It’s AJ Preller’s world, and the rest of the baseball industry just lives in it.
Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But as it should be, Preller is aiming for a staggering number of deals and it seems almost certain that he will make at least one big move before Tuesday’s 6:00 p.m. ET trading deadline.
Will it be at the Nationals for rightfielder Juan Soto? The Cubs for catcher Willson Contreras, left fielder Ian Happ and maybe even reliever David Robertson? The athleticism for rightful Frankie Montas and maybe catcher Sean Murphy or outfielder Chad Pinder, all of whom played for Padres manager Bob Melvin in Oakland?
At this point, Preller probably doesn’t even know. To some degree, he’s exploring each of the above possibilities, according to top-class sources. He’s also made a run with the Angels for Shohei Ohtani, not that anyone in the industry expects the two-way star to move.
Other GMs keep an eye on the entire market, but few are as creative and aggressive as Preller. Some teams may trade against players he is interested in first and close certain options for the Padres. New avenues may open up for certain clubs, depending on the course Preller takes.
Preller has prospects to trade, shortstop CJ Abrams and outfielder Robert Hassell III for starters, as well as two high-ceiling players from the 2021 draft, shortstop Jackson Merrill and outfielder James Wood, who are both from Maryland, making them relative locals. are for the citizens. Preller also has contracts that he would like to move, most notably Eric Hosmer, who owes the balance of his $20 million salary this season and $39 million from 2023 to 2025.
The Padres and Cubs have talked about several drafts over the past 12 months, including one last summer that allegedly sent first baseman Hosmer and a top contender to Chicago for an unspecified return. If the Padres land Contreras, it could force the Mets to move on a JD Martinez-Christian Vázquez pack from the Red Sox. However, the Mets are investigating numerous other possibilities, sources said.
In addition to the Padres, Montas is a target for the Twins, Yankees, and Blue Jays (MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi first noticed the Jays’ interest). The Astros, looking for a catcher, are among several clubs reporting a high price on Contreras. According to a source, they are focusing more on Vázquez.
The last hours will be intense. And Preller, as always, is right in the middle of the action.
Mookie, Trea, Freddie… And Soto too?
Don’t rule out the Dodgers on Soto. They’ve been in touch with the Nationals, and if the Padres make a splash elsewhere, it could lead to the opening LA needs to meet another deadline.
All of this presupposes that Preller is willing to concede Soto (unlikely, especially if he fears the Dodgers are in the mix) and that the Nationals are indeed willing to trade him (something no one will know until 6 p.m. Tuesday).
Andrew Friedman, Dodgers president of baseball operations, keeps an eye on every big name, a routine he followed even during his days with the budget-conscious Rays. A year ago, the Dodgers came seemingly out of nowhere to beat the Padres in front of Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. It would take a bigger package to land Soto, but imagine the Dodgers if they added him to a lineup that already included Turner, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. Frightening.
Brewers’ Hader: Really Available or Not?
The Brewers listen to overtures again for closer Josh Hader. The talks may not be much more than due diligence. But as the Brewers head into their fifth straight postseason appearance, their motivation to trade Hader may be increasing.
• Hader’s $11 million salary is likely to rise to $16 million next season in his final year of arbitration before becoming a free agent.
• His preference to limit his appearances to one inning limits his value to the club and would be a concern in the postseason.
• Devin Williams, who has produced 30 consecutive scoreless appearances and struckout 47 in 28 2/3 innings, could replace Hader as Brewers’ closer.
Hader, 28, allowed only one run in his last four appearances, recovering from a difficult six-game spell that lifted his ERA from 1.05 to 4.50. It would only make sense to trade him if the Brewers could get a batter they want, or young players who can help them address different needs.
A reduced need for Blue Jays
Despite all the talk about the Blue Jays needing a lefthanded batter, they came in second in the majors on Sunday in OPS vs. right-handed pitching and third in runs per game. They don’t feature heavily in the mix for Soto. They may not add a left-handed bat at all, instead targeting relievers with swing-and-miss stuff.
The addition of a meaningful left-handed batter would likely require the Jays to trade a right-handed bat, a complicated two-step process that is likely to be difficult to accomplish. The Jays are also aware of disrupting their chemistry. Their right-handed corner outfielders, Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., are among the most popular players in their clubhouse.
Don’t get caught up in labels
Neither the Giants nor the Red Sox are likely to be pure sellers. Both teams will be reluctant to give in when their playoff odds hover around 20 percent, and both will be looking to make a quick return in 2023.
So, the Red Sox are looking for big league players in exchange for loan, such as designated batter JD Martinez and catcher Christian Vázquez. And the Giants, even as they move some of their own rental properties — particularly left-handed Carlos Rodón and outfielder Joc Pederson — are aiming to focus on improving their Major League athletics and defense in the near term.
Following their usual practice, the Rays are another club that considers all angles. For example, at a time when they need offense, they can trade a batter, such as first baseman Ji-Man Choi.
According to sources, the Astros are showing interest in Choi as a possible alternative to their apparent first choice, Josh Bell of the Nationals. The Rays currently play short-handed with shortstop Wander Franco and outfielders Manual Margot and Harold Ramirez on the injured list. But if they traded Choi, they would make other moves to recoup the offense they lost, trying to create the best possible 13-man position player group.
Around the horn
• Bell, a native of Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, told me this weekend that he wouldn’t mind a trade to Houston. Bell and his wife, Lia, welcomed their first child, a daughter named Noa, in December. Houston is about 3 1/2 hours from Dallas, and Bell’s parents would be in a better position to help with the baby if he spent the last few months of the season with the Astros. He’s a potential free agent.
• Red infielder Brandon Drury, who is attracting interest from several clubs, is not certain to be traded. The Reds may be interested in exploring extra time with Drury, who turns 30 on August 21 and hit his career-high 20th homer on Sunday as a pinch-hitter. Of course, the Reds can always trade Drury and re-sign him as a free agent. But if they move him, they lose their right to negotiate exclusively with him until the market opens.
• The Guardians are among the teams interested in the Athletics’ Murphy, but a deal is more likely to remain off-season than on the deadline. Only the A’s will move Murphy over the next two days if motivated enough. Otherwise, they would rather wait until the off-season, when more teams are open to adding a catcher.
• And finally, Nationals infielder Ehire Adrianza could one day be in the middle of the action of the deadline, but not as a player. Aspiring to be a general manager, Adrianza is taking online sports management courses through Miami-Dade College’s Honors College.
Classes take place during the school year on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 12 noon. While those hours can be tough for a major leaguer, Adrianza says the work helps him take his mind off baseball.
(Top photo by Willson Contreras: Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports)