While the 2023 MLB trade deadline date has not been officially confirmed, it currently looks like it will revert back to July 31, after last season saw the date moved back a few days to August 2.
Last summer’s deadline was full of big moves, including Luis Castillo getting traded to the Seattle Mariners, Juan Soto to the Padres, and Frankie Montas to the Yankees, turning out to be one of the most exciting deadlines in recent memory.
Looking ahead to the 2023 season, there are a few players who could find themselves dealt by the trade deadline, whether it is because they are in the final year of their contract or they play for a small-market team looking to capitalize before their salary heads out of the team’s price range.
While this is relatively early, given the season isn’t even a day old, let’s take a look at five players who could be dealt by the trade deadline in 2023.
Shohei Ohtani, DH/SP – Los Angeles Angels
It’s not every day that one of the best players in the game is on the trade radar, but given his contract situation, two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani is one player that could be moved at the trade deadline this season.
In his contract year with the Angels and with no extension currently on the horizon, Ohtani is poised to ink one of the largest free agent contracts in MLB history this offseason should he reach free agency.
Through five seasons with Los Angeles, Ohtani owns a .267/.354/.532 slash line with 127 home runs and a .886 OPS at the plate while also crafting a 2.96 ERA through 63 starts, routinely hitting the upper 90s with his fastball. The Japanese product has already earned a Silver Slugger Award, the Rookie of the Year Award, and the AL MVP (2021) and is one of the top players in the game, putting up 24.8 bWAR since his rookie campaign back in 2018.
While Angels owner Arte Moreno is no longer selling the club, Ohtani looks to be heading to free agency this winter. If the Angels are not contending around the deadline, it wouldn’t be surprising if the front office looked to trade Ohtani before potentially losing him for practically nothing in the offseason.
Even with Ohtani hitting the open market this winter, the potential trade haul for the two-way star could be huge for Los Angeles and could rival what the Nationals received in the Soto transaction last year. There should be a long list of suitors willing to pony up prospects to not only acquire the superstar but also gain leverage in early negotiation talks for a contract extension once the season is over.
Regardless of whether he stays in Los Angeles or not, one thing is for certain – Ohtani is going to get paid.
Corbin Burnes, SP – Milwaukee Brewers
Every year we hear of arbitration horrors between club and player, and this offseason, the Brewers and Corbin Burnes take the title.
After losing his hearing, the Brewers ace will be making $10.01 million instead of the $10.75 million he filed, noting to the media, “You think you work hard for seven years in the organization, and five years with the big league team, and you get in there and basically they value you much different than what you thought you’d contributed to the organization.”
With a relationship fractured and the Brewers’ payroll floating around the $100 million mark over the past couple of seasons, moving the former NL Cy Young winner – who racked up 243 strikeouts through 33 starts last season – with two more seasons of team control could net quite a return for Milwaukee.
While the front office doesn’t have to move Burnes this season, if the Brewers aren’t contending come the trade deadline, it wouldn’t be absurd to think that moving him could benefit both the player and the organization.
That being said, the predictions for the Brewers this season have them flirting with a playoff spot if the stars align, so moving Burnes only makes sense if they are really far out of the postseason race come July and if a team is willing to overpay given his additional year before free agency compared to other potential starting pitcher trade candidates. Burnes recently hired Scott Boras as well, which is usually an indication that he will be heading to free agency when eligible.
Bryan Reynolds, OF – Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates and outfielder Bryan Reynolds are at a bit of a standstill – the Pirates want to keep the former second-round pick for the long term, while Reynolds requested a trade earlier this offseason after a reported extension offer from the franchise did not meet his expectations.
His stance may have changed since spring training, with the outfielder still open to a long-term deal, and the Pirates have entertained (and rejected) trade offers from rival teams over the past year. The price tag is high, given Reynolds isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2025 season. The switch hitter has put up stellar hitting numbers over his career, to the tune of a .281/.361/.481 slash line with 74 home runs and a .842 OPS, although his fielding took a dip last season with the Vanderbilt alum amassing -14 DRS and sitting in the sixth percentile in Outs Above Average.
Even with the defensive setback in 2022, there is still lots to like about Reynolds, and if the Pirates are out of the playoff race by July like many are expecting, a team looking to bolster their outfield with prospects to deal could find a trade partner in Pittsburgh. The right deal could also add reliever David Bednar in the mix, but again, a prospective trade partner will need to empty the prospect tank to get a deal done.
On the flip side, the Pirates are also still trying to extend Reynolds and have set Opening Day as the date to get things done and won’t discuss the topic during the season. Anything can happen over the next few days.
Martín Pérez, SP –Texas Rangers
A ten-year veteran heading into the 2022 season, left-hander Martín Pérez put forward his best campaign last year with the Texas Rangers, pitching to a 2.89 ERA through 32 starts and 196.1 innings with a 1.258 WHIP. After he signed a one-year deal to join the Rangers prior to last season, Texas presented him with a qualifying offer, and the Venezuelan product accepted the deal. Pérez is set to make $19.65 million for the 2023 season.
Whether Pérez will be able to replicate his performance from last season is still up in the air, but considering the Rangers are in a tough AL West division with the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners, it wouldn’t be all too surprising if the front office decides to move the southpaw at the trade deadline to make way for other internal options like Dane Dunning, Owen White, or Jack Leiter with the future in mind.
A lot of pieces have to align for this to happen, with the most important being that the Rangers are already way out of the playoff conversation, but moving a pending free agent in Pérez could net a healthy return to help the team in other areas if he maintains his form this season. Pérez is no stranger to the rumor mill either, as many were surprised that Texas did not move him at last year’s trade deadline, opting to hold onto him and present him with the qualifying offer instead.
Joc Pederson, OF – San Francisco Giants
Similar to Pérez, San Francisco Giants outfielder Joc Pederson signed a one-year deal with the Giants prior to the 2022 season and cashed in, with the former Dodgers outfielder posting a .874 OPS through 134 games, adding 23 home runs and 70 RBIs on his way to an All-Star selection. Pederson was presented with the qualifying offer this offseason and will rejoin the Giants on the one-year, $19.65 million contract for the upcoming campaign.
The Giants are in a tough NL West division dominated by the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, which will make the playoff race challenging this season, although the team has a solid mix of veteran and younger players. The Giants also possess a strong outfield grouping in Pederson, Mitch Haniger, Michael Conforto, Austin Slater, Mike Yastrzemski, Luis González, and Bryce Johnson (non-roster invitee), so the front office has some depth to play with if they want to shore up other areas on the roster. (Haniger and Slater will start the year on the IL for a couple of weeks).
Pederson may become expendable later in the year, as he is the only player of this outfield core who is eligible for free agency next offseason, although Conforto does have a player option available, which could throw a wrinkle into that plan.
Considering the Giants are projected to finish around the .500 mark and outside the playoff picture, moving an outfielder could be beneficial for improving other areas on the roster. Pederson is a potential fit for a trade if he can build upon his 2022 season, and the Giants won’t want to risk losing him with no return. He was not traded at last year’s trade deadline; we shall see if that changes this year.