Trade Deadline notes from the All-Star Game.
LOS ANGELES, CA — With the All-Star Game and MLB Draft both over, trade talks throughout baseball will soon heat up. And with the addition of Juan Soto to the market, what was once believed to be a tame trade deadline could now change the landscape of the game for years to come.
Almost everyone in Los Angeles, whether it was players or agents, was asking the same three questions:
1) will Soto be traded?
2) if he’s traded, where does he go?
3) how much will he eventually sign for?
The Nationals are in no hurry to trade Soto, who recently rejected a 15-year, $440 million contract extension that would have made him the highest-paid player in baseball history. It will require a package of prospects, unlike anything the game has ever seen – think Herschel Walker-type trade level big – that only a few teams (Mets, Yankees, Padres, Cardinals, perhaps others) can offer.
But it would appear doubtful that the Nationals would trade Soto to the division-rival Mets. The Yankees have the prospects, but need to extend Aaron Judge to a contract that is expected to eclipse $300 million, and have been hesitant to include Anthony Volpe and Jason Dominguez in past trade talks. The Padres love Soto and while acquiring him with 2.5 years left on his contract would fit in the window of manager Bob Melvin’s three-year contract, adding another mega contract to a roster that includes Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado could present similar issues as the Los Angeles Angels, who have struggled to put quality depth around Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. The Cardinals, who have seven top-100 prospects, are well-positioned in the Soto race but are believed to be prioritizing pitching at the trade deadline.
Still, the interest in Soto will be massive. One high-ranking front office executive called Soto becoming available a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” But will he be traded before Aug. 2 or will it extend to the offseason?
New York Mets
As the New York Mets explore offensive upgrades, they have engaged with the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and others about first baseman Dom Smith, according to major-league sources.
The Mets are among the teams expressing interest in Pittsburgh Pirates’ first baseman Daniel Vogelbach, sources said. The Pirates, however, are in a position where they can hold out for a better return – he has 12 home runs in 237 at-bats – and has a cheap $1.5 million team option for 2023.
On a one-year, $4 million contract, Martin Perez is a perfect candidate for teams looking to upgrade their rotations for cheap. But the left-hander and the Rangers have a mutual interest in keeping him in Texas beyond 2022.
“We haven’t talked anything about an extension,” Perez said. “I signed with Texas again. That was my home for a long time. I feel great there. But I don’t know what their plans are. … I’d like to stay. It’s the same when you go back home and you always want to stay.”
Perez, 31, credits the emergence of his fastball and consistently locating it for his breakout 2022 season in which he has posted a 2.68 ERA and 95/30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 111 innings. “I believe more in my fastball. I’m throwing my fastball in any spot that I want. As a pitcher, when you’re able to do that, it’s not going to be easy for the hitters to hit the ball.”
Veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart could once again emerge as a trade candidate only months after being acquired by the Detroit Tigers. Barnhart, 31, would make sense as an option for teams unwilling to meet the Cubs’ asking price for Willson Contreras, though he’s hitting .207/.268/.243 with a .510 OPS.
One other name who makes sense as a trade candidate: Brewers catcher Pedro Severino. Milwaukee has two other catchers in Omar Narvaez and Victor Caratini while Severino is no longer eligible to play in the postseason after he was suspended for testing positive for PEDs.
Braves manager Brian Snitker could see Michael Harris’ potential. He just didn’t envision anything like this, especially so soon.
In 48 games, Harris is hitting .283/.319/.497 with an .816 OPS, eight home runs and 26 RBI. He has dazzled defensively in center field, including an incredible throw last Thursday to throw out the Nationals’ Luis Garcia at home on a Juan Soto single to left-center field.
“He’s come in and we have all been really impressed with him in spring training the last two years,” Snitker said. “He can do things that I didn’t realize he could do. I didn’t realize how gifted he was defensively. … I asked him about a throw the other day in Washington and he was like ‘I don’t know, I just made a throw.’ It’s what he does.”
Snitker said that calling up Harris, who had only played 43 games in Double-A, has had a direct impact on Adam Duvall. He feared that Duvall would wear down in center field and worried about his ability to last throughout a 162-game season. But in the first month since moving back to the corner outfield, he led the team in homers (8) and is barreling the ball more consistently.
“He’s solidified that position,” Snitker said. “He’s stabilized center field.”
One more note from Snitker: When I asked him about the current core of young players – Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna Jr., Harris, Dansby Swanson and Spencer Strider, he replied: “This team is set up to win for a while. It’s win-mode now. When that window is open, you never know how quickly it can close. I think you got to go for it and (general manager) Alex (Anthopoulos) is always on fire trying to do that, that’s for sure.