Earlier this week, I ranked the top starting pitchers who could move ahead of the MLB trade deadline, which has now built up on my large board list of 125 players likely to be traded between now and August 2nd. Now, it’s time to rank the top players available and identify the best fit in their team.
The best fits include teams that, according to sources, have expressed interest in a particular player or are meaningful as potential trading partners.
This year, the top five players stand out as potential differences in pennant races: Cub catcher Wilson Contreras, Pirates center fielder Brian Reynolds, Royals left-arm fielder Andrew Benintendi, as well as two middle-of-the-order Impact batsmen, Orionis and Orioles. Bell. Of course, other quality contributors will also gain interest in the trade market.
Here is my ranking of the top 12 players who can be traded before the deadline, and what I hear about them in my conversations with major-league officials and people around the game.
1. Brian Reynolds, CF, Pirates
Slash line: .259 / .333 / .453 HR: 11 RBI: 22
War: 1.4 OPS +: 121
Reynolds made a slow start to the season, batting .194 in April and .224 in May, but it’s been hot since the calendar turned in June, hitting .370 / .407 / .603 this month with four home runs and 10 RBIs. . At 27, he is just beginning his major year and will not qualify for free agency until the 2025 season, adding to his trade value. Rebuilding Pirates prefer to keep Reynolds, but he is the most sought-after outfielder on the market and they are listening to the offer. If one wants to hold on to them, they have to consider the 2021 All-Star trade.
Best team fit: Yankees, Ray, Padres, Red Sox, Guardians, White Sox, Astros, Marlins, Brewers, Giants
2. Wilson Contreras, C, Cub
Slash line: .269 / .383 / .505 HR: 12 RBI: 27
War: 2.7 OPS +: 147
The Cubs could not extend Contraras and he is eligible for free agency after this season, so their best game is to trade him before the deadline and then try to re-sign him in the offseason. Many rival teams will be interested in Contraras, who can play catcher, DH and occasional first base or left field. He is seventh in the National League on-base percentage (.383) and seventh in OPS (.883), the best offensive season of his career so far. The Cubs should have plenty of prospects for a two-time All-Star, even if it’s for rent.
Best team fit: Mets, Padres, Veterans, Angels, Parents
3. Josh Bell, 1B / DH, National
Slash line: .295 / .380 / .472 HR: 11 RBI: 44
War: 2.2 OPS +: 146
Bell is a switch hitter and so his trading value really increases for teams with a heavy lineup on the right hand side. Last season, he dropped .261 / .347 / .476 with 27 home runs and 88 RBIs and he is fast to match or improve that number this year. With a strong clubhouse presence, Bell comes into the park with positive energy. He has improved defensively on first base and can play full time there, DH or both. Bell will be a free agent after this season, but some contestants are going to give a big boost by adding his impressive bat.
Best team fit: Blue Jays, Ray, White Sox, Brewers, Giants
4. Trey Mancini, OF / DH, Orioles
Slash line: .286 / .365 / .427 HR: 7 RBI: 27
War: 1.7 OPS +: 128
Mancini is one of Orioles’ most popular players and no matter what he does in the trade, it will not be enough for his fans. According to sources, he will reject his side of the 2023 mutual option after this season and become a free agent. Since the Orioles have not given him an extension, they have no choice but to trade on the deadline. Mancini’s best position is first base but he can also play corner-outfield spots and DH. Mancini has scored .272 runs for his career, averaging 28 home runs and 81 RBIs per 162 games. He has survived cancer and is one of the most prestigious Orioles players of recent times. It will be interesting to see where he lands.
Best team fit: Padres, Brewers, Mariners, Ray
5. Andrew Benintendi, LF, Royals
Slash line: .295 / .360 / .390 HR: 3 RBI: 25
War: 1.4 OPS +: 114
Benitendi won the American League Gold Glove for left fielders last year and should be challenged for the award again this year. He is in the 65th percentile above average for all outfielders. His batting average has dropped below .300 this week, but he is hitting a 36 per cent clip. He has figured out his best role: creating traffic at the top of the lineup and stopping runs with his leather. Benitendi qualifies for free agency after the season and if the Royals cannot sign him again, they should trade him before the deadline.
Best team fit: Padres, Marlins, Yankees, Rays, Brewers, Braves
6. Anthony Santander, Off, Orioles
Slash line: .246 / .342 / .440 HR: 13 RBI: 36
War: 1.4 OPS +: 124
The Santander team is in control of the 2024 season, but I hear from sources that the Orioles will trade him for the right potential package. He scored 20 homers in 2019, 11 homers in the short season of 2020, 18 in 2021 and 13 runs in 232 at-bats so far this year. His biggest improvement this season is his ability to walk. He has 29, which is already career-high and should help his trade value.
Best team fit: Padres, Spinach, Monsters, Brewers
7. Dominic Smith, 1B, Mets
Slash line: .198 / .292 / .275 HR: 0 RBI: 14 (91 ABs)
War: 0.0 OPS +: 65
The Mets called Smith back on Monday after playing 15 games with Triple-A Syracuse. He is blocked by Pete Alonso on first base and although Smith can play on the left field or DH, his best position is first base. The Smith Mets are expected to have a lead trade chip in the deadline, but have hit .198 in 106 major-league plates this season. (He hit .266 / .347 / .438 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 72 plate appearances in Triple A.) I think Smith is a plus-plus defender on the first base and will evolve into a .300 hitter with 15 to 20. Home run power if given the opportunity there. Most rival teams don’t need a first baseman, but Smith could fit in for rebuilding teams like the Pirates, Nationals and A’s, or for teams like the Astros or Giants who may need a first baseman in 2023. He is in control of the team for the 2024 season and will be eligible for arbitration next year.
Best team fit: Pirates, Nationals, A’s, Ray, Astros, Monsters
8. Ramon Loreno, OF, A’s
Slash line: .241 / .323 / .355 R: 17 2B: 10 SB: 5
War: 0.4 OPS +: 100
Loreno’s best season was in 2019 when he dropped to .288 / .340 / .521 with 24 home runs, 29 doubles, 67 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. He should have been able to put that kind of product back together, but he didn’t. Injuries, epidemics, and most importantly, suspension for nandrolone, a performance-enhancing drug, have played a role. This season, he returned from an 80-game suspension on May 8 and hit .241 in 158 plate appearances with two homers and five stolen bases. It’s just a matter of time before trading. Lorenno can play all three outfield positions, and he plays the game passionately, although it does hurt him at times. He is in control of the team for the 2024 season and will be eligible for arbitration next year.
Best team fit: Marlins, Giants, Brewers
9. Whit Maryfield, 2B / OF, Royals
Slash line: .232 / .277 / .318 R: 33 SB: 9 2B: 15
War: -0.7 OPS +: 69
Maryfield hits AL twice, steals base three times, doubles once (last season) and triples once. But at the age of 33, the worst year of his career is coming to an end. Maryfield can play second base, right field and left field, versatility which helps its trade value. He is earning $ 7 million this year and if he spends less than 110 days on the injured list in 2021, he will earn $ 6.75 million next year and another $ 500,000 for 2024 when the Royals buy his पर्याय 18 million mutual option. Play well until the deadline to get the Royals some significant return to the trade. If he didn’t, they would wonder if he had waited too long for a year to trade with him.
Best team fit: Padres, Brewers, White Sox
10. Mitch Hanniger, RF / DH, Mariners (on IL)
Slash line: .200 / .222 / .486 HR: 3 RBI: 7 (35 ABs)
War: 0.2 OPS +: 100
Hannigar hit 39 homers and scored 100 runs in 157 games last year, but has suffered a serious ankle injury this season and is limited to 35 at-bats by COVID-19. He injured his right ankle in late April and has been out ever since. The Mariners, who have dropped eight games below the .500, really miss Hannigar’s power in the middle of their lineup. If he gets healthy, comes back, and the Mariners don’t jump out of their season, they can probably trade him. Hannibal will be a free agent after this season.
Best team fit: Brewers, monsters, rays, protectors
11. Nelson Cruz, DH, National
Slash line: .248 / .332 / .380 HR: 7 RBI: 38
War: 0.6 OPS +: 106
The age and decline is finally reaching 41-year-old Cruz, who may be playing in the final year of his career. He has dropped to .248 / .332 / .380 this season after hitting 32 homers in 513 at-bats (one per 16 AB) last year. If he had a chance to catch up with a competitor and play in his eighth post season, he wouldn’t stand in Cruz’s way, but in return he wouldn’t get more than a low-level fringe prospect. Maybe a return to the rays would make sense because Cruise could be another resource to help their struggling young hitters.
Best team fit: Kiran, Brewers
12. Adam Frasier, 2B / OF, Mariners
Slash line: .221 / .287 / .298 2B: 12 R: 28
War: -0.4 OPS +: 73
The Mariners were buying and selling at the end of last year’s trade, and they may repeat that policy this year. If so, expect to face Frazier as he will be a free agent after this season. Frazier was batting .324 and leading major companies in the Hits last July when the Pirates traded him to Padres for three possibilities. He hit .267 the rest of the way with San Diego but still finished fifth in the NL batting average (.305) and 10th in the OPB (.368), then traded to Seattle before the lockout. Frazier has struggled on the plate this season, especially in June when it dropped to a disappointing .116 / .182 / .130. It is hitting .221 overall and will have to do better in the next six weeks to get any trade value.
Best team fit: Braves, Brewers, Giants, White Sox, Angels
(Top photo by Brian Reynolds: Jean J. Pusker / Associated Press)