Pros and cons for 6 top trade candidates

July 30th, 2022

Tick tock. The clock is winding down toward Tuesday's 6 p.m. ET Trade Deadline, and decision time is nigh.

Teams can spend weeks or longer doing their due diligence on a potential target before the Deadline, but the decision of whether to actually go through with a trade or not might come down to one or two major factors.

Setting aside the best available hitter (Nationals outfielder Juan Soto) and pitcher (right-hander Luis Castillo, who was traded to the Mariners on Friday), below are the biggest pros and cons teams are surely considering when it comes to some of the top players who are seen as strong candidates to be dealt prior to the Deadline. (All stats are through Thursday.)

For up-to-the-minute trade news, rumors and analysis, tune in to MLB Network's Trade Deadline special from 3-7 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The show will also stream live on and in the MLB App.

Josh Bell, 1B, Nationals
Contract status: Eligible for free agency after 2022

Pros: The switch-hitter has recorded 85 homers and a 132 OPS+ over the past four seasons, including a career-best 153 OPS+ in 2022. Bell has hit .291 or higher against all three pitch-type classifications (fastballs, breaking balls, offspeed pitches) this season, and he’s the rare slugger who doesn’t have a lot of swing and miss in his game, striking out just 13.5% of the time.

Cons: Bell has seemingly sacrificed power for more contact this season -- while his strikeout rate is down 4.3 percentage points, his hard-hit rate has dropped by more than 10 points to 41.4%, a 57th percentile mark. He’s on pace to barely crack the 20-homer plateau. So if you’re a team that needs power above all else, there might be better options out there.

Willson Contreras, C, Cubs
Contract status: Eligible for free agency after 2022

Pros: Contreras has long been among the best hitting catchers in the sport, but he’s raised his game to a new level this season, recording 14 homers and a career-high 134 OPS+ over 83 games for Chicago. When you consider the sizable gap between Contreras and some of the other backstops regularly suiting up for contenders, the 30-year-old could be the biggest offensive upgrade any team makes at this year’s Deadline.

Cons: From a defensive perspective, integrating a new catcher in the middle of a season is difficult for everyone involved because said backstop needs to adjust to a new pitching staff on the fly. A team could opt to use Contreras as its designated hitter, but it would still need to pay the premium associated with acquiring an All-Star backstop. Plus, it would be losing a lot of the value he’d provide as a strong hitter at a typically weak offensive position.

Ian Happ, OF, Cubs
Contract status: Controllable through 2023

Pros: The Cubs moved Happ all over the diamond in his first five seasons, but he’s found a home in left field this year and just earned his first All-Star selection. A switch-hitter, Happ has produced a 128 OPS+ in 2022, bouncing back after putting up a 102 OPS+ last season.

Cons: Happ has the lowest strikeout rate (21.5%) of his career this year, but it’s coincided with a drop in contact quality. The 27-year-old’s barrel rate (7.2%), hard-hit rate (39.9%) and sweet-spot rate (31.6%) are all mediocre, contributing to a .401 expected slugging percentage (52nd percentile).

Tyler Mahle, SP, Reds
Contract status: Controllable through 2023

Pros: Mahle doesn’t light up the radar gun, but his four-seamer has proven incredibly effective, generating an elite 29.2% whiff rate this year and accounting for 207 of his 317 K’s across 2021-22. The 27-year-old’s expected stats -- including a .205 xBA and 3.30 xERA -- are much better than his actual results (.232 BAA, 4.48 ERA), suggesting he’s been unlucky this season.

Cons: None of Mahle’s secondary pitches, including a splitter, slider and cutter, rises to the level of his four-seamer, and he doesn’t consistently induce swings out of the zone, leading to high walk totals (3.6 BB/9 in 2022). Mahle also spent time on the injured list recently with a right shoulder strain.

Frankie Montas, SP, A’s
Contract status: Controllable through 2023

Pros: Montas has been one of the best starters in baseball since last summer, posting a 2.69 ERA with 224 strikeouts in 204 innings across his past 35 starts. The 29-year-old is under control through 2023, so whichever team ends up acquiring him will have him for next season as well as this year’s stretch run and postseason race.

Cons: Montas exceeded his previous career high by nearly 100 innings last season and dealt with right shoulder inflammation earlier this month. He’s back now, but the injury is still a cause for concern. Plus, the A’s are likely to set a lofty price tag for a controllable pitcher of his caliber.

Noah Syndergaard, SP, Angels
Contract status: Eligible for free agency after 2022

Pros: After missing all of 2020 and most of 2021 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and subsequent setbacks, Thor has made a successful return with the Angels this season. Aside from a rough May (5.40 ERA), the right-hander has been a consistent starter for the Halos, throwing at least five innings and allowing three earned runs or fewer in 10 of his 15 starts. If you’re a team with playoff aspirations, you know he’s not going to be fazed by the big moment, given his postseason experience with the Mets in 2015 and 2016.

Cons: Formerly a flamethrower who regularly sat around 98 mph with his heater, Syndergaard is averaging around 94 mph with both his four-seamer and sinker this season, and he’s struggled to miss bats. His 22.9% whiff rate ranks in the 31st percentile and he has struck out a career-low 18.9% of the batters he’s faced.