Cubs’ Willson Contreras tops list of MLB trade candidates who surprisingly went nowhere

The 2022 MLB trade deadline came and went on Tuesday, and the occasion was of course notable for the number of headline-grabbing trades that fell — that is, mostly , the whopper that landed Juan Soto in San Diego. Now, however, let’s take a moment to pay attention to the players who were not negotiated.

The trade deadline is as much about trade speculation and rumors as it is about actual transactions, and a number of rumors are still unmet. In recent years, this phenomenon has been accentuated by front offices that seem to prefer to do as little as possible and seem to like to occupy the comfortable space between divisiveness and insignificance. Maybe it worked this year in some quarters, or maybe a disconnect between what teams want and what teams can get is to blame. Whatever the underlying reasons, here’s a quick rundown of the names we expected to see processed before the deadline, but ultimately didn’t.

Contreras, 30, is having perhaps the best season of his career, which is why it’s surprising he’s still on the non-contingent Cubs. In 86 games with the Cubs in 2022, he’s battered .252/.365/.453 (129 OPS+) with 14 home runs and 20 doubles. Earlier this season, he made his third All-Star appearance. For his career, Contreras has an OPS + of 114 over seven major league seasons, all with the Cubs. Contreras’ production at the plate is even more impressive compared to his positional peers. For his career, Contreras has a slash line of .258/.351/.457, while the average MLB wide receiver over the same span has a line of .236/.307/.392.

Contreras owes the balance of a $9.63 million salary for 2022, and he’s slated for free agency this winter. It would have been a rental acquisition in the absence of an extension. Now, though, the Cubs can either find an extension or give him a qualifying offer this offseason and maybe get a compensatory draft pick when he signs elsewhere.

Contreras would have been a good choice for the New York Mets, but alas and alas and all that.

Happ, soon to be 28, enjoys positional flexibility and he has a career OPS+ of 113 going for him. He’s even better than that this season, his first All-Star campaign. Happ isn’t eligible for free agency until after next season, so he’s a candidate for a winter trade or possibly an extension to Chicago.

We’re going to pack these two together because it’s understandable that the Giants, 4 1/2 games out of final NL playoff position, could have opted for the status quo. Rodón is preparing for his second impressive straight season, and given the usual demand for starting pitchers, he has undoubtedly garnered commercial interest. Teams, however, might have balked at whether Rodón had an opt-out in his contract or a $22.5 million salary for 2023. As for Pederson, his left-handed pop on a modest one-year contract year would have been a fit for a number of suitors. The Giants, however, largely keep the group together.

Murphy is a skilled defensive receiver who has put up strong offensive numbers for his position. He’s also under the team’s control until 2025. Considering the A’s traded everything but Murphy, his continued presence in Oakland is a bit of a surprise. Teams are sometimes reluctant to switch receivers along the way, so maybe the A’s think they can get Murphy more in the offseason. Or maybe they see it as a long-term adjustment. Since the A’s energies seem to be all about extracting taxpayer dollars for a new ballpark, maybe they just forgot.

Boston’s timing maneuvers weren’t exactly consistent, as it was neither operating as a traditional buyer nor seller. The team has made several notable trades, and in that sense, it’s no surprise that Martinez still calls Fenway Park home. That said, there was a lot of smoke surrounding a possible Martinez trade, and general manager Chaim Bloom seems to operate with an affection for the ultimately useless when it comes to trades.

Neal T. Doss