Which players could Phils target with Harper out?

June 28th, 2022

MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free-agent and trade rumors right here as we approach the 2022 Trade Deadline on Aug. 2 at 6 p.m. ET.

June 28: Which players could Phils target with Harper out?
The Philadelphia Phillies currently sit eight games out of the NL East, two games back of a Wild Card spot and could improve their roster at the Trade Deadline in a number of areas. They might bolster their starting rotation, add some bullpen help or improve their outfield defense, although Monday's waiver claim of Oscar Mercado does address the latter. However, with Bryce Harper set to undergo surgery Wednesday to fix his broken left thumb, trading for a big bat may now be at the top of the team's Deadline priorities.

On Monday, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia listed some of the hitters whom the Phillies may have their eyes on. He included Nationals first baseman Josh Bell, who will likely be desired by multiple offense-needy clubs, as well as other lefty bats such as the Royals' Andrew Benintendi and the D-backs' David Peralta. Both of them are on expiring contracts and have a 115 OPS+ this season.

The Orioles' Anthony Santander and the Pirates' Bryan Reynolds are also included in the list, but both switch hitters probably carry a higher asking price as they are under contract through 2025 and 2026, respectively.

The Orioles' Trey Mancini, the Nationals' Nelson Cruz and the Marlins' Jesús Aguilar are among some of the righty bats who could be on the Phillies' radar. Mancini is having the best offensive season of the bunch as he boasts a 124 OPS+. Cruz got off to an ice-cold start to the year, but he is batting .318 with an .894 OPS since May 20. Aguilar has experienced a similar resurgence recently, notching three homers and six extra-base hits over his past 12 games. All three players can become free agents after 2022.

June 27: Who’s next on trade block for Royals?
The Royals traded veteran first baseman Carlos Santana to the Mariners for two Minor League pitchers on Monday, clearing the way for prospect Vinnie Pasquantino to take over at first in Kansas City. There could be more moves to come for the Royals, who entered Monday in the AL Central basement with a 26-45 record.

Left fielder Andrew Benintendi and right-hander Zack Greinke are the most likely Royals to be traded, given both are eligible for free agency after 2022. Benintendi is one of the team's top All-Star candidates, hitting .295/.365/.386 in 296 plate appearances.

There also have been rumblings lately that second baseman/outfielder Whit Merrifield could be available. Merrifield is signed through 2023 and has a mutual option for 2024. The second baseman/outfielder struggled out of the gate this season, but he has hit .279/.330/.393 in his past 44 games, which is more in line with his performance from last season (.277/.317/.395).

This isn’t the first time Merrifield has been mentioned as a trade candidate, but Kansas City now seems more open to moving the 33-year-old than it has been in the past. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman recently reported that the Royals have been "talking seriously" about trading away the veteran.

Center fielder Michael A. Taylor, a 31-year-old signed through 2023, also could draw interest. Taylor has a career-high 113 OPS+ this season and is a strong defensive player.

Another trade candidate? Closer Scott Barlow, who has pitched to a 2.36 ERA with 25 saves since the beginning of 2021. The 29-year-old is controllable for two more seasons after 2022.

June 27: Will Cards make push for Montas after Flaherty’s latest setback?
Making his third start of the season after missing the first 2 1/2 months with right shoulder inflammation, Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty left Sunday’s game after two innings with a "dead arm." Flaherty's latest setback could force the Cardinals to be more aggressive on the starting-pitcher market leading up to the Trade Deadline.

With Flaherty, Steven Matz and Jordan Hicks all missing time, St. Louis has had to piece together its rotation behind Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson. Collectively, Cardinals starters have recorded a middling 3.91 ERA with the sixth-lowest strikeout rate (18.7%) in MLB.

MLB.com's Mark Feinsand looked at potential fits for some of this year's top trade candidates on Sunday and listed the Cardinals as a possible suitor for A's right-hander Frankie Montas, along with the Blue Jays and Dodgers.

Montas, 29, owns a 3.21 ERA and a 25.5% strikeout rate over 89 2/3 innings this season. The going rate for the right-hander could be two Top 100 prospects, which is what the Twins received from Toronto for José Berríos last summer. Berríos had an extra year of team control remaining at the time of the trade, like Montas does now. If that's the case, the Cards are in great position to meet the A's asking price, with five players ranked among MLB Pipeline's Top 100.

Feinsand also broke down the potential market for seven other trade candidates on the rise. Read more here.

June 25: Who are the best available relievers?
Assuming the Pirates don't make David Bednar available, these three pitchers could be the most popular trade targets among relievers at this year’s Trade Deadline.

  • Daniel Bard, RHP, Rockies (expiring contract): Bard is having his best season since he returned to Major League Baseball after a six-year absence. The 37-year-old owns a 1.88 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP this year, averaging 97.9 mph with his sinker and holding opponents to a .094 batting average on sliders. According to Peter Gammons in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), Bard could be on the Red Sox’s shopping list. Bard pitched for Boston from 2009-13 before control problems stalled his career.
  • David Robertson, RHP, Cubs (expiring contract): Another 37-year-old righty, Robertson made his return from Tommy John surgery with the Rays last season, then signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Cubs. He’s put up a 1.95 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP and has limited batters to a .061 average on breaking balls in 2022, the lowest mark in MLB (min. 50 PAs ending on breaking balls).
  • Jorge López, RHP, Orioles (controllable through 2024): Only three qualifying pitchers have increased their fastball velocity more from 2021 to 2022 than López, who is averaging 2.4 mph more than he did last year. The 29-year-old throws four pitches at least 10% of the time, and he’s yielded a sub-.160 batting average with all of them.

As for Bednar, it remains unclear if the Pirates will dangle him in a trade. A shutdown closer isn’t a necessity for a rebuilding club, but Bednar is under team control for four more years after 2022. The 27-year-old has a 1.30 ERA and a 48-to-8 K/BB ratio over 34 2/3 innings this season.

June 25: Yanks planning to make run at Castillo?
The Yankees have the best record in MLB, as well as the game’s best team OPS and second-best ERA, so the club doesn’t necessarily need to make a big splash at this year’s Trade Deadline. But with a World Series championship drought going on more than a decade, which is an eternity in the Bronx, a blockbuster trade can’t be ruled out.

In an article for The Athletic (subscription required), Peter Gammons reports that a number of likely Trade Deadline sellers have been scouting the Yanks' farm system under the assumption that general manager Brian Cashman is going to be in the market for a big-name starting pitcher, such as the Reds’ Luis Castillo or the A’s Frankie Montas. More >

June 22: Are Mets the most likely landing spot for Judge if he leaves Yanks?
Every team would benefit from adding Aaron Judge to their lineup, but only a handful of clubs are likely to be involved in the bidding when the outfielder becomes a free agent after 2022. The superstar slugger already turned down a $213.5 million offer from the Yankees before Opening Day, and he’s only improved his free-agent value since, putting up an MLB-leading 25 homers and a 1.022 OPS for the team with the best record in MLB.

Buster Olney broke down the potential market for Judge in an article for ESPN+ (subscription required) on Wednesday, looking at the clubs that are most likely to pry the 30-year-old away from the Bronx Bombers. The Mets, Giants, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Cubs and Twins all made Olney’s list.

Losing Judge would hurt no matter what, but it would be especially painful for the Bronx Bombers if he signed with the rival Red Sox or Mets.

The Mets might be the most likely landing spot for Judge if he doesn’t stay with the Yankees, as they offer the combination of a big market, a win-now situation and an owner in Steve Cohen who has shown a flair for aggressive, big-money moves since he took control of the club. Not every team on Olney's list can say that.

"I would not rule Cohen out of anything, especially if he gets close this year and doesn't win it,” a rival evaluator told Olney.

The Dodgers are the only other club that rivals the two New York teams in both financial might and market size, but president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has shown a reluctance to go “all in” on any one free agent, preferring instead to prioritize depth and payroll flexibility. Plus, Los Angeles already has outfielder Mookie Betts signed through 2032.

June 21: D-backs have intriguing trade candidates … but will they sell?
The D-backs’ Trade Deadline plans are unclear, with the club surprisingly still in the NL Wild Card race at 32-37, just one year after losing 110 games. But if Arizona does fall further out of the race, it could have some intriguing assets to sell, as MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi noted in an appearance on MLB Network on Tuesday.

Contenders that need a starting pitcher but don't want to pay an exorbitant price for the A's Frankie Montas or the Reds' Luis Castillo will likely try the D-backs. It’s unlikely the team will move right-hander Zac Gallen (controllable through 2025) in any situation, but Merrill Kelly (signed through 2024 with a 2025 club option), Zach Davies (impending free agent) and Madison Bumgarner (signed through 2024) all could draw interest.

Joe Mantiply, a 31-year-old lefty with a 0.36 ERA this season, could be an option for teams in need of a southpaw reliever. He’s controllable through 2026, though, so Arizona might not be in a hurry to move him.

The most likely trade candidates among the D-backs’ position-player crop are outfielder David Peralta (impending free agent) and first baseman Christian Walker (controllable through 2024).

Walker is particularly intriguing for contenders looking for right-handed power. The 31-year-old has 18 homers in 67 games this season and ranks among the MLB leaders in barrel rate, expected slugging percentage and expected wOBA.

June 18: Will Blue Jays pursue a top starting pitcher?
With Hyun Jin Ryu out for the season following Tommy John surgery, Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi expects the Blue Jays to be active on the starting-pitcher trade market before the Trade Deadline on Aug. 2.

Alek Manoah has been one of the best pitchers in the AL this season, but the rest of Toronto's rotation has been inconsistent. Even Kevin Gausman, an AL Cy Young contender over the first two months of the season, has run into a rough patch lately, posting a 6.75 ERA in June.

Ross Stripling has been solid as a replacement for Ryu, but he didn't make it out of the fourth inning in Toronto's loss to the first-place Yankees on Friday night, and he's never thrown more than 122 innings in a season. (He's at 46 2/3 in 2022.)

Then there's Nate Pearson, who is still building up after dealing with mono. The right-hander is a former top prospect, but he has dealt with a variety of ailments since he debuted in 2020 and has thrown just 33 innings in the Majors.

Bolstering the starting staff clearly needs to be a priority for the Blue Jays. The question, though, is how big of a splash the team will look to make. Toronto already gave up quite a bit last summer when it acquired José Berríos from the Twins for prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson. The club would have to further deplete its farm system to acquire one of the top available arms, a list that includes Frankie Montas, Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle.

It might make more sense for the Blue Jays to pursue a back-end starter to improve their depth and hope that the trio of Manoah, Gausman and Berríos is a good enough top three to carry the team in the postseason, but an aggressive move can’t be ruled out considering general manager Ross Atkins’ recent history.

June 17: Verlander says Toronto showed 'a lot of interest' in him
Justin Verlander re-signed with the Astros in December, and that two-year pact is already paying off handsomely as the 39-year-old has posted a 1.94 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP through 78 2/3 innings this season. But a return to Houston wasn't always a foregone conclusion. Verlander told ESPN.com (subscription required) that there were times when negotiations between the two sides weren't always smooth, and other teams jumped into the fray. The future Hall of Famer said the Blue Jays were the closest to signing him away from Houston.

"Some other teams really started to show a lot of interest. I would say that the leader was probably Toronto. They were great. And I talked to George [Springer, his former Astros teammate now with the Blue Jays] a bunch. They were very proactive to the point that when I signed with Houston, I made sure to let them know that I appreciated it all. Ultimately, when it came down to it, Houston had the same offer. It was all kind of ballpark between them and Toronto, and New York [Yankees] was kind of always just a step behind."

Gausman, Manoah, Berríos ... Verlander? Now that would have been a lot of fun.

June 14: What might an extension for Ohtani look like?
With Shohei Ohtani eligible for free agency after the 2023 season, the two-way superstar's long-term future with the Angels is about to become more of an immediate issue for the club.

Ken Rosenthal reports in an article for The Athletic (subscription required) that the Halos had informal discussions during Spring Training with Ohtani's agent about a potential contract extension. The Angels expressed an understanding that they would need to offer Ohtani a record average annual value, surpassing Max Scherzer's $43.3 million AAV with the Mets, but were reluctant to offer him the type of long-term contract that he would likely get on the open market.

It's difficult to pinpoint Ohtani's contract value considering his unprecedented situation. As Rosenthal notes, there's a case Ohtani should be the highest-paid player in MLB history given the massive impact he can have as a two-way player.

However, it's fair to wonder how long Ohtani can hold up under such a heavy workload. He'll be 29 when he becomes a free agent, and he's already dealt with a myriad of injuries and undergone multiple surgeries, including Tommy John surgery and left knee surgery, since he came to MLB from Japan.

Another factor is the Angels' history with long-term contracts. The Halos' deals with Albert Pujols, Justin Upton, Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson didn't work out as they would have hoped, and the team's seven-year, $245 million deal with Anthony Rendon doesn't look great three years in.

Despite their consistently high payrolls and the presence of both Mike Trout and Ohtani, the Angels haven't reached the postseason since 2014. They've slipped to 3 1/2 games out in the race for the third AL Wild Card spot this season after going 2-16 over their past 18 games.

June 13: Possible fits for Contreras
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras could be the top position player on the trade market this summer, with the ability to provide a significant offensive upgrade at what is typically a weak hitting position. However, some of the teams that seem like obvious fits for the 30-year-old, including the Astros and Yankees, are unlikely to pursue him, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required).

Per Rosenthal, the Astros’ front office is wary about displacing Martín Maldonado, whose defense is “revered” by Houston’s players and coaches alike.

The Yanks, meanwhile, lead the Majors in ERA, and it's believed that they won't want to break up the catching tandem -- Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka -- that has been a big part of the success.

So where might Contreras, an impending free agent, land? Perhaps in New York, but with the Mets rather than the Yankees.

The Mets have veteran backstop James McCann signed through 2024, but he has put up a .631 OPS over 142 games with the club and is currently sidelined with a fractured hamate bone in his left wrist. Considering how aggressive New York has been pursuing upgrades since owner Steve Cohen took over, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team get involved in the bidding.

Acquiring Contreras wouldn’t impact the timeline of Mets Minor League catcher Francisco Álvarez, MLB’s No. 7 prospect per MLB Pipeline.

Rosenthal also mentions the Giants, who lost Buster Posey to retirement after 2021 and just sent Joey Bart to the Minors, as a potential fit, along with the Padres and Rays.