AL West Roundup: Trade Deadline Review and Players to Watch

Each team's newcomers and players to watch in the second half of 2022.

There are roughly two months left in the season but there’s little doubt about which team will finish atop the standings in the AL West. The Houston Astros have a commanding lead and there’s no reason to believe they will implode to the degree it would take for any other team to catch them.

That leaves the remainder of the division fighting with the rest of the AL for a Wild Card spot. Currently, Seattle is in position to make the postseason, but they have the Orioles and whoever finishes second in the AL Central breathing down their necks. For Texas, LA, and Oakland, even a Wild Card spot is likely a bridge too far.

With that in mind, the focus for this roundup will be on individual players and the impact they’re likely to have for their respective teams going forward.

I’ll start with a review of who was brought in or shipped off at the trade deadline (40-man roster only, head elsewhere if you want a prospect breakdown) and point out a few names to keep an eye on for each team — beyond the obvious. Yes, you should watch Justin Verlander, Julio Rodríguez, Marcus Semien and Shohei Ohtani. No, I didn’t write about them.

This latter set of players are the ones who aren’t in the spotlight at this moment but will have particular significance for each team going forward, either as key pieces in a playoff push or as pillars to build around in seasons to come.

AL West Standings as of 8/9/22

 

The Houston Astros

 

Trade Deadline Highlights

 

Players to watch

  • Trey Mancini – first baseman/outfielder – First base was one of the positions that the Astros needed to upgrade, and they did so successfully. Mancini has already hit three homers and driven in seven runs for his new team, while platoon-mate Yuli Gurriel only has a handful of singles in the same time frame. Barring injury or a steep decline in Mancini’s performance over the next month, it looks like the Astros closed up one of the few chinks in their armor. Mancini’s ability to play outfield also provides valuable depth for positions that have underperformed offensively due to injuries to Kyle Tucker and Michael Brantley.

 

 

  • Jeremy Peña – shortstop – Houston’s rookie shortstop shot out the gate with both the bat and his glove at the beginning of the season. Through June, he held a 121 wRC+ with nine home runs and 19 total extra-base hits. Looking at those numbers, it’s easy to forget he was expected to be a defense-first shortstop without a lot of pop. He’s regressed back to those expectations as the summer continues. Since July 1, he holds a wRC+ of 75. He’s also delivered on his defensive promise to the tune of 12 DRS so far in 2022, per Fangraphs. The question is whether he can regain his potency at the plate as the second half continues, and how much it will hurt the Astros’ chances if he can’t.

 

The Seattle Mariners

 

Trade deadline highlights

 

Players to Watch

  • Robbie Ray – starting pitcher – The Mariners’ offense has come in fits and starts all season, so the performance of its starting rotation is crucial to its success. Ray currently holds a 3.96 ERA, 95 ERA+, and 1.18 WHIP. Those are serviceable numbers for the back end of the rotation, but the M’s were surely hoping for more from last season’s AL Cy Young Award winner. The M’s offense is streaky at baseline and also contending with a slew of injuries, so they need stability from their starters. Ray’s performance over the next two months will have a huge impact on the team’s fortunes in the Wild Card chase.

 

  • Mitch Haniger – outfielder – Speaking of the M’s offense, outfielder Mitch Haniger returned to action on August 6th after missing all of May, June, and July to injury. The 31-year old was a major part of Seattle’s offense last season. He finished 2021 with 39 home runs, a 121 OPS+, and a handful of MVP votes. One way for the Mariners to take pressure off of Ray and the rest of the starting rotation is to score runs. Haniger can have a lot to say about that. It remains to be seen how much rust he has to shake off after missing so much time to injury.

 

The Texas Rangers

 

Trade deadline highlights:

  • Added:
  • Traded Away:

 

Players to watch

  • Jon Gray – starting pitcher – The Rangers made three big splashes this offseason for second baseman Marcus Semien, shortstop Corey Seager, and Gray. Pitching has been the Rangers’ consistent weakness over the past five years, so there will be pressure on Gray to develop into their go-to ace as they mature in the seasons to come. This year has been volatile so far, with moments of both brilliance and dismay. Whichever version of Gray shows up in the second half of 2022 may be a portent for the direction the Rangers are headed.

 

  • Jonah Heim – catcher – Heim is breaking out in his second full season in the majors. He played well defensively in 2021 but never got going with his bat. With a month to go in the 2022 season, he’s already surpassed 2021’s home run total while increasing his average and OBP as well — his 120 wRC+ puts him in the top ten of all catchers in the league. A reliable backstop who can handle pitchers while contributing offensively will be crucial to the Rangers’ long-term success. The Rangers found the exact skill set they need in a player who won’t hit free agency until 2027.

 

The Los Angeles Angels

 

Trade Deadline Highlights

Players to watch

Jared Walsh – first baseman – The Angels need to find reliable hitters to complement Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and a plethora of young pitchers who will be making their debuts in the coming seasons. Fletcher brought that much-needed support until he was derailed by injuries this season. The home-grown former All-Star enters arbitration next season and isn’t eligible for free agency until 2026. He holds a meager 87 OPS+ in the 104 games he’s played this year, but if he can return to his previous form it’s one less hole GM Perry Minasian will have to fill through offseason acquisitions.

 

Reid Detmers – starting pitcher – Detmers could be a harbinger of things to come in Los Angeles, for good or ill. Given how committed the organization is to acquiring pitching talent through the draft, they’ll have a hard time justifying spending gobs of cash to improve their bullpen or rotation in the offseason. That means the fate of the organization rests on young arms like Detmers, Patrick Sandoval, and José Suarez. If they thrive in the home stretch, it could be a sign of good things to come in 2023. The opposite is also true.

 

The Oakland Athletics

 

Trade Deadline Highlights

 

Players to watch

Nick Allen – shortstop – The only players from 2022 who are likely to be there still when the A’s are competitive again are rookies. Allen is the A’s fourth-ranked prospect per MLB and made an immediate splash with his defensive plays when he was called up. A lot of prospects are getting looks in Oakland right now, but Allen seems like the one most likely to star in A’s squads of the future.

Paul Blackburn– starting pitcher – With the trade of Montas and Trivino to the Yankees marking the completion of Oakland’s 2022 fire sale, it will be interesting to see which of their arbitration-eligible players they try to leverage for even more prospects in the offseason and which ones they choose to hold onto. Blackburn is an interesting case because this has been a breakout year for him and next year is his first arbitration-eligible season. If he maintains his performance in the second half  the A’s will likely try to sell high on him, but if they keep him aboard it could be a sign they’re trying to hold on to some of their MLB-ready talent and keep their rebuild short.

Artwork by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)

Colin Fong

Colin lived near Cooperstown and collected signatures from Hall of Famers for his Dad's collection every summer as a kid. He thought it was super boring at the time, but thinks it's incredibly cool now. He's an A's fan and loves writing about the beautiful, absurd, infuriating, and inspiring world of baseball.

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