season, he used to be primarily a center fielder and has spent at least 180 career innings at each of second base, third base and right field. If he's willing and able to make the transition back to second, that's a substantial development in what is otherwise a market almost entirely devoid of serviceable middle infielders.

12. Jose Quintana, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

15 of 26

    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $2 million in 2022, free agent in 2023

    2022 Stats: 3.99 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 1.8 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Brewers, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Phillies, Marlins, Orioles

    The two main elements of intrigue with Jose Quintana are his salary and his consistency.

    Quintana almost never pitches into the seventh inning. It has happened just once this season, and it was in that bizarre 1-0 game against the Reds on May 15 in which the Pirates won while getting no-hit. But he almost always makes it at least into the fifth inning.

    He won't spin you a gem, but he also won't lay you an egg. More likely than not, he'll give up two or three earned runs in five or six innings. And at a price tag of just $2 million, that's good value.

    Four starting pitchers are higher than Quintana on our list: Tyler Mahle, Frankie Montas, Martin Perez and Luis Castillo. Those are pitchers you might be able to trust to start the second or third game of a playoff series.

    Quintana is more of a Band-Aid for an injured and/or underperforming rotation; a guy who can be as your fourth- or fifth-best starting pitcher but who you're probably using in a long-relief/mop-up role if you do make the playoffs.

    And that's fine. There are at least four teams right on the playoff cut line for whom adding an arm such as Quintana's to the back of their rotation could be the catalyst for making the playoffs. It's unlikely any team will part with a top prospect for him, but the market for Quintana should be a busy one.

11. Tyler Mahle, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

16 of 26

    Justin Casterline/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $5.2 million in 2022, arbitration-eligible in 2023, free agent for 2024

    2022 Stats: 4.48 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, 2.0 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Astros, Phillies, Twins, Yankees

    Ten starts into the 2022 campaign, Tyler Mahle had a 6.32 ERA. He rallied to the tune of a 2.58 ERA over his next seven appearances, but then he landed on the IL with a shoulder strain.

    Because of that, it's hard to gauge his trade value until we see how healthy he looks in his first two starts after the All-Star break.

    If he looks like the Mahle who was mowing down the competition in June, though, he may well belong in our top five.

    That's because in 43 appearances during the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Mahle had a 3.72 ERA while averaging 10.7 K/9. And though his ERA was at 6.32 after 10 starts this season, his FIP was 3.84, suggesting that he was getting terribly unlucky and would eventually turn a corner, which he did.

    One big thing to note with Mahle is that getting out of Cincinnati figures to be a godsend for his ERA. In home games at the Great American Ball Park, he has allowed 59 home runs against 1,205 plate appearances in his career, or one for every 20.4 batters faced. On the road, it's 28 home runs against 1,305 plate appearances, or a ratio of 46.6.

    Team control through 2023 is another big note here, and a factor that figures to make Cincinnati's asking price for him steep.

10. Whit Merrifield, 2B/RF, Kansas City Royals

17 of 26

    Logan Riely/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $7 million in 2022, $6.75 million in 2023, $18 million mutual option ($500,000 buyout) in 2024, free agent in 2025

    2022 Stats: .240/.292/.343, 5 HR, 14 SB, 0.3 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: White Sox, Padres, Red Sox, Phillies

    From 2017 to 2021, not many players were more valuable than Whit Merrifield. The Kansas City Royals' infielder/outfielder hit .292 with 66 home runs and a second-best-in-the-majors 151 stolen bases.

    But Merrifield got out to an atrocious start to this season. Through 27 games, he was batting .139 and slugging .167 with no home runs and just three stolen bases. He didn't miss a single game through the first three months, but he just was not himself for those first few weeks.

    Since May 10, however, he's batting .287 at a much more typical 162-game pace of 14 home runs and 31 stolen bases.

    If the Royals are willing to part with a two-time All-Star who they have signed for a reasonable price next season, he is easily the most intriguing second baseman on the trade block, as well as perhaps the best available right fielder not named Juan Soto.

    Should Kansas City be willing to trade within the division, the most obvious suitor for Merrifield would be the White Sox. Chicago has been floundering at second base ever since Nick Madrigal's season-ending hamstring injury in early June 2021, and getting to pair Merrifield's bat and speed with those of Tim Anderson and Luis Robert sure could be fun.

9. David Robertson, Closer, Chicago Cubs

18 of 26

    Scott Kane/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $3.5 million in 2022, free agent in 2023

    2022 Stats: 1.93 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 11.6 K/9, 13 saves, 0.6 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Twins, Red Sox, Dodgers, Mariners, Phillies

    Along with Colorado's Daniel Bard, David Robertson is one of two closers who are all but certain to be donning new threads by August 3. (Both are free agents after this season.)

    While Bard has more saves (20) this season, Robertson has the marginally better stats in 2022 and the drastically better long-term track record. The Cub has 150 career saves and a 2.88 ERA, as well as 33 career postseason appearances. Bard entered 2022 with 31 career saves, a 3.96 ERA and no postseason appearances since 2009.

    Robertson's 2022 salary is also $900,000 lower than Bard's.

    Add it all up and Robertson is this year's marquee reliever on the board and the presumed top target for the Minnesota Twins.

    Minnesota has been all over the place at closer. Its last five saves have gone to four different relievers, and it has nearly as many blown saves (17) as successful saves (20) in 2022. Bringing in a seasoned vet such as Robertson is exactly what they need to remain atop a tightly contested AL Central.

8. Martin Perez, LHP, Texas Rangers

19 of 26

    Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $4 million in 2022, free agent in 2023

    2022 Stats: 2.68 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 2.4 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Blue Jays, Brewers, Cardinals, Phillies...basically anyone who's buying

    One month ago, it was just a question of whether the Texas Rangers would be willing to make Martin Perez the top pitcher on this year's market.

    At the end of play June 21, Texas was second in the AL West, 5.0 games out of a playoff spot, and Perez was a candidate to start the All-Star Game with a 1.96 ERA. Since then, the Rangers are 9-14 and have slipped to 7.5 games back of the third wild-card spot, and Perez had a 5.32 ERA in four starts during that stretch.

    So, they're more likely to sell, but it's less likely that any trade partner will view Perez—who entered 2022 with a career ERA of 4.71—as the best starting pitcher available. And ESPN's Buster Olney suggested this month that Texas won't move Perez unless it gets "something difference-making in return." (They're 4-10 since that tweet, though, which is a different kind of difference-making.)

    If he's available, there's still a ton of value here, especially for any team specifically on the hunt for a two-month rental or a southpaw.

    Perez has made 12 quality starts this season, including a complete-game shutout of the Houston Astros. And that $4 million salary is chump change, modest enough for even penny pinchers such as the Orioles and Guardians to potentially be in the mix.

    Frankie Montas and Luis Castillo will likely fetch bigger returns, if only because they'll both be under team control through 2023. But the market for Perez should be similar to what it was for Kyle Gibson in 2021.

7. Frankie Montas, RHP, Oakland A's

20 of 26

    Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $5.025 million in 2022, arbitration-eligible in 2023, free agent in 2024

    2022 Stats: 3.26 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 9.31 K/9, 1.9 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Everyone, but especially the Brewers, Cardinals, Giants and Phillies

    With one of the worst records in the majors, the Oakland A's would be an obvious candidate for a fire sale...if they had much worth selling.

    Paul Blackburn, Cole Irvin, Sean Murphy and A.J. Puk are each having fine seasons, but they're also each on darn-near league-minimum salaries in 2022 and are under team control through at least 2025. Trading any of them would be ludicrous.

    But that means the A's should be laser focused on getting the best possible return for Frankie Montas.

    He finished sixth in the AL Cy Young vote last season, and he has been slightly better this year, boasting a lower ERA, a lower WHIP and a higher K/BB ratio than he had in 2021.

    He has only pitched one inning in July because of shoulder inflammation, but he has made five starts this season of at least seven innings with two or fewer runs allowed. Considering he will also be under team control in 2023, so long as he can make a start or two before the deadline to show that his shoulder is fine, he might be the most intriguing pitcher on the market.

6. Josh Bell, 1B/DH, Washington Nationals

21 of 26

    Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $10 million in 2022, free agent in 2023

    2022 Stats: .311/.390/.504, 13 HR, 0 SB, 2.7 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Red Sox, Padres, Astros, Blue Jays

    Initially, Atlanta's Austin Riley and Seattle's Ty France were the most egregious snubs from the 2022 All-Star rosters. But once those corner infielders were selected as replacements, Washington's Josh Bell ascended to the throne of "best player left out of the Midsummer Classic."

    Playing on a one-year, $10 million deal, Bell is having himself quite the season at the dish. There's no way he'll match the 37 home runs or 116 RBI that he racked up with the Pirates in 2019, but it's hard to argue with a 23-home run pace, a significantly lower strikeout rate than usual and a reasonable shot at the NL batting crown (if he remains in the NL).

    And the bidding war for Bell should be intense, because first basemen are almost nonexistent on this year's trade block.

    If the .500 Orioles decide to stay on their postseason hunt and don't trade Trey Mancini, the next-best first baseman available after Bell is...whom exactly? Miami's Jesus Aguilar, if the Marlins end up selling? Cincinnati's Colin Moran, batting .210 and slugging .360?

    Boston, San Diego and Houston all need to upgrade at first base, while upper-tier contenders such as the Blue Jays, Rays and Yankees could use Bell, either at first base or as a DH.

    While all of the focus as of late has been on a different Washington National, Bell should fetch a pretty penny.

5. Brandon Drury, Utility, Cincinnati Reds

22 of 26

    Justin Casterline/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $900,000 in 2022, free agent in 2023

    2022 Stats: .278/.336/.528, 18 HR, 2 SB, 2.3 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Rays, Angels, Orioles, Dodgers

    No one could have guessed before the season that Brandon Drury would be one of the most coveted names on the trade block.

    Over the previous seven years with four different teams, he accumulated 0.4 FanGraphs WAR and minus-0.5 Baseball Reference WAR. In late March, the Reds took an under-$1 million flier on him, hoping Drury might be a serviceable backup at a bunch of different positions.

    Smash cut to four months later, and Drury ranks 11th in the majors in slugging percentage, nestled comfortably among Byron Buxton, Freddie Freeman, Nolan Arenado and Mookie Betts on that leaderboard.

    His 18 home runs are already a career best, but he has shown no signs of slowing down. Factor in the minuscule salary, and Drury is surely at the top of several teams' realistic wish lists.

    If the Angels are buying at the deadline, that's the most likely destination. Anthony Rendon is out for the rest of the season because of a wrist injury, and Angels third basemen not named Rendon have been worth a combined minus-1.2 FanGraphs WAR. They have a lot of holes to patch if they expect to get back into the postseason picture, but that's the biggest one.

4. Andrew Benintendi, Kansas City Royals

23 of 26

    Icon Sportswire

    Contract Details: $8.5 million in 2022, free agent in 2023

    2022 Stats: .317/.386/.401, 3 HR, 2 SB, 1.9 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Yankees, Braves, Guardians, Padres

    Just one year ago, Trea Turner became the first player in more than seven decades to win a batting title for a season in which he was traded. (The previous player to do so was Harry Walker in 1947.) But if Andrew Benintendi remains in the American League, there's an outside chance he could replicate that feat.

    The Royals left fielder is third in the AL in batting, trailing only Minnesota's Luis Arraez (.338) and Boston's Rafael Devers (.324). Of Benintendi's 102 hits, 83 have been singles, good for most in the majors.

    He also won a Gold Glove in 2021 and has yet to commit an error in 2022, so we're talking about much more than just a singles machine. Whichever team acquires his services is presumably getting a considerable upgrade, both in the field and in batting average.

    Loathers of the Evil Empire won't be happy about it, but Benintendi figures to be a perfect fit for the Yankees, who are beyond ready to move on from Joey Gallo in left. If they can replace his .164 bat with Benintendi's .317 bat, it would shore up one of the lone Achilles' heels on that loaded roster.

    Then again, the Yankees have recently balked at the idea of trading for Benintendi on account of his COVID-19 vaccination status, per the New York Post's Jon Heyman. They only have one more three-game series in Toronto during the regular season, and unvaccinated players can't travel to Canada.

    But should New York draw Toronto in the postseason and be unable to take Benintendi with it for the road games, that somewhat defeats the purpose of trading for him.

3. Luis Castillo, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

24 of 26

    Elsa/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $7.35 million in 2022, arbitration-eligible in 2023, free agent in 2024

    2022 Stats: 2.77 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 9.46 K/9, 2.1 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Dodgers, Giants, Astros, Phillies, Twins, Yankees

    Despite not making his season debut until May 9, Luis Castillo was Cincinnati's lone representative at this year's All-Star Game.

    Based on how well he has been dealing since Memorial Day, it was a well-deserved honor.

    Eight of Castillo's last nine starts have been of the quality variety, meaning at least six innings pitched with three or fewer earned runs allowed. And over his last four starts, he has averaged 11.0 K/9 with a 1.00 ERA.

    Three of those starts were against the Braves, Rays and Yankees, too, which must look mighty nice to all of the contenders in need of a starting pitcher.

    The asking price is sure to be steep, because if they aren't blown away by an offer, the Reds could just run it back again next year with Castillo as their ace—ideally for a season in which they aren't 18 games below .500 before he even gets a chance to take the mound.

    But with his one year remaining in arbitration and with nothing close to a 2019 Zack Greinke or 2021 Max Scherzer on this year's trade block, Castillo should fetch the largest haul of any pitcher.

2. Willson Contreras, C, Chicago Cubs

25 of 26

    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $9.625 million in 2022, free agent in 2023

    2022 Stats: .253/.366/.455, 13 HR, 3 SB, 2.4 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Mets, Astros, Padres, Guardians, Cardinals

    Even if he didn't play a position where a lot of contenders have a need—as well as a position where the rest of the sellers have virtually nothing to offer—Willson Contreras would still be one of the more coveted players on this year's trade block.

    He was ice cold over the final month before the All-Star break (.207 AVG, .294 SLG, 1 HR), but his year-to-date hitting numbers are still darn good. With 13 home runs, he's easily one of the five best sluggers available.

    Factor in the catcher element, however, and Contreras would be the clear No. 1 overall on the board were it not for Juan Soto.

    The Mets look like the most likely trading partner, both because catcher has been a black hole for them this season and because they have a good number of MLB-ready prospects to offer.

    They won't deplete the farm system for a two-month rental of Contreras, but 21-year-old, switch-hitting shortstop Ronny Mauricio and some salary relief for the Chicago Cubs might do the trick.

1. Juan Soto, RF, Washington Nationals

26 of 26

    Brett Davis/Getty Images

    Contract Details: $17.1 million in 2022, arbitration-eligible in 2023; arbitration-eligible in 2024, free agent in 2025

    2022 Stats: .250/.405/.497, 20 HR, 5 SB, 2.6 fWAR

    Logical Suitors: Yankees, Dodgers, Mets, Padres, Mariners

    Despite Ken Rosenthal's report for The Athletic that "Juan Soto is available" after he turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract extension, it's hard to believe any team will actually be willing and able to put together a lucrative enough package to get him from the Nationals.

    Still, we have to put him at No. 1, as the Nats are at least entertaining offers, if not aggressively seeking them.

    Those arbitration-eligible numbers for 2023 and 2024 figure to be in the $20 million range, but Soto is under team control for another two seasons after this one. And for two-plus years of one of the best players in baseball, it will likely cost multiple top prospects and the willingness to take on Patrick Corbin's eyesore of a contract ($23.4M in 2022, $24.4M in 2024, $35.4M in 2025).

    Anything short of that, and it doesn't seem worth it for the Nationals to move Soto this season.

    But both the Yankees and Dodgers do have a healthy stockpile of highly touted prospects to go along with their seemingly endless supply of money, so it could happen.

    I actually like the Mariners as a trading partner for Soto. They wouldn't be the team signing him to a $500 million contract, and they probably couldn't afford to do the Corbin portion mentioned above. However, Seattle could offer quite the platter of prospects and young MLBers not named Julio Rodriguez to acquire Soto for the next two-plus seasons.

    Then, after the 2024 season when Soto hits free agency and the New York Mets are no longer paying $43.3 million per year to Max Scherzer, they could afford to be the team that pays Soto upward of $40 million per year for 10 to 12 seasons.

    Having said that, it would be a surprise if Soto actually gets traded in the next two weeks.


    All contract information courtesy of Spotrac. Stats via Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.


X