Predicting the perfect trades for Deadline day

August 2nd, 2022

The Trade Deadline dam began to break Monday, when the Padres landed Josh Hader, the Yankees reeled in Frankie “The Yankee” Montas, the Astros added Trey Mancini and Christian Vázquez, among other moves. Pair that flurry of activity with the Mariners’ blockbuster swap for Luis Castillo over the weekend, and this is starting to look like something.

But we’ve got a lot of unfinished business as we enter Deadline Day, with the 6 p.m. ET cut-off looming. And the biggest bit of that business of course involves a certain 23-year-old superstar being dangled by the Nationals.

Deadlines spur action, and, whether or not any generational talents get dealt today, plenty of rental pieces, at the very least, are bound to change hands. Here are some guesses as to what will go down between now and 6 p.m. (and no, this is not the full extent of what we are expecting, because a lot of players are going to change hands … especially relievers).

Juan Soto will be traded … in the offseason.

The Angels are already reported to have pulled Shohei Ohtani off the market … and no one seriously expected him to be dealt anyway.

It’s different with Soto. The offers are earnest, and so is the possibility that the Nats move him. Considering Soto’s age and output, this would be nothing short of one of the biggest blockbusters of all time. And we might be so far down the road in both discussions and emotions that a Tuesday deal is inevitable.

But the thought here is that if a Soto deal was actually going to go down, it would have happened by now. While the Nationals’ ongoing ownership sale process affects this situation in ways we simply aren’t privy to, there’s really no reason for the Nats to back off their ask at the last minute for a player of this caliber. They need to get this right, and a trade of this magnitude -- the type of trade that sometimes takes months, not weeks, to come to fruition -- might have to be settled in the offseason, when inquiring teams have more flexibility. While many of us would rather see Soto playing this October instead of sitting on the sidelines, the best guess here is that Soto will remain with the Nats for at least the remainder of 2022.

(Either that, or he’s going to the Padres!)

The Padres will acquire both Willson Contreras and Ian Happ.

Speaking of the Padres, if they don’t get Soto, then how’s this for a backup plan? The Padres and Cubs have made a handful of deals with each other in recent years, most notably the Yu Darvish trade. This would be a way for San Diego, having already gone all-in by adding Hader to the bullpen, to address its offensive issues in a meaningful and flexible way.

Happ would improve what has been one of the worst-performing outfields in baseball, and Contreras augments the offense at the catcher position (where San Diego has a combined .679 OPS) while also giving the Friars another option at DH. The market for Contreras is not as robust as some might think, but Happ is definitely a hot commodity right now. The Padres should be able to put together a package for this pair that doesn’t involve C.J. Abrams or top prospect Robert Hassell III.

The Cardinals will land Carlos Rodón.

This would be a controversial move, because the Giants are still alive in the NL Wild Card chase and the Cards are one of the teams they’re contending with. But a sober assessment of the Giants’ World Series chances, combined with the trade value of a starting pitcher like Rodón in the wake of what the Reds got for Luis Castillo, will compel Farhan Zaidi to both buy (more on that in a sec) and sell, and Rodón’s opt-out clause makes him an expiring asset.

If the Cardinals are serious about playing deep into 2022, they need to meaningfully improve a rotation in which Miles Mikolas and a 40-year-old Adam Wainwright are the lone bright spots. They are unlikely to deal top prospect Jordan Walker, but their system has enough pieces to outdo other bidders for Rodón, perhaps with a deal built around outfielders Joshua Baez or Alec Burleson. They did take a step in this direction by dealing for Pirates lefty José Quintana, but that move doesn't necessarily preclude them from going after Rodón.

The Giants will then turn around and acquire Tyler Mahle.

This way, the Giants will assure themselves of some rotation stability for 2023, as Mahle is under contractual control through next season. One thing to note: If the Reds seek to attach a bad contract -- such as the $18 million owed Mike Moustakas next season, with a $4 million buyout for 2024 -- the Giants are well-positioned to take that on to reduce the prospect cost of the deal.

Noah Syndergaard will be a Blue Jay again.

Toronto still has impact pieces (including four prospects in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100) to make a deal with more oomph, but the Blue Jays have multiple needs on their pitching staff and do have to be mindful not to totally gut their system after their deals in the past year for José Berríos and Matt Chapman. Syndergaard, who has a 3.83 ERA through 15 starts with the Angels, is not the flame-thrower he was back when the Blue Jays dealt him to the Mets for R.A. Dickey before the 2013 season. But Toronto needs somebody who can deliver decent innings in the back end of the rotation without a punitive prospect cost.

David Robertson will return to New York.

Not with the Yankees but with the Mets, who are in need of a high-leverage reliever. The Mets also have a need at DH but haven’t been in love with the supply and price tags. It would not be a shock, though, to see them land J.D. Martinez (perhaps with Dominic Smith involved). That would give them multiple DHs named J.D., which we can assume without checking would be a record.

The Rays will bring in Josh Bell.

The Astros’ acquisition of Trey Mancini seemingly shrunk the market for Bell. The Rays, who still have farm-system depth aplenty, will pounce and make another improvement to an offense that has been barraged by injuries and ranks in the bottom third in MLB in OPS. Bringing in Bell could mean parting ways with the beloved Ji-Man Choi, but there would be a market for his left-handed bat (the White Sox, Braves and, all intradivision anxiety aside, the Blue Jays would make sense here).

The Brewers will take a chance on Joey Gallo.

A year ago, Gallo seemed a perfect fit for the Bronx. He hits tape-measure blasts, he has an all-or-nothing approach, he (like fellow trade acquisition Anthony Rizzo) is of Italian descent. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, pretty much everything went wrong, and now the Yankees will look to unload Gallo just ahead of his free agency. The Brewers are the perfect team to give him another chance. They need to be protective of their farm system, but they also need a lineup boost. Gallo acquitted himself well enough in center field in Texas in 2019. In Milwaukee, he could platoon there with Tyrone Taylor and perhaps -- far away from the New York spotlight -- give that underperforming area a lift. What could possibly go wrong?!

The Guardians will land Sean Murphy.

Cleveland -- a surprise contender in the weak sauce AL Central -- is a really interesting club at this Deadline, with more legitimate prospects than it can protect on the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 Draft and perhaps some money to spend after latching on with a new minority investor. The Guards could parlay their prospect stash to improve their catching situation (they are 25th in bWAR at that position) for now and the future (Murphy is under control through 2025) by making this move. They love catching prospect Bo Naylor, but he might not be ready for the everyday duties by the beginning of 2023, and this is not a bad department to have depth.