Yes, it’s pretty early in the 162-game year. It’s only early June in what feels like a marathon of a year, and momentum swings can happen that you would never expect post All-Star Break. The 2019 Washington Nationals were 19-31 to start the year when they won the World Series!
However, there are some teams that albeit do have some talent on the roster with little light at the end of the tunnel given their two month start of the year. It looks bleak, and the year would be much more fun with their individual pieces given to teams that need to contend NOW as they can reset with some prospects in return. Here are the franchises with some talented players that would make the rest of the year much more intriguing should they decide to become sellers.
The Cubs took a half-measure this offseason- they sold off pretty much the entirety of their 2016 World Series core to rebuild, but also spent money on players like Marcus Stroman and Seiya Suzuki just in case those prospects around them ended up pulling off some house-money winning ways in a fairly weak division.
Well, it already sort of feels like some more rebuilding is needed in Wrigleyville.
The Brewers and Cardinals have been absolutely dominant in their division- both having top 5 records in the National League, and even the lowly Pirates have a better record than the Cubs. They’re 22-30 and have a stretch later this month at the Yankees and then home for the Padres and Braves. It may be time to look in the mirror barring a miraculous comeback.
There are some Cubs players that would be so valuable on other rosters that are performing despite their losing ways thus far- catcher Willson Contreras is a rarity in the league because he’s an offensive masher at the catcher position with a .278 batting average and 9 homers, and outfielder Ian Happ had himself a heater of a May and despite being on a very cheap contract leads the team in hits and gets on base roughly 37% of the time. Starting pitching depth is always needed, and although Kyle Hendricks has had a rough start to the year, he’s a veteran who pitched lights out during their World Series run and is as cool, calm, and collected as it gets.
Sorry, Chicago. It would be fun if you sold.
The Nationals went into full-rebuild mode last year when they dumped Max Scherzer and Trea Turner for prospects, and Stephen Strasburg probably isn’t coming back from his surgery that sidelined him all of 2021 any time soon. That doesn’t bode well with their 18-35 record in an NL East with the Mets and World Series Champion Braves as the worst team in the NL.
Obviously, a Juan Soto trade would absolutely shock the world and require one of the biggest hauls of all-time, him being a 23 year-old next coming of Ted Williams, but to maximize on their return they will probably wait until the offseason to deal him if no agreement is reached. That would still leave the Nats with a seemingly-immortal slugging Nelson Cruz at age 41 to come in for a contender as a hired assassin to hit some clutch DH homers, or potentially Josh Bell, the first baseman on a cheap deal who happens to be batting .309. Those two could be crucial to a winning roster come October.
The Orioles have sort of been the poster child of baseball for the past several years of tanking and rebuilding only to never get it right. While they called up the top prospect catcher Adley Rutschman and have had a pretty fun season thus far, getting some walk-off, thrilling wins against relatively talented teams like the Rays, they ultimately are still 22-31 in the most-difficult division in the AL. Their talent is developing nicely with Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, and Anthony Santander all having nice years at ages 26 and 27, but they have such little pitching depth to capitalize on that core that they might need to deal some of that talent or veteran outfielder and face of the franchise, Trey Mancini, in order to fill out the roster and fill out the team with a timeline more similar to Adley. Those are talented outfielders that can hit on cheap deals right before hitting their prime that could be of a massive help and provide the Orioles with a huge return.
This one should go as no surprise here given that the team never really fell off the wagon- they weren’t ever on it in the first place. The Reds, who were only several games back of being a wild card team last year, gutted essentially the entirety of their roster to tank and rebuild in the most shameless way possible: with the owner of the team getting on national television and responding with, “well, if you quit on the team, where will you go?”
What an absolute “rich sleazeball villain in a movie” way to go about your business.
The tanking approach WAS in full force to start the year: the Reds were 3-22 to start the year and on pace for 125 losses at one point. However, they’ve since leveled out and went on a bit of a winning stretch and now sit at 18-33. This is precisely what the Reds ownership wants: lose a lot of games, but have pieces that are performing that would be valuable assets on rosters to get a big return. It is the reverse approach of being led to the slaughterhouse: if the players perform well, they get shipped off to a much more competent, winning, ideal organization!
Luis Castillo is a prized starting pitcher that recently tossed a 1-hit, 6 inning, 10 strikeout game that massively improved his trade value. Joey Votto, the veteran face of the franchise and potentially a future Hall of Famer, would love to be a lifelong Red, but it would be fantastic to see him get another shot at finally getting a World Series ring. He’s struggled at the plate this year, but could be the leader a team needs in the locker room. And hey, wouldn’t it be fun to see the new villain of the league, Tommy Pham (who happens to be slugging the ball well), fresh off of slapping Joc Pederson in the face over a fantasy football dispute, playing relevant games in October for a team as a heel?
Boston Red Sox
Yes, this is a team that was merely several wins away from reaching the World Series last year in an unlikely run. They also went out and spent $140 million on a 6-year deal for Trevor Story believing he was a bat that would put them over the top. The expectation in Boston, one of the most historically-winning sports cities on the planet, is a title.
Enter the year 2022: the Sox got off to a very slow start at 14-22. Trevor Story, while learning a new position at second base after being paired next to All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts, struggled at the plate MIGHTILY, and they remain in a division where the Yankees have the best record in MLB, the Rays continue to be the Rays, and the young Blue Jays are finally starting to get their mojo together.
They did rebound a bit after that horrid start, and Story suddenly became one of the hottest slugging hitters in the league, but did they dig themselves in too far of a hole? The Red Sox are approaching the time where they’ll need to pay Rafael Devers and JD Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts is an underpaid, embarrassment of riches player at this point; he has an opt-out option approaching, and they reportedly offered him a one-year extension this spring that was seen by Xander, a Scott Boras client, and his team, as disrespectful.
While frugal and not wanting to dip into the luxury tax, the Red Sox have been a smart organization over the years- this is a team that still found a way to make the ALCS last year just one season removed from trading away an MVP in Mookie Betts. They’re not afraid to reset and reload. Should the wheels fall off and they’re unable to get a miracle run in the works, the MLB trade market would be incredibly fascinating with potentially Bogaerts, Martinez, or Kike Hernandez available to hungry contenders.