Even without Juan Soto, the MLB trade market is well supplied

Last year’s trade deadline was thrilling thanks to the Cubs and Nationals deciding late to sell and having important plays to deal with. It’s unlikely we’ll be able to meet a deadline where Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, both halves of Bryzzo (Kris Bryant/Anthony Rizzo) and so many other named players have been dealt out.

The Nats are looking like sellers again, and there’s already been some pretty distant speculation that megastar Juan Soto could be dealt with. But with Scherzer still six months old and Turner a year and a half away, Soto won’t just be 2 1/2 years before free agency, he’s perhaps MLB’s most valuable asset (it’s him or Shohei Ohtani). With the team for sale, trading their one huge calling card may be a risk not worth taking.

A person from Nats responded to Soto’s speculation thus: “It’s not funny.”

Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, was almost as succinct: “Forget Soto’s business…it’s not happening.”

Assuming that’s true, it should still be a decent trading market, thanks in part to the fact that MLB has so many clear have-nots as well as clear haves. (At last count, one-third of teams are close to winning or losing 100 games.) Here’s an early list of 20 trade candidates:

1. Frankie Montas, PS A: What else is he doing there, throwing in front of crowds of 2,500 people? The Mets recently scouted him, but there will be competition. The Twins, White Sox, Cardinals and Yankees were among others linked.

2. Red Sox SS Xander Bogaerts: The word here is that he will retire, and another word is that he has a good chance of leaving. The Red Sox say they want to keep him long-term, but if they really believe Trevor Story’s arm is good enough to return to shortstop (one scout said he throws “funky”) , maybe Boston will move to a semi-reconstruction.

Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox throws a runner.
Xander Bogaerts looks likely to opt out of his contract and leave Boston.
Getty Images

3. Luis Castillo, SP Reds: The Giants have treated Cincinnati like a farming system in recent years. Ex-Reds Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Kevin Gausman and Johnny Cueto accounted for four-fifths of their team’s rotation to 107 wins.

4. JD Martinez, Red Sox RH: His salary is high (he refused his retirement three years in a row), but he just lost his 18-game hitting streak in MLB.

5. Red Sox SP Nate Eovaldi: Forget the five homers in one inning against the Astros, he’s a proven big game pitcher. Eovaldi, like Bogaerts and Martinez, is a potential free agent.

6. Tyler Mahle, Reds SP: He is far from equaling his splendid 2020 and 21 seasons. Another potential Giant. The Mets, whose depth is a question with Max Scherzer’s new obliques, have also been spotted.

7. Nelson Cruz, Nats DH: It was a surprise that he went to Washington in the first place.

8. Willson Contreras, Cubs C: With so many teams getting no production at receiver, he should be popular. The Cubs never came close to extending it; Yan Gomes is ready to go.

9. Trey Mancini, Orioles 1B: He’s a truly inspiring story and can also hit (especially if he leaves newly cavernous Camden Yards).

10. Bryan Reynolds, DE Pirates: The Marlins, Mariners, Yankees and Padres were among the teams interested in winter. Pittsburgh should work to extend it.

11. Ian Happ, DE Cubs: Easy to see the Cubs selling again.

12. Josh Bell, Nats 1B: Back on track after a COVID year.

13. Chad Kuhl, SP Rockies: Kuhl was a great pickup for $3 million.

14. Martin Perez. SP Rangers: Have a career year.

15. Andrew Benintendi, Royals OF: Organize a great walking season.

16. Marcus Stroman, SP Cubs: Overpriced (even if he doesn’t think so), but he was a solid, athletic pitcher.

17. Mark Melancon, Diamondbacks PR: Closer underrated is the anchorage of a surprising staff.

18. Tommy Pham, DE Reds: Cincy needs a move.

19. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks PR: Has the courage to close.

20. Kike Hernandez, Red Sox CF: The outstanding outfielder had big playoffs.

Neal T. Doss