Top 30 MLB trade deadline candidates: Possible fits for Juan Soto, Luis Castillo, Joey Gallo, more

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Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is scheduled to fall later than usual this season. Rather than July 31, teams will have until Aug. 2 to wheel-and-deal themselves into postseason contention. CBS Sports will be providing comprehensive coverage throughout this mad season, including our ranking of the top 30 prospective trade candidates. 

Below, you’ll find those 30 players ranked and tiered in order of perceived impact. You’ll also find capsules analyzing the player’s season and situation, as well as possible fits. 

As always, bear in mind that this exercise is more of an art than a science. (And please assume the players are impending free agents unless otherwise noted.) Now, on to it.

Will Juan Soto be traded by Aug. 2? Or will the Nats wait until the winter to move the megastar? USATSI

The headliners

1. Juan Soto, OF, Nationals

Soto has emerged as the most popular trade candidate on the market after rejecting a 15-year, $440 million extension offer from the Nationals. It’s not hard to understand his appeal. He’s a 23-year-old on a Hall-of-Fame track with an additional two years of team control remaining past this season. For an idea of how good Soto is, he’s having a “down” season so far, yet he still has a 156 OPS+. The only thing not to like here is, what, his defense? It almost doesn’t matter when you can hit like this. Possible fits: Cardinals, Dodgers, Yankees.

2. Luis Castillo, RHP, Reds

Castillo has a leg (or is it an arm?) up on the other top starting pitchers expected to be moved this deadline: he got his injury out of the way early. He missed April with a sore throwing shoulder, and he then returned with reduced velocity. Ruh roh. Castillo has since rebuilt his arm strength, clearing the way for his average fastball to clock in within 0.2 mph of last year’s standard. He’s done that while accumulating a would-be career-best 158 ERA+ in 12 starts. Castillo’s fastball-changeup combination remains the key to his game, with the latter standing out as one of the best of its kind. Assuming that teams are comfortable with his shoulder’s health — and bear in mind, he’d never been on the injured list before this spring — he should appeal to every contender seeking an above-average starting pitcher with another year of team control after this season. Possible fits: Mets, Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, every other contender. 

3. Frankie Montas, RHP, Athletics

Montas is scheduled to miss a start with a shoulder injury. That is, as Joe Girardi used to say, not what you want. The encouraging news is he’s avoided the shelf so far, suggesting he should be able to return within a 15-day window. Montas’ arsenal remains power-based. He throws four pitches more than 10 percent of the time, and none of them clock in slower than 86 mph. (So much for needing a wide velocity band to keep batters off-balance.) The main reason he’s behind Castillo is he’s reliably unreliable. Put another way, Castillo is on pace for his fourth 100-plus inning season in five tries; Montas’ next will be the second of his career, a product of injury and suspension. On the bright side, he’s quite good when he’s available, and an acquiring team will control his services through the 2023 season. Possible fits: Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, every other contender. 

4. Bryan Reynolds, OF, Pirates

The Pirates are under no obligation to trade Reynolds, who has three more seasons of team control remaining after this year. If they do seriously entertain it, he should draw a crowd. Reynolds has developed into an above-average hitter, one with an optimized launch angle and a good shot at setting a new career-high in home runs this season (he’s launched 15 already, putting him nine away). While he plays center for the Pirates, a contender would likely slide him to a corner to improve his defensive value. Reynolds has reportedly rejected multiple long-term extension offers from the Pirates, and that seems like something to keep in mind heading forward. Possible fits: Giants, Yankees, Cardinals.

5. Sean Murphy, C, Athletics

Murphy is under team control through the 2025 season, but the A’s have some reason to move him earlier than need be. For one, they have Shea Langeliers ready and waiting in Triple-A; for another, if you’re going to stripmine your roster to slash costs, you might as well go all-in. Whenever the A’s get serious about moving Murphy, he’s going to be a sought-after commodity. He’s been an above-average hitter through more than 1,000 big-league plate appearances, and there seems to be more raw power in his stick than he’s realized in-game: earlier this season, he recorded an exit velocity of 114 mph, a figure that puts him in Mike Trout and Bryce Harper’s neighborhood. The kicker is that Murphy doesn’t have to hit as much as he has in order to be a valuable player; he’s a tremendous defender who grades well in all the most important categories, including framing, throwing, and staff-handling. Him offering any kind of offensive value, let alone good offensive value for a backstop, makes him a big-time asset. Possible fits: Rays, Astros, Giants, almost every other contender.

6. Willson Contreras, C, Cubs

The book on Contreras is well-established. On the plus side, he can really, really hit for a catcher. Through 73 games, he’s batted .266/.384/.483 (142 OPS+) with 13 home runs, putting him on pace for new career highs in OPS+ and home runs. On the minus side, he’s not as skilled defensively. He does have a big-time arm behind the plate, and he attempts to leverage that attribute by far and away leading the majors in backpick attempts — he has 28 so far; second and third place combined have 30 tries. Where Contreras falls apart is the framing department, as he ranks in the 35th percentile in that skill, according to Statcast. With the way he’s hitting, perhaps some team will entertain playing him at a lesser defensive position to get his bat in the lineup; if not, he’ll end up with the team most willing to stomach his defense. Possible fits: Astros, Rays, Giants.

Garrett Cooper has become one of the most underrated hitters in the league. USATSI

Other notable names

7. Ian Happ, OF, Cubs

Happ has always been overshadowed by the Cubs’ other homegrown hitters, so why would it be any different here at the end of the line? He’s been a reliably above-average hitter throughout his career, posting an OPS+ above 100 in all five of his completed seasons (including three where he finished above 110), and he’s made some encouraging gains this season. He’s reduced his whiff rate to the lowest of his career, which in turn has caused his strikeout rate to plummet to a career-best 21 percent. (To think, it wasn’t that long ago he was striking out in 36 percent of his trips to the plate.) That’s the kind of development that could elevate Happ to a higher level of production on a consistent basis. He has another year of team control remaining, so a club who believes his arrow is indeed trending upward should act now. Possible fits: Cardinals, Yankees, Red Sox.

8. Garrett Cooper, 1B/OF, Marlins

It’s unclear if the Marlins will entertain moving Cooper, but he is and will remain a popular ask because of a rock-solid offensive skill set. He hits the ball hard and at an optimized angle; he smokes fastballs and has a league-average whiff rate; he’s shown no platoon split to date; and so on. Of course, you didn’t have to know any of that to realize he’s good with the stick; all you had to do was look at his .292/.370/.472 slash line during the pandemic era. Cooper won’t be a free agent until after next season, but if the Marlins are feeling grim about their chances — of making the playoffs in either year, and/or of retaining him beyond that point — then they could at least listen to what other teams would be willing to part with. Possible fits: Red Sox, Astros, Mets.

9. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Royals

Benintendi might be having the best season of his career. It comes after he made a clear philosophical shift at the plate. He’s no longer attempting to lift-and-pull the ball to maximize his power output; instead, he’s hitting grounders at the highest rate of his career, and he’s doing it while pulling the ball less frequently. He might not continue to bat .317/.389/.401 the rest of the way, but he should find himself hitting first or second in a contender’s order before Aug. 3. Possible fits: Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals.

10. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Angels

With so much going wrong with the Angels, it’s been easy to overlook something that’s going right: Syndergaard’s first full season since 2019. He’s not the pitcher he used to be, who would pump upper-90s gas with a wicked breaking ball; these days, he’s relying more on his 94-mph sinker and changeup as his primary weapons. (He has, however, deployed his slider more frequently in recent starts, suggesting a budding shift.) Even with those alterations, he’s fared fine so far by accumulating a 104 ERA+ and a 3.44 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 starts. Even if Syndergaard never reaches his old heights, he should be able to provide value over the rest of the season as a mid-rotation starter for some contender. Possible fits: Red Sox, Yankees, Mets.

11. Josh Bell, 1B, Nationals

Bell has developed into an above-average hitter, but not in the way that you might have expected following his 37-homer effort in 2019. Rather than focusing on his power output, the way most of his peers have in recent times, he’s taken to a contact-heavy approach that has seen his K rate drop to under 14 percent. The rub is that he’s not hitting the ball as authoritatively: his .497 slugging percentage is the product of a .308 average, and his exit velocity would be his lowest since 2017. If this is who Bell is now, it’s with a profile that’s usually more befitting of a middle infielder rather than a first baseman. It’ll be interesting to see how teams gauge the value of him moving forward, both at the deadline and then when he hits free agency this offseason. Possible fits: Mets, Red Sox, Guardians.

12. Trey Mancini, 1B, Orioles

All Mancini does is hit. He’s batting .281/.353/.420 (121 OPS+) in his first 77 games this season, and that’s with him having to adjust to Camden Yards’ new left-field dimensions. Mancini ranks in the 75th percentile in percentage of balls hit 95 mph or harder, and in the 100th percentile in balls launched between 10 and 30 degrees. You don’t need to know much else to know that striking the ball with authority — and at a good angle — tends to be a happy combination. Mancini should plug into the middle of someone’s lineup sooner than later, either as a DH or a first baseman. Possible fits: Mets, Red Sox, Guardians.

13. Tyler Mahle, RHP, Reds

The Reds had trade talks concerning Mahle during the winter. They may regret not getting a deal done then. In 17 starts to date, he’s posted his worst ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratios in years … and now he’s on the injured list with a shoulder strain. Woof. Mahle, who has an additional season of team control remaining, should still draw interest if and when he’s able to prove he’s healthy. This is unrelated to the larger point at hand, but one interesting note about his pitch mix is that he’s changed top secondaries this season, reducing his slider usage in favor of promoting his splitter. Possible fits: Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers.

José Quintana’s resurgence should land him in the middle to back of a contender’s rotation. USATSI

For the right fit

14. Martín Pérez, LHP, Rangers

What a remarkable run it’s been for Pérez, who is having the best season of his career at age-31 and made the All-Star team. He remains a sinker-changeup-cutter lefty, but he’s throwing harder and generating more groundballs than he has in years — and he’s doing it while averaging more than six innings per start. Pérez, who would fit nicely in any number of contenders’ rotations, has publicly stated that he wants to remain with the Rangers. Even if Texas’ front office is sour on its chances this season, they could extend him with an eye on making a more serious run next year. Possible fits: Cardinals, Giants, Phillies.

15. José Quintana, LHP, Pirates

Here’s an unexpected sentence: Quintana is in the midst of his most productive season since 2016, when he made his only All-Star Game and finished 10th in Cy Young Award voting. He’s looked the part of a masterful contact manager again behind a three-pitch mix that’s led by a low-90s fastball and an increased emphasis on his changeup. Quintana’s fastball doesn’t light up the radar gun, yet his whiff rate on heaters is even with Hunter Greene‘s because of his command and the difficult angle generated by a delivery that sees him release the ball on the extreme first-base side. Quintana may not keep up this level of production, but there’s no reason to discount his chances of being at least a capable back-end starter the rest of the year. Possible fits: Brewers, Blue Jays, Cardinals.

16. Anthony Santander, OF, Orioles

Santander’s one trick at the plate is lifting the ball. That’s allowed him to become a relatively safe bet to launch 15-plus home runs a full season, but it’s also fueled one of the highest pop-up rates in the majors during the pandemic era. Both of those aspects help to explain why his production has ping-ponged between good, average, and subpar since the start of 2019. (You might even say, if you were a student of Kenny Loggins, that he’ll hit the ceiling or else he’ll tear up the town.) Santander has seemingly taken some steps to lift his floor this season by improving his walk and strikeout rates. A team who believes those gains will stick could lock him into their lineup through the 2024 campaign. Possible fits: Mariners, Cardinals, Giants.

17. Brandon Drury, UTL, Reds

In a year awash with left-tail outcomes, Drury’s star turn represents a rare right-tail victory for the Reds. He entered the season with a career 84 OPS+ and 51 home runs in more than 500 big-league games; naturally, he’s sporting a 132 OPS+ and 18 home runs through 75 games this season — and that’s while he’s made appearances at four different positions, including more than 20 apiece at third and second base. The question is can he sustain it? To Drury’s credit, he ranks in the 75th percentile or better in his share of batted balls hit both 1) 95 mph or harder and 2) launched within a 10-to-30-degree window; he’s also making contact at a higher rate and showing more discretion with the strike zone. Those are all positive indicators, even if they don’t wholly support the idea of him being this good moving forward. Given the dearth of quality infielders on the market, and given that the Reds won’t be able to ask for a constellation because of his impending free agency and larger track record, some contender is going to roll the dice and hope for another few months of magic. Possible fits: Phillies, Rays, Mariners.

18. Paul Blackburn, RHP, Athletics

Blackburn is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the A’s rebuild. He’d made 30 appearances over the previous five seasons, but never established a firm hold on a roster spot. With few other options on hand, the A’s have given him a real run in the rotation. It’s worked out well, too, with him compiling a 3.36 ERA and a 3.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 17 starts. Blackburn is a sinkerballer with a diverse arsenal that he commands well, including a cutter that features sweep and drop. He’ll be arbitration-eligible after the season, and the A’s might decide that they’d like to try to move him (and/or Cole Irvin) at their peak value. Possible fits: Cardinals, Giants, Phillies.

The Diamondbacks have two of the best platoon outfielders on the market, in Jordan Luplow and David Peralta. USATSI

Platoon types

19. David Peralta, OF, Diamondbacks

Peralta, an impending free agent, is a reliable source of offense against right-handed pitching. To wit, he’s hit for an .800 OPS or better when he’s had the platoon advantage in seven of his nine career seasons, including so far this year. That doesn’t mean he’s beyond reinvention. One interesting new wrinkle to Peralta’s game is an increased emphasis on lifting the ball. Historically, his launch angles have been of the single-digit variety; not so this season. That shift has him positioned to record the second 20-plus homer season of his career, and while that doesn’t sound impressive, just keep in mind he’s an auto-lift when a lefty enters, limiting his total number of plate appearances in any given season. Possible fits: Cardinals, Yankees, Rays.

20. Ramón Laureano, OF, Athletics

Laureano’s stock has slipped since he emerged from the depths of the Astros system to post nearly six Wins Above Replacement in his first 171 big-league games with the Athletics. Whereas he used to make GIF-worthy catches in center field with regularity earlier in his career, the A’s have preferred playing him in right field this year — and not just out of deference to defensive demon Cristian Pache. Laureano hasn’t been effective against right-handed pitchers since the start of the 2020 season, either, making him… the short side of a corner-outfield platoon? There’s value in that, but interested parties should make sure they’re working off updated evaluations. Possible fits: Red Sox, Yankees, Mariners.

21. Jordan Luplow, OF, Diamondbacks

There’s a case to be made that Luplow is one of the best short-side platoon players in the majors. His wOBA versus lefties since 2019 ranks in the 84th percentile among all hitters, putting him in a class with the likes of Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Alex Bregman, Bo Bichette, and Nick Castellanos. For as effective as Luplow is against lefties — and based on those names you could describe his level of production as “star-caliber” — he’s a non-factor when facing a right-hander. Whoever acquires him, then, will need a manager who realizes that less is often more in his case. Possible fits: Red Sox, Yankees, Mariners.

David Robertson is one of several veteran relievers the Cubs could look to move. USATSI

Relievers galore

22. David Bednar, RHP, Pirates

The Pirates are under no financial obligation to move Bednar, who won’t qualify for arbitration until after the 2023 campaign. The reason they should consider doing it anyway is to avoid a scenario where the fickle nature of relievers scuppers their chances of landing a big return. Make no mistake, Bednar has performed like an elite reliever in more than 100 frames since the Pirates obtained him as part of the Joe Musgrove trade; the pop-up nature of his career demonstrates the larger point, though, that relievers are tough to project with confidence. The Pirates need to ask themselves: can they realistically expect Bednar to be part of their next competitive roster? It’s tempting to say yes while watching him blow mid-90s fastballs by one hitter after another, but probabilistic analysis suggests the answer is a negative. Possible fits: Basically any contender.

23. Michael Fulmer, RHP, Tigers

Fulmer used to be a popular target as a young starting pitcher. Injuries and poor performance led the Tigers to move him to the bullpen, and he’s taken well to that role. Dating back to last season, he’s amassed a 2.66 ERA in 84 appearances. Fulmer has adopted a min-max philosophy with his arsenal over that time: minimizing almost every other offering while maximizing his slider. He’s chucking it more than 60 percent of the time so far this season. There’s no indication yet that he should stop. Possible fits: Basically any contender.

24. David Robertson, RHP, Cubs

The Cubs have other veteran relievers (Mychal Givens and Chris Martin) who could slot in here. Robertson gets the nod because he’s the closer, and he’s the closer because he has the lengthiest track record of late-inning excellence. Indeed, if you didn’t know any better, you’d never mistake him for someone whose career was rescued by his performance in the Olympics. Robertson continues to thrive behind his signature cutter, the best in its class in induced vertical break. His pair of breaking balls miss a lot of bats, and each offering play up thanks to a deep release point that sees his 5-foot-11 self generate nearly 6-foot-7-worth of extension. He’s battled-tested and cheap and there’s no reason he should be a Cub on August 3. Possible fits: Basically any contender.

25. Daniel Bard, RHP, Rockies

The Rockies often eschew convention at the deadline; last year, they held onto Trevor Story and Jon Gray with the misguided belief they could sign both to extensions. Even so, surely they know it’s advisable to trade a 37-year-old reliever, right? Whereas the lunatic, the lover, and the poet are all made up of imagination, Bard is all made up of fastballs and sliders. He’s changed the kind of fastball he throws, switching to a 98-mph sinker that has the second-lowest launch angle-against in the majors, behind only Clay Holmes. His slider remains a bat-misser, giving him a quality one-two puncharoo. Assuming the Rockies follow the standard operating procedure — no sure thing — Bard could bolster the back of some contender’s bullpen. Possible fits: Basically any contender.

26. Paolo Espino, RHP, Nationals

Everyone is looking for a bargain. Espino, a 35-year-old with fewer than 100 big-league appearances to his name, might qualify as one to the league’s more analytically inclined organizations. Although he’s one of the softest-tossing righties in the majors (his top velocity this season is under 92 mph), his fastball has a lot of vertical break. That, plus a curveball with significant depth, should enable him to pitch up in the zone more than he does, making him a potential optimization candidate. (He also throws a sweeper, albeit one that isn’t as effective as some of his peers.) He has experience as both a starter and a reliever, making him a nifty utility arm candidate for any number of contenders. Espino is another year away from arbitration, so the Nationals have no reason to move him other than for the return or giving him a chance at the postseason. Possible fits: Brewers, Rays, Astros, Dodgers

Joey Gallo’s frustrating times in New York make him an obvious change-of-scenery candidate. USATSI

With a question mark

27. Joey Gallo, OF, Yankees

The cosmological principle is easier to understand than whatever has happened to Gallo since the last deadline, when he was shipped from the Rangers to the Yankees. Gallo’s production has cratered, declining from an All-Star-caliber to replacement-level, his strikeout rate has spiked back up and is dangerously close to 40 percent after years of decline, and he’s become consumed with pulling the ball. It’s not unheard of for three-true-outcome types to decline earlier than the normal bear, but this is all happening much too fast for someone who accumulated more than four Wins Above Replacement last season prior to the trade. There’s no telling what an acquiring team would get from Gallo the rest of the way, but one has to imagine that both he and the Yankees would like to turn the page earlier than this winter. Possible fits: Padres, Rangers, Cardinals.

28. Drew Smyly, LHP, Cubs

Smyly’s resurgence the past few seasons has gone largely unnoticed, to the extent that he had to settle for a one-year contract with a mutual option over the offseason. His winter misfortune could make him a hot summer rental. After a couple of disappointing efforts sandwiched around a three-year hiatus, he’s returned to being an above-average starter over his last 257 frames. That span includes a nine-start stretch earlier this year, prior to an oblique injury, that had him soaring among the league leaguers in exit velocity-against. Smyly has altered his pitch mix to prioritize his screwball-like curve for the first time in his career. So far, that looks like a smart decision: batters are hitting .200 on the pitch with a 33 percent whiff rate. Whether or not Smyly’s new formula keeps working to this extent is anyone’s guess, but he should appeal to contenders seeking additional help at the back of their rotation. Possible fits: Brewers, Red Sox, Twins.

29. José Iglesias, SS, Rockies

There aren’t many good shortstop options out there this deadline. Iglesias receives the nod over Elvis Andrus because his financial situation is more straightforward and won’t require money changing hands. At the plate, you know what you’re getting by now. He doesn’t hit the ball hard and he doesn’t walk, but he does send it out on a line and he seldom whiffs. That combination has worked better for him the past three seasons (during which he’s been a league-average hitter, give or take) than it did for most of the previous five. Iglesias’ golden glove reputation would suggest you know what you’re getting in the field, too … alas, we’re not so sure anymore. He’s already made seven errors this season, including four on throws (one on a forgivable hail-mary chuck); factor in his 16 E6’s in 2021, and he’s notched 33 percent of his career mistakes in less than 20 percent of his total innings. Iglesias has had particular trouble ranging to his left. Some teams might view him as a candidate to improve with better positioning; others might interpret “better positioning” to mean “playing second base,” the way the Red Sox did late last season. Possible fits: Phillies, Yankees, Rays.

30. Nelson Cruz, DH, Nationals

It would be within reason to conclude that Cruz shouldn’t be ranked; after all, he’s an old DH who has hit at a league-average clip dating back to last deadline. His finances are tricky, too, as he’s owed what remains on his $15 million salary, as well as a $3 million buyout at season’s end that should cover Charon’s fee to take him to the world of the retired. Still, his underlying metrics suggest there’s more boom left in his stick. Cruz has recorded a higher share of batted balls with an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher than stud hitters like Shohei Ohtani, Matt Olson, and Byron Buxton. The catch is that he’s hitting the ball into the ground more than 50 percent of the time, a would-be full-season career-high. That’s not a welcomed development for someone of his age and slowcoach speed, and it’s fair to wonder if it’s a sign of his decaying barrel skills. A team unconvinced Cruz has lost his bout with Father Time could take a swing on him as their DH for the stretch run. Possible fits: Giants, Mets, Red Sox.