Here's when GMs think Deadline deals heat up

July 28th, 2022

What is Trade Deadline week like for front office executives around Major League Baseball?

“Unlimited talk and text,” said a National League general manager.

As the clock ticks toward Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET, executives are working the phones in an effort to improve their postseason chances this season or to build for the future.

The new expanded postseason has complicated matters for some teams, particularly those on the bubble of the Wild Card race. Factor in that front offices are just now recovering from the Draft and the dearth of deals to this point -- Wednesday night’s trade of Andrew Benintendi to the Yankees marked the first major deal of the month -- is completely understandable.

To this point, teams have spent their time trying to get a feel for what’s out there and what the costs will be to add players for the stretch run.

“There seems to have been a ton of just feeling out where everyone stands so far, with nobody willing to really put anything firm out there,” another NL executive said prior to Wednesday's Benintendi deal. “I think the minute the first deal goes down, everyone else will do the same, and it’ll get going fast because no team will want to be left out -- particularly if another club in their division is getting better.”

“There’s a lot of talk about trades that have no chance of happening,” an AL executive said. “Front offices are so like-minded now.”

There’s also the Juan Soto factor.

Soto’s availability thrust a whole other dynamic into this Deadline. It’s not very common for a player of his caliber to hit the trade market. If Soto were to get traded, this could go down as one of the most impactful weeks in years. If not, it could be a fairly mundane Deadline.

Juan Soto Trade Deadline FAQ

“The pure exhilaration of the Deadline hinges on whether Juan Soto ultimately gets traded,” said an American League GM. “Barring unexpected players being available, unless Soto is traded, the class lacks sex appeal. If [Xander] Bogaerts becomes available, that would certainly spruce up the class, but outside of Soto, the strength of this Deadline relies heavily on a handful of starting pitchers coming back from injuries.”

Despite Soto’s two-plus years of control, the list of teams believed to be making a serious run at the young slugger -- led by the Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals and Mariners -- remains small.

“I wouldn’t expect enough teams to be engaged in a way that it would slow the rest of the market,” an AL GM said.

“I don’t think Soto is really holding teams up,” another AL executive said. “It’s a justifiable huge ask. Not sure whether he gets moved at this point.”

Soto is far and away the biggest name on the market, though as the latter exec said, it’s far from certain that he will be wearing a new uniform by next week.

“There has been a lot of talk, but I’m not convinced that many big names get moved,” a National League GM said. “I’d expect mostly players on expiring contracts.”

Among those impending free agents are Willson Contreras, Josh Bell, Trey Mancini, Brandon Drury, David Peralta, Nelson Cruz, José Quintana, Noah Syndergaard, David Robertson, Daniel Bard and Matt Moore, most of whom are expected to be dealt by Tuesday.

A group of players under club control through 2023 are also among those projected to be moved, including Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas, Ian Happ and Tyler Mahle.

An NL general manager noted that there “seems to be a pretty distinct set of buyers and sellers” aside from perhaps the Red Sox and Giants, who remain on the bubble. That could lead to an active market, albeit one lacking in true impact players.

“There doesn’t appear to be as much top-end talent available as in years past,” the GM said. “So while the deals may be aplenty, the leverage might be fairly low.”

Should the Red Sox and/or Giants decide to sell, another batch of notable players could become available. Bogaerts and Carlos Rodón can opt out of their contracts at the end of the year, while J.D. Martinez, Nathan Eovaldi, Christian Vázquez and Joc Pederson are among those headed for free agency.

Given that only nine teams were more than seven games out of a postseason spot as of Wednesday morning, we could see a number of “bubble teams” take a buy-and-sell approach, dishing off expiring contracts while adding controllable players. The number of pure “sellers” might be smaller than ever before, which bodes well for those teams as they look to land the biggest return from contenders.

“The new Wild Card is having a major impact,” an AL executive said. “Less teams will be sellers, so teams outside of the Wild Card race could clean up in acquiring talent as it will be a much smaller pool of sellers.”

If there’s one consensus among baseball’s decision-makers, it’s that the trade market is likely to remain quiet through the weekend.

Once Monday arrives? Get your popcorn ready.

“Is this the latest we’ve been relative to the Deadline without really much substantive activity?” asked an AL executive. “It continues to feel like we’re setting up for a lot of activity in the last 24-48 hours.”

Added another AL GM: “I think it’s going to be crazy and last-second.”