Trade chatter starts with these 7 players

June 4th, 2022

Last summer, the Cubs held a fire sale that saw key members of their 2016 World Series curse-busting team land in new locations.

Kris Bryant was traded to the Giants, Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees and Javier Báez to the Mets, officially tearing apart a team that will be remembered forever on the North Side of Chicago.

One key player who remained was catcher Willson Contreras, who, unlike the others, had an additional year of control remaining prior to free agency. Well, it’s almost a year later and Contreras figures to be one of the marquee names moved before this year’s Trade Deadline, which arrives on Aug. 2.

“It was somewhat surprising that Contreras wasn’t traded last summer, or at least during the offseason,” a National League executive said. “It would be an absolute stunner if he isn’t moved by this year’s Deadline.”

The Cubs entered play Friday with a 22-29 record, sitting 10 games behind the first-place Brewers in the NL Central and 5 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot. Contreras has been one of the few bright spots on the roster, posting a .278/.401/.530 slash line with nine home runs in his first 43 games. His 1.9 fWAR leads all Major League catchers.

“For a contender looking for a catcher this summer, he’s the guy,” the exec said. “It can be a tricky position to switch up in the middle of the season, but he’s good enough to take that chance.”

Contreras will likely be one of the biggest names dealt prior to the Deadline, but who else could be on the move to impact the pennant races?

Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox
Under club control through 2022
(signed through 2025, opt out clause after 2022)

J.D. Martinez, OF/DH, Red Sox
Under club control through 2022

Bogaerts has an opt-out clause in his contract that he is expected to exercise, which would make him a free agent at the end of this season. He’s slashing .323/.393/.473 through his first 50 games, though that hasn’t helped the Red Sox, who entered Friday at 24-27, 12 games behind the AL East-leading Yankees. Bogaerts plays an excellent shortstop and will be highly sought after by a number of teams if the Red Sox decide to become sellers.

Martinez entered Friday with an AL-best .360 batting average and a .976 OPS, and while he clubbed only five home runs during his first 42 games, he remains one of the most consistently reliable hitters in the game. Now that the NL is utilizing the DH, the group of potential suitors is twice as big as it was before. Martinez is earning just north of $19 million this season, the last of his five-year, $110 million deal with Boston.

Frankie Montas, RHP, Athletics
Under control through 2023

Like the Cubs last summer, the Athletics went into sell mode this past offseason, dealing away Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea prior to the season. Montas -- who is arbitration-eligible for one more year and won’t become a free agent until the end of the 2023 season -- is earning $5.025 million this season, a bargain for a frontline starter. The 29-year-old has a 3.20 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 64 2/3 innings, making him one of the top starting pitchers available this summer.

Luis Castillo, RHP, Reds
Under club control through 2023

A shoulder strain kept Castillo on the injured list for the first month of the season, but the right-hander has performed well in his five starts since making his debut May 9. Castillo has a 3.38 ERA in 26 2/3 innings, his most dominant outing coming in his most recent start when he struck out 10 Red Sox while twirling six innings of one-hit, shutout ball. Castillo has been a rumored trade candidate for more than a year now, but with a $7.35 million salary and another year of arbitration-eligibility, the 18-32 Reds figure to deal him this summer to maximize the return.

Andrew Benintendi, LF, Royals
Under club control through 2022

Kansas City had hopes of contending for a postseason berth this year, but at 16-33, the Royals sit 12 games behind the Twins in the AL Central and 9 1/2 games out of an AL Wild Card spot. Benintendi is earning $8.5 million in his final year of arbitration and is slated to become a free agent at the end of the year, making him a prime trade candidate for clubs seeking corner-outfield help. The 27-year-old (he turns 28 on July 6) is slashing .337/.402/.431 with a 1.5 fWAR in 49 games, so he’ll be a solid addition to the top of some contender’s lineup.

Josh Bell, 1B, Nationals
Under club control through 2022

At 18-35, the Nationals find themselves a whopping 17 games behind the first-place Mets in the NL East and 10 1/2 games out of an NL Wild Card spot, setting them on a path to become sellers this summer. According to general manager Mike Rizzo, Juan Soto isn’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean Washington won’t be shopping some of its other players between now and Aug. 2. Bell hasn’t hit for the power he has shown in the past (five home runs in 52 games), but he’s slashing .309/.386/.436, so he can help a contending lineup down the stretch. He’s on a one-year, $10 million deal, making him a cost-effective player for most clubs.