Just as quickly as that, we’re nearly halfway through the 2022 MLB regular season. Barring any postponements between now and then, exactly one-half of all scheduled games will be in the books come next Tuesday.
To some, this is a familiar tune. To others, even the most seasoned fantasy managers, it might come as unexpected. After all, the baseball world touts its “midpoint” as its All-Star Game, which is two whole weeks later. It’s an annual trick of the schedule, and it’s one you shouldn’t let catch you by surprise. Understand that, as of next Tuesday, you have exactly as much time remaining in the season to make up any deficit your team has built up until that point.
This timing might seem inconsequential, but it’s not. Certainly many fantasy managers might be in more of a trading frame of mind during the All-Star break, when they enjoy three days’ “rest,” but the best ones are always thinking about roster improvements, and staying ahead of the game while the competition for trades isn’t as great. There’s no better time than today to get a head start on trades to help your stretch run.
To help you on your way, listed below are three players I’d trade for right now, as well as three I’d trade away anywhere I could.
Trade for these guys right now
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Tyler Mahle, SP, Cincinnati Reds: I’ve been critical of him over the past year, following Major League Baseball’s reinforcement of the rules on “sticky stuff,” but I’m becoming a bigger believer by the day as he adapts nicely to the current guidelines. Mahle was overpriced as his position’s No. 28 selection overall in the preseason, but he’s a better pitcher than his current No. 54 standing among pure starting pitchers in fantasy points indicates. He added a cutter to his pitch selection last year, helping with the rules transition, and now has four different pitches (four-seam fastball, splitter, slider and cutter) that he has thrown at least 10% of the time while generating misses on at least 22% of swings apiece, a rarity among pitchers. Mahle is also one of the more likely pitchers to be on the trade market over the next month, with such a move potentially huge, considering he has a career ERA more than 1⅓ runs higher at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park (5.10) than on the road (3.74), not to mention a somewhat fly ball-oriented game that doesn’t fit the venue that well. On a different team, he’d probably experience a sizable boost in both win and ERA potential, which isn’t common among midseason pitchers traded.
Corey Seager, SS, Texas Rangers: I defend him constantly, and perhaps should accept that he’s one of those good-not-great players, but at the same time, Seager’s contact-quality metrics remain excellent, and he hasn’t really gotten an extended, injury-free period of time to get comfortable in a singular situation in a half-decade. Now that he has nearly a half-season to adapt to American League pitching, he could be primed for a huge second half. Seager has had huge finishes to seasons before, batting .335/.419/.600 with 12 homers in the final two months of 2021, .328/.425/.746 with eight homers in a stunning 2020 postseason and .293/.321/.599 with 10 homers over the final seven weeks of 2019. Just look at the guy’s Statcast page, where all of his percentile rankings are bright red — exactly the color you want them to be. He’s the MVP-caliber talent who just hasn’t yet shown it over a full 162 games.
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, New York Yankees: Sure, he has one of baseball’s most renowned reputations for being injury prone, and he’s now 32 years of age, when a return to his 2017 MVP levels shouldn’t reasonably be expected. Still, Stanton continues to deliver some of the best contact-quality metrics of anyone in the game, showing no erosion of those skills, and he has appeared in 84% (200 of 237) Yankees regular-season games between this and last season. Perhaps most notably, too, he has been one of the most unlucky hitters in baseball when he puts the ball into play, as Statcast has him with the fourth-largest expected wOBA/actual wOBA differential (68 points, .427 versus .359) and ninth-largest expected batting average/actual BA differential (49 points, .292 versus .243). Stanton is notoriously streaky and hasn’t had an extended hot spell other than a 21-gamer in late April/early May, and he seems to have recaptured his home run stroke over the past week. If his manager is worried about an inevitable injured list stint, he’d be a good guy to acquire at a discount.
After a dominant June, Emmanuel Clase is one of fantasy’s best closers
With his major league-leading 11th save of the month on Tuesday, Emmanuel Clase has established himself as one of the best in his position. Video by Tristan H. Cockcroft
Time to trade these guys away
Daniel Bard, RP, Colorado Rockies: He’s the comeback kid, having won that award for his solid 2020 season, and having now followed up a disastrous 2021 with a campaign that has him the No. 9 true relief pitcher in terms of fantasy points scored. Bard’s rebound has been astounding, not to mention entirely legitimate, as he has dialed his sinker up to nearly 98 mph on average and is getting misses on 35% of his swings on his slider. The problem, however, is that he’s still a Rockies pitcher, subject to the summertime whims of Coors Field, and he has shown neither month-over-month consistency before 2022 nor the durability required to hold up for six full regular-season months, or at least he hasn’t in 11 years. Bard lacks elite control, a problem for a Rockies pitcher, and his last-place team is likely to be sellers in the next month, meaning there’ll be some pretty rough patches in which saves chances will be scarce.
Willson Contreras, C, Chicago Cubs: He’s one of his position’s best, but he’s a player I think won’t be helped as much as perceived should he be traded in advance of the Aug. 2 deadline. Contreras’ strength this year is playing time — he’s on pace for a position-leading 611 plate appearances — but the twofold problem with that is that any team trading for him surely has designs on his taking over as its starting catcher, not to mention the elevated pace puts him at risk of fatigue in the season’s waning weeks. Consider that in the three most recent full-length seasons (2018, ’19, ’21), Contreras’ wOBA was 33 points lower from July 1 forward (.321) than before it (.354), so he already has a history of second-half performance decline. This is no signal to just give the guy away — a premium catcher needs to fetch a premium in trade — but he’s a luxury you might be able to replace on the cheap, while bringing back a critical piece at another position for your championship quest.
MacKenzie Gore, SP, San Diego Padres: He’s one of the most promising young pitchers from the 2022 rookie class, but his current-year value ranks among the most volatile of anyone within that group. Due to a combination of the pandemic, injuries and ineffectiveness over the previous two seasons, Gore has never exceeded 101 innings in a single one of his six professional campaigns, but he is pacing for 126-plus. The Padres recognize this, most recently pushing his next start back by two days to build in extra rest and manage his workload, and they’re almost certain to do it multiple times during the season’s second half, too. Worse yet, Gore’s average fastball velocity tumbled in his past two outings, averaging under 94 mph for the first time this season, a signal that fatigue might be beginning to settle in. This feels so much like Chris Paddack‘s 2019 rookie campaign, when his second-half ERA was more than a full run higher (4.01) than during the first half (2.84), and you should prepare accordingly.
This content was originally published here.