As the MLB trade deadline rapidly approaches, some familiar faces could be changing clubhouses before the 5 p.m. CT cutoff on August 2. The first half of the season belongs to the New York Yankees, with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros in hot pursuit. But a regular-season record doesn’t win championships – it only awards the chance.
The upcoming trade deadline offers an opportunity for players hungry for championships to compete for unlikely upsets. It also provides the chance for the rich – like the Yankees – to get richer. There’s quality talent on bottom-feeding organizations looking for an excuse to rebuild. That’s where players like Willson Contreras of the Chicago Cubs come into play.
Let’s take a look at five notable names that could be wearing new jerseys by August 3, and who might pry them away from their current squad.
5. David Robertson – Pitcher – Chicago Cubs
Robertson received Tommy John surgery in 2019 with the Philadelphia Phillies. A setback forced the pitcher to miss all of the 2020 shortened baseball season. Robertson rehabbed his arm pitching for a men’s league baseball team full of construction workers as a last resort. As an unemployed MLB veteran, Robertson participated in last year’s Olympic Games for Team USA.
Following two successful appearances for the national team, Robertson signed with the Tampa Bay Rays. After the season’s conclusion, Robertson inked a deal with the Cubs. Since then, the 37-year-old has returned to form.
Already around the block with the Yankees twice, it’s certainly possible New York picks up the closer for the third time. However, other squads have more pressing needs in the role. The Dodgers can’t seem to figure it out with Craig Kimbrel. Furthermore, the Boston Red Sox lead all of baseball with 18 blown saves in 2022.
4. Luis Castillo – Pitcher – Cincinnati Reds
Castillo is a lone wolf in a desolate wasteland. The Reds took themselves out of consideration for contention in the offseason, dealing pitcher Sonny Gray to the Minnesota Twins and utility players Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker to the Seattle Mariners. Letting the power-hitting, apology-inducing Nick Castellanos walk in free agency served as the cherry on top.
While the Reds sit rock-bottom in the National League Central, Castillo shines like a diamond in the rough. Striking out 74 batters in 71.0 innings pitched in 2022, the 29-year-old sports a 2.92 ERA. Control prohibits Castillo from new heights, but for a contender with a hole in the rotation, it’s worth the risk.
The next three weeks of play determines who might consider themselves buyers in the market. However, with Castillo under team control through 2023, this isn’t a one-season rental player. The Los Angeles Dodgers make plenty of sense as a priority destination. Bolstering an already impressive rotation while accruing value and depth puts the NL’s best World Series contender on a different playing field.
3. Josh Bell – First Baseman – Washington Nationals
Josh Bell brings bad luck wherever he roams. This trade deadline could prove differently. The Pittsburgh Pirates traded Bell to the Washington Nationals following the 2020 season. In an effort to recapture the magic of the 2019 World Series season, Washington went heavy on the power. It didn’t work. Trading Kyle Schwarber at last year’s deadline marked the beginning of a potential sell-off.
While the organization wants to hold onto phenom youngster Juan Soto, Josh Bell likely gets the axe this year. Bell boasts a powerful swing, but an even better contact rate. Rarely a victim of a strikeout, the 29-year-old brings a decent bat with subpar defensive skills. However, that doesn’t limit trade suitors thanks to the introduction of the designated hitter in National League this year.
Look out for the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers in Bell’s pursuit. Another possible spot is the Chicago White Sox, but it’s unclear whether they could find themselves in a position to buy next month.
2. Joey Gallo – Outfielder – New York Yankees
Why would the New York Yankees trade away a player they spent heavily to acquire last trade deadline? Gallo is largely underperforming. Brought in from the Texas Rangers as a power-hitting lefty capable of utilizing the Yankee Stadium short-porch, Gallo isn’t completely useless.
He does possess ten home runs this season, and claims a sweet swing. However, his WAR – wins above replacement – sits at a whopping 0.0 halfway through the season. A massive 38.3% strikeout rate with a .166 batting average does that. It’s tough to narrow potential destinations for Gallo. He’s not what a contender is seeking.
However, he’s still a relatively valuable trade chip. Teams on the cusp of relevancy with the option to preach patience with the 28-year-old slugger could land him. That said, the Yankees won’t look for prospect-laden returns. It would cost an aging veteran capable of aiding New York’s return to dominance this year.
1. Willson Contreras – Catcher – Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs broke the collective hearts and spirits of the fan base when starting a fire sale at last year’s trade deadline. Not many remnants of the 2016 World Series Championship run still exist on the roster. Trading Kris Bryant to the San Francisco Giants, Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees and Javier Baez to the Mets meant a complete tear-down.
As tears flowed with drinks raised for the glory days of Cubs baseball, one crucial positional member of the World Series team remained: Willson Contreras. The backstop ranks atop the league in most categories for catchers, and his passion is a plus for any team with interest in his services. Undoubtedly the best player available for trade, Contreras boasts a .270/.387/.490 slash-line through 72 games.
Teams should be champing at the bit for the catcher’s rights. Contreras is certain to net a significant return from any club and could head to a few destinations. However, the Mets, Giants and Cleveland Guardians make the most sense for the 30-year-old.
With the Mets hesitant to rush top prospect Francisco Álvarez through his development, they make the most sense by leading the NL East and just two games removed from the best record in the National League.