B/R MLB Roundtable: Answering Biggest Questions of the 2022 Trade Deadline
Before the 2022 MLB trade deadline arrives next week, it's time for some predictions from our analysts here at Bleacher Report.
Ahead, we've tackled 10 questions ranging from landing spots for top rumored trade candidates to which teams will be the biggest winners and biggest losers to how things will play out in the Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani markets.
Our expert panel is made up of four writers—Kerry Miller, Joel Reuter, Zachary Rymer and Brandon Scott.
After one of the most eventful trade deadlines of all time last summer, how will this summer's flurry of activity reshape the MLB landscape?
Which Seller Will Have the Most Successful Deadline?
Kerry Miller: Chicago Cubs
If they do what they should and embrace selling, the Texas Rangers could enjoy quite the harvest. Martin Perez and Matt Moore are unrestricted free agents after this season and would be highly coveted rentals. Kole Calhoun, Garrett Richards and Jose LeClerc each have 2023 club options unlikely to be exercised, so they could be dealt, too.
However, after spending like they did this offseason, the Rangers will probably go down swinging and won't sell. Thus, I'll take the Chicago Cubs.
Willson Contreras and David Robertson will fetch a solid return. They could get something for impending free agents Wade Miley, Andrelton Simmons and Robert Gsellman. And if they do pull the plug early on 2024 free agents Ian Happ and Mychal Givens, even better for their prospect haul.
Joel Reuter: Miami Marlins
According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, the Miami Marlins are now willing to listen to offers for anyone on the roster besides NL Cy Young front-runner Sandy Alcantara.
Even if that doesn't mean rising star Jazz Chisholm Jr., who is currently on the injured list, they could still fetch a massive return by flipping starter Pablo Lopez, who is controllable through 2024, All-Star slugger Garrett Cooper and relievers Anthony Bass and Steven Okert.
Lopez is controllable for a year longer than Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas, so he could easily bring back the richest return of any pitcher on the market if he is ultimately moved.
Which Buyer Will Have the Most Successful Deadline?
Brandon Scott: New York Mets
The New York Mets are within striking distance of the NL East title and a serious World Series run, with a pair of aging and expensive ace pitchers.
It makes the most sense for them to not only go all-in for another starter, but to also add an impact bat to the lineup.
With the richest owner in sports, a clear window and one of the better farm systems in baseball, the Mets are armed with enough to make a move like the Los Angeles Dodgers a year ago, when they acquired Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Washington Nationals.
Joel Reuter: Los Angeles Dodgers
The fact that the Dodgers still have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball a year after swinging a massive blockbuster deal to acquire Scherzer and Turner speaks volumes about their player development team and also means there is no reason to expect them to stay quiet this summer.
With Clayton Kershaw, Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney all ticketed for free agency, landing one of the market's controllable starters would make sense as a forward-looking move to shore up the staff.
And regardless of reports of other teams emerging as front-runners, they still feel like the favorites to land Juan Soto if he's moved given their wealth of young talent and ability to sign him long-term.
Which Team Will "Lose" the Deadline?
Zachary Rymer: Atlanta
The Colorado Rockies tend to be my default answer for anyone losing anything, regardless of what it is. But in this case, I'm going with Atlanta. Per Joel's most recent farm system rankings, Atlanta has the No. 28 system in the league right now. That gives the defending World Series champions relatively little to barter with, and the thought of them striking so much gold in the bargain bin two years in a row just doesn't seem realistic.
Joel Reuter: Boston Red Sox
If the Boston Red Sox accept the fact that they're not going anywhere in 2022, the trade deadline could be a great opportunity to restock their farm system. Slugger J.D. Martinez and starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi are both rentals who could have a long list of suitors, while injured starters Michael Wacha and Rich Hill are also playing on one-year deals. That's to make no mention of shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who has an opt-out in his contract this offseason. That said, it wouldn't be surprising to see them simply stand pat and hope things improve down the stretch, passing on a golden opportunity to add young talent.
Where Will Willson Contreras Land?
Kerry Miller: New York Mets
There are five logical/rumored suitors for Willson Contreras: Houston Astros, San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Guardians, Mets and Chicago White Sox.
It won't be the Astros. They love Martin Maldonado's value added on defense, and they're more than happy with Yordan Alvarez at DH.
The low-budget Guardians might not be willing to pay what Contreras costs, even though they desperately need to give Jose Ramirez some lineup support, and Joey Bart has been competent enough since his return from the minors that the Giants will likely focus on upgrading elsewhere.
That leaves the Mets and White Sox, and my money is on the Mets. They have gotten nothing from their trio of catchers, and a rental of Contreras could be the answer until top prospect Francisco Alvarez is ready in 2023. They may hesitate on account of James McCann's contract ($8M in 2022, $12M in 2023 and $12M in 2024), but letting that sunk cost take them out of the Contreras market would be a mistake.
Joel Reuter: Houston Astros
With Michael Brantley on the injured list and Jake Meyers (.230 BA, 75 OPS+) underperforming, the Astros could acquire Contreras as a part-time left fielder who also serves as depth behind the plate with Jason Castro currently nursing an injury.
The 30-year-old Contreras has played 219.2 innings in left field in his career, and the Astros have been willing to use Yordan Alvarez at the position despite his defensive limitations. The big question will be whether they can get a deal done without including No. 1 prospect Hunter Brown in the trade package.
Where Will Frankie Montas Land?
Brandon Scott: St. Louis Cardinals
One month before the trade deadline, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that some front offices viewed the St. Louis Cardinals as the favorites to land Frankie Montas.
This came on the heels of Jack Flaherty's trip to the injured list, and nothing has really changed about the logic there.
The Cardinals have a clear need. Their starters rank 27th in WAR, 22nd in FIP and 18th in ERA. They bring in Montas and get him for this season's run, plus one more arbitration year in 2023.
Joel Reuter: Minnesota Twins
The AL Central race is wide-open right now, and the Twins have been discussing a potential Montas trade with Oakland since March when the lockout ended.
The Twins starting rotation ranks 15th in the majors with a 3.97 ERA this year, and the lengthy injury history of Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy should make adding more pitching depth a priority at the deadline. Montas could bolster the staff as they try to nail down a division title, and on into the 2023 season.
Where Will Luis Castillo Land?
Zachary Rymer: Toronto Blue Jays
Given how often they've been connected to him over the last few years, the New York Yankees feel like the safe pick here. But they also have bigger needs outside of their rotation, so I'm looking elsewhere in the AL East at the Toronto Blue Jays.
They're finally starting to hit their stride, but it feels like they're going to need another starter if they want to take down the Yankees and/or Astros in the playoffs. They traded for Jose Berrios last year, so why not Luis Castillo this year?
Joel Reuter: Texas Rangers
I had Castillo going to the Rangers in my 10 bold predictions article last week, and I don't see any reason to walk that back here a week later.
Buster Olney of ESPN reported that it will take a "difference-making" return for them to trade All-Star starter Martin Perez—even though he's only on a one-year, $4 million deal—and after their free-agency spending spree, it's unlikely we're going to see them sell aggressively at the deadline.
Instead, look for them to be opportunistic buyers with an eye on improving the roster for the 2023 season. The Blue Jays did it last summer with the Jose Berrios trade, so there is some precedent for a similar move by the Rangers.
Most Surprising Player Traded
Brandon Scott: Jose Urquidy, SP, Houston Astros
It won't be surprising to see the Astros trade from their surplus of starting pitching.
They have six capable starters in their rotation between Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia, Jake Odorizzi and Jose Urquidy. Lance McCullers Jr. is also on a rehab assignment with a targeted return before the postseason, and Hunter Brown at Triple-A could pitch in most major league rotations.
The surprising part would be parting with Urquidy, who's pitched for Houston in two World Series since 2019 and is under team control through 2025, rather than Odorizzi, who was acquired last year and has a player option for 2023.
But ESPN's Jeff Passan put it out there this week that Urquidy could be whom the Astros move, which would come as a shock, especially in Houston.
Joel Reuter: Carlos Rodon, SP, San Francisco Giants
The Giants have lost seven in a row, dropping them two games below .500 in the process, and if the losing continues in the coming days, they could seriously consider packing it in and selling at the deadline.
Slugger Joc Pederson might seem like the most logical trade candidate playing on a one-year deal, but their most valuable trade chip is Carlos Rodon, who has an opt-out this winter after the first season of his two-year, $44 million contract. With a 3.18 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 116 innings, he would immediately slot at or near the top of any contender's rotation.
Most Surprising Player Not Traded
Kerry Miller: Luis Castillo, SP, Cincinnati Reds
Total shot in the dark, but give me Luis Castillo.
The Reds are drowning in guys hitting free agency next offseason. There's Brandon Drury, Tyler Naquin, Donovan Solano, Hunter Strickland, Justin Wilson and Buck Farmer. They also have Tommy Pham and Mike Minor on mutual options for 2023, which is effectively free agency.
That's eight "trade him now or get nothing for him" players they should be focused on dealing prior to Castillo, who is arbitration-eligible for 2023. And if they do end up dealing a pitcher still under team control through next season, my guess is they would rather part with Tyler Mahle.
It's possible that both right-handers get moved, but their asking price for Castillo figures to be a good deal higher.
Joel Reuter: Jose Quintana, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
With a chance to play for third place in the NL Central and a legitimate step forward relative to last year's 101-loss finish, the Pittsburgh Pirates might be less inclined to sell at the deadline than they've been in years past.
Jose Quintana has been one of the best bargain signings of the year playing on a one-year, $2 million deal, as he has a 3.70 ERA and 3.26 FIP in 97.1 innings.
He may seem like an obvious trade candidate, but his value as a veteran voice on a young pitching staff and an innings eater who can take some pressure off those young arms down the stretch might outweigh the modest return he would bring back.
Best Prospect Moved at the Deadline
Zachary Rymer: Gabriel Moreno, C, Toronto Blue Jays
The best prospect who's also relatively expendable is Toronto's Gabriel Moreno. He's the best catching talent not named Francisco Alvarez, yet he's currently looking up at Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen on the big club. He might work as a centerpiece in a deal for Luis Castillo but probably only if the Blue Jays get more back from the Cincinnati Reds. The ideal scenario there is Edwin Diaz's overlooked brother, Alexis, as a secondary piece.
Joel Reuter: Andy Pages, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers will have seven players on our updated top-100 prospect list when it is released later this week, and while they have generally clung tight to their elite prospects in recent years, that doesn't mean all of those players will be off limits.
Diego Cartaya, Bobby Miller, Miguel Vargas and Michael Busch currently represent the cream of the crop down on the farm, while 21-year-old outfielder Andy Pages is not far behind thanks to some of the best raw power in the minors. He could be the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal at the deadline.
Will Juan Soto or Shohei Ohtani Be Traded?
Kerry Miller: No
There's an inherent problem with trying to put together a Soto or Ohtani trade offer that actually intrigues both sides. The Nationals and Angels are going to want darn near full value for star players under team control beyond this season. Full value is something like five players who are either top-100 overall prospects or young guys with All-Star potential who are already in the majors. But who would mortgage the future like that for a guy who's free to walk after either the 2023 (Ohtani) or 2024 (Soto) season?
It has been fun to speculate, but no, I don't think either one gets traded this season.
Zachary Rymer: Yes
Ohtani? No. Even if his rumored price tag—"established major leaguers," according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic—weren't so prohibitive, it's just hard to imagine Arte Moreno OK'ing a trade of the best two-way player in major league history.
But Soto? Sure. Why not. Compared to Ohtani, the Nationals' reported asking price (also courtesy of Rosenthal) for Soto actually seems reasonable. It's also a difference-maker that he could be had for a lesser prospect haul if a team is willing to take on Patrick Corbin's contract. Between that and the sheer wealth of potential suitors, the environment seems conducive to a deal.
Brandon Scott: Yes
At least one of them will be, and I would first bet on it being Soto.
If an eventual Soto trade is inevitable, and it appears to be, then doing it before the team is sold makes the most sense. The Nationals will only do this for a historic return in prospects, and it gives them a fresh start under new ownership. There also appears to be an urgency from contending teams like the San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Any of those teams would trade the farm even if it's just to rent Soto for the next two-and-a-half seasons before free agency.
Joel Reuter: No
I'll agree with the others that Soto is more likely to be traded than Ohtani, but I don't think either of them are going to be dealt until the offseason.
The expectation that the Nationals are going to be sold adds a complicated wrinkle to the Soto market, as the new ownership group might prefer to still have the club's most valuable asset in tow when it signs on the dotted line.
Soto will be playing elsewhere on Opening Day in 2023, but for now he stays put, as does Ohtani for the time being.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.