MLB trade deadline candidates — Bats

MLB trade deadline candidates — Bats

Here's a look at the hitters that could make a difference for a contender as trade deadline approaches

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There’s still a lot of talent on the table, but not nearly as much as there was 365 days ago.

But there are some serious bats out there that could be sent packing to a contender for the stretch run. Juan Soto, perhaps?

With that said, here’s where we believe each of this year’s top trade targets will be by August 2.

Check out the pitchers here.

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Willson Contreras, Cubs

Willson Contreras, Cubs

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Contreras’s offensive prowess is well-documented and 2022 is arguably his best season. Through 73 games, he’s on pace for new career-bests in OPS+ (142) and home runs (on pace for 25).

Where Contreras tends to lose trade value is behind the plate. According to Baseball Savant, he is 25th in MLB in framing runs through 2022. With that in mind, Contreras would fit best with a team that either has a top-of-the-line pitching staff that is immune to subpar help from their catcher or low-end pitching staff that already struggles with great framing help.

The Houston Astros boast a tremendous staff and have been in dire need of a great offensive catcher ever since they got rid of Brian McCann and Evan Gattis in 2018. Not only would Contreras be a massive upgrade for the ’Stros offensively, but Contreras also has better framing data than Martín Maldonado. It’s a combo Houston can’t afford to overlook. The price will be hefty, especially considering that Contreras holds massive sentimental value for Chicago, being one of the last key contributors to the 2016 World Series still on the roster, but Houston should be willing to pay up if they want to win another title, rather than lose in the Finals.

Best Fits: Twins, Astros, Giants, Padres

Prediction: The Houston Astros shell out to shore up their catching problem

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C Sean Murphy, Athletics

C Sean Murphy, Athletics

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Sean Murphy is an excellent defensive catcher with a solid bat (for a catcher). Does that remind you of anyone? Anyone in particular who may or may not be retiring at the end of the season? The Cardinals currently don’t need a catcher, given Molina’s presence behind the plate, but it would make sense for the Cardinals to at least look at a potential replacement in Murphy. Even with both in St. Louis this season, each would get considerable playing time rotating between catching and designated hitting roles. Molina is already playing fewer games than he ever has before, and is coming off a stint on the 10-day IL. Perhaps Murphy could give Molina more time to rest and prep for a potential playoff run, the last of his career.

While I believe Murphy to St. Louis would be a smart move, I doubt the Cardinals would make such a bold move given their feelings for Molina. That’s where Minnesota comes in. Gary Sánchez is their catcher. That’s what they want you to think. In reality, Sánchez serves as a backstop, offering less to the team defensively than a toucan with no wings or legs. Sánchez is also struggling offensively, and with backup catcher Ryan Jeffers currently on the IL, grabbing a proven catcher solid on both ends would be a massive upgrade for the Twins.

Best Fits: Twins, Astros, Giants, Cardinals, Padres

Prediction: Minnesota moves Gary Sanchez to DH

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1B/OF Trey Mancini, Orioles

1B/OF Trey Mancini, Orioles

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The Orioles don’t have to trade Mancini, but trading the former Home Run Derby finalist now makes too much sense for the Orioles. Through 77 games, Mancini has posted a 121 OPS-plus, all while having to adjust for Camden Yards’ new left-field dimensions. His ability to play the outfield, as well as first base, makes him a prime trade candidate for several teams, even if he’s only under team control through this season (with a mutual option for 2023). Any team that needs a first baseman could use him. Need a corner outfielder? Mancini will suffice. Need a DH? Mancini has you covered.

Last year, the Rays made a deadline deal for Nelson Cruz to help with their power shortage. Cruz did not return in 2022, and wouldn’t you know it, the Rays are once again in the bottom half of the league in team OPS and home runs. Mancini would help tremendously in those departments. The only question is whether or not the Rays would be willing to give up any of their farm for Mancini. They have virtually no chance of catching the Yankees, and the Rays aren’t exactly known for their huge spending habits. If they do go for any big-name free agent this year, it should be Mancini, and the Rays will have the ability to put together a better offer than most clubs.

Best Fits: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Giants, Dodgers, Brewers, Guardians

Prediction: The Tampa Bay Rays snag their divisional foe

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1B Josh Bell, Nationals

1B Josh Bell, Nationals

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The Milwaukee Brewers have accrued -0.4 WAR from their first basemen this year. They have accrued -0.2 WAR from their designated hitters this season. The solution? Move Rowdy Tellez, a subpar defensive first baseman into the DH spot so he only has to focus on his offense, and trade for Josh Bell, a solid defensive first baseman with proven offensive upside. It makes too much sense to pass up.

There are some question marks surrounding Bell’s statistics. He’s not hitting the ball nearly as hard as he was earlier in his career, and while that’s led to a much higher average than he’s seen in years past, his OPS isn’t as high as you’d expect it to be. Still, I doubt several teams would be willing to pass on a .300 hitter. Will Bell be able to keep that pace up? I don’t know, but some team will be willing to take that risk given what he’s capable of.

Best Fits: Mets, Red Sox, Brewers, Guardians, Padres

Prediction: Bell lands in Milwaukee

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1B Garrett Cooper, Marlins

1B Garrett Cooper, Marlins

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Cooper is in the same ballpark as Bell. He’s hitting well, but the power numbers are a little low for a high-average first baseman. There are several teams that would still take a swing on him, but I believe the Marlins will look to retain Cooper and have him be a centerpiece of their offense moving forward.

There’s a lot to like about this Marlins’ roster. Between Jazz Chisholm, Sandy Alcantara, and Pablo Lopez, there’s a solid core forming. If the Marlins can develop some of their prospects into MLB-ready talent within the next few years, then the team should want to keep a bat like Cooper’s around. Sure, the team’s No. 20 prospect Jerar Encarnacion could come up any time now — he’s already spent some time in MLB this year — but he’s likely better suited to a corner outfield role, and with both Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia struggling this year, Encarnacion would slide perfectly into right field — shifting Garcia to left and Soler to DH — next season. Jesús Aguilar is on a one-year deal and he hasn’t exactly lived up to his $7.5 million price tag. It’s likely the Marlins move on from him and move Cooper to first full-time. If they want to compete for a division title next year, which they could very well do, then they’ll want to keep Cooper around.

Best Fits: Mets, Red Sox, Brewers, Guardians, Padres

Prediction: Cooper remains in Miami

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UTIL Brandon Drury, Reds

UTIL Brandon Drury, Reds

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There are three teams I could really see making a serious push for Brandon Drury: the Mariners, Dodgers, and Giants, and all of them could use Drury for different reasons.

The Dodgers love defensive versatility, and Drury is spectacular in that department. The Dodgers love to move players around and experiment with different lineups. For goodness sake, they put both Mookie Betts and Max Muncy at second base last year. Drury would fit in nicely to either the third base or second base role. Justin Turner isn’t playing up to his usual level and Gavin Lux has just four home runs and an OPS under .800 this year. At worst, Drury would be a great fill-in player with a lot of pop on a team in dire need of infield depth.

The Mariners have gotten very little help from their designated hitters this year. They’ve recorded a -0.6 WAR in fact. While Drury wouldn’t serve as a DH, his versatility defensively would give the Mariners an opportunity to move a more competent hitter like Eugenio Suarez to the DH role if they really wanted to. That said, they could also just slot Drury at second. Former All-Star Adam Frazier has an abysmal 78 OPS-plus in 2022. I’m sure the Mariners wouldn’t mind getting his bat out of the lineup for a while. Perhaps the pair could form a platoon — Drury in against lefties, Frazier against righties.

Then there’s the Giants, who, much like the Dodgers, love versatile defenders, but more importantly, have struggled with injuries at each of Drury’s favorite positions. Evan Longoria and Tommy La Stella have both missed considerable time with injuries this year and Drury would not only give the Giants a great insurance option if either were to go down again, but would also provide some much-needed power for a Giants’ lineup that finished first in the league in home runs last season, yet finds themselves barely scratching the top-10 in 2022. The Giants need power to thrive and Drury’s 18 home runs would be more than anybody on the Giants this year. Yes, I know that he’s hitting these dingers at the famously hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, but the Giants are desperate for any kind of power.

Of these three teams, the Mariners are the most likely to land Drury in my opinion. Not only are they the most desperate to fill a lineup spot with a strong hitter, but they’re currently in the middle of their best season in a long time. Yes, they were solid last year too, but their underlying stats said they were overachievers, destined to fall back to Earth. In 2022, they are not. Their success is real and they know it. If they’re going to trade away resources in an effort to gear up for the playoffs, this is the year to do so.

Best Fits: Mariners, Dodgers, Giants

Prediction: Drury winds up in Seattle

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DH Nelson Cruz, Nationals

DH Nelson Cruz, Nationals

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Who needs power? Because Nelson Cruz should provide some… “should” being the key word. Cruz’s power numbers have definitely taken a toll this year, but maybe that’s only because he’s in Washington. That team is doing so poorly that perhaps Cruz’s spirits are low. Maybe a trade to a contender will get him back into form. All joking aside, Cruz’s power resumé speaks for itself and despite those numbers dropping this year, any team in dire need of dingers should be willing to take a risk on Cruz. He’s 41, on a one-year contract, and in the middle of one of the worst years of his career. His price will be at an all-time low, and if he can turn things around in the second half, then he’ll be a monumental investment.

The team that makes the most sense is the San Diego Padres. Currently 25th in home runs, the Padres need a spark in their offense and could really use someone to protect Manny Machado in their lineup while Fernando Tatís is still sidelined. If anything, Cruz could create a solid platoon with Luke Voit. While Voit is slashing .238/.309/.492 against righties this year, good for a .801 OPS, he’s posted just a .547 OPS against southpaws this year. Cruz has always been a much better hitter against lefties in his career, and while he hasn’t been as good against them this year (.687 OPS), that’s still 140 points higher than Voit’s numbers against them.

Best Fits: Rays, Padres, Giants, White Sox

Prediction: Cruz cruises down to San Diego

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OF David Peralta, Diamondbacks

OF David Peralta, Diamondbacks

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Myles Straw is currently batting .212 with a .571 OPS for the Cleveland Guardians. They need a center fielder. Peralta is a perfectly serviceable hitter, perhaps even slightly above-average, with high-end defensive upside. If the Guardians really want to compete for the AL Central, they’ll need someone to surround José Ramírez and Andrés Giménez. Peralta would be a good, cheap start.

Best Fits: Rays, Cardinals, Yankees, Phillies, Padres, Guardians

Prediction: Cleveland snags Peralta aiming to compete with Minnesota

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OF Jordan Luplow, Diamondbacks

OF Jordan Luplow, Diamondbacks

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This man was made for the platoon role. Against righties, Luplow is as worthless as my printed-out copy of an NFT, but for a team struggling against lefties, Luplow is a godsend. Luplow is currently hitting .181, yet has a 102 OPS-plus. How? Because he takes southpaws back behind the shed and murders them.

The Milwaukee Brewers currently have the sixth-lowest OPS against lefties in MLB. Only the Guardians have a worse OPS among teams vying for a playoff spot. With that in mind, Luplow would make a perfect addition to the Brew Crew. He wouldn’t be an everyday player, but he’d be a perfect fill-in. There are some problems. For one, he has barely played center field in his career, and the Brewers need a center fielder. Lorenzo Cain has an OPS-plus of 33 in 2022. Maybe Andrew McCutchen could return to center field, but he hasn’t played more than 15 games there in a single season since 2017. He’s just not cut out for it. The Brewers would have to figure out their defensive lineup, but they can’t afford to pass up on what Luplow brings to the table.

Best Fits: Brewers, Red Sox, Mariners, Yankees, Guardians

Prediction: Luplow winds up in Milwaukee

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11 / 16

OF Ramón Laureano, Athletics

OF Ramón Laureano, Athletics

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Laureano’s name has lost a lot of pop this year. He hasn’t played much center field, and has been rather ineffective against right-handed pitching. The latter statement dates back to the start of 2020. That said, Laureano’s defensive prowess still makes him an intriguing option for any team in contention for the playoffs.

Still, the A’s like Laureano a lot, and I doubt they’d be willing to give up someone who accrued nearly 6 WAR in his first 162 games with the team for so little. On the other end, there probably wouldn’t be much of a market for someone who would be the lesser-used side of a corner outfield platoon, especially at Laureano’s price. He fits the mold for a lot of teams, but Luplow is almost just as good and would probably cost far less.

Best Fits: Brewers, Red Sox, Mariners, Yankees, Guardians

Prediction: Laureano stays in Oakland

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OF Anthony Santander, Orioles

OF Anthony Santander, Orioles

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Santander brings a lot of risks. On one end, he’s a sure-fire 25-homer guy over the course of a full season. He’s got pop, but he also pops the ball up... a lot, one of the highest rates in MLB since his debut actually. That inconsistency has caused Santander’s value to dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge its way between good, great, average, and subpar.

On the bright side, Santander is locked up through 2024, making his value immense for any team that thinks they can fix his fatal flaws. Santander has shown signs of improvement in 2022, improving both his strikeout and walk rates, but as I said, his consistency has bobbed and weaved throughout most of his career and unless a team is absolutely confident they can get the most out of Santander, I wouldn’t be willing to pay what the Orioles will likely want for him.

Best Fits: Giants, Padres, Cardinals, Mariners

Prediction: Santander stays an Oriole

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OF Bryan Reynolds, Pirates

OF Bryan Reynolds, Pirates

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A switch-hitting outfielder is a hot commodity in MLB, and Reynolds would surely draw tremendous attention if the Pirates make him available. Reynolds started off the 2022 season very slow, but has picked things up recently, slashing .323/.395/.564 since the start of July. The Pirates have no obligation to trade Reynolds though, as he is under team control for three more years.

That said, Reynolds has reportedly turned down multiple extension offers from the Pittsburgh front office. That inability to get Reynolds to commit to the team long-term could push Pittsburgh into letting him go in exchange for a boat load of prospects. However, I find it much more likely that the Pirates push their luck and continue trying to negotiate with Reynolds for the next few seasons. If he does get traded, it won’t be for another two years or so.

Best Fits: Yankees, Giants, Padres, Braves, Red Sox

Prediction: Reynolds remains a Pirate

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OF Andrew Benintendi, Royals

OF Andrew Benintendi, Royals

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Benintendi is an on-base machine. He’s currently 11th in the league in that category. At 27, Benintendi is having the best season of his career. He’s no longer attempting to maximize his power, rather opting for a more slap-happy, ground ball, spray it all over the yard approach and it has helped his base stats tremendously. There are several teams in need of outfield help — the Yankees and Red Sox being the most paramount. However, the Atlanta Braves are a team that sticks out to me.

They’re certainly no stranger to deadline outfield deals. Last year, the team acquired Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler, and Eddie Rosario midseason. You’d think they’d have no desire to snag another outfielder, but with Duvall and Ozuna seriously struggling, hitting .213 and .221 respectively, putting a solid table-setter and good defender in their lineup would give them their best shot at trying to catch the New York Mets.

Best Fits: Cardinals, Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Blue Jays, Padres

Prediction: Benintendi becomes the latest deadline outfield acquisition for Atlanta

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OF Juan Soto, Nationals

OF Juan Soto, Nationals

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Juan Soto is the crown jewel of this year’s trade deadline. Nobody thought he would be available come late June, yet here we are.

Let’s be honest. Every team could use Juan Soto. He fits in every lineup. He’s worth his weight in gold, maybe more, because he hits the shit out of the ball better than almost anyone on Earth. If you try to tell me that zero teams could use a left-handed bat that can slash .300/.400/.500, you’re lying. In fact, not only are you lying, but you should feel bad about yourself.

If a trade is to happen at all, Soto’s potential suitors come down to three things: 1) Who’s in a position to make a run for a World Series right now? 2) Who’s got the resources to make a trade for Soto? 3) Who’s got the deepest farm system? That third one is really important because there is likely going to be a bidding war for Soto and whoever has the deepest system will have a huge advantage.

The Los Angeles Dodgers currently have six prospects in the Top 100, and a multitude of Major Leaguers who could be thrown in as well. They’re tired of hearing all the murmurs about their Mickey Mouse ring in 2020. They want another title, and Soto would go a long way toward making that title a reality. They have the most to offer, the most to gain, and the most money to extend Soto when all is said and done. There are other teams that could make a push like the Yankees, Mets, Giants, White Sox, and Cardinals, but none can offer what the Dodgers can. It’s not a matter of what they can offer, it’s a matter of how much they’re willing to put up.

Of course, that’s assuming anything anyone offers is close to worth it for the Nationals. Given that teams didn’t know that Soto would be available until recently, it’s unlikely a deal gets reached anytime soon, unless someone comes out of the woodworks with a massive king’s ransom right out the gate. I find that highly unlikely. If that does happen though, it’ll probably be the Dodgers.

Best Fits: Cardinals, Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Giants, Padres, White Sox

Prediction: Soto stays with the Nationals for the remainder of the season.

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