NEW YORK — The focus of the baseball world for the next few days is Washington, D.C.
This is where the Washington Nationals are hosting the St. Louis Cardinals for the final time Sunday, with the Cardinals front office accompanying, and the New York Mets following them into town.
The Nationals have Juan Soto and everyone in baseball wants him, with the Cardinals aggressively pursuing the 23-year-old outfield sensation.
The Nats also have slugger Josh Bell, who has never been in a playoff race, let alone a postseason game. The Mets, who will have Jacob deGrom make his season debut Tuesday, are among those would love to have Bell playing alongside him.
We’ll soon find out if someone’s team plane, or private charter will have enough room for another guest.
The Seattle Mariners have made the biggest splash before the Tuesday 6 p.m. ET trade deadline by out-bidding the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers for Cincinnati Reds ace Luis Castillo, doing everything in their power to end their 21-year postseason drought.
They entered the weekend with the best ERA (2.96) in baseball in their last 55 games (2.96), but wanted a co-ace with Robbie Ray to assure they’re going to stick around for awhile in October.
“We've got a chance to do something really big here this year,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters. “You have got to step out and take a chance once in a while. If you ultimately want to get the reward, take a little risk, and that's what we’ve got here.”
Let’s see who makes those bold moves before the Aug. 2 trade deadline.
4 finalists for Juan Soto
San Diego Padres: The Padres have the capital, and the aggressiveness in GM A.J. Preller, never knowing a star he didn’t want. They are willing to part with everyone from outfielder Robert Hassell III, shortstop C.J. Abrams to starter MacKenzie Gore. They are the favorites.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals typically don’t jump into the type of fray, but they did acquire first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arrenado while everyone stood by. They have the minor-league prospects and young major-league ready players to get this done.
Los Angeles Dodgers: They have the money. The prospects. The young players. They have the history of trading for stars: Max Scherzer, Manny Machado, Trea Turner, Yu Darvish. And the burning desire to sit aotp the baseball world for another decade.
Seattle Mariners: It’s hard to believe the Mariners have enough depth in their farm system to land Soto now, but what if they package one of their prized young pitchers in a prospect package and really go all in?
4 biggest sellers
Washington Nationals: They’ve got Juan Soto, king of the hill. They’ve got first baseman Josh Bell (Hello, Houston or New York). DH Nelson Cruz. Relievers Steve Cishek Carl Edwards, too. The Nats can fill all of your needs
Cincinnati Reds: They just dumped off ace Luis Castillo to Seattle, but now they’ve got solid starter Tyler Mahle for the teams who missed out on Castillo. Third baseman Brandon Drury can help any team. Left fielder Tommy Pham, who’s being coveted by the Tampa Bay Rays, can help out more than your fantasy football needs. The Reds will eat money to dump third baseman Mike Moustakas. Make a call, and the Reds will listen.
Oakland Athletics: Now that Castillo is dealt, the A’s have the greatest pitching commodity in Frankie Montas. They also have center fielder Ramon Laureano, catcher Sean Murphy and young starter Paul Blackburn available.
Boston Red Sox: These guys were supposed to be buyers, but after their horrid July, they’ll listen on everybody but All-Star infielders Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers. Starters Nate Eovaldi, Michael Wacha, DH J.D. Martinez, and catcher Christian Vazquez all are veterans with postseason experience.
4 biggest buyers
San Diego Padres: These guys have one of the most aggressive GMs in the business, and haven’t reached the postseason in a full season since 2006. They are only 11-17 since June 25 – the worst record among teams with winning records – but barring a collapse, they should be in the postseason this year. Juan Soto would make sure of it, joining Manny Machado as the only Padres with an OPS over .750.
New York Yankees: They landed outfielder Andrew Benintendi, but they’re just starting. They still want another starting pitcher with their eyes squarely on Montas. They could use bullpen help, too.
Los Angeles Dodgers: They wanted Castillo, and now want Montas. They wanted Craig Kimbrel, and now want another closer. They won a World Series in the shortened COVID year. They want their first World Series in a full season since 1988.
Seattle Mariners: Hey, why stop with Castillo when you’ve already committed?
4 best players who will be traded
Outfielder Juan Soto, Washington Nationals: He won’t sign for any amount of money with the Nats. He has never had higher trade value. So if you’re a new owner, you want him gone before arrival, not wanting a PR nightmare in your first order of business.
Starter Frankie Montas, Oakland Athletics: Now that Luis Castillo is gone, Montas is the next ace on the board. If you’re convinced he’s healthy, he’s a natural fit for any contender.
Catcher Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs: You may not love him as a defensive catcher, but you sure do as an offensive threat. The Cubs will get more for Contreras than they did for any of their summer trades of a year ago.
J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox: He has been scuffling of late, but he’s also one of the most dangerous DHs in the game, and would fit in any team’s middle of the order.
4 players who aren't going anywhere
Starting pitcher/DH Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels: The Angels are listening. That’s it. Nothing more. This way, if decide to trade him during the winter, they know what you’re offering. They have no idea what he should get on a contract extension, or what he’d bring on the trade market, or if he even wants to stay. They’re covering all of their options, but they’re not about to trade him now, not with him generating about $20 million a year in merchandise and advertising revenue. Now, if Mike Trout ever wanted out, the Angels would immediately be open for business.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox: They only offered him a one-year, $30 million extension not to opt out of his contract. They’ll significantly raise that this winter and see just how badly he wants to stay.
Third baseman Rafael Devers, Red Sox: He is their version of Juan Soto. They’ve got another year to sign him. If he’s not locked up by next year’s trade deadline, it may be a different story.
Shortstop prospect Anthony Volpe, New York Yankees/catching prospect Diego Cartaya, Los Angeles Dodgers: The Yankees didn’t blow off the shortstop free agent market because they wanted to act like the A’s. They love Volpe, and believe he could be the next Derek Jeter. Cartaya is billed as the next Mike Piazza, but much better defensively. He’s a perennial All-Star in the making. The Dodgers aren’t about to part with him.
Under the radar-players who could be dealt
Outfielder Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles shouldn’t trade him. He means too much to the organization. This is a team that has stunned everyone by hovering around .500. Yet, baseball is a cold-hearted business.
Starter Noah Syndergaard, Los Angeles Angels: He no longer blows away hitters with his fastball. He’s not considered an ace or even a No. 2 pitcher. But, oh, has he learned to pitch with his off-speed stuff. He’d be a nice No. 3 starter for any contender.
Starter Jose Urquidy, Houston Astros: The Astros are so deep that they don’t really need him. He has a career 3.66 ERA, is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, and has postseason experience, too. He is being offered in package deals for a slugger.
4 Cubs who will be traded
Catcher Willson Contreras: A year ago, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez were out the door. This time around, Contreras leads the charge. The Cubs couldn’t sign him to a long-term deal, so they’re definitely moving, and teams like the Houston Astros are listening.
Closer David Robertson: The Cubs took a flier on Robertson, and he delivered, returning to form as a prized closer. He already proved he can handle New York. The Mets and Yankees are both talking.
Outfielder Ian Happ: He has turned himself into an All-Star outfielder. The Cubs don’t have to trade him, not with another year on his contract, but with the thin trade market, he could bring in a bundle.
Starter Wade Miley: He has been injured most of the season, pitching just 19 innings, but is finally back, pitching in a rehab game on Friday. He may be a nice cheap, back-of-the-rotation starter for a team scrambling for a playoff berth.
Around the basepaths
– San Diego Padres ace Joe Musgrove, a San Diego native, is set to sign a five-year, $100 million contact this week. The Padres originally offered an eight-year extension for about $88 million, which Musgrove rejected, seeking a higher AAV.
– The Tampa Bay Rays are among the favorites acquire either Reds outfielder Tommy Pham or Yankees outfielder Joey Gallo by Tuesday.
The San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers also are interested in Gallo.
The Yankees insist Gallo will be gone, one way or another.
He’s hitting just .159 with a .621 OPS, and getting worse, batting .084 in his last 28 games.
– Bruce Bochy, who’s eligible to be voted to the Hall of Fame in December, 2023, plans to manage Team France in the World Baseball Classic.
His bench coach?
Ozzie Guillen, the former Chicago White Sox and Miami Marlins manager.
– The Pirates are talking to the White Sox, Blue Jays and Yankees about Jose Quintana. He’s earning just $2 million this season.
– The Padres could shut down rookie starter MacKenzie Gore the rest of the season. He’s on the 15-day injured list with a strained elbow.
Gore had a 1.50 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 48 innings in his first nine games (eight starts), but an 11.05 ERA in his last seven games (five starts).
– The Mariners better hope they don’t see the Astros in the playoffs. They are just 6-29 against them at Minute Maid Park in Houston since 2018.
Robbie Ray has a 10.98 ERA in three starts against the Astros, compared to a 3.46 ERA in his other 18 starts.
– The Mariners and Reds have gotten awfully chummy this year, with the Castillo trade the fourth deal between the teams since the lockout ended.
– The Dodgers are desperate for back-end bullpen help with closer Craig Kimbrel's struggles. He has 18 saves in 21 opportunities, but also is yielding a 4.37 ERA and 1.51 walks and hits per inning.
– Atlanta thought they had enough outfielders, but now are on the market for another one with Adam Duvall’s season-ending injury and All-Star Ronald Acuna’s struggles.
Acuna returned from his ACL surgery to hit .316 with six homers and a .950 OPS in his first 31 games, but is batting .209 with two home runs and a .583 OPS in his past 33 games – and just .186 in the last 17 games with two doubles, one homer, four RBI, 21 strikeouts and a woeful .526 OPS.
– Aaron Judge, with 42 homers, is on pace to hit 66 homers, breaking Roger Maris’ American League home-run record. He and Babe Ruth are the only players in franchise history with 41 homers through the first 101 games of a season.
“Historical,” teammates Gerrit Cole called it. “I wish I could have my phone on the bench like the rest of the fans who take a video every one of his at-bats. It’s kind of just a steady dose of amazingness every day. Pretty inspiring.”
– The Dodgers believe they can sign Juan Soto to a contract extension if they land him. They have only four contracts guaranteed past next season on the books: Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes.
Soto is expected to command about $65 million in arbitration over the next two seasons.
– The Yankees have 12 walk-off victories this season, the second-most by any team in history through 100 games, trailing only the 1959 Pittsburgh Pirates (13).
– The San Francisco Giants, who won a franchise-record 107 games last season, aren’t even a .500 team these days, and have to decide whether they will trade starter Carlos Rodon and outfielder Joc Pederson.
They were outscored outscored 44-19 on an 0-7 trip, their worst since 1985 . They are just 35-44 since April, and have lost 16 of 25 games in July entering Saturday.
– Atlanta’s streak of not losing three in a row is the longest since the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who didn’t lose three straight until dropping their 147-150th games.
– Atlanta third baseman Austin Riley, who’s hitting .427 with a 1.372 OPS in July, is on pace for 93 extra-base hits, breaking legendary Hank Aaron’s franchise record of 92 extra-base hits in 1959.
“We’re watching a superstar right now,” Atlanta starter Kyle Wright told reporters. “Any time he steps in the box, you’re just wondering how far is he going to hit it? How hard is he going to hit it?” …I feel like anything you throw in there, he’s doing damage on. He’s not just getting hits, he’s doing damage, which is even more impressive.’’
Riley, my preseason MVP pick, is hitting .299 with 29 home runs and 29 doubles this season, becoming the fifth player to achieve the feat this quickly in baseball history.
– Nationals GM Mike Rizzo believes that the Nats, who won the 2019 World Series championship, can return to greatness in a few years.
“We see this organization going in the right direction,” Rizzo told The Fan’s Sports Junkies. “We’ve done it before. Not many teams can say, ‘Here’s our plan,’ and prove that it works. We have done that.
“We’ve come from the depths of bad seasons, with 100-loss seasons, to 98 wins in 2012, relatively quickly. We think that we’re on the same pace or even quicker to get it done this time.”
– Remember last winter when the Red Sox traded Hunter Renfroe and couldn’t sign Kyle Schwarber?
Well, the two have combined for 48 homers and 101 RBI this season.
The Red Sox team, excluding Rafael Devers and Trevor Story, has combined for 62 homers.
– The Blue Jays are seeing the real Matt Chapman. He hit just .201 through May, but since is hitting.290 with 12 homers and a .937 OPS.
– The Diamondbacks would love to have someone take veteran Madison Bumgarner, who could be a back-end starter for a contender. He earns $23 million this year and is still owed another $37 million through 2024.
– The Blue Jays are spending $230 million on improvements to the Rogers Centre, which likely takes them out of the running to host an All-Star Game until at least 2027. The Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs and perhaps Atlanta are among the contenders to host the 2024-2025 All-Star Games. The 2023 All-Star Game is in Seattle, and the only other one scheduled is the 2026 All-Star Game in Philadelphia.
– The Cleveland Guardians plan to bring back manager Terry Francona after this season, president Chris Antonetti told reporters, as long as it “doesn’t negatively affect his well-being and he remains energized about the work.”
– The Marlins say it’s possible that All-Star infielder Jazz Chisholm doesn’t play another game this season with a CT scan revealing a stress fracture in his lower back. He has played in just 60 games this season, but still leads the Marlins in homers (14), RBI (45), and runs (39).
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB trade deadline: Where's Juan Soto going? Buyers, sellers, rumors