Alyson Footer, editor/moderator: Let’s start with some of the players who have emerged as the top trade candidates. Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas stand out to me, as does Willson Contreras. With three weeks remaining until the Deadline, do you think much has changed on that front now that we have a big sample size of their 2022 performances? Or is it pretty much the same cast of characters?
Mark Feinsand, executive reporter: Montas’ arm injury has certainly changed his trade status, but it seems as though he will miss only one start. As long as he can come back and show he’s healthy, he’ll be one of the top players on the move.
Jon Paul Morosi, reporter, MLB.com/MLB Network: The injury-related concern about Montas has altered his value in the marketplace. No matter what happens between now and Aug. 2, the questions around Montas' health could complicate the A's efforts to move him, and they may struggle to get what they would have before the season began.
Castillo, meanwhile, has performed in such a way that he's affirmed his billing as the best starter among the more readily available arms.
Feinsand: If Montas doesn’t look quite like himself, then Oakland might wait and try to trade him in the offseason, instead.
Morosi: Meanwhile, you have rental starters who are performing quite well, such as the underrated José Quintana and Chad Kuhl. They fit the classic description of names that are talked about much more within the industry than they are by fans.
I think it would take a significant tumble for the White Sox for Lucas Giolito to become truly available, but that's a situation worth watching. The White Sox are such a frustrating team right now. They haven't been above .500 for the last six weeks or so.
Feinsand: The fact that there are 23 teams within reach of a postseason spot leaves a limited number of guaranteed sellers at this point. I think we’ll see a lot of teams wait until July 31 or Aug. 1 to declare those intentions.
As the Orioles have shown, all it takes is one great week to put yourself in position for a Wild Card run.
Footer: Other than the Orioles, who I cannot envision trading any prospect talent to make a push this year, teams like the Rangers and Guardians might have some tough decisions to make.
Feinsand: Baltimore doesn’t have to necessarily trade top prospects to be a buyer, though.
The Orioles may be one of the most fascinating teams to me. It has been assumed that Trey Mancini, Jorge López and Anthony Santander were all on the block. But this latest winning streak may change things. Imagine if [executive vice president and general manager] Mike Elias decides to become a buyer?
Morosi: The Orioles are a great story, but I still think they will seriously consider trading Mancini. Santander is a different story because they have control over him beyond the end of this season.
Feinsand: It all depends on your definition of “going for it.” For teams like the Mariners and Phillies, getting to the postseason is imperative. For a team like the Orioles that is seemingly ahead of schedule, there isn’t that same urgency.
Morosi: The Orioles could also "buy" a longer-term asset that helps them now and in the future. In that way, I think the familiar "buyer" or "seller" designations don't always apply.
Take a team like the Guardians, for example. They have shown many times in the past that they can move veterans and still compete.
Feinsand: There has been a lot of chatter about the Orioles trying to deal for Pablo López. I’m not saying the Marlins are going to trade López, but that’s the type of player I could see Baltimore trying to add. A team like the Orioles isn’t going to be dealing for rentals, that’s for sure.
Morosi: The Orioles have some similarities to the Padres several years ago. Once you have a wave of prospects arrive, 40-man roster spots become scarce. And that's where it makes some sense to move three prospects for the one young Major Leaguer you really want as a future cornerstone.
They don't need Bryan Reynolds, because they have Cedric Mullins, but Reynolds is the profile of player (in service time and ability) whom the Orioles might consider packaging prospects to acquire if they had a positional need there.
Feinsand: Reynolds is a really interesting case. He’s under control for a few more years, so the Pirates certainly don’t HAVE to deal him. But if they do, they’re going to get a haul for him.
It all depends on how close [general manager] Ben Cherington thinks the team is to competing, and how integral he believes Reynolds is to that cause.
Morosi: Quick aside: My favorite Trade Deadline story could be Johnny Cueto. Yes, the White Sox would need to fall further for him to be truly available at the Deadline, but look at his numbers! What year is this, 2015?! "Cueto among the top rental starters on trade market."
Footer: If the White Sox find themselves six games out of the last WC spot on Aug. 1, what might they do? What a dud of a year so far.
Morosi: The White Sox are probably the most disappointing team in baseball this season. So much talent, but they are less than the sum of their parts.
Feinsand: I think you can get rid of “probably” there, JP.
Morosi: At no point have I thought, "They're really close to breaking out."
The standard in the AL is the Yankees and Astros.
Feinsand: The White Sox were projected by almost everybody to win the AL Central. I was not one of those people, I might add. I had the Twins.
Morosi: If you're an AL contender, you need to ask yourself, "Can I beat Houston or New York in a playoff series?" The White Sox are not close to that class, nor are they one or two moves away. They should sell, but I don't know that they will.
Feinsand: To beat either of those teams, you need to have great starting pitching. I’m not sure any of the other AL teams have that. But if a team adds Castillo, you never know. That said, I think the Dodgers have to be seen as the favorites to land Castillo. They need a starter, they know they need a starter, and they have the prospect capital to do it. That front office has never been shy.
Morosi: The Blue Jays are flawed, too. Not as flawed as the White Sox, but they have lackluster pitching and an unbalanced lineup. I'd have an easier time justifying the Jays paying the price for Castillo than the White Sox. Castillo addresses a major need for Toronto and gives them a legitimate chance of advancing in the playoffs.
Footer: The dynamics of the new playoff format are so interesting, when it comes to how the elite teams might maneuver themselves as the Deadline approaches. The AL East race is all but over, giving the Yankees an opportunity to worry about only the teams they might face in October. As we’ve seen so far, they don’t match up that great against the Astros. How might that sway them come Deadline day?
Feinsand: The Yankees know they have some flaws. I would be shocked if they didn’t get an outfielder to replace Joey Gallo, and at least one reliever. There will be a group of teams willing to trade for Gallo. I think some people see him as a guy who needs a change of scenery, not one whose best days are behind him.
Andrew Benintendi makes so much sense for the Yankees, but there are other teams that covet him, as well.
Morosi: I could see Ian Happ for the Yankees. Yadiel Hernandez, too.
I think Benintendi winds up somewhere other than the Yankees. Keep an eye on the Jays for him, too. Toronto's lineup is so right-handed. It's a good lineup, but it's susceptible to power right-handers in a postseason setting.
Presently constructed, I don't see how the Jays could beat the Yankees or Astros in a five-game series. Toronto's series in Seattle needs to be a wake-up call for their front office and team.
Feinsand: It’s amazing how one series can have that effect. Remember last year’s Nationals -- they were seemingly in the middle of a playoff race, then they got swept by the Orioles. Within days, the fire sale was on and Max Scherzer and Trea Turner were headed to the Dodgers.
Back to the Yankees and Astros -- Houston’s bullpen has been great, but there’s no lefty in their group that you would feel great about in a big spot. That would seem to be a spot that the Astros would try to address this month. Maybe a guy like Andrew Chafin? A .492 OPS vs. right-handed hitters, .512 OPS vs. lefties.
Fortunately for Houston, the Yankees have only one big lefty hitter to worry about [Anthony Rizzo]. At least for now.
Morosi: With the three-batter minimum, it's obviously imperative that your lefties be able to handle right-handed bats -- and Matt Moore has held right-handed hitters to a .518 OPS this year. And one more bullpen name we forgot to mention: David Robertson. He's having a very good year with the Cubs.
Feinsand: Robertson will bring back a nice prospect or two for the Cubs. He’s been a closer for many years, has ample postseason experience, and can handle big markets. He’s a guy that makes perfect sense for the Mets -- and [general manager] Billy Eppler knows him from their time with the Yankees. He would make sense for the Yankees, too, but I don’t think that reunion is happening. There were some bad feelings the last time he left the Bronx.
As good as the Yankees are, they need another reliever. I just don’t see them trusting Aroldis Chapman in a big spot anymore.
Footer: Has the Contreras market changed? We thought the Giants would be a good fit, but they’re in a bit of a free fall (though still in the Wild Card race). And the Astros seem committed to Martín Maldonado.
Morosi: A month ago, I would have said the Giants are a perfect fit for him. But they're really struggling now. I still think it's possible that the Giants would end up trading for him, because of the new postseason format, but the price would need to be right.
Feinsand: Contreras can be just as valuable to a team as a part-time catcher and DH. His bat makes him a weapon even if he’s not catching. I think making a change at catcher in late-July or early-August is so tough, because the new guy doesn’t know the staff.
Morosi: The Giants can scale their offer based on how realistic their chances are of making the playoffs.
Feinsand: The Rays could use Contreras, but I’m not sure they would pay the price for him.
The Mets are another potential spot for Contreras. They could use a catching upgrade, and even though James McCann is signed for a couple more years, Contreras is a free agent. It’s not a long-term commitment.
Morosi: I agree on the Mets for Contreras. That's two injury-related absences for McCann. The Mets can't get to October and say, "Oops, we don't have the catching depth." They're too desperate to win now for that to be the case.
Feinsand: The Rays, Giants, Mets and Guardians are the four teams I would think will have the most interest in Contreras, with the Astros as a potential fifth if they decide to move on that position (which I don’t think they’ll do).
Morosi: The Red Sox are another possible landing spot for Contreras. He'd have plenty of at-bats among catcher, DH and first base.
Feinsand: If I had to guess now, I’d say he’s on the Mets by Aug. 3. Unlike the Rays and Giants, the Mets are a near-lock to be playing in October barring a crazy collapse.
Morosi: The NL East race is so fascinating right now. Of course, at the start of the year, all Mets fans were telling me, "We can't get too confident. There could be disaster waiting ahead." I told them to relax. This was the safest lead in baseball. And now here we are.
Feinsand: I still think the Mets will win the NL East. They’re adding a starter in the coming weeks. Perhaps you’ve heard of him: Jacob deGrom. And they don’t have to give up anything to get him.
Morosi: Yes, but which version of deGrom?
Feinsand: Well, if it’s the one that has looked sharp in his two rehab starts, I’d say it’s a pretty good version of deGrom. The Mets will be careful with him when he comes back. He just needs to be healthy in October. If the Mets have him and Scherzer starting Game 1 and 2 of a series, they’re going to be very tough to beat.