MLB trade watch: 5 All-Star hitters who could be dealt this summer

Buyers and sellers are beginning to take shape with just over eight weeks until Major League Baseball's July 30 trade deadline. Teams that began the year with low expectations and performed like it (looking at you, Marlins) are clear-cut sellers. While teams that are annual buyers or holders (like the Astros) are feeling the pressure to jostle their way to the top before time runs out.

Understanding that the landscape can always flip-flop in the summer months, let's explore a handful of top trade candidates at this quarter-mark juncture of the season.

1. Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros

A Houston Astro on a trade candidate list at the end of May? What is this, 2014? Now that we're past the shock of Houston's underwhelming start, Bregman, 30 years old and in his final year of team control, is expected to be dealt if the Astros are in fact sellers in a couple of months. The two-time champion and two-time All-Star could be a difference-maker for a number of contenders, particularly with his slow start seemingly behind him. The third baseman was mired in an abysmal slump, slashing .189/.268/.252 in his first 33 games of the season. While it's true that slugging numbers are down across the league, Bregman only hit one home in that hard-to-watch stretch. 

Finally, in his 34th game of the season, Bregman recorded two hits for the first time and has since appeared to turn things around. He posted a .333 average with a 1.036 OPS over his next 11 games, while Houston went 9-2. It's no coincidence that the Astros started winning after Bregman got hot, and it was the kind of run opposing teams expected from them. Now, they're within striking range of not only .500 but the AL West lead. 

So, a lot can change in another month, and no one will be stunned if Houston is leading the division by then. There are six teams ahead of the Astros for the final wild-card spot, however. Expectations are one thing, but the reality is, 2024 is still not looking pretty in Houston, and Bregman could be one of the first to be dealt off the club.

2. Nolan Arenado, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals

Even though Arenado has three years and $74 million remaining on his contract, this trade is not as foolish as one might think. Arenado is a gamer, a grinder and a winner first. But right now, he's stuck on a Cardinals team that has underperformed for over a year, and appears to be going nowhere. 

While Paul Goldschmidt is likely the more available trade candidate in St. Louis, given he's playing in his contract year, it's hard to believe any contender would give up top prospects for his declining bat. Goldschmidt, two years removed from winning the MVP, currently sports a 75 OPS+ amid the worst stretch of his career. Perhaps a change of scenery would help, but there are simply better options for rival executives to acquire — those who are actually hitting right now.

When players get to be around Arenado's age (33) and understand that their best years are behind them, it becomes more of a concern for stars, in particular, to prioritize winning a championship and start earnestly chasing that ring before retirement comes crashing in. Despite how decorated the back of Arenado's baseball card is, he still has yet to appear in a championship series, let alone play in a World Series. He's in charge of his own destiny with a full no-trade clause and can choose any contender willing to take him. For a superstar who just wants to win, my hunch is a shrewd executive will bite. 

3. J.D. Martinez, DH, New York Mets

Trading for Martinez makes too much sense if the Mets (21-26) can't crawl up to .500 before July. He's playing on a one-year deal and has been the most consistent and productive player on the Mets, and that's despite all the adversity he faced to begin the season after signing with the club in the last week of spring training. While he ramped up, he dealt with back pain that delayed his season debut. But he hit the ground running as soon as he was slotted into the lineup, batting .312 with an .821 OPS through 22 games. Plus, dealing Martinez wouldn't provoke the Mets fan base.

Right, so what about the Polar Bear? I just don't see David Stearns potentially ostracizing himself by trading Pete Alonso less than one full season into his tenure as Mets president of baseball operations. Sure, rival executives are champing at the bit to acquire a slugger who is essentially a lock for 40-plus home runs per season. But Alonso means more to the Mets franchise than those execs might think. He is, in many ways, the face of the team, and that's no small thing in big-market New York City. The ideal scenario for the Mets — and their weary fan base that would be energized by Alonso slugging and staying in Queens this summer — would be re-signing him in free agency. 

Alonso, at 30, is unlikely to get the deal he wants — even if he picks up his numbers this season — due to the trend of first baseman contracts and his older age. In looking at the market, I'm of the mind that Alonso will remain with the Mets through the deadline. 

4. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, Toronto Blue Jays

Sure, Guerrero has spent his entire career with the Blue Jays, but, besides providing assists with his personal accolades, he hasn't taken them very far. Toronto has only gone as far as the wild-card game since Guerrero debuted for the club in 2019, and he's disappointed in his six playoff games. There was a time when he was tabbed as the franchise's future cornerstone, but his legacy in Toronto hasn't come together like most expected it would. What's concerning is that, despite FanGraphs projecting a monster year for Guerrero in 2024, he's once again falling below those expectations. It's time to get out of Dodge. 

Guerrero, out of any star on this list, is the player who would benefit from a change of scenery the most. He has one more year left on his contract before he hits free agency, and much like the Juan Soto trade from the Padres to the Yankees, a contending club can make the most of the opportunity to get a first-hand look at the 25-year-old first baseman before he hits the open market. That club can also look under the hood and try to figure out what's been holding him back from producing like he did in his 2021 MVP-caliber season. 

This certainly wouldn't be an easy decision for the big-market Blue Jays. But, they're stuck in an aggressively competitive AL East, playing sub-.500 ball and dropping to last place. As we inch closer to the trade deadline, trading Guerrero would be the astute decision, and a bold demonstration that the Jays are willing to move on. A relocation could also light a new fire in Guerrero, which is an added bonus for the club that acquires him.

5. Jazz Chisholm, CF, Miami Marlins

After Luis Arráez was dealt just 33 games into the Marlins' season, the next-most obvious choice to hightail out of Miami is Chisholm, who has an interesting case. The 26-year-old second baseman-turned-shortstop-turned-center fielder would be a bargain for any contender, not just because he's young, speedy, athletic and Miami's best hitter, but also because he would be easy on the pocketbook for a while. Chisholm is earning just $2.6 million this year, with two more years of arbitration before he hits free agency. Now is exactly the time to go for Chisholm without having to give up too much more than what the Padres did (a couple of top-10 prospects) for Arráez. 

Moreover, Chisholm has always seemed like he could benefit from some specialized coaching. He started taking himself seriously this offseason, ditching his McDonald's orders and working hard to improve his durability. We have already seen, throughout his career, that he's willing to adjust to whatever the team needs. Just last year, after the Marlins traded for Arráez, Chisholm moved off shortstop, partly because of his lack of premium defense at the position, and excelled in center field. His defensive metrics are down this year, but who could blame him with the Marlins broadcasting to the league that they gave up on their season before Memorial Day? 

What Chisholm needs to do between now and the trade deadline is stay healthy. Injuries caused him to miss significant time last year. But when he was on the field, he produced (19 home runs and 22 stolen bases in 97 games), all while adjusting to a new position. Calling Chisholm self-confident would be an understatement. Remember, this is the same guy who declared he'd win the MVP award if he could avoid the injured list. And with the right, contending team, the sky has always seemed like the limit for the Bahamas native with a flair for the dramatic.

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.

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