It’s crunch time for MLB front offices. The 2022 trade deadline is approaching at 6 pm ET on Tuesday. It’s the last chance for contenders to bolster their playoff hopes and the last chance for also-rans to make moves to help their future prospects. In some cases, it’s a chance to decode the intentions of teams sitting on the fence.
For each major deal between now at Tuesday’s deadline, we’ll break down the pieces on the move and the logic behind the trades. As always, baseball is hard to predict, so what looks like a C+ trade now could easily turn into an A+ trade with a swing adjustment or a new pitch.
Padres acquire relief pitcher Josh Hader from Brewers for relief pitcher Taylor Rogers, outfielder Esteury Ruiz, pitcher Dinelson Lamet and pitching prospect Robert Gasser
OK then! The NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers have shipped off their closer to San Diego. Weird, huh? Only a little bit.
Hader is undoubtedly one of the game’s best closers. He throws 97 from the left side and pairs it with a diabolical slider. He routinely ranks among baseball’s best strikeout pitchers. He also may not have been the best reliever on the Brewers. His 4.24 ERA from him this year is a product of a little bit of rough luck and a little bit of inconvenient truth: When hitters DO hit the ball against him, it goes a long way. He is prone to allowing homers, 1.85 per nine innings this year.
Setup man Devin Williams — who announced his dominance by winning NL Rookie of the Year in 2020 — will likely assume closer duties for Milwaukee. He’s running a 1.59 ERA this season, somehow in line with his 1.72 overall ERA since the start of 2020. Thanks to a mind-blowing changeup known as the “Airbender,” Williams isn’t prone to those homer problems. In fact, he hasn’t allowed one all year. So in moving Hader and getting back Rogers, the Brewers aren’t likely to suffer much drop-off in their bullpen.
What they add is more talent in the prospect ranks, and likely on the immediate major-league roster. Esteury Ruiz, 14 games into his MLB career, could play a role in their outfield right away. He’s a serious on-base machine who can run — he stole 23 bases in 28 games in Triple-A before his promotion of him — but he may not hit for much power. Lamet, who has been frequently injured, could also factor into their playoff race if he gets right.
Now, all of that doesn’t change the fact that the Padres will be thrilled to have Hader. If he pitches to career norms, he gives them a lockdown closer for two playoff hunts and secures a spot that San Diego had waffled on. Rogers, acquired just this past offseason, logged 28 saves with a 4.35 ERA in San Diego and Statcast metrics largely backup up the thought that he was being hit a bit too hard for comfort.
It also aligns with Padres executive AJ Preller’s aggressive, star-seeking stance. The Padres are rumored to be heavy players in the Juan Soto sweepstakes, and they didn’t give up anything here that would change that. The move will look worse if he doesn’t add to his position player group, as Ruiz had been a factor in shoring up a weak outfield.
In the end the deal is about surplus and need. The Brewers had a surplus of relief pitching, so they moved their biggest, flashiest name to a team with some surplus young talent and an uncertain closer situation. It’s not the first time these two teams have made what amounts to a challenge trade — the deal that sent Trent Grisham to the Padres and Luis Urias and Eric Lauer to the Brewers is still playing out.
Mariners acquire starting pitcher Luis Castillo from Reds for 4 prospects, including SS Noelvi Marte
The first big deal of the season saw Castillo, perhaps the most impactful pitcher available, head to Seattle. He’ll slot in atop the Mariners’ rotation and try to pitch them into their first playoff appearance since 2001. It’s an all-in move from famously active Mariners executive Jerry Dipoto, but it could still pay off in 2023, as Castillo will remain under team control for one more season as the Mariners’ young core matures. Getting the best pitcher on the market is certainly a win, but it’s worth noting that the rotation — already fortified by an offseason signing of Robbie Ray — wasn’t Seattle’s greatest area of need. And it came at a significant cost.
As the Reds continue a (fairly cynical, seemingly hair-trigger) rebuild, this will go down as by far the biggest move to date. In return for Castillo, the Reds landed a premium prospect in shortstop Noelvi Marte, another young shortstop who may now be a top-100 talent in Edwin Arroyo and two pitchers — Levi Stoudt and Andrew Moore — who their solid pitching development team can work with . Marte is the prize here, ranked as the No. 11 prospect right now by FanGraphs and No. 12 by Keith Law. He’s only 20 years old and looks like a solid infielder with a robust body who will hit for average and power, a star in the making even if he eventually moves to third base. Prospects as acclaimed as Mars don’t move very often these days. Extracting him for a very good but not Cy Young-winning pitcher is a win for the Reds.
Yankees acquire OF Andrew Benintendi from Royals for 3 prospects
Sometimes pivots are very obvious. In this case, the Yankees are admitting defeat on their Joey Gallo acquisition and leaning into an outfielder who takes a diametrically opposed approach. Benintendi, the former Red Sox mainstay, makes consistent contact, hits doubles and plays solid defense. The Yankees will pop him into the top of the lineup and try to offload Gallo before the deadline. The issue with Benintendi is his rejection of him, thus far, to get vaccinated against COVID-19. If and when the Yankees play key games against the Toronto Blue Jays in Canada, Benintendi won’t be allowed to go unless he changes his mind on getting vaccinated.
In return, the Royals snagged three pitching prospects: Beck Way, TJ Sikkema and Chandler Champlain. If you’re going to take on any organization’s young pitchers, the Yankees are one of the best choices. The Royals gave up very little to get Benintendi a few years ago, so while FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen says none of these pitchers projects as more than a No. 4 starter (Sikkema), the Royals did well in the exchange.
It remains to be seen whether Kansas City’s player development team can help them keep progressing. The Royals’ recent track record does not inspire confidence.
Mets acquire DH Daniel Vogelbach from Pirates for relief pitcher Colin Holderman
The Mets needed another home run threat to add to Pete Alonso, preferably a left-handed one. Vogelbach checks those boxes, and gets on base to boot. New York’s lineup has plenty of contact ability, so Vogelbach’s three-true-outcomes approach isn’t a problem here. He probably shouldn’t be their only lineup upgrade, but he’s a good start.
Holderman emerged quickly as a quality bullpen arm capable of working more than one inning. It’s possible the Pirates see some greater potential as either a back-end reliever or as someone who is a tweak or two away from starting.