With the addition of two additional playoff teams in 2022, combined with the measures the new CBA takes to prevent teams from tanking, more teams than ever should think they have a shot this year. That said, as is the case every year when teams begin to fall out of contention they will start listening to trade offers on some of their veteran players. Let’s look ahead and predict a few guys who could change uniforms between now and the trade deadline.
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Following the trade of Sean Manaea to San Diego, the A’s still have one hurler stuck in limbo in 29-year-old Frankie Montas. Montas was excellent in 2021 and would represent a real boon to a contender’s staff. In 32 starts last season the right-hander went 13-9 with a 3.37 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP while holding the opposition to a .232 batting average and punching out 207 hitters in 187 innings. On a club that is almost certainly going to be one of the worst teams in the American League regardless, Montas is someone that logically has to be dealt for promising young prospects.
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Reds’ righty Luis Castillo got off to a terrible start last year but rallied tremendously down the stretch to finish with respectable end-of-year numbers. In 14 starts after the all-star break he delivered a 3.18 ERA–nearly a full run and a half better than his first-half mark–and much more aligned with the 3.21 ERA he finished within 2020. Similar to the A’s–albeit to a lesser extent– the Reds have already traded away some veterans and let others walk as free agents. If they fall out of contention quickly in the upcoming campaign it won’t take long for teams to start calling about Castillo. And if someone makes them an offer they can’t refuse, Cincinnati would have no hesitancy about pulling the trigger.
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Trey Mancini was the most inspirational player in baseball last season and it’s wasn’t even a competition. The Orioles’ slugger missed all of 2020 while going through treatments for colon cancer, and not only was he able to come all the way back in ’21 but he instantly returned to being a productive run producer. In 556 at-bats for Baltimore, the veteran slashed .255/.326/.432 with 21 homers and 71 RBI. The Orioles play in what will quite possibly be the most competitive division in the sport in 2022, and they just don’t have the firepower to keep up. Mancini is a valuable right-handed bat that can play first base, corner outfield, and obviously take at-bats at DH. He’d be a strong addition to a contending team’s offense.
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Another Baltimore player who could find themselves departing Charm City is left-hander John Means, the best pitcher on the Orioles’ roster. Pitching on a bad team last season, the 28-year-old delivered a 3.62 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP, while holding opposing hitters to just a.224 batting average. Means is not overpowering, but he knows how to pitch, and he could certainly bring stability to the backend of a good team’s starting five.
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Veteran switch-hitter Carlos Santana has been a productive big league hitter for over a decade, but at 36-years-old his career is definitely winding down. In Kansas City last year Santana crushed 19 homers but hit only .214. He’s entering the final season of his contract and if the Royals slip out of contention in the AL Central they will likely look to move him to open up at-bats for a younger player. This will be an easier proposition if his batting average comes up.
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The Guardians are entering the first season of their rebranding without very high expectations. The AL Central is almost definitely going to be a two-team race between the White Sox and Twins, and both the Royals and Tigers also have more excitement surrounding them heading into 2022. This puts Cleveland in an interesting position. Should they make all-star third baseman Jose Ramirez available in a trade, he’d be the most sought-after bat on the market. The veteran hit .266 with 36 homers and 103 RBI, and he’s exactly the type of player who could turn a pennant race on its head.
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Miami’s first baseman Jesus Aguilar is perhaps the most affable man in baseball, and his ability to constantly have fun on the field is refreshing to watch. In the batter’s box though he is far from nice to opposing pitchers. In 441 at-bats a year ago the veteran slashed .261/.329/.459 with 22 homers and 93 RBI. The Marlins are going to have to fight an uphill battle in order to compete in the NL East, and if they fall too far behind Aguilar will become an attractive option for bat needy teams.
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Another Marlins player who could become attractive to other teams is their shortstop, Miguel Rojas. The veteran is a passionate leader who would be an impactful addition to any club’s clubhouse. And on the field, he’s just as valuable. A year ago Rojas hit .265 with 9 homers and 30 doubles in just under 500 at-bats, and if a contender’s shortstop gets hurt he would be the perfect replacement.
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The Rockies stunningly spent big money to bring star right-handed hitter Kris Bryant to Denver, but that is not going to be enough to save them from being noncompetitive in a strong NL West. And when they do fall too far behind their rivals from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, it’s possible they’ll think about entertaining offers for Charlie Blackmon, a fixture on their team since 2011. The 35-year-old slashed a decent .270/.351/.411 but only 13 homers and drove in just 78 runs. Regardless, though, a contending team in need of a left-handed hitting outfielder could certainly find the prospect of adding Blackmon attractive.
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Rockies’ righty German Marquez drew trade interest last summer but ultimately remained in Colorado all season. That could change in 2022. Colorado’s best pitcher logged 180 innings a season ago with a 4.40 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP, but we all know the altitude in Denver is not conducive to pitching. A change of scenery could help Marquez unlock a new dimension in his career, and don’t be surprised if all of that comes to fruition in the next few months.
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Another Arizona hitter who could potentially change teams is left fielder David Peralta. The 34-year-old is not that far removed from a season that watched him crush 30 homers and drive in 87 runs, although he has not come close to matching that production again. In ’21 Peralta hit .259 with only eight home runs, but if a team wants to add a left-handed bat at a reasonable price, Arizona would certainly be open to it.
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Logistically it would be difficult for the Diamondbacks to move lefty Madison Bumgarner, but not necessarily impossible. In 26 starts last season the veteran pitched to a 4.67 ERA, but his 1.18 WHIP and .242 batting average against would indicate he was better than his ERA says he was. Bumgarner is owed $60 million between now and the end of 2024, and it’s clear he’s not worth that type of salary at this stage of his career. But he’s also been the best postseason pitcher of his generation, and if a contending team wants to get creative in order to get him on the mound in their uniform in the playoffs, Arizona would listen.
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From a current Arizona pitcher owed a ton of money over the next three years to a former Arizona hurler owed even more in the same timeframe. The Nationals signed southpaw Patrick Corbin to a huge six-year contract three years ago, and the move helped bring them a World Series title so they will never complain about it. But unfortunately for them, they backloaded the contract, which, combined with Corbin’s recent regression has been a bad combo. In 31 starts last season the veteran limped to an ugly 5.82 ERA, and while Washington would trade him if they could, they’d obviously have to eat quite a bit of his salary.
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Vanderbilt product Bryan Reynolds was a coveted commodity this winter, but the Pirates justifiably were asking for a lot, and after nobody met their asking price they were quite content with holding onto their all-star centerfielder. We’ll see if that changes at some point in 2022. A season ago the switch-hitting Reynolds hit ..302 with 24 home runs and 90 RBI, while reaching base at a .390 clip and adding 35 doubles and eight triples. The Marlins in particular were aggressive in their pursuit, but the Pirates are in an advantageous situation here. They have Reynolds under team control for several more years so they don’t have to trade him. They will if somebody blows them away, but it’s not something they feel pressured to do.
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Andrelton Simmons is still one of the most talented defensive players in baseball, but at 32 years of age, his bat has regressed to the point where his status as a big-league starter is no longer unquestioned. The Cubs brought the veteran in this winter as a potential stopgap at shortstop, but if he rebuilds some trade value and Chicago is not in a race, his stay in the Windy City could be a short one.
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For much of the winter J.D. Davis himself thought he might be getting traded out of Queens. The Mets entered camp with seemingly an abundance of players to handle DH duties in 2022, with Robinson Cano returning from suspension to join Dom Smith and Davis as candidates to fill that role. Davis is the only one of the bunch who swings the bat from the right side, though, and he’s not that far removed from a season that saw him contribute an .896 OPS. He’s still a Met now and the team says there will be a role for him. But if that changes later and Davis could be moved as part of a trade to acquire high-end bullpen help, you’d have to think New York would do it.
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Amir Garrett was a completely dominant left-handed reliever during the 2020 campaign but fell apart horrifically a season ago. Garrett would surely prefer not to talk about his 6.04 ERA or his 1.57 WHIP or the nine home runs he served up in only 47.2 frames. His stark regression was one reason Cincinnati traded him to Kansas City this winter, but if he can pitch anywhere close to the way he did two years ago, and the Royals are out of the race in July, teams will be lining up trying to acquire him.
Justin Mears is a freelance sports writer from Long Beach Island, NJ. Enjoys being frustrated by the Mets and Cowboys, reading Linwood Barclay novels, and being yelled at by his toddler son. Follow him on twitter @justinwmears.