LOS ANGELES — The stars will be shining at Dodger Stadium during this week’s All-Star festivities, and while players will proudly be representing their current teams, the talk around the Majors will turn to next month’s Trade Deadline when the second half commences Thursday.
Ian Happ and Willson Contreras — two prime trade candidates this month — know what the next two weeks will be like, having watched long-time Cubs teammates Kris Bryant, Javier Báez and Anthony Rizzo went through the same process a year ago.
“It’s out of your control; everybody that’s played in Chicago would love to play there for their whole career, but that hasn’t happened for a while,” Happ said. “The only thing is that they came up the other side of it. They got traded and nobody wanted to leave, but they ended up going to play on good teams and ended up in homes now where they’re all happy and playing good baseball.”
Like every other potential trade chip, Contreras is doing his best to keep his focus on the field, especially during his All-Star experience in Los Angeles.
“I’m not overthinking about the Trade Deadline, but if it happens, it happens,” Contreras said. “If it happens, I’ll have to go somewhere else and keep playing baseball. Hopefully they would trade me to a team that wants to win and wants you to take a shot at the World Series.”
Which All-Stars might find themselves on the move by Aug. 2? Here are 10 names to keep an eye on in the coming weeks:
David Bednar, RHP, Pirates
Bednar won’t become arbitration-eligible until the end of the 2023 season, but given the price contenders are often willing to pay for high-end relief pitching this time of year, the 27-year-old would bring back a nice package of prospects for the rebuilding Pirates.
Andrew Benintendi, LF, Royals
Benintendi is owed about $3.7 million for the remainder of the season, after which he will become a free agent. The 28-year-old is slashing .317/.386/.401 this season, ranking in the top five in the AL in average and hits while posting another Gold Glove-caliber season.
Luis Castillo, RHP, Reds
The No. 1 starting pitcher on the trade market, Castillo’s name has been a part of trade rumors for the past two years. He’s earning $7.35 million this year and is arbitration-eligible for one more season, so a team acquiring the talented right-hander would have him for the next two postseason runs.
Willson Contreras, C, Cubs
As mentioned earlier, the Cubs’ roster began to take a new shape last year with the trades of Bryant, Báez and Rizzo, but Contreras — an impending free agent and one of the final remaining players from the 2016 World Series championship team — appears to be the next player on his way out of the Windy City. Adding a new catcher at this point in the season can be tricky for a contender, but with the DH in both leagues, Contreras’ bat will be valued by many clubs.
Ian Happ, LF, Cubs
The other Cubs entry on this list, Happ is arbitration-eligible for one more year after 2022, so Chicago could wait until the offseason to trade him if it chooses. Having just made his first All-Star team following a solid first half (.808 OPS, 9 HRs, 42 RBIs), Happ could be on the move if the Cubs opt to make multiple moves.
Jorge Lopez, RHP, Orioles
The 29-year-old starter-turned-reliever has found his calling as Baltimore’s closer, collecting 17 first-half saves while posting a 1.62 ERA in 40 appearances. The Orioles have been one of the best stories in the game, and although they’re only 3 1/2 games out of an American League Wild Card spot, they would need to jump three teams to earn a postseason berth. GM Mike Elias could decide to capitalize on López’s sudden success in a bullpen-hungry market. López is arbitration-eligible for two more years, offering club control as a bonus.
Shohei Ohtani, LHP/DH, Angels
At first glance, the idea of the Angels trading Ohtani seems ludicrous. Arguably the most valuable player in the Majors thanks to his All-Star caliber work both at the plate and on the mound, Ohtani is just one year from free agency and would bring a haul of prospects back to the Angels. Trading the 28-year-old would be an unpopular move for the fan base, but given the number of areas the Angels would be able to improve, it’s not a crazy thought.
Joc Pederson, OF, Giants
The Giants’ decision to sign Pederson to a one-year, $6 million deal has been a terrific one, as the 30-year-old is having one of the best seasons of his career with 17 home runs and an .848 OPS. Pederson can play either corner outfield spot and has vast postseason experience, and while the Giants are only a half-game out of an NL Wild Card spot, the next two weeks will go a long way in determining San Francisco’s status as a buyer or seller .
Carlos Rodon, LHP, Giants
Rodón signed a two-year, $44 million deal with San Francisco this offseason, but he can opt out of the contract at the end of 2022 if he reaches the 110-inning mark. He hit the All-Star break with 105 innings, and given his performance this season, it seems like a near-lock that he will opt out and re-enter the free-agent market. Like Pederson, Rodón’s immediate future will likely be linked to the Giants’ status in the postseason race over the next two weeks.
Juan Soto, RF, Nationals
The most talked-about player at this year’s All-Star Game, Soto could be the best player to hit the trade market in years. Having turned down a 15-year, $440 million extension offer from the Nationals, Soto — who is arbitration-eligible for two more years and won’t be a free agent until the end of the 2024 season — could be on the market despite GM Mike Rizzo’s early-June declaration that he wasn’t trading the All-Star. If Soto isn’t traded by Aug. 2, he will be a prime offseason trade candidate.