The Tenth Inning – Week 15 The Trading Deadline

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The Tenth Inning – Week 15 – The Trading Deadline ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>


By Mike Ivcic

The trading deadline is just a little over a week away now, and the first major deal has already happened with Ichiro heading east to play for the Yankees. You know, because they needed more offense. Anyway, there’s a crucial difference to this year’s movements that might change the way teams operate for the foreseeable future – one that’s been consistently overlooked by much of the national media.


With the new collective bargaining agreement signed by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, labor peace was kept with each side conceding certain aspects of the deal. Both sides, however, managed to overlook what would happen when they eliminated draft pick compensation for high-profile free agents that sign with other teams. It’s created a difficult situation for general managers of sub-.500 teams who are looked to deal big-name players to teams in contention, because the teams looking to trade for those players haven’t been real keen on offering a lot in return. After all, the GM of the contending team is not getting a guarantee that the player they’re trading for will ultimately resign.

Imagine the phone calls that Theo Epstein is having right now about Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Alfonso Soriano, or any other player on the Cubs roster that others team might covet. Especially in the case of Dempster, interested teams have been unwilling to part with high-level prospects for a player that might ultimately be no more than a two month rental. Garza and Soriano have actually become more attractive to some teams because they are signed past the end of the 2012 season, making it a more worthwhile trade if it means parting with a prized prospect.

As a result, there’s a significantly high chance that baseball trades might soon become similar to those made in the NBA, which means it’s just about time to start getting used to the words “expiring contract” in relation to a baseball trade. Because teams in a pennant chase will be extremely tentative about giving up top rated minor leaguers, they’re going to want an assurance that the trade will be for more than just August and September. Sign-and-trade deals or “window-to-sign” deals would make sense, but they’re virtually impossible to pull off in the middle of the season – those are much more likely in the offseason. Thus, teams like the Cubs, Phillies, Twins, Padres, and Brewers that have valuable, wanted, proven major leaguers have not been getting the offers they’ve been hoping to get from teams in contention, meaning Dempster, Shane Victorino, Francisco Liriano, Huston Street, and Francisco Rodriguez are all still with their current teams instead of joining a pennant race. The asking price may simply be too high, but that’s because most GM’s haven’t adjusted to the new trading procedures that are sure to be in effect.

It’s almost guaranteed that multiple players from the list above will be dealt prior to July 31. It’s also a virtual certainty that the teams trading those players won’t be getting high level prospects in return – unless they pick up the remaining salaries of the player they’re trading. That’s the other way around the lack of free agent compensation. Perhaps the Phillies will be some better prospects for Victorino if they agree to pick up the $2-3 million remaining on his contract this season. Likewise for the Brewers and K-Rod. There’s just no way any general manager worth his contract will give up a top-tier prospect and absorb the new salary, all without the guarantee of at least a second-round draft pick if the new player walks away for nothing at the end of the season. It will now be one or the other, and that’s taking some getting used to from those making the personnel decisions across the league.

The trading deadline will still be a fast and furious whirlwind, especially with the addition of the second wild card, as teams scramble to make improvements without needing waivers to reach the postseason. But unlike in years past, teams that are “sellers” may not be getting nearly as much value for their sale – and that makes almost every team a loser in the end.

Playoff “Dead” List
July 16 – Kansas City Royals
Well killing Oakland looks rather stupid right now, but the Royals have certainly free-falled right out of any playoff race. Like Pittsburgh, they just need one season of solid performance from April through September to convince everyone – and most importantly, themselves – that they have what it takes to compete in the AL Central.
July 9 – Oakland Athletics
July 2 – Colorado Rockies
June 25 – Seattle Mariners
June 18 – Houston Astros
June 11 – Minnesota Twins
June 4 – Chicago Cubs
May 28 – San Diego Padres

Three series to watch this week…
1) WAS @ NYM (7/23-7/25) – If the Mets want any shot at the playoffs, they need at least two of three. Washington needs to win as many games as they can now before they insanely shut down Strasburg.
2) LAD @ STL (7/23-7/25) – The Dodgers got the sweep they needed in New York, but still need more against the Cardinals. St. Louis is on the verge of falling too far behind Cincinnati and Pittsburgh to catch up – regardless of what they did last year.
3) TB @ BAL (7/24-7/26) – The Orioles are still hanging on, and with the surge of the Tigers and A’s neither team in this series can afford too many losses. This is shaping up to be a nine or ten team race, so every head-to-head game is crucial.

If the season ended today, the playoff teams would be…
National League
1. Washington Nationals
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. San Francisco Giants
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Atlanta Braves

American League
1. New York Yankees
2. Texas Rangers
3. Detroit Tigers
4. Los Angeles Angels
5. *Baltimore Orioles
5. *Oakland Athletics
* Baltimore and Oakland would play a one-game playoff prior to the Wild Card game, with the winner facing the Angels in the one-game Wild Card playoff.

Check out my weekly column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday and the weekly “Power Rankings” every Friday, only at

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