MLB executives are about to turn the fantasy baseball world upside down.
It happens every year at the end of July, with a flurry of deals across the Majors that dramatically change the outlook for many players and impact the final standings in all fantasy leagues. The best fantasy managers will get ahead of the most likely trades by altering their values of impacted players right now.
Meanwhile, others will take a reactionary approach and will always be one step behind on the waiver wire and trade market. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the potential fantasy fallout from the players who are most likely to be traded in real life.
Luis Castillo (SP, Cincinnati Reds)
Under team control for 2023, Castillo could be traded at the deadline or in the offseason. He missed all of April and has been very consistent since returning to the rotation en route to posting a 2.92 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Pitching for a team with a more forgiving home park and a more productive lineup would make Castillo more valuable down the stretch.
Tyler Mahle (SP, Cincinnati Reds)
Mahle is in the same contract situation as his teammate Castillo. The right-hander has been disappointing overall this year (4.48 ERA, 1.30 WHIP), but there have been some bright spots, including a 9.9 K/9 rate and a 3.83 ERA when working away from his hitter-friendly home park. He is also on the IL right now but is expected to return right after the All-Star break.
Wise fantasy managers could make a buy-low offer on Mahle right now, hoping that new surroundings and his strong ERA indicators (3.21 xERA, 3.54 FIP) combine to make him a stretch-run star.
Frankie Montas (SP, Oakland A’s)
Montas is sidelined with a shoulder injury but is expected to return to action prior to the trade deadline. The right-hander has just three wins to show for some terrific efforts this year (3.26 ERA, 1.09 WHIP), which makes sense when factoring in the A's abysmal lineup.
In a best-case scenario, Montas continues to pitch this well for a contender down the stretch and wins games at a greater rate. But given Montas’ current shoulder injury, he should come at a discount on the fantasy trade market.
Martin Perez (SP, Texas Rangers)
One of the best stories of the 2022 season, Perez is sitting on a 7-2 record with a 2.72 ERA that is nearly two full runs below his career mark. His K-BB ratio is a career-best mark and his ground-ball rate is the highest it has been in several years, which gives some explanation to this unusual age-31 breakout season, but there are also signs that the wheels are coming off (4.64 ERA since June 1). Given the uncertainty of how Perez will fare down the stretch for Texas or a new team, I believe he is a prime candidate to be traded away in fantasy leagues right now.
Willson Contreras (C, Chicago Cubs)
Contreras has been the No. 1 fantasy catcher this year and is likely to be traded by the deadline. I’m not convinced that he will be more valuable on a contending team, as he might hit lower in the lineup (the Cubs usually place him second or third), and he has been terrific at Wrigley Field this year. Still, most Contreras managers will stick by his side, given the dearth of options at his position.
Josh Bell (1B, Washington Nationals)
Bell is having his best season since 2019 and is on pace to post the second-best totals of his seven-year career in most fantasy categories. Heading into free agency and having significantly cut his strikeout rate, the first baseman should be appealing to many contending teams. On paper, he should be more valuable on a winning team, but Bell has been so good thus far that it is hard to imagine him improving down the stretch.
Andrew Benintendi (OF, Kansas City Royals)
Benintendi has benefited from a .365 BABIP en route to posting a .317 average, but he has just three homers, two steals and ordinary totals of runs and RBIs. The pending free agent is a prominent trade candidate but is unlikely to have a significant production uptick on a different team. The big winner of a Benintendi trade could be Edward Olivares, who is receiving inconsistent opportunities at the moment but would be an exciting power-speed option if in possession of a full-time role.
Brandon Drury (2B/3B/OF, Cincinnati Reds)
One of the biggest surprises in real and fantasy baseball this season, Drury is having a career year at age 29 after signing a Minor League deal with the Reds last winter. The utilityman is likely to be traded and will lose plenty of value if his new team does not use him in a full-time capacity. Fantasy managers can explore trading him away now, with a fallback plan to wait and cross their fingers on his deadline destination if the interest around their league is minimal.
David Robertson (RP, Chicago Cubs)
Signed to a one-year deal, Robertson will likely be on the move after providing the Cubs with an effective closer (2.10 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) for a little over half of the season. The 37-year-old is highly unlikely to get ninth-inning opportunities on a contending team, which means that he will fall to the waiver wire in many leagues by early August.
David Bednar (RP, Pittsburgh Pirates)
Bednar has been an excellent closer this year, posting stellar ratios and a 55:12 K:BB ratio across 41 innings. Under team control until the end of the 2026 season, the right-hander could get the Pirates a significant return on the trade market. Bednar’s fantasy value would likely plummet on a contending team, but I believe that fantasy managers should avoid selling low on him and hope that the Pirates hold onto him until the winter.
Jorge Lopez (RP, Baltimore Orioles)
Lopez has been one of this season’s biggest breakout performers, and the Orioles may decide to jettison him for some prospects before he crashes back to earth. Being traded to a contender would likely ruin the 29-year-old’s run as a closer and push him to waivers in fantasy leagues.
This may also be the time to stash Felix Bautista, who is having a fine rookie season and could take over as Baltimore’s closer.