Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Marlon Byrd, and Moving the Trade Deadline
Originally posted at isportstimes.com on August 2, 2013
The MLB trade deadline passed this past Wednesday with (supposedly) little fanfare; the biggest names on the move being oft-injured starter Jake Peavy going from the Chicago White Sox to Boston, all-glove no-hit shortstop Jose Iglesias going from Boston to Detroit, and struggling starter Ian Kennedy moving within the NL West from Arizona to San Diego (a nice under-the-radar move for the Padres). The perceived lack of action at the deadline has lead many in and around the game to call for a later trade deadline.
Proponents of moving the deadline back either two or four weeks believe that because of the addition of a second wild card in each league, more teams are operating under the delusion that they are still playoff contenders despite being several games out of a wild card spot (looking at you Ruben Amaro Jr.). In theory, moving the trade deadline back would allow the trade market more time to develop. This way, teams will have a better idea of whether they need to be buyers or sellers at the deadline. More buyers and more sellers will equate to more deals. Everyone goes home happy.
But would the deadline back really spur more trading?
The arguments for moving the deadline back imply that because teams have a better idea of if they are a buyer or seller, that will mean there will be more trades. But there is no reason to think this would be the case. If this past deadline is any indication, just because a team is labeled a seller doesn’t mean they will in fact sell. If there were such an impetus on those selling teams to make a trade, then we certainly would have seen players such as Marlon Byrd and Alex Rios moved. The fact that a player like Byrd, an impending free agent on a Mets team that clearly is not a contender nor considers itself a contender, was not moved at the deadline is indicative of issues outside of the date of the deadline.
Despite what some fans may think, front offices now are smarter than ever. Teams realize that the ability to control a young player for six years is infinitely more valuable than two months or less of Marlon Byrd. The MLB landscape is littered with examples of teams regretting giving up big time prospects for two-month rentals, such as the Giants trading phenom Zack Wheeler to the Mets for two months of Carlos Beltran. You don’t have to be a WAR buff to realize that trading six years worth contribution for two months worth of contribution is typically a bad deal. That’s before factoring in that these types of deals usually feature multiple prospects with six years of control; meaning teams are potentially dealing 12 or 18 years worth of affordable players for a two-month rental.
It’s difficult to see how moving the deadline back would solve this “problem”, if you consider general managers running their teams more efficiently a problem. Moving the deadline back would mean teams are now getting only six or four week rentals of impending free agents. Why would a team be inclined to give up more prospects for one month of a player than they would for two months? If anything, we would see less impending free agents moved at an August 15th or August 31st deadline.
Teams would rather let the player walk in free agency, receive a compensatory draft pick, and pick their own prospect rather than take a lowball offer from another team.
Then there are the players under contract for future seasons, such as Alex Rios. It would seem that moving the deadline back would allow for more of these types of players to be traded, as the receiving teams would have the player under contract for more than one month. But again, this implies that just because a team is deemed a seller means it has to sell. If a player is under contract for a team past the current season, then that team has the option to wait until the offseason to deal the player. Regardless of whether the deadline is July 31st or August 31st, the selling team would still have to be overwhelmed by an offer to trade the player during the season.
This phenomenon can be easily observed just by looking at the Chicago White Sox. In Peavy and Rios, they had two veterans that are signed through the 2014 season on a team that won’t be competitive until most likely the 2016 season. Both players fit the traditional profile of trade deadline targets, yet only Peavy was dealt. Why deal one and not the other? The Pale Hose must not have received the same quality offers for Rios that they did for Peavy, and they have the luxury of holding Rios and moving him during the offseason.
Therein lies the issue with moving the trade deadline back. Extending the deadline into August would most likely not result in improved offers. In fact, it behooves a team like the White Sox to wait until the offseason, when they have a better handle on their needs, to deal a player like Rios. Whatever the White Sox can get for Rios in-season, they surely would be able to get the same value, if not more value, in the off-season.
Would a contending team be more inclined to make a better offer for a player during August? Perhaps there may be a team that makes a panicked offer. But for the most part, teams realize just how little value there is in two months or less of a player compared to the price in prospects. At the same time, selling teams are realizing the value of compensatory picks for departing free agents a well as the worth of holding onto a player until the offseason.
The perceived lack of action at the trade deadline is not just a product of expanded playoffs and it would not be greatly affected by adjusting the deadline date. It seems fans and front office personnel alike will just have to get used to a quieter trade deadline.