MLB: Trade Deadline Primer

“Why don’t we trade these five prospects that are meaningless to me for Mike Trout?”

Through all of my years on the Internet, nothing has ever amused me more than some of the trade proposals that are thrown out there by fans, thinking that 500 pieces of an old Yugo can be traded in for a Rolls Royce.

As a fan of the sport, I love to think up many of my own trade scenarios, thinking of what may be fair for a team to acquire certain players they are targeting.  While no two trades are exactly alike, looking at recent trade history can at least give you a guide.   Do you want a top rental reliever?  Look at the Cubs-Yankees trade, which yielded the Yankees one of the top prospects in baseball (+ more!).   Do you want a top reliever you can control?  Look at the Yankees-Indians trade, which yielded the Yankees two Top 100 prospects (+ more!), including top prospect Clint Frazier.   Do you want a cost-controlled, consistent starting pitcher?  Look at that White Sox-Cubs trade for guidance.  The White Sox received the top prospect remaining in the Cubs’ organization, plus another top 100 prospect, plus two intriguing guys lower down in the system.

Gone are the days of the salary dump.  Teams are making so much money nowadays that they feel less of a need to dump contracts on other teams for low-level prospects.   Many years ago, the Yankees and Phillies completed such a deal when the Yankees got Bobby Abreu for a package of non-prospects that was headlined by 1st round failure C.J. Henry.  I guess I should be fair and acknowledge that two of the prospects actually did make appearances in the big leagues, which is more than I can ever say for myself, but make no mistake about it:  The Phillies wanted to unload a contract, and the Yankees were always willing to oblige.   These types of deals are just no longer in vogue – you aren’t going to see a Justin Verlander traded for middle-of-the-road prospects just because he makes too much money.

The key to making a trade proposal, in my opinion, is this:   Does the trade hurt you a bit inside?  When thinking about the trade, do you say to yourself “Wow, I really wish my favorite team wouldn’t give up this guy, but I have to!”   If you can say that, you are at least on the right track to coming up with something meaningful.

“Don’t trade this, don’t deal that!  They better not even be considering trading THAT prospect!”  You probably have seen this often.  Let me put this out there for you:  Most of the time, the team acquiring the established pieces end up getting the better of the deal over the team getting the prospects.  This is not ALWAYS true, of course.  The Mets probably felt quite good about getting Zack Wheeler for rental Carlos Beltran when Wheeler actually developed into a MLB contributor. It appears that Wheeler’s injuries are going to potentially crush his career, but this is what you would consider a successful rental-for-prospect type of trade.  Most don’t even end up that well.

Many deadline deals are filled with surprises, where prospects who were not the best prospects in the original deal end up becoming the gems.   One of my favorite deadline deals ever was when CC Sabathia was dealt to the Brewers for a group of prospects headlined by Matt LaPorta.  LaPorta never panned out.   However, included in that trade was a player-to-be-named later who turned out to be Michael Brantley, who has been able to save Cleveland’s face in the deal.   Sometimes, those deal sweeteners become the sweetest part of the entire trade.

There has been a lot of action the past two weeks leading up to the deadline, as teams have figured out that those few extra starts or handful of extra games can end up being the difference between winning and losing a division.   Getting Quintana a week ago rather than waiting until the end of July helps the Cubs get three extra starts out of their acquisition instead of having to rely on lesser pitchers as they make a run to repeat as NL Central champions.

The deadline has become wilder than the Winter Meetings in recent seasons, as I have found the Winter Meetings to be rather mundane and more chatter than action.  The trade deadline is more than just chatter – there is usually a lot of action as well.

This will be a fun week of baseball, and a fun week to hang around Twitter and wait for Ken Rosenthal’s latest big scoop.    As long as you don’t expect an iPhone 7 in exchange for five exploding Samsung 7’s, you should be able to survive the week without needing a sedative.

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