Cubs’ Willson Contreras leads the list of MLB trade candidates who, surprisingly, went nowhere

The 2022 MLB trade deadline came and went on Tuesday, and the occasion was of course notable for the number of headline-grabbing trades that went down — meaning, mostly, the whopper that landed Juan Soto in San Diego. Now, though, let’s take a moment to pay tribute to the players who were not: traded.

The trade deadline is as much about trade speculation and rumors as it is about actual transactions, and a number of rumors always go unfulfilled. In recent years, this phenomenon has been heightened by front offices that seem to prefer to do as little as possible and seem to enjoy occupying the cozy space between contention and irrelevance. Maybe that was at work this year in some quarters, or maybe a divide between what teams want and what teams can get is to blame. Whatever the underlying reasons, here’s a quick rundown of the names we expected to see dealt prior to the deadline but ultimately were not.

Contreras, 30, is enjoying perhaps the best season of his career, which is why it’s surprising he’s still on the non-contending Cubs. In 86 games for the Cubs in 2022, he’s batted .252/.365/.453 (129 OPS+) with 14 home runs and 20 doubles. Earlier this season, he made his third All-Star appearance. For his career, Contreras owns an OPS+ of 114 across parts of seven major-league seasons, all with the Cubs. Contreras’ production at the plate is even more impressive when compared to his positional peers. For his career, Contreras has a slash line of .258/.351/.457, while the average MLB catcher over that same span has a line of .236/.307/.392.

Contreras is owed the balance of a $9.63 million salary for 2022, and he is slated for free agency this winter. He would have been a rental acquisition in the absence of an extension. Now, though, the Cubs can either work out an extension or tender him a qualifying offer this offseason and perhaps get a compensatory draft pick when he signs elsewhere.

Contreras would have been a good fit for the New York Mets, but alas and alack and all that.

Happ, who soon turns 28, boasts positional flexibility, and he’s got a career OPS+ of 113 going for him. He’s even better than that this season, his first All-Star campaign. Happ isn’t eligible for free agency until after next season, so he’s a candidate for a winter trade or perhaps an extension in Chicago.

We’ll package these two together since it’s understandable why the Giants, 4 1/2 games out of the final playoff position in the NL, might have opted for the status quo. Rodón is putting together his second straight impressive season, and given the usual demand for starting pitchers he no doubt drummed up trade interest. Teams, however, might have balked at the fact that Rodón has an opt-out in his contract or a $22.5 million salary for 2023. As for Pederson, his left-handed pop on a modest one-year contract would’ve been a fit for a number of contenders. The Giants, though, are largely keeping the band together.

Murphy is a skilled defensive catcher who puts up strong offensive numbers for his position. He’s also under team control through 2025. Given that the A’s have traded everything not nailed down except for Murphy, his continued presence in Oakland is a bit surprising. Teams are sometimes reluctant to switch catchers mid-stream, so perhaps the A’s think they can get more for Murphy over the offseason. Or maybe they see him as a long-term fit. Given that the A’s energies appear to be devoted entirely to extracting tax dollars for a new ballpark, maybe they just forgot.

Boston’s deadline maneuverings was not exactly coherent, as it operated as neither a traditional buyer nor seller. The team did make multiple trades of note, and, in that sense, it’s not surprising that Martinez will still call Fenway Park home. That said, there was plenty of smoke around a possible Martinez swap, and GM Chaim Bloom seems to operate with an affection for the ultimately pointless when it comes to trades.

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