General managers want to make that telephone call, eying the perfect player for their team, but look at the calendar, and know they really can’t.
Other GMs believe they should start unloading, convinced their chances of reaching the postseason are the same as winning the Powerball, but look around the room and know it’s too early.
It’s that awkward time of year in the baseball trade season.
The season isn’t two months old, and more than two months remain until the Aug. 2 trade deadline.
History tells us there won’t be any major trades until after the July 17 draft, and with an expanded postseason this year, from 10 teams to 12, there may be fewer deals than usual.
In an informal survey of GMs, baseball executives and scouts, here are the top five teams to watch these next two months in the seller, buyer and undecided markets.
MLB AT MEMORIAL DAY: 30 things we've learned so far in baseball's chaotic season
Cincinnati Reds: Ok, we know the Reds are one of the hottest teams in baseball since their atrocious 3-22 start, going 13-8 since then.
They can dream of having the worst start of any team to ever make the postseason, but they have to be realistic. They have several of the best trade chips in the game, so why hang onto them when you’re building for the future?
They will shop starters Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and Mike Minor, along with outfielder Tommy Pham and infielders Mike Moustakas and Brandon Drury.
Reds GM Nick Krall could be the homecoming king of the trade deadline with his popularity.
Oakland Athletics: They completed most of their firesale during the winter and spring, but there’s still some commodities left.
Starter Frankie Montas may be the most valuable pitcher to hit the market, Ramon Laureano could be the most valuable center fielder, and teams will salivate over the possibility of landing catcher Sean Murphy.
Chicago Cubs: The Cubs were the most active sellers at last year’s trade deadline, dumping the core of their team in Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javy Baez. They traded nine players in all, receiving 12 players in return.
They won’t be nearly as active this year, but they possess perhaps the most valuable offensive trade chip in the game: All-Star catcher Willson Contreras. The Cubs have tried several times to sign Contreras to an extension, but haven’t come close, with Contreras seeking a deal close to J.T Realmuto’s five-year, $115 million contract with the Phillies.
Also on the block are veteran starters Wade Miley and Drew Smyly, relievers David Robertson and Mychal Givens, infielders Jonathan Villar and Andrelton Simmons, outfielder Jason Heyward.
Washington Nationals: The Nationals won the World Series in 2019, but are on pace to become only the fourth World Series champion to have a losing record in their next three seasons. They aren’t going anywhere, and are wide open for business.
No, they are not trading All-Star outfielder Juan Soto, even after rejecting a $350 million offer during the winter, not with 2 ½ years left of team control. But if you’re interested in anyone else, operators are standing by. Starters Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez, the entire infield featuring first baseman Josh Bell, DH Nelson Cruz and reliever Sean Doolittle are available.
Arizona Diamondbacks: The D-backs are improved, and aren’t the same 110-loss team as a year ago, but they still are rebuilding in the toughest division in baseball.
They have plenty of veterans who could intrigue teams. You want a starter? Madison Bumgarner, Zach Davies and Luke Weaver are available. So are closers Mark Melancon and Ian Kennedy. And catcher Carlson Kelly. Infielder Nick Ahmed. Outfielder David Peralta.
New York Mets: Come on, you think Mets owner Steve Cohen is going to stop now? He smells the playoffs. And they finally have the manager to bring it all together in veteran Buck Showalter.
The Mets certainly won’t let money stand in their way. Their most pressing need may be finding another starter, and they already have been scouting Castillo and Mahle of the Reds. Sure, Cy Young winner Max Scherzer is scheduled to return in late July. Ace Jacob deGrom says his shoulder is feeling normal and he’ll be back after the All-Star break too.
Still, the great unknown is deGrom. He hasn’t pitched in a game since July 7, 2021. He insists he will opt out of his contract after the season. So can you really count on deGrom going more than five, perhaps six innings in any start knowing that he must stay cautious if he wants a huge payday?
They’ll need another starter if they want this to be a year to remember.
Considering they’re all in, would it surprise anyone to see them pursue Willson Contreras, even if it means assuming the remaining $33 million of outfielder Jason Heyward’s contract?
New York Yankees: Sure, the Yankees always good, but no one quite envisioned they would be this dominant. Still, one bad stretch in this powerful division could spoil an entire summer, and there’s no better place to minimize the risk than a powerful bullpen.
The Yankees could badly use bullpen help with Chad Green out for the season, and closer Aroldis Chapman suddenly faltering. They’ll be aggressive as usual. They won’t make a big splash, but they’ll find a way once again to fill their needs.
They’ll hesitate trading any prized prospects, but if someone has a surplus of pitching, and could use a certain outfielder who has tremendous power but strikes out a ton, Joey Gallo could be your man.
Los Angeles Angels: The Angels are knocking on the door, believing they could finally be ending their seven-year playoff drought. Who knows, maybe they could even win their first postseason game since the arrival of Mike Trout?
The Angels have had strong and surprising performances from their position players, but pitching has always been their downfall. They could use another starter, particularly with the unknown of how Noah Syndergaard will be down the stretch having pitched just two innings since 2019. Can you really count on Reid Detmers and Chase Silseth in a pennant stretch?
Owner Arte Moreno has always allowed his GM to push the payroll to the limit of the luxury tax without exceeding it, but payroll constraints would be greatly eased if they could find someone to take third baseman Anthony Rendon off their hands. He is in the third year of a seven-year, $245 million contract, and is back on the injured list with a wrist injury.
San Diego Padres: The Padres, who continue to be a nuisance for the Dodgers, are trying to erase all of the nightmares of last year’s collapse. This is a dangerous team. They have the third-best record in the National League without a single game played by shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. Their starting rotation, led by Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, has been dominant.
Yet, they could sure use some more offense, particularly with the struggles of outfielders Wil Myers, Trent Grisham and Jurickson Profar, and second baseman Jake Cronenworth. There’s a reason why they aggressively tried to trade for third baseman Jose Ramirez. They have gaping holes in their lineup in the outfield, second base and at DH. You don’t sign Robinson Cano unless you’re desperate.
The Padres have an ultra-aggressive GM in A.J. Preller, an owner who’s willing to eclipse the luxury tax in Peter Seidler, and a fan base starving for a winner.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Sure, they’re the best team in baseball, certainly in the National League. They’re the richest team in baseball. They have the largest payroll in baseball, excluding Trevor Bauer’s extension. And they have the most complete team in baseball.
Yet, if there’s any blemish, it’s the starting rotation. The Dodger are awfully deep, but come playoff time, who going to trust? Clayton Kershaw is on the injured list with a bad back that could flare up at any time. Ace Walker Buehler has had trouble finding his fastball. Julio Urias is solid, but is not trusted after the fifth inning.
The Dodgers have the finest pitching prospects in baseball in their farm system, with five potential major-league starters tucked away at Class A that has teams salivating. If the Dodgers can find a frontline starter at the deadline, they won’t hesitate pulling off another move.
Boston Red Sox:
If the Red Sox are out of the race, teams will be lining up along the Green Monster trying to fill their needs.
The Red Sox can offer you veteran starters Nathan Eovaldi, Rich Hill and Michael Wacha. They can shop All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who can opt out and become a free agent after the season. They have relievers Jake Diekman, Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes available. Infielder Christian Arroyo, outfielders Enrique Hernandez and Jackie Bradley Jr. catchers Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki, and DH J.D. Martinez.
Seattle Mariners: There’s not a more disappointing team in baseball than the Mariners, who have gone 21 years without reaching the postseason, the longest drought by any professional team in North America. They shouldn’t be this bad, but as Mariners manager Scott Servais says, “You are what your record says you are.’’
The Mariners, if they pull the plug on their season, can offer veteran starters Marco Gonzalez and Chris Flexen, along with veteran relievers Paul Sewald and Drew Steckenrider. Infielders Adam Frazier, Eugenio Suarez should be on the block. And outfielders Jesse Winker and Mitch Haniger.
Perhaps their most intriguing trade chip could be outfielder Justin Upton. They just signed him after being released this spring by the Angels, and he’s not expected to join the team before mid-June. But if he gets hot, and shows off his power, he could be a power source for a number of teams.
Colorado Rockies: The Rockies don’t want to send the wrong message, alienating their fanbase, but if you’re not going to contend, why pretend that things will magically turn around?
The Rockies could take advantage of Chad Kuhl’s strong first-half performance, yielding a 3.56 ERA through his first nine starts. They took a $3 million free-agent flyer on him in spring training, and he could bring back a nice package of prospects. They don’t want to shop ace German Marquez when his trade value could be at its lowest, but if someone comes calling, maybe this time the Rockies will listen. Closer Daniel Bard would certainly attract interest as could starter Austin Gomber.
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies, 21-26, wouldn’t dare give up, would they?
They have been gross underachievers, with manager Joe Girardi’s future in jeopardy, but it’s not in GM Dave Dombrowski’s DNA to wave the white flag.
If they decide they’ll be better off in 2023 by giving up now, certainly starter Zach Eflin could help a lot of teams, and may leave as a free agent. They have veterans Corey Knebel, Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia in the bullpen, all who aren’t part of their future. Infielders Jean Segura and Didi Gregorius, and outfielder Oduble Herrera could attract interest.
Cleveland Guardians: They’re hanging around in the AL Central, still trying to decide whether they’re contenders or pretenders. The weak division gives them a chance to win it, but their payroll severely limits them.
They had the opportunity to give up before the season and trade Ramirez to San Diego, and passed. But they didn’t go out and spend money to improve the club either.
They traded away starter Mike Clevinger two years ago, and Eddie Rosario, Cesar Hernandez and Phil Maton at last year’s deadline, without blinking.
This year, well, they’re not sure yet what to do. No one expects the Minnesota Twins to keep up their pace. No one expects the Chicago White Sox to continue to be this mediocre. The Guardians have the pitching to make their fate interesting, but an empty bank account to have confidence they could truly win the division.
They have a plethora of young, talented pitching that could bring back much-needed offense in return.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB rumors trade deadline: Teams to watch over the next two months