Let’s Look Ahead to the Trade Deadline

© Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like almost yesterday when, amidst the lockout’s flurry of recriminations and constantly shifting arbitrary deadlines, we weren’t quite sure if there was even going to be a 2022 season at all. But Opening Day arrived after a short delay, and now we’re just about a third of the way through the season. The trade deadline is just two months out and as we saw last year, the elimination of the August waiver-trade period served to increase the stakes. While we don’t know the exact contours of what the pennant races will look like or which destinations make the most sense for potential trade candidates, the basic outlines of the season have been drawn. Short of some major surprises, we can start speculating about a few of the more interesting players likely to be available.

Juan Soto, Washington Nationals

The official position of the Washington Nationals is that they aren’t trading Juan Soto, no way, no how. I’m not sure I actually believe them. Soto will be a free agent after the 2024 season and has already turned down a 13-year, $350 million extension offer from the team. Plus, the longer they hang onto him, the less mega of a mega-package they’re likely to net in return for their superstar. It’s tempting to compare Soto’s situation with Bryce Harper’s, but as he approached free agency, the Nationals were fielding a team they had reason to think was competitive. This year’s squad is looking up at the Reds, and the farm system doesn’t have anywhere near the talent needed to quickly salvage the situation. The possibility of a sale and Soto’s age complicate the calculus – if Washington was able to convince him to stick around, he’s young enough that he’s likely to still be very good the next time they are. Soto isn’t posting his normal numbers, but ZiPS sees little reason to worry; it thinks that Soto’s hit data should have resulted in a BABIP closer to .320 and a slugging percentage well in excess of .500, similar to his xBA and xSLG. It would stink for Nationals fans, and putting together a deal worthy of netting Soto is its own challenge, but a trade could be a possibility come August.

J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox

I think it’s too soon to completely write off the Red Sox. Yes, the current math makes a serious run at the division title unlikely, but it isn’t completely impossible, and if you don’t believe me, ask the 1978 Yankees, who were in fourth place and 14 games back with much more of the season in the books. ZiPS agrees with our standings page, giving the Sox about a one-in-three chance of grabbing a playoff spot, almost always a Wild Card. But given the team’s recent behavior, I think they’ll be more willing to retool even with a playoff shot than a team like the Royals would be. Martinez isn’t the club’s only pending free agent, but he’s the one having the best season, and not every NL contender has nailed down their DH spot. Nathan Eovaldi is another soon-to-be free agent who could finish the season in another team’s uniform, and he’s bounced back from that brutal five-homer start against the Astros, but I think JDM will garner more interest this summer if Boston decides October is out of reach.

Frankie Montas, Oakland Athletics

Montas kind of falls into the category of unfinished business, as he’s one of the last players left standing after Oakland’s winter purge of anyone nearing a big payday. He’s pitching nearly as well as he did last season when he picked up the first Cy Young vote of his career, and the A’s have little practical need for an ace starter right now. While the A’s don’t necessarily have to move Montas this summer, this franchise doesn’t usually wait until the last minute when it comes to trading talent. Montas will almost certainly be one of the top pitchers available.

Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds

The Reds confuse me. The last time they started a rebuild, they waited far too long and traded practically every bit of talent well after the peak of those players’ value. This time, they started way too soon, eviscerating a team that was a realistic playoff contender, though not one of the NL Central favorites. Six months ago, I’d have been advocating for Cincinnati to sign Castillo to a long-term extension, but after the vivisection of the team’s core, I don’t see much point in keeping him away from a better team. After the offseason trading frenzy, the Reds did announce that they weren’t trading Castillo or Tyler Mahle, but at that point, they were attempting to maintain the façade that they were still trying to win and Castillo’s sore shoulder would likely have complicated trade talks anyway. Castillo has since returned from his injury without missing a beat and Reds fans are already more interested in the Bengals than their last-place home team, so there’s no point in pretending. I expect Mahle will follow this winter.

Martín Pérez, Texas Rangers

The Rangers are hanging around the edge of the playoff hunt, but I don’t think they are as likely to stay there as the Red Sox are; the rotation is quite shallow and the lineup is very top-heavy. The team’s ongoing rebuild means that it’s unlikely to be a major selloff, but I suspect they’ll be willing to trade players on short-term deals. We’ve seen Pérez get off to a hot start before, most notably in 2019, the season he picked up a cutter from Jake Odorizzi. That year, the pitch saw decreased effectiveness as the season went on, and he went from being a solid No. 2 starter in the first half to falling so out of favor that the Twins left him off their ALDS roster. His cutter’s been a bit different since, with more vertical dip, and he’s not relying on it as heavily this time, with his effective sinker being used more, well, effectively. Perhaps this time the magic will last the entire season.

Andrew Benintendi, Kansas City Royals

While the Royals are often hesitant to trade off their well-performing veterans, that approach generally applies more to players who have been part of the franchise for a long time, such as Salvador Perez or Whit Merrifield. Benintendi hasn’t been one of Kansas City’s core contributors for very long, and the franchise’s record is so bleak that I think this could be a case where the Royals are willing to move a veteran. And if Benintendi still boasts a .400 on-base percentage in July, they might get a surprising haul in return for the free-agent-to-be. Of the team’s other pending free agents, Carlos Santana is more likely to be designated for assignment than fetch anything in a trade and Zack Greinke’s second go round in Kansas City has yielded mixed results. In Greinke’s case, after returning to his first team, he might just walk away rather than get traded to a club he disapproves of.

David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks

The other NL West also-ran, the Colorado Rockies, is unlikely to shift philosophy and trade players at the deadline, but I don’t think Arizona shares that tendency. Offense is at a premium thanks to the Humidorian Reaction, and Peralta is hitting the ball harder than he has in years. I’m also inclined to think it will stick — in the short-term, at least, as he’ll turn 35 this year — in that it reflects a change in approach. In the past, even when he was having his greatest success, Peralta was always content to hit a lot of grounders, but this time around, his launch angle stands at just under 19 degrees, quite far from his sub-seven career number. More useful power, without giving away his plate discipline gains, has helped him fight back Father Time for a bit longer.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

172 Comments
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rockbardmember
3 months ago

Benintendi could be a fit for the Blue Jays. Zimmer hasn’t worked out, and they need a lefty bat that can play in the OF.

EonADS
3 months ago
Reply to  rockbard

Tapia hasn’t either, really. They’ve been worth -0.7 fWAR together so far. Honestly, it’s a little baffling how bad both of them are right now. Tapia is at least somewhere close to replacement level most of the time, offering defense, speed, and hitting that isn’t an absolute black hole, and Zimmer at least will usually give you speed, defense, and a few walks. They honestly looks like they’re going backwards this year, their negatives exaggerated (Tapia is literally the worst hitter in MLB in terms of chase rate) and their positives barely there or entirely absent.

steveo
3 months ago
Reply to  EonADS

If Teoscar Hernandez doesn’t turn it around, they’ll need two outfielders. Also if Ryu/Berrios are still hurt/bad in July they’re going to need a better 3rd starter as well though I do like Kikuchi. Could also use a bullpen arm or two.

Jason Bmember
3 months ago
Reply to  steveo

Really interesting that for all the talk of a deep and potent offense, many/most of the usual suspects have disappointed, been hurt, or some combination of the two.

Bichette has scuffled so far; Teoscar has been hurt and/or ineffective; Gurriel has never really gotten going; and Vlad at a 125 wRC+ hasn’t exactly been bad, but has been a far cry from the MVP candidate of 2021.

Springer has been as advertised and quite solid, but otherwise the offense has been propped up by the likes of Espinal, Kirk, and Jansen. Just imagine if their “real” hitters were hitting!

DLHugheymember
3 months ago
Reply to  Jason B

Everything about the blue jays was “talk” for a 4th place team last year (yes, in a stacked AL East, but 4th is 4th).

They spent a good chunk of their previous year in a dinky minor league ballpark (look at the home road and pre/post toronto splits), and it has shown across the board with their regression and general underperformance. The fangraphs staff AL predictions look comical right now regarding the blue jays and the white sox, with 15 out of 23 saying one of them would be the AL champs. Toronto is wildly outperforming it’s run differential despite their record, and the white sox are 3 under .500 with a -55 run diff.

I won’t blame the odds calculators for not grasping that the team played in very odd situations, but humans should have processed that something was off.

rickdugo3000
3 months ago
Reply to  DLHughey

Though there’s a lot of season left, you’re not wrong!

Hughesmember
3 months ago
Reply to  DLHughey

Looking at 2021 Jays:

Home vs road split 5 wRC+
Second best road wRC+ in baseball
Second best second half wRC+ (they were back in Toronto by the end of July)
Their best hitting month for raw OPS was September.

Probably not the right website to spew your ignorant narrative, because it’s literally a couple clicks to find out you’re posting garbage.

If you want to go by run differential, 2021 the Yankees were 6 wins better than run differential, Boston was 4 games better, and the Jays were -8. Run differential says the Jays were a 99 win club, Boston a 88 win club, and Yankees an 86 win club.

Also, it turns out when they’re at home in “dinky minor league ballpark” the opponents got to play there too, and when you have a garbage bullpen like they did in April and May, you blow a lot of games.

Dmjn53
3 months ago
Reply to  Hughes

your researched facts have no place here

jaysfan39
3 months ago
Reply to  steveo

It looks like the Hernandez bounce back has already started he has been much better the last 10 games, of course too early to be sure but with his track record the last couple years and him hitting good before the injury I am inclined to believe it

Hughesmember
3 months ago
Reply to  jaysfan39

Over the last 5 games, Teo’s added back 52 wRC+.

terry mesmer
3 months ago
Reply to  rockbard

Can Benintendi play CF?

tz
3 months ago
Reply to  terry mesmer

Well, he came up as one, but since then….

I suppose at this point, you’d get something between a Lance Berkman and an Adam Duvall performance there. At least his bat has regained a good chunk of its old life.

steveo
3 months ago
Reply to  tz

Yeah, he’s really only a LF. You don’t even want him in RF because he has no arm.

Shirtless George Brett
3 months ago
Reply to  steveo

You arent wrong about his arm, but it also shouldn’t stop anybody from putting him in RF if need be. Its a pretty minor thing. on 98% of plays he will be the same in RF as LF. And you arent trading for him for his defense anyway (because he isnt that good even in LF).

Last edited 3 months ago by Shirtless George Brett
tz
3 months ago

Fun related factoid: In the equivalent of about 2/3 of a season in RF over his career, Ben Revere was 11.7 runs above average according to UZR and 11 runs above average by DRS.

Range > arm in overall OF defensive importance.

Shirtless George Brett
3 months ago
Reply to  tz

Yep, Jarrod Dyson is another good example. Dude has a pool noodle for an arm but the Royals would deploy him in RF pretty regularly (700 career innings) just because he could run absolutely everything down. Has a career 18.7 UZR and +18 DRS in RF.

Pretty sure Adam Eaton had a similar story when he shifted to RF.

Side note; Having Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson in the same OF was unfair. I’m pretty convinced the Royals didnt even need a 3rd OF with those two but just to be safe they had Alex freaking Gordon as well, haha.

Last edited 3 months ago by Shirtless George Brett
MRDXolmember
3 months ago

Adam Eaton’s not a great example, because he was average to slightly below CF but he had an absolute cannon. His one random 6-WAR season came from a huge amount of defensive value that was largely from gunning down guys trying for extra bases an at an outlier-high rate.

Shirtless George Brett
3 months ago
Reply to  MRDXol

haha oh my god, Eaton had 18 assists in 2016. Good call!

That’s bonkers.

cartermember
3 months ago
Reply to  tz

Sooo good?