Making MLB trade deadline predictions for all 30 teams

Here’s a prediction. With less than a week to go until Tuesday’s MLB trade deadline, the general manager of your favorite team will speak in tongues. This baseball executive patois will be both familiar and unsatisfying. They will talk about “surplus value” and “prospect capital” and, the always fun, “optionality.” They must decide if they will “cast a wide net” only to “stand pat.” And if they’re feeling frisky, they may also consider “threading the needle,” which is to say they will both buy and sell. That is assuming they see the move as “necessary arbitrage,” and they are not put off by the “acquisition cost.”

“At the end of the day, my job as general manager is to try and make this team better,” they will remind you. “I’ll explore any option to do that.”

Those options include doing “due diligence,” otherwise known as “kicking the tires,” though all the while they will be mindful of those pesky “market forces.” They will huddle with their underlings to figure out the best way to “maximize the now” without “mortgaging the future.”

“Nothing is imminent,” they will remind you. “A trade is only a phone call away,” they will say. But when a trade happens, they will insist that the player they traded for “was a guy we kept an eye on.” Perhaps, he comes with “years of control.” Conversely, some forlorn GM will pluralize a great player’s name, and lament about how “it’s always hard to trade the Sotos (or Castillos, or Contrerases).” But despite the pain, it was all worth it. Because to “build the next great Nationals (or Reds, or Cubs) team,” the roster needed the F word, the queen mother of all trade deadline words, “flexibility.”

And if an acquired player “checks all the boxes,” then perhaps the GM of your favorite team can say they have found the Holy Grail of all transactions, and proclaim they have just pulled off “a baseball trade.”

Here are some other trade deadline predictions — and even a few proposed “baseball trades” — from The Athletic’s panel of experts:

Arizona Diamondbacks

Predicting a trade of David Peralta or Ian Kennedy, both of whom are on expiring contracts, is easy. So, let’s go out on a limb and say the Diamondbacks flip Christian Walker to a contender. Though Walker’s slash line isn’t impressive, he’s been a well-above-average hitter by OPS+ and his batted-ball data suggests he’s been particularly unlucky. He has two years of control beyond this one — two years in which it doesn’t seem likely the Diamondbacks will contend — and he surely can help a playoff team. Now might be the time to move him. — Zach Buchanan

Atlanta Braves

The Braves completely remade their outfield via trades in July 2021, and every addition helped them during their run to the World Series title. This year their needs are fewer and less urgent, but I believe the Braves will trade for a right-handed reliever, preferably with setup or closing experience. — David O’Brien

Baltimore Orioles

Trey Mancini gets dealt to the Mets. Few in Baltimore want to see Mancini, the Orioles’ longest-tenured player and inspirational leader, wear another uniform. But he is a pending free agent and, at age 30 on a rebuilding team, the Orioles don’t see him as a fit going forward. Given his deep connection to Baltimore, he’s worth more to the Orioles than other clubs. But there’s one decision maker who gets Mancini’s full scope: Mets manager Buck Showalter. The Mets need a DH and Showalter surely has some influence with his front office. This is Buck, after all. It just seems like a good fit. — Dan Connolly

Boston Red Sox

Someone significant will be traded away. Perhaps not at the Xander Bogaerts level, but someone more substantial than a middle-innings reliever. The Red Sox might buy, too — chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is often trying to do two things at once when it comes to roster building — but with pending free agents all over this roster, and the Red Sox looking more lost than found, it’s going to be hard to justify holding onto every key player whose value is going to expire at the end of the year. The Red Sox might not give up, exactly, but they’ll make at least one move that makes them substantially worse in the short term. — Chad Jennings

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs will make a trade with the Padres, following a pattern that goes back several years. Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer, the former Padres general manager, kicked off this rebuild by trading Yu Darvish to San Diego after the Cubs won a division title in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. In smaller deals with the Padres, the Cubs have acquired pitchers such as Rowan Wick, Brad Wieck and Anderson Espinoza. Given A.J. Preller’s aggressive track record in San Diego, and the availability of All-Stars Willson Contreras and Ian Happ plus several experienced Cubs pitchers, it would be more surprising if both sides didn’t find another match by the Aug. 2 deadline. — Patrick Mooney

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox need left-handed relief with Garrett Crochet out for the season and Aaron Bummer out until at least September. Short-term relief rentals are easy to acquire even with a weak farm system like the Sox have. So I’ll go one step farther, the Sox and Rangers have made no less than eight trades in Rick Hahn’s tenure as Sox GM, and the Rangers rebuild does not hinge on the expiring contract of lefty reliever Matt Moore. I predict Moore having two months in Chicago at the end of this season, and being a stumper on Sporcle questions about the 2022 White Sox forever. — James Fegan

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds will trade no fewer than five players, including Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle. Other names to watch include Tommy Pham, Brandon Drury, Tyler Naquin and Mike Minor. — C. Trent Rosecrans

Cleveland Guardians

The league-average catcher has been dreadful at the plate this season. Now, what’s four or five notches below dreadful? That’s the way to describe the offensive output (.174 average, .256 slugging percentage through Monday) from Cleveland’s catchers, led by Austin Hedges and Luke Maile. So, here’s guessing the Guardians upgrade at their most glaring position, either with the hotshot rental (Willson Contreras), the long-term option (Sean Murphy) or a solid, temporary fix (Christian Vázquez). — Zack Meisel

Colorado Rockies

Ruminating about what the Rockies should do at the deadline is pointless. They exist in a bubble of their own design and “should” is an irrelevant notion. What they will do is something else entirely. Based on their recent history, from former GM Jeff Bridich to current GM Bill Schmidt, the Rockies tend to be passive players at the deadline. They have tradable pieces: closer Daniel Bard, right-handed starter Chad Kuhl, shortstop José Iglesias, all with expiring contracts. But the Rockies want to re-sign the pitchers (they could trade them and re-sign them this winter, but never mind). And they don’t have an immediate replacement at shortstop (as if playing a utility infielder there would negatively affect their season anymore). What will they do? The prediction is: Nothing. — Nick Groke

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers’ trade deadline will be underwhelming. Although they have some intriguing bullpen arms, those such as Michael Fulmer or Andrew Chafin are unlikely to merit big returns. Any more creative deals might be better served to wait until the offseason. — Cody Stavenhagen

Houston Astros

The Astros pursue Josh Bell, the best first baseman on the market, but see the asking price rise and pivot to Trey Mancini or Christian Walker. While the Astros have internal options to upgrade at catcher and center field (or can simply stomach lower offensive numbers in exchange for plus defense), their lack of production from the first base position (.225/.281/.392 through Monday) needs addressing. Yuli Gurriel has been better this past month but at 38 isn’t coming close to replicating his batting-champion numbers. Both Mancini and Walker would fit Minute Maid Park beautifully. Mancini, who has nine homers, would have 22 if he’d played all his games in Houston, per Statcast. Walker has 22; he’d have 26 in Houston. If I’m forced to pick one, I say go get Walker: lower average but big power, premium defense and under contract through 2024. — Stephen J. Nesbitt

Kansas City Royals

The Royals will move Andrew Benintendi soon. He has put together arguably the best year of his career thus far at age 28, batting .322 with a .390 on-base percentage entering play on Tuesday. He’s striking out at the lowest clip of his career (13.4 percent) and chasing the fewest amount of pitches for a season in his career (22.5 percent). Both metrics, not to mention Benintendi’s World Series experience, make him a prime trade candidate. — ​​Alec Lewis

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels will trade Noah Syndergaard. It really makes no sense not to do that. The Angels don’t have many intriguing/healthy players on expiring contracts. Really it’s just Syndergaard. His value won’t be all that high, though. He’s still owed roughly $7 million the rest of the season, and there will be fair questions about his ability to pitch in a five-man rotation and durability to pitch well in the postseason, coming off surgery. That said, the Angels need to get some return at this deadline. They need to prepare for the future somehow. And if they won’t ever consider taking the significant necessary steps to rebuild, they at least need to take the obvious steps. Trading Syndergaard falls in that category. — Sam Blum

Los Angeles Dodgers

The biggest prediction is a bit of a cop-out. If the Dodgers don’t make a trade for Juan Soto, I think they get through this deadline without moving any of their top five prospects in Keith Law’s preseason rankings. Diego Cartaya, Bobby Miller, Michael Busch, Miguel Vargas and Andy Pages would all make great centerpieces for a package for someone like Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas or Pablo López, but the Dodgers have committed a lot in recent seasons to push chips in. Can they do that again? Sure. But it would take a lot to pull that trigger. Juan Soto is a lot. — Fabian Ardaya

Miami Marlins

The Pablo López trade rumors may dissipate now that his ERA is north of 3 for the first time this season. (Note: That’s sarcasm.) López has allowed one or zero runs in 11 of his 20 starts this season, so despite the three rough outings he’s had in the past six weeks he remains a coveted trade target. My guess is Miami trades him for hitting help. With the Marlins still in striking distance of a wild-card spot, they’ll likely land somewhere between buyers and sellers. Trading López — under club control through 2024 — could be a way to thread the needle and, on the balance, be a better ballclub in 2022 and beyond. A team with a dearth of pitching options wouldn’t make this move; the Marlins’ rotation depth allows them to benefit from a trade market in which almost every buyer wants another starter. — Stephen J. Nesbitt

Milwaukee Brewers

Much like last year when the Brewers acquired Eduardo Escobar, the guess here is they’ll look to supplement their batting order with a mid-cost rental with some versatility. Someone like Josh Bell may be out of their preferred range, even though they have the prospect capital to pull it off. Andrew Benintendi makes some sense as well, perhaps if there’s a willingness to play him in center field. Both of those teams — the Nationals and Royals — also have some relievers with years of club control that could make a trade even more enticing for Milwaukee. — Will Sammon

Minnesota Twins

At the absolute bare minimum, the Twins must address their season-long bullpen problems by bringing in at least one veteran, setup-caliber reliever. Through Monday, Twins relievers rank No. 14 in ERA and No. 18 in Win Probability Added out of 30 teams, but their average-ish overall numbers are almost entirely thanks to stud rookie Jhoan Duran. Minnesota’s non-Duran relievers rank No. 28 in WPA and they lack a single dependable veteran for high-leverage work. If the Twins are at all serious about winning the division and snapping their historic playoff losing streak, they need relief help. Count on at least one addition that alters the late-inning bullpen hierarchy. — Aaron Gleeman

New York Mets

The Mets’ trade deadline additions will feel underwhelming. Look, when you throw Juan Soto out there, when you think about Willson Contreras and maybe even Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers, ending up with a normal deadline haul is going to feel less than enough. I don’t think the Mets are going to win the bidding on any of those players, and their earlier addition of Daniel Vogelbach suggests the aisle they’re shopping in. They’re looking to bolster the depth of their lineup and bullpen rather than drastically altering the core of the team. — Tim Britton

New York Yankees

It seems overwhelmingly likely that the Yankees will try to find a way to move Joey Gallo at this trade deadline, or at least clear his roster spot in some way. Gallo was an exciting deadline addition last season, but has been unable to go on one of his signature sustained hot streaks to balance out his signature cold streaks. The Yankees could designate him for assignment and just take the risk of paying his salary for the rest of the year, or they could package him with another player in a trade. Either way, it seems extremely unlikely that Gallo is on the team come September. — Lindsey Adler

Oakland Athletics

The A’s will trade Frankie Montas if he shows no lingering effects from his recent injury. But the return for Montas might not be as robust as fans expected going into the season, as his recently inflamed shoulder could depress his value. Montas has also been surpassed as the top pitcher available by Luis Castillo, who missed the first month of the season. Castillo has been outstanding in his past four starts, with a 1.00 ERA and 33 strikeouts over 27 innings. A bidding war for Castillo could cause Montas to remain with Oakland until the last few hours before the deadline hits, as teams that fail to land Castillo turn their attention to Montas. — Steve Berman

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies will add a back-of-the-rotation starter. They are on the long list of teams interested in rotation help. Some will be more desperate than others; the Phillies will be without Zach Eflin for an undetermined period, and that should make them aggressive. The club has balked at the current prices for No. 4/5 starter types, but they know it’ll require something decent to surrender because, in this market, demand outweighs supply. Other teams will make bigger splashes, but the Phillies are treading a more conservative path because winning the division is far-fetched now. — Matt Gelb

Pittsburgh Pirates

Ben Gamel has decent splits against right-handers (.254/.344/.409 with four homers through Monday) and has done a good job in both corner outfield spots. He knows how to put together a quality at-bat, has a smattering of postseason experience and is a great presence in the clubhouse. Gamel, 30, also will be a free agent after this season. The Pirates will pick up a mid-level prospect or two by sending him to a contending club that needs a solid fourth outfielder. — Rob Biertempfel

San Diego Padres

The Padres acquire Willson Contreras. … Predicting what A.J. Preller will do is often a futile exercise. The Padres’ president of baseball operations routinely pursues every big name imaginable, even ones who might not appear available. That said, there don’t seem to be many game-changing position players on the market. At the grave risk of underestimating Preller, here’s guessing that the Padres fall just short of landing Juan Soto, who might not be moved by this deadline, anyway. And here’s guessing that they gladly settle for Contreras, who would represent a significant offensive upgrade at the catching position. The Padres and the Cubs have an extensive history as dance partners in trade discussions, and each side can provide what the other seeks. — Dennis Lin

San Francisco Giants

The Giants have used Yermin Mercedes in left field and backup catcher and Austin Wynns as a DH against lefties, so that should give you an idea of their needs. They hoped Heliot Ramos would be ready to contribute this year, but he has scuffled at Triple A. So they might find their athletic defender and right-handed hitting outfielder across the bay. Ramón Laureano won’t be a free agent till 2025 so it might take multiple pieces to consummate the first consequential trade between the Giants and A’s since 1990. Perhaps a package headed by righty Randy Rodriguez and outfielder Armani Smith would be enough to get it done. — Andrew Baggarly

Seattle Mariners

I have a feeling the Mariners are cooking up something big (or sort of big). Impact bat? Another starting pitcher? Maybe both? I wouldn’t even rule them out of the Juan Soto sweepstakes. But my prediction is this: The Mariners will deal either outfielder Jarred Kelenic or pitcher Matt Brash on or by the trade deadline. — Corey Brock

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals trade for a mid-tier starting pitcher, but not one of the coveted blockbuster arms circulating the trade block rumors. Rather, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak opts for his tried and true method of trading for a durable arm with veteran experience. It won’t be the splashiest of moves — the Cardinals don’t usually make those kinds of moves at the deadline anyway, but for a team with such a massive need for rotation help, almost any arm is an upgrade. — Katie Woo

Tampa Bay Rays

Not to weasel out of the prediction by going vague, but the past is prologue here: the Rays will do something, and it’ll probably be surprising, because it’ll include elements of selling and buying at the same time. Might they go big and trade Randy Arozarena and more for Juan Soto? Or will they acquire someone like Josh Bell and pay for it by trading away Manny Margot? The answer is yes. Yes, they will do something, and it’ll somehow help them now and also later. Because that’s what they do. — Eno Sarris

Texas Rangers

I’ve spent the last couple of months feeling confident that the Rangers should go get a young starting pitcher who is almost big-league ready to pair with Jack Leiter and Cole Winn. Well, they might have just drafted that guy instead, taking Kumar Rocker in the first round of the draft. Whatever they do, it will be with an eye toward contention in 2023. Maybe an outfielder with three to five years of team control, a la Cedric Mullins? — Levi Weaver

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays will trade for two power relievers. Toronto could add a depth starter and a left-handed bat, too, but shoring up the bullpen is really the biggest need for a team that’s back in the top AL wild-card spot. The Blue Jays have just enough reliable relievers and an All-Star closer in Jordan Romano in their bullpen that they’ve been able to get by, but adding a couple more high-leverage arms — particularly guys that rack up strikeouts — will give them the type of shutdown bullpen they will need should they make the playoffs. — Kaitlyn McGrath

Washington Nationals

Juan Soto goes to the Yankees, the Nationals haul in two or three really good, almost-ready prospects and two lottery tickets, and Patrick Corbin becomes a reliever in the Bronx, setting up a breakout 2023 (we’re supposed to be bold, right?) — Maria Torres

(Top photo of Juan Soto: Eric Espada / Getty Images)

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