Let's be upfront: The Aug. 1 trade deadline is almost impossible to predict right now with so many teams in the thick of the playoff race, or at least on the periphery of it with enough time to put together a hot streak and turn a season around. The bad teams don't have much that will interest contenders, and the man who could have made this the trade deadline for all time — Shohei Ohtani — isn't going anywhere.

What could turn it into a wild deadline, however, are the four expected contenders who need to get going in a hurry: the Mets, Padres, Cardinals and Mariners. If those teams continue to fade and look into trading away some players, we'll see a lot more action.

Let's see where things stand and look at some potential possibilities that could make this a deadline to remember. For each team, we'll name one player to trade away, trade for — or, in a few cases, a player to keep despite the temptation to deal him. Our usual rule applies: We can name a player only once and we'll limit our suggestions of relievers, although a bunch of them always get traded. We'll start with the team that the entire deadline could end up revolving around.


St. Louis Cardinals: Trade Paul Goldschmidt

The Cardinals are in last place in the National League Central with a terrible record and will face an offseason task of reconfiguring the rotation with Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty headed into free agency and Adam Wainwright into retirement. So maybe they just blow it all up now, all the way down to trading Goldschmidt, who is a free agent after 2024. On the other hand, they haven't had a losing season since 2007 and the division is so bad that one extended good streak before the trade deadline could get them back in the race.

Realistically though: This team isn't going anywhere in 2023. It's time to think about rebuilding the pitching staff for 2024 and beyond and considering the Cardinals rarely spend big in free agency (Willson Contreras' $87.5 million deal this past offseason is the largest contract they've ever given a player from another team), trading Goldschmidt for some young pitching might be the best way to jumpstart the retooling.


Philadelphia Phillies: Acquire Paul Goldschmidt

OK, so we just traded Goldschmidt. Now we need to find a trade partner. Injuries to Rhys Hoskins and Darick Hall have led to offensive issues at both infield corners for the Phillies. They're 20th in the majors in OPS at first base and 26th at third. Acquire Goldschmidt and they at least can move Alec Bohm, defensive warts and all, back to third. Hoskins is a free agent, so Goldschmidt fills a hole at first for 2024 as well.

The dilemma: Acquiring a player of Goldschmidt's caliber for two playoff races means the Phillies likely have to include one of their top pitching prospects, Andrew Painter (that would be gut-wrenching) or Mick Abel (more likely).