The whirlwind of news around the MLB’s August 2 trade deadline revolves around John Soto and the Washington nationals, but there will be many other moves that will impact the race for the playoffs. And many of them think they involve pitchers. Some of the arms on the block represent obvious upgrades, like Cincinnati Reds ace castle louis. Others fly under the radar, only to emerge as major contributors at the la la Yankees‘ Clay Holmes after a small deal brought him over from Pittsburgh last year.
And the thing with the pitchers? Every team needs a lot. Virtually every competitor might reasonably think they should acquire more arms at this time of year, to fill in any holes created by injury or protect against any gaps that might open up on the stretch. That means there are plenty of names that could pop up and storm the pennant race – or the playoffs.
Who’s gonna do it Actually end up having an impact? Well, that’s a two-part question. There is the question of who ends up getting traded. And there’s the question of whether they’re any good when they arrive in their new, more pressurized situation. What we will strive to do here is merge these factors and rank the pitchers theoretically available based on their likelihood of making the difference by the time someone lifts the trophy at the end of the 2022 World Series.
1. Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds starter
There is only one ace that seems certain to move. It’s Castillo, a 29-year-old whose arsenal has long evoked a sort of Pedro Martinez Lite thanks to a dynamite switch that works with two types of electric fastballs. As of 2019, he is among the top 25 starters (minimum 300 innings) in strikeout rate and ERA and 11th in innings despite pitching to a notoriously batter-friendly park. Castillo is made even more attractive by the fact that he will also remain under the control of the team for 2023. If Soto does not move, chances are Castillo will headline the biggest deal of Deadline.
After a shoulder injury delayed the start of his 2022 season, he’s kicked into high gear. He’s gone seven innings in each of his last four starts, including a dominant eight-strikeout performance against the Yankees after which Matt Carpenter said, succinctly, “I hope he gets pinstriped soon.”
2. Frankie Montas, starting from Oakland A
3. Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati Reds starter
Down a peg or maybe less, you’ll find Montas. One of the few Oakland stars not to have left town this winter, the 29-year-old looks certain to move on before the deadline after returning from a brief injury scare. You might squint and see a carbon copy of Castillo, wielding a splitter instead of a change. The main difference is a less consistent track record of success, but it has been consistently excellent since the start of 2021.
Mahle has shown equally dynamic things, relying on a rising fastball, but could be cheaper thanks to a bumpy (and unlucky) season so far.
4. Chicago Cubs reliever David Robertson
5. Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers reliever
The relievers most likely to move are not necessarily the better relievers who might be available, but they each have intriguing second acts. Robertson, the former closest to the Yankees, reemerged as a force at age 37. Fulmer, the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year as a starter, is now throwing sliders out of the bullpen full-time. He throws the pitch more than 60% of the time, and it works. Batters have only averaged .146 against him this year, and no one has homered. These two figures to fit into leading roles for better teams in no time.
6. Pablo Lopez, starting Miami Marlins
7. Jose Urquidy, Houston Astros starter
8. Merrill Kelly, starting Arizona Diamondbacks
9. Zach Plesac, starting Cleveland Guardians
Now things are starting to get murkier. Lopez may be the best pitcher we’ve covered so far, and he won’t reach free agency until after the 2024 season. another attempt to resurrect their roster — a tactic that produced All-Star Jazz Chisholm when they shipped Zac Gallen to Arizona.
The Astros may be the only winning team that can afford to trade the pitch as Cristian Javier deals and Lance McCullers Jr. nears a return from injury. The surplus could put them in a position to solidify their lineup by moving Urquidy or Jake Odorizzi.
Count Kelly and Plesac as slightly less glitzy names in the same beginner group that are certainly useful, but not guaranteed to move. In between phone calls about Juan Soto, expect the St. Louis Cardinals to inquire about what types of pitchers they might be able to add by trading excess young players.
10. Noah Syndergaard, starting Los Angeles Angels
11. José Quintana, starting Pittsburgh Pirates
On short-term deals with bad teams, Syndergaard and Quintana are very likely to move. Both have smoke and mirrors involved in their relatively bright ERAs and may be no more than No. 4 or 5 starters for good teams.
12. Blake Snell, starting San Diego Padres
Snell could find himself kicked out of San Diego because of his price tag if the Padres make big jumps on Soto or other stars. The rising southpaw has a 4.75 ERA this year, but still has the potential to carry playoff teams on his left arm… for about five rounds at a time.
13. Pittsburgh Pirates reliever David Bednar
14. Gregory Soto, Detroit Tigers reliever
15. Baltimore Orioles reliever Jorge Lopez
Bednar and Soto are the most promising backup weapons on the list and would also be the most expensive. The Pirates and Tigers don’t need to trade them now, they still have a lot of team control, so they should be overwhelmed – especially Pittsburgh given the embarrassing revival of Clay Holmes in New York.
Lopez could have lined up a moving company a month ago, but now the Spitfire Baltimore Orioles are within reach three games of a playoff berth. And really, he’s a back-up here for a number of Baltimore’s suddenly excellent relievers, including Cionel Perez. and Felix Bautista. One or two could still move given the still distant chances of a playoff run, but that’s far less certain than it was.
16. Scott Barlow, Kansas City Royals reliever
17. Drew Smyly, Chicago Cubs reliever
18. Matt Moore, Texas Rangers reliever
19. Zach Jackson, Oakland A reliever
20. Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies reliever
A series of rebuilding teams will ship real weapons, and these are some of the most interesting. You could be forgiven if you didn’t know that Barlow sports a 1.93 ERA this season for Kansas City (and a 2.23 ERA for the past two seasons) by wielding two breaking balls more often than his fastball. Or that Smyly and Moore, the darlings of early 2010s prospects, are really good in their own way this season. Smyly finds success as a ground starter with a new focus on his cutter and lead, while Moore thrives in a multi-inning relief role. And frankly, it would be surprising if you knew that Jackson — a 27-year-old rookie — has pitched 39 major league innings so far without allowing a homer.
You probably know Daniel Bard, the Rockies closest who overcame the yelps, but no one knows what this eternally quirky franchise will do. The latest tea leaves read it as a toss up as to whether they trade it or sign it for an extension, for whatever reason, to close out the few wins they manage to make.
21. Carlos Rodon, San Francisco Giants starter
22. Tarik Skubal, starting Detroit Tigers
In terms of pure ability, these two belong to Castillo and Montas. But depending on availability, they are far from changing uniforms. The Giants have sunk in the standings, but would not be ready to sell. Rodon is coming off two rocky starts but has generally proven his 2021 breakout is real. He would be an extremely desirable take if he were put on the market, but the Giants’ position and his exit after 2022 complicates the chances of that happening.
Skubal, a 25-year-old funky southpaw hosting a coming out party this year, wouldn’t have been on anyone’s radar before Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the dying Tigers are ready to sell anyone, including four and a half seasons of Skubal, apparently. It seems hard to believe they would be pulling that cord this week, but then again, there was no chance that Juan Soto would be traded a few weeks ago.
23. Madison Bumgarner, Arizona Diamondbacks starter
24. Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs starter
25. Patrick Corbin, Washington Nationals starter…for now
These are branded pitchers nearing their expiration dates (or arguably beyond) that can still help someone who can absorb their contracts. Bumgarner can still eat innings, while Hendricks could be an interesting recovery project to remove the homerun problem that has chewed him up for the past two years.
Corbin has been a complete disaster since racing the 2019 World Series Nationals, so much so that it’s widely speculated that he’ll be included in a potential Soto trade as a salary dump. But there’s no denying that his greatest moments in Washington have been as an October reliever. If the burden of throwing multiple pitches were removed, who’s to say he couldn’t take over that role for a top team willing to try and shoot the moon?