Last year’s trade deadline was a thrill-a-minute thanks to the Cubs and Nationals deciding late to sell, and having significant pieces to deal. It’s unlikely we can match a deadline where Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, both halves of Bryzzo (Kris Bryant/Anthony Rizzo) and so many other name players were dealt.
The Nats look like sellers again, and there’s already been some fairly far-flung speculation megastar Juan Soto could be dealt. But while Scherzer had a half-year to go and Turner a year and a half, Soto not only will have 2 1/2 years left before free agency, he may be the most valuable asset in MLB (it’s him or Shohei Ohtani). With the team for sale, trading its one huge calling card may be a risk not worth taking.
One Nats person responded to the Soto speculation thusly: “That’s not funny.”
Soto’s agent Scott Boras was nearly as succinct: “Forget Soto trade … not happening.”
Assuming that holds, it should still be a decent trade market, thanks in part to MLB having so many clear Have-Nots along with some obvious Haves. (At last count, a full one-third of teams are on pace to either win or lose 100 games.) Here’s an early list of 20 trade candidates:
1. Frankie Montas, A’s SP: What’s he still doing there, pitching before crowds of 2,500? The Mets recently scouted him, but there’ll be competition. The Twins, White Sox, Cardinals and Yankees were among others linked.
2. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox SS: Word here is he’s going to opt out, and further word is he has a good chance to leave. The Red Sox say they want to keep him long term, but if they really believe Trevor Story’s arm is good enough to go back to shortstop (one scout said he’s throwing “funky”), maybe Boston transitions to a semi-rebuild.
3. Luis Castillo, Reds SP: The Giants have treated Cincinnati like a farm system in recent years. Ex-Reds Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Kevin Gausman and Johnny Cueto, comprised four-fifths of the rotation on their 107-win team.
4. JD Martinez, Red Sox DH: His salary is high (he’s declined his opt out three years running), but he just lost his MLB-high 18-game hitting streak.
5. Nate Eovaldi, Red Sox SP: Forget the five homers in one inning to the Astros, he’s a proven big-game pitcher. Eovaldi, like Bogaerts and Martinez, is a potential free agent.
6. Tyler Mahle, Reds SP: He isn’t coming close to matching his splendid 2020 and ’21 seasons. Another potential Giant. The Mets, whose depth is a question with Max Scherzer’s oblique news, also have scouted.
7. Nelson Cruz, Nats DH: It was a surprise he went to Washington in the first place.
8. Willson Contreras, Cubs C: With so many teams getting no production at catcher, he should be popular. The Cubs never came close to extending him; Yan Gomes is ready to go.
9. Trey Mancini, Orioles 1B: He’s a truly inspirational story, and can hit too (especially if he leaves newly cavernous Camden Yards).
10. Bryan Reynolds, Pirates OF: The Marlins, Mariners, Yankees and Padres were among teams interested in winter. Pittsburgh should work on extending him.
11. Ian Happ, Cubs OF: Easy to see the Cubs selling again.
12. Josh Bell, Nats 1B: Back on track after a COVID year.
13. Chad Kuhl, Rockies SP: Kuhl was a great pickup for $3 million.
14. Martin Perez. Rangers SP: Having a career year.
15. Andrew Benintendi, Royals OF: Putting together a nice walk season.
16. Marcus Stroman, Cubs SP: Overpriced (even if he doesn’t think so), but he’s been a solid and athletic pitcher.
17. Mark Melancon, Diamondbacks RP: Underrated closer is anchoring a surprising staff.
18. Tommy Pham, Reds OF: Cincy needs moves.
19. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks RP: Has the guts to close.
20. Kiké Hernandez, Red Sox CF: Outstanding outfielder had big playoffs.
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