25 best players set to be available at the 2022 MLB trade deadline

Jun 5, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Cubs left fielder Ian Happ (8) hits a double in the first inning as St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) watches at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

With MLB adding playoff teams this season, there are slightly fewer MLB trade deadline candidates in 2022. More teams are in contention, resulting in fewer front offices being locked in as sellers.

The picture can change quickly, of course. Trade deadline rumors are bound to unearth some fresh sellers before the cut-off date of August 2nd.

MLB trade deadline candidates 2022

The Yankees, Mets, Astros and Dodgers are just four teams who will already be keying in on MLB trade deadline targets. There is bound to be a larger pool of buying teams with the additional wildcard spots, yet there are several teams who are already a long way out of contention. These front offices should be doing early groundwork to see what they can get for their prized assets, particularly those on expiring deals.

We’ve put together the 25 best MLB trade deadline candidates in 2022 from All Stars to breakout relievers.

Luis Castillo

The Cincinnati Reds aren’t going anywhere any time soon. An offseason of curious decisions set them up for a 2022 dominated by losses. That’s exactly what has happened.

Luis Castillo trade rumors have been around for a while now, but this feels like the time for a deal to be done. He’s a free agent at the end of next season, enabling Cincinnati to still demand a relatively high price.

Owner of an xERA in the mid-threes and with generally decent numbers across the board, Castillo is a great fit for a contender’s rotation. The Twins, Astros and Rangers would all make sense.

Trey Mancini

Baltimore has turned down multiple opportunities to trade Trey Mancini over the last few seasons. He has a $10 million mutual option for next season, and the Orioles are still deep in their rebuild despite the arrival of Adley Rutschman.

Do the Orioles see Mancini as their Jose Abreu? Will they extend his contract further, keeping him as the constant while prospects develop? Or will they take the alternative view and cash-in amid a strong 2022 campaign?

Mancini’s value isn’t going to be that high given his defensive limitations. He’s up in the 91st percentile in xwOBA, though, and teams will be keen to add his bat to their offense.

Ramon Laureano

Long linked with the Miami Marlins, Ramon Laureano is one of Oakland’s remaining trade chips after flipping Matt Olson in the winter. Laureano has been okay at the plate since returning from suspension — his greatest value is as a platoon bat facing lefties. He’s got a career .824 OPS against southpaws.

The defense is good, though not as great as his frequent highlights might suggest. With a couple more seasons of team control, it’ll be fascinating to see how much the As can demand for the Santo Domingo native.

David Bednar

David Bednar isn’t a free agent until 2027. On most other teams, he would be viewed as a core piece for the future. It’s different in Pittsburgh – this team is miles off being competitive, and they should at least consider flipping Bednar for a prospect haul.

He’s grabbed headlines for multi-inning saves this season, even winning Reliever of the Month. The combination of a strikeout rate over 36% and a 2.37 xERA makes Bednar an incredibly valuable asset for the Pirates. He would instantly improve any bullpen in the sport, and could add further top-tier talent to Pittsburgh’s farm.

Willson Contreras

The Chicago Cubs made some of the biggest ever trade deadline deals in 2021, flipping Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. Willson Contreras survived the tear down, but he’s bound to be on the move this summer with his contract expiring this summer.

Contreras leads all catchers in wRC so far this season. It’s an offense-first choice to deal for Contreras, though there’s no question he’s among the best MLB trade deadline candidates in 2022. Houston, Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Boston should all be on the phone to Jed Hoyer.

This could end up being a costly rental. Any team dealing for Contreras should at least be open to extension talks.

Merrill Kelly

There will be some Madison Bumgarner trade buzz. Merrill Kelly is arguably the better option for rotation-needy teams, however, with $8.5 million owed in each of the next two seasons before a $7 million team option. Kelly has a 3.25 FIP in 2022, and shouldn’t be overlooked when debating baseball trade candidates this summer.

This is no early-season fluke. Kelly is posting the best contact numbers of his short MLB career.

The contract could still be a downside for some front offices with Kelly already into his mid-thirties.

Josh Bell

A low-strikeout, high-walk guy with raw power, it’s always been a question of if Josh Bell can put it all together. He had a strong 2021, with a hard-hit rate over 50%, and he’s picked up where he left off, posting a hefty 145 OPS+ in 2022.

Fit is the challenge with first base/designated hitter types. Boston, Minnesota, Milwaukee or Texas could find plate appearances for Bell, but there’s simply not room for him on most contending teams. Washington isn’t going to get a huge return.

Brandon Drury

In what is a nothing season for the Reds, Brandon Drury has been one of the few bright spots. He’s a fringe All-Star candidate, and has blossomed into a very useful trade piece. While he’s primarily played second and third this year, his experience in the outfield makes him especially useful.

Add in a 122 OPS+, great contact numbers and an elite whiff rate, and Drury should be a man in demand. A utility player with this level of offensive production will have a strong market.

Frankie Montas

Frankie Montas has another year of arbitration remaining. He’s pitching both quantity and quality with a 3.27 FIP through 81.2 innings across 14 starts. Oakland flipped Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt in the offseason and Montas is bound to be the next player shipped out.

Any team with meaningful postseason ambitions should be considering Montas – he’s that good. Oakland will hope for a bidding war with that extra year of team control enhancing his trade value considerably.

David Peralta

Arizona has unsurprisingly fallen out of contention after a good start. David Peralta has been on the team for almost a decade, but with his contract expiring and the Diamondbacks set to sell, that tenure should come to an end before the deadline.

Peralta isn’t necessarily the most exciting of MLB trade deadline candidates. Yet, he’s still an above-average hitter, plus-defender and is considered a good clubhouse guy.

The Dbacks already have Alek Thomas in the Majors and have more outfield prospects on the way. Peralta is a sensible low-cost trade deadline target for several competing clubs.

Chad Kuhl

After years grinding away with the Pirates, Chad Kuhl moved to the Rockies and broke out. It’s not a usual path for a pitcher to flourish, but Kuhl has made meaningful changes to his repertoire to explain this improvement.

He’s effectively put the four-seamer away after it was smoked last year and considerably upped his slider usage. It’s worked, taking him to a 127 ERA+. Kuhl is a different pitcher from his Pittsburgh days and could help a team needing rotation depth.

Sean Murphy

Yet to hit arbitration, it would be early to trade away Sean Murphy even for the Athletics. With the dearth of catching talent at the moment, though, Oakland could get an offer they can’t refuse.

Murphy is a career 107 OPS+ hitter. He’s third by Baseball Savant’s catcher framing metrics. And, he ranks in the 97th percentile in pop time.

Contreras’ availability might supress the market for Murphy or we could see one of the runners-up in the Contreras sweepstakes send multiple high-upside prospects to Oakland for an above-average, controllable catcher.

Ian Happ

A 139 OPS+ and decent outfield defense is going to attract front offices. Ian Happ has another year of team control, which might lead the Cubs to hold onto him, but they should at least survey the market given the year he is having.

Happ has his best walk rate since his second season. He’s massively cut down the strike outs. A former first-round pick with power and discipline can be a real difference maker in the second half of the campaign.

He’ll be overshadowed by Contreras in trade deadline rumors, but keep your eyes peeled for any Happ news.

Diego Castillo

Former Ray Diego Castillo has another couple of years before free agency. With the Mariners all but out of it before July, however, we could see Jerry Dipoto flipping the hard-throwing reliever for near-MLB prospects.

Don’t be fooled by the 5.25 ERA. Castillo has a 3.00 FIP and a 3.58 xERA. The slider is still nasty – teams will inevitably wonder if they can either improve on the sinker or cut down its usage (he’s giving up .434 xwOBA on the pitch in 2022).

Michael Fulmer

It’s a long time since Michael Fulmer won Rookie of the Year as a starter. The former first round selection has exclusively been a reliever in 2022. Detroit is out of contention already, and Fulmer is a free agent at year’s end.

Teams should be seeing what the Tigers are demanding for Fulmer. His xERA is only a shade above two. He’s upped the slider usage further, throwing it almost 60% of the time and it’s been almost unhittable. Every contender can benefit from a reliever like Fulmer.

Josh Staumont

Similar to Bednar in Pittsburgh and Castillo in Seattle, Kansas City might be looking to keep Josh Staumont. The La Habra native isn’t a free agent until after the 2025 campaign.

Staumont is also going to have interest as one of the top MLB trade candidates. Command is a problem, but a 91st percentile in whiff rate shows there’s great stuff to work with. The curveball, in particular, is nasty, and another team could look to build off that pitch more instead of riding a solid, not great, fastball.

Jeff Hoffman

This is by far the best season of Jeff Hoffman’s career. He shares command troubles with Staumont, and he’s also got two-and-a-half years of team control remaining. The strikeout numbers are strong, though, and he’s getting a lot of swing and miss and weak contact from his slider and change up.

Cincinnati has no reason to keep Hoffman. Just as the Yankees snatched Clay Holmes last summer, front offices should be considering Hoffman. The cost won’t be high, and he’s an intriguing pitcher if he cuts down the fastball and focuses on the slider-change combo.

Andrew Benintendi

A 115 OPS+ with solid outfield defense should be enough to interest teams. Andrew Benintendi is hitting free agency this winter and could be an impactful platoon bat with a .809 OPS against righties for his career.

Benintendi isn’t blessed with much power, but there’s still a place for his contact-heavy approach with a decent walk rate. Only five outfielders – Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, Joc Pederson and Juan Soto – have more wRC against righties so far this season.

Atlanta, Texas and Milwaukee are all good fits.

Eugenio Suarez

Eugenio Suarez had a couple of down years, but he’s back to being a productive power bat in Seattle. Any new team will have to live with the high strikeout numbers and low average, plus the $11.3 million for each of the next two seasons is a stumbling block.

The Mariners will probably have to throw in some money which makes a deal relatively unlikely. They will see Suarez as a useful player for their next good team.

Suarez will still be among MLB trade deadline rumors. His career record against lefties would make him an asset for a lot of ballclubs.

Tyler Mahle

At this stage of the season, it’s always worth looking at FIP and xERA over outcomes. Tyler Mahle’s FIP is 1.2 runs below his ERA. His xERA is 1.25 below his ERA. Mahle, then, has been a little unlucky thus far.

Aside from a career-long issue with walks continuing, Mahle has been above average across the board this year. He could further decrease the number of sliders he throws too, which should improve his results.

Like his teammate Castillo, the extra year of control means the Reds don’t need to make a trade. They still should do if the offers are reasonable, though.

David Robertson

Despite recently celebrating his 37th birthday, David Robertson is still one of the best relievers in the sport. He’s on a cheap, expiring deal and has a FIP a shade above 3.00 so far.

There’s a lot of dark red on his Savant page, led by a 2.45 xERA and a 33.7% strikeout rate. Where the Cubs could opt to keep Happ, trading Robertson is a no-brainer. He might end up being the top available reliever at the trade deadline.

Anthony Bass

Anthony Bass has a team option for 2023 and the Marlins aren’t in teardown mode at the moment. Miami could yet look to add relievers. Should the Marlins sell, Bass would get them a solid return with his 2.45 FIP.

Another guy throwing far more sliders than before, Bass could even crank that up further with hitters making a lot of loud contact against his fastball. The Marlins are 13 back and don’t really have a shot at the wildcard – it’s worth investigating what they can get for Bass.

Chris Stratton

A free agent next season and owner of an ERA over five, Chris Stratton doesn’t exactly scream ‘top trade candidate’. There is more to this potential trade deadline target than the surface level numbers.

Stratton has a 3.91 FIP and 3.79 xERA. Neither number is particularly exciting for potential suitors, yet he has long been among the best in the Majors in fastball and curveball spin rate. We know the magic some teams can work with that type of stuff.

His curve is an elite pitch. A lot of relievers have built a strong career off one top-tier pitch if working with the right coaches and throwing the optimal repertoire.

Robbie Grossman

It’s been a rough start to the season for Robbie Grossman. The former Athletic is a DFA candidate, particularly with Riley Greene recently being called up. Grossman’s numbers, apart from his walk rate, are down across the board.

This is still early to write Grossman off. He’s not going to be one of the top MLB trade deadline candidates, but he’s a playable outfield defender and a regular walker. That makes for a good buy-low option – he could be a bargain at the deadline if he starts making contact as he did in 2020 and 2021.

Garrett Cooper

Miami’s best hitter this season, Garrett Cooper is a free agent at the end of 2023.

Only a first baseman and DH in 2022, his value might be limited on the trade market, but it could be worth the Marlins cashing in to free up plate appearances for others.

Jerar Encarnacion, Peyton Burdick and JJ Bleday should all get a look in the second half of the season. Cooper is really crushing the ball this year and could provide a boost to numerous contenders. His value increases further for front offices who are willing to put him in the outfield.


Sam Cox

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