(Audacy) For a few hours late last July, it appeared the San Diego Padres were going to acquire three-time Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer from the Washington Nationals.
Instead, that trade fell through and Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman swooped in to acquire both Scherzer and All-Star infielder Trea Turner.
While the bigger headline may have been that the Dodgers acquired a future Hall of Famer, it wasn't especially shocking that the Nationals would trade Scherzer. He was in his age-36 season and set to become a free agent. For a team that wasn't ready to contend, the logical move probably was to trade Scherzer.
But for as great as Scherzer was in his brief time with the Dodgers -- he went 7-0 with a 1.98 ERA in 11 starts -- he proved to just be a rental, leaving to sign with the New York Mets after the season. The real coup in the trade was acquiring Turner, a late-20s star infielder who couldn't become a free agent until after the 2022 season.
Turner finished in fifth place in National League MVP voting in 2021 and is currently slashing .301/.352/.480 with an .833 OPS this season, setting him up to be one of the most coveted free agents next offseason. While no one is questioning that the Nationals received some intriguing young players in return for Turner -- including catcher Keibert Ruiz and right-hander Josiah Gray -- it's still a bit shocking that they parted with a middle infielder at a time in which he was seemingly just beginning to peak.
With that in mind, it got us to wondering who some under-the-radar trade candidates could be this summer. Here's a look at 10 potential names who aren't necessarily likely to be traded in advance of the deadline on Aug. 2 but shouldn't be altogether ruled out either.
Victor Robles, Washington Nationals
Once a higher-rated prospect than Fernando Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto, Robles hasn't replicated the offensive production that he posted in his rookie season of 2018, when he homered 17 times, posted a .745 OPS and stole 28 bases. But he's still just 25, so if there's a team that believes it can help fix the offensive production of Robles, it wouldn't take much to turn him into one of the better center fielders in baseball. He's already one of the best defenders in the sport, having posted 27 defensive runs saved and 31 outs above average in his young career. Perhaps the division rival Philadelphia Phillies -- who employ his former hitting coach Kevin Long and badly need to make defensive upgrades -- could be a potential suitor.
Martín Pérez, Texas Rangers
At age 31, Pérez appears to be a lock for his first All-Star Game appearance, having posted a 2.10 ERA and 2.62 FIP across 13 starts in 2022. While the Rangers signed Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Jon Gray and Brad Miller this past offseason, bringing back Pérez for a second stint with the team has proved to be their best investment to this point. Texas may well want to work out a long-term deal to keep Pérez, who signed for just $4 million this past offseason. But if the Rangers fall out of the playoff race altogether, Pérez's trade value will never be higher than it is right now.
Cedric Mullins, Baltimore Orioles
It's going to take quite the offer to get the Orioles to part ways with Mullins, and given that he's having a solid season but one that falls short of the MVP-caliber campaign he put up a year ago, teams may not be as inclined to push their chips to the center of the table for him this summer. But Mullins is only 27, has four defensive runs saved in center field and can't become a free agent until after the 2025 season. At a position without much of a middle class, teams are certainly going to try to pry Mullins away from the O's.
Marco Gonzales, Seattle Mariners
A year ago, the Mariners won 90 games despite posting a -51 run differential. High hopes before the 2022 season have dissipated though, as the Mariners have a -19 run differential and a 29-39 record to show for it. President of baseball operations Jerry DiPoto, perhaps to a fault, loves to wheel and deal. Gonzales, 30, could be one name whom he gets quite a few calls on over the next month. Since the start of the 2019 season, Gonzales has a 3.77 ERA in 83 starts. He's also signed to a team-friendly contract, as he's due just $18.5 million over the next two seasons with an affordable $15-million club option for 2025.
Garrett Cooper, Miami Marlins
Something of a late bloomer, the 31-year-old Cooper is having the best season of his career, as he's slashing .312/.382/.454 with a 1.6 fWAR. Cooper is making just $2.5 million in 2022 and has one remaining year of arbitration eligibility in 2023. Cooper can play first base, can be a designated hitter and has experience at both corner outfield positions, so don't be surprised if he's in demand if general manager Kim Ng and the Marlins choose to sell.
Germán Márquez, Colorado Rockies
Given how difficult it is to attract pitching to Coors Field, the Rockies may not be particularly eager to part with Márquez, especially given that his value isn't exactly at an all-time high right now with his 6.16 ERA in 2022. With that said, Márquez is only 27 and has already pitched 170 or more innings in three separate seasons. A year ago, he pitched three complete games, which tied for the MLB lead. His career ERA on the road (3.95) is almost a full run lower than it is at home (4.93). He also has a rather team-friendly contract, as he's due $15 million in 2023 with a $16-million club option for 2024. It's not hard to imagine opposing executives talking themselves into Márquez become one of the game's elite starting pitchers if he gets away from Coors Field.
Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh Pirates
You can almost copy and paste what's written about Mullins above when discussing Reynolds. A year ago, Reynolds finished 11th in National League MVP voting after posting a 6.1 fWAR. This year, he's put up some nice production -- 11 home runs, .774 OPS and a 0.8 fWAR -- but it's a relative let-down when compared to 2021. Like the Orioles, the Pirates are in the midst of a seemingly never-ending rebuild. Could Reynolds be a part of the next great Pirates team? Sure, he's 27 and can't become a free agent until after 2025. At the same time, those qualities -- again, at a position without a ton of needle movers -- also make him such an intriguing trade target.
Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs
It increasingly feels like a matter of when, not if, the Cubs trade free-agent-to-be Willson Contreras, one of the game's top catchers. Hendricks -- one of the last remaining heroes from the 2016 World Series team -- is under contract through 2023 with a vesting option for 2024, so there isn't the same impetus to make a decision on him this summer. But the former National League Cy Young award finalist has really struggled since the start of the 2021 season, posting a 4.95 ERA and 4.97 FIP. Hendricks is 32 and has pitched 175 or more innings on five occasions, including as recently as last season. He could benefit from a change of scenery, one in which he could be injected into a pennant race.
Jesse Winker, Seattle Mariners
Winker recently avoided arbitration by signing a two-year, $14.5-million contract with the Mariners, but as Robert Murray of FanSided said, that doesn't necessarily mean he'll play all of that in Seattle. An All-Star a year ago with the Cincinnati Reds, Winker has disappointed in his first year with the Mariners. Still, he leads the American League with with 42 walks and is a year removed from posting a .949 OPS. And again, DiPoto loves to make trades, so who knows.
Gregory Soto, Detroit Tigers
The Tigers have been one of the most disappointing teams in 2022, as they're currently 26-41 with a -95 run differential after an active offseason. We don't know how much general manager Al Avila is going to be willing to sell, but Soto was an All-Star a year ago and has 13 saves in 15 attempts this season. Whether contenders envision him as a closer or setup man, the 27-year-old Soto can't become a free agent until after the 2025 season, so he'll be of interest if the Tigers are willing to listen.