With the All-Star break now behind us and the second half getting underway this afternoon, the baseball world now turns completely towards the most important day of the summer, the trade deadline. Due to the late break this year, the deadline is already fast approaching, and although it’s been pushed back to August 2nd this time, it’s only 12 days away.
We’ve been covering the trade deadline here at Pinstripe Alley for a couple of weeks now, profiling which teams profile as potential matches as trade partners and which players Brian Cashman and his team might look to add. But unfortunately, as much as we would prefer that the Yankees get first choice on every player, that’s not how the trade deadline works — they’re competing with the league’s other contenders for the same fairly small group of players available on the market. And so, to get a better sense of how this deadline might play out, let’s go over what rumors have been buzzing around the American League’s contenders.
Boston Red Sox (48-45)
Headed into Sunday afternoon’s matchup with the Yankees, the Red Sox were poised to be big buyers at the deadline: thanks to a 20-6 June, they had rebounded from an 11-19 start to the season, and were in the midst of getting a small army of pitchers back from the injured list. And then, Aaron Hicks drilled a line drive up the middle that broke Chris Sale’s hand, and suddenly, with the Red Sox falling to 5-12 in July heading into the All-Star Break, some began wondering if the team should reverse course and become sellers.
At this point in time, the Sox are probably the biggest wild card. Nobody would blame them for going all-in, as they are only two games out of the Wild Card; as Xander Bogaerts told reporters at the All-Star Game, once you get in, anything can happen. On the same token, they have been unable to beat division rivals this year, and play the AL East a ton down the stretch — trading away their expiring contracts (J.D. Martinez and Nathan Eovaldi) might not be the worst idea, especially if they stumble coming out of the break.
At the end of the day, the way their season is going we probably won’t know what the Red Sox are going to do until they do it.
Minnesota Twins (50-44)
After a last-place finish in 2021, the Minnesota Twins have rebounded in 2022, and head into the second half with a two-game lead over the Cleveland Guardians in the AL Central. While they have been struggling lately, playing roughly .500 ball since the end of June, they are actually in pretty good shape, at least in terms of roster construction. Their lineup has been excellent all season, as they have a teamwide OPS+ of 113 (2nd in the AL). Their rotation, led by Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan, has been solid enough. Their bullpen, however, has been absolutely atrocious — their 0.1 fWAR on the season ranks ahead of only the Cincinnati Reds.
To that end, most reports have unsurprisingly pegged the Twins as seeking pitching at the break, with a particular emphasis on relievers capable of getting high-leverage outs at the end of games. Not unsurprisingly, they also appear to be in on Reds ace Luis Castillo.
Toronto Blue Jays (50-43)
The Blue Jays season at the moment is in a bit of a flux. Headed into the season as one of the favorites in the AL East and the AL as a whole, they have largely been a disappointment, which has led to them firing manager Charlie Montoya. Even so, they’re still a very good team that is currently in line for a playoff spot and expect to be major players at the deadline.
The clearest area of need for them is the pitching staff, which has lost Hyun Jin Ryu for the season to Tommy John surgery and weathered rough seasons from José Berríos and Yusei Kikuchi. As such, they have inquired about Castillo and have been linked to multiple relievers.
Most interestingly, however, is that they expressed interest in Andrew Benintendi (at least, before his vaccination status was known) and have reached out to free agent Michael Conforto. Although their lineup has done significant damage in the aggregate, teams have been able to neutralize it on a game-by-game basis by taking advantage of its unbalanced lineup, which is filled with right-handed hitters. After watching the Yankees’ offense improve greatly after fixing that at last year’s deadline and over the winter, the Blue Jays might decide to follow the same blueprint the Bronx did to turn their team around.
Seattle Mariners (51-42)
When the trade deadline season began, the Seattle Mariners were considered at best on the border between sellers and buyers, perhaps leaning in the direction of sellers. Well, a 14-game winning streak headed into the break absolutely changes things a lot, and now, the M’s look to go all-in in their quest to end their two-decade playoff drought.
Trying to predict what Jerry Dipoto will do at any given moment is a fool’s errand, as he uses the trade market as frequently as you would in a fantasy baseball league or MLB The Show franchise. That said, we do know that the team has inquired into Castillo, and adding either a starter or reliever for depth is something that pretty much every team could use at the deadline. They’re also desperate for production at the keystone, as Adam Frazier has been a disappointment at second base this year (78 OPS+).
Of course, the Juan Soto discourse throws a wrench into everything we thought we know. It’s not often that a 23-year-old franchise cornerstone is on the trade block, and the Mariners are one of the few teams with the prospect capital and lack of long-term commitments to pull this off.
Tampa Bay Rays (51-41)
Starting with their run at Freddie Freeman this past winter, the Tampa Bay Rays have seemed more eager than they have in recent years to make a significant splash, and with their strong farm system, they’re in a position to be able to make a run at pretty much everybody in baseball. On top of that, they’ve already gotten a jump on the deadline, acquiring former Pittsburgh infielder Yu Chang and former Oakland catcher Christian Bethancourt in a pair of deals earlier this month.
Despite these signs, this is the Rays we’re talking about, and to date, there’s been nothing significant linking them with a big name beyond the “Could the Rays acquire Juan Soto?” articles that have popped up for literally every team since the news came out that he’s on the block. Even so, don’t expect them to sit completely still, as they could use an outfielder after losing Kevin Kiermaier and Manuel Margot.
Houston Astros (59-32)
If there’s one thing we know about the Astros, it’s that their modus operandi has been to go all-in at the trade deadline no matter how easy their path to the postseason seems. They added Justin Verlander in 2017 and Zack Greinke in 2019 despite having strong pitching staffs in both seasons. With this in mind, is it surprising that they are in on Luis Castillo despite having the top ERA in the American league?
It shouldn’t, but at the end of the day, it’s unlikely that they reel in the Reds starter, simply because they have other holes that need to be filled. Catcher and first base have been black holes relative to the rest of the lineup, and center field has been a revolving door for them. Washington first baseman Josh Bell seems, at this point, the most likely player headed to Houston.