The dog days of the MLB season are about to heat up.
Well past the midpoint of the 162-game slate, the standings are beginning to separate buyers and sellers. The Aug. 2 trade deadline puts added pressure on clubs to decide which direction they want to go.
In the case of contenders, the deadline is their best opportunity to bolster their rosters heading into the stretch run. Struggling squads, meanwhile, have a chance to capitalize and exchange their current talent for intriguing prospects.
Which players could be on the move? Here is a position-by-position look at the biggest names cooking on the Hot Stove:
Right-handed starting pitcher: Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds
Honorable mentions: Merrill Kelly, Frankie Montas, Tyler Mahle, Chad Kuhl, Kyle Hendricks
Sitting in last place in the NL Central, the Reds are expected to be among the biggest sellers at the trade deadline. If they are seeking the biggest possible return, Castillo could be on the move.
The righty has a 3-4 record and 2.92 ERA in 12 starts so far this season, helping him earn his second All-Star nod. With a fiery fastball, a four-pitch arsenal and an additional year of team control in 2023, the bidding war for Castillo could be among the priciest at this year’s deadline.
Left-handed starting pitcher: Martin Perez, Texas Rangers
Honorable mentions: Jose Quintana, Madison Bumgarner, Drew Smyly
Perez has been stellar for the Rangers after joining the team in free agency this offseason. He has a 7-2 record and 2.72 ERA in 17 starts, shattering expectations on his way to his first All-Star appearance at 31 years old.
Texas isn’t out of wild card contention just yet, so they won’t automatically be sellers at this year’s deadline. However, if they begin to slip out of the playoff race and a team calls in need of a lefty starter, the Rangers will likely seek assets instead of letting Perez walk at the end of the year.
Relief pitcher: David Robertson, Chicago Cubs
Honorable mentions: David Bednar, Diego Castillo, Michael Fulmer, Josh Staumont
Relievers are annually among the biggest trade deadline commodities, and teams seeking bullpen help should certainly check in with the North Siders.
Wrigley Field is the latest stop on Robertson’s wild baseball journey, and he has been a revelation for the Cubs. He has a 2.10 ERA in 31 appearances, and with the Cubs 12 games below .500, his services will be best used elsewhere.
Catcher: Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs
Honorable mentions: Sean Murphy
Contreras would be a tougher player for the Cubs to trade from a sentimental standpoint. The three-time All-Star is one of the few current Cubs who was on the 2016 World Series roster, but Chicago is in position to sell.
Contreras is the biggest name in an otherwise barren catcher market this year. Batting .266 with 13 homers and 35 RBIs, he will be the focal point for any team with a need at the position.
First baseman: Josh Bell, Washington Nationals
Honorable mentions: Trey Mancini, Dominic Smith
Bell is one of the best batters on the market, as he is hitting .304 with 12 homers and 47 RBIs. Adding to his appeal is his switch-hitting ability, giving suitors lineup flexibility should they pry him from the last-place Nats.
Second baseman: Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals
Honorable mentions: Jonathan Villar, Tony Kemp
Merrifield’s trade availability will probably hinge more on his performance leading into the deadline than the Royals’ as a whole.
Kansas City has held onto the two-time All-Star for his entire seven-year big league career. With the team miles from the playoff mix, now would be a sensible time to offload Merrifield. The catch is Merrifield hasn’t played his best this year, hitting .240 compared to his career average of .286. Unless he can turn things around and increase his trade value, the Royals might be better off hanging onto one of their most experienced players.
Shortstop: Jose Iglesias, Colorado Rockies
Honorable mentions: Elvis Andrus, Miguel Rojas
Iglesias’ fielding prowess and .296 average are intriguing for anyone seeking an infielder. Even better, Iglesias already has proven how helpful he can be as an in-season addition.
The shortstop returned for a second stint with the Red Sox last September and played in 23 games of the team’s playoff push. Boston wound up with the first wild card spot and made a run to the ALCS, even though Iglesias was not allowed to take the field in the postseason. Having that stretch last September will definitely add to the intrigue for Iglesias as the deadline approaches.
Third baseman: Brandon Drury, Cincinnati Reds
Honorable mentions: Gio Urshela, Eugenio Suarez
Drury is the most notable position player to watch in Cincinnati as the deadline nears.
The 29-year-old third baseman is having a career year with the Reds. He is far and away the team’s best power hitter this year with his 18 home runs, but as aforementioned, it has only gotten the Reds so far. While Drury has impressed with his fifth MLB team, it wouldn’t be a shock if he was traded to a sixth before Aug. 2.
Outfielder: Andrew Benintendi, Kansas City Royals
Honorable mentions: Bryan Reynolds, David Peralta, Mitch Haniger
Benintendi has the highest batting average of his career and is a free agent after this season, so he will almost certainly end the season on a team other than the Royals. The lefty-hitting left fielder was also named to his first All-Star Game as the Kansas City’s lone representative