Is it too early to be thinking about Major League Baseball's 2022 trade deadline? Why, yes it is. And also sort of presumptuous, given that the league isn't yet out of its work stoppage.
But hey, sometimes you gotta speculate on stars who might be traded in half a year.
There are eight who we think could hit the block later rather than sooner, either because their value figures to inflate or their teams figure to fall out of the 2022 playoff race—or some combination of the above.
Please note this is not a list of candidates to be traded before Opening Day on March 31. Don't expect to see anything about the Matt Olsons and Craig Kimbrels of the world.
As for the eight players who are on this list, let's go through them in alphabetical order.
1B Josh Bell, Washington Nationals
2021 Stats: 144 G, 568 PA, 27 HR, 0 SB, .261 AVG, .347 OBP, .476 SLG, 124 OPS+, 3.1 rWAR
If you're thinking Josh Bell is a trade candidate right now, you're not wrong.
Yet there is a complication if the Washington Nationals desire to trade Bell in the near future. It's Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olson, who's by far the top first baseman on the trade market.
The Nats might not get a suitable offer for Bell even after Olson moves, much less while he's out there. In that case, the best thing they could do is hold on to the 29-year-old and hope his value appreciates during the season.
As is, Bell has value as a capable power hitter at the cold corner. Yet he's been known to get hot and look more like a superstar. He certainly did so in the first half of 2019. Albeit a lesser one, he found another stride as he posted a .381 OBP and hit 15 homers in the second half of 2021.
If Bell does the Nationals the kindness of a hot first half in 2022, any number of teams might be willing to pay a hefty price to rent him before free agency calls his number after the season.
RHP Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds
2021 Stats: 33 G, 33 GS, 187.2 IP, 181 H (19 HR), 192 K, 75 BB, 3.98 ERA, 120 ERA+, 4.7 rWAR
In the last couple of years, it's often felt like Luis Castillo was as much a walking trade rumor as one of the most successful pitchers in the National League.
So it has gone this winter, but perhaps in the face of what the Cincinnati Reds intend. As ESPN's Buster Olney reported in November, the Reds are less open to moving Castillo than they are fellow ace Sonny Gray, who's owed more money in 2022.
Plus, there is a potential benefit in holding on to Castillo. His value is good now, but it stands to get better if he can pick up where he left off. After struggling out of the gate in 2021, he recovered to pitch to a 2.73 ERA over his last 22 starts.
That's a legit No. 1 starter, and this one would come with club control through 2023.
Because such a player is a hugely valuable trade chip, the question is whether the Reds will be in a position to sell. Given that they won only 83 games last year and have lost talent over the winter, that seems likely.
3B Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics
2021 Stats: 151 G, 622 PA, 27 HR, 3 SB, .210 AVG, .314 OBP, .403 SLG, 100 OPS+, 3.5 rWAR
Courtesy of Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and others, the word is out that the A's want to cut costs and are willing to trade just about anyone.
That includes slugging first baseman Matt Olson, as well as pitchers Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas. It could also mean slick-fielding, power-hitting third baseman Matt Chapman, but the A's could benefit from holding on to him for a while longer.