To buy or to sell?
With three wild-card spots open in the American and National Leagues, more teams than ever can convince themselves they are contenders heading into the dog days of August. That shapes up for a competitive couple of days on the trade block.
This year's trade deadline will be defined by the superstars. All eyes are on the Washington Nationals to see if they move Juan Soto, and even the Los Angeles Angels reportedly are taking calls about Shohei Ohtani.
Here are five bold predictions on what can unfold before Tuesday’s 3 p.m. PT deadline:
Cardinals trade for Soto
In the end, St. Louis wins the bidding.
Fulfilling Washington's asking price of four-to-five young players, the Cardinals send 23-year-old outfielder Dylan Carlson and a trio of their best prospects at Double-A or higher in third baseman Jordan Walker, left-handed pitcher Matthew Liberatore and righty Michael McGreevy.
By trading for Soto, St. Louis puts all its chips in that an offense already stacked with two of the top NL MVP candidates -- Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado -- will offset the team’s shortcomings on the mound. The Cardinals will have Soto under contract for this playoff run and two years after that, and trading for him now gives St. Louis a leg up on the rest of the league in getting Soto to sign a long-term deal.
San Diego Showtime
Let’s get wild.
Stuck in no man’s land once again with two of the best baseball players the world has ever seen, the Los Angeles Angels begrudgingly answer their ever-ringing phone to hear offers for two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani.
But this time, it’s too good for general manager Perry Minasian to hang up.
Padres executive A.J. Preller, renowned to be aggressive on the trade market, is determined to trade for Ohtani after whiffing on the Soto sweepstakes.
What do you pay for a player with 22 home runs and .847 OPS to go along with a 2.81 ERA and 13.1 K/9 in 17 starts? Everything.
San Diego sends four of its top prospects, including Robert Hassell III, as well as a pair of big-league ready players in C.J. Abrams and MacKenzie Gore in a trade for Ohtani.
Yes, it’s a lot. But it’s the only way to acquire the modern-day Babe Ruth.
Contreras joins an old foe
Contreras, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, gets traded to the Cleveland Guardians, the same franchise he helped take down in seven games in the memorable 2016 World Series as a rookie.
The Guardians haven't seen a glimpse of offensive production at catcher all season. Austin Hedges and Luke Maile have covered the bulk of duties behind the plate but have struggled to a combined .175/.272/.263 slash line. Contreras and his .818 OPS and 14 home runs will get Cleveland rocking again behind the dish as the Guardians try to swipe the AL Central away from the struggling Minnesota Twins.
Montas earns his pinstripes
The Athletics’ asking price only went up after Luis Castillo was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Seattle Mariners for four prospects last week. That deal included 20-year-old shortstop Noelvi Marte at High-A, who is regarded as a consensus top-20 prospect in baseball.
Missing out on the Castillo sweepstakes were the New York Yankees, who don’t often get outbid. The Bronx Bombers will make sure they don’t miss out on one-plus season of Montas, sending two of their top-five prospects in shortstop Oswald Peraza and left-hander Ken Waldichuk to Oakland. The 24-year-old Waldichuk would immediately have a place in the A’s rotation, and Peraza -- who has a.771 OPS and 25 stolen bases in 77 games – wouldn’t be too far behind.
Montas would slide into a top-three spot of the Yankees rotation along with Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes and would prepare for October baseball.
Giants trade Rodón
Contending teams around the league were licking their chops Sunday night watching Giants left-hander Carlos Rodón dazzle the Cubs with 10 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings.
The Giants, on the fence as a contender heading into the All-Star break, fell flat on their face with seven straight losses after the Midsummer Classic and ultimately decide to sell Rodón to the pitching-starved Twins.
It'll be a competitive market for renting Rodón. To outbid competitors, Minnesota flips San Francisco a few big-league ready prospects, including right-handed pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson.
Like Rodón, Twins shortstop Carlos Correa will likely opt out of the rest of his contract this offseason. That means Minnesota only has a few months left to enjoy a lineup of Correa and Byron Buxton, so making a big splash with the Giants to bulk up their pitching staff would serve them well.