Should MLB Create a Trade Exemption?

Last week, Garrett Richards blew out his knee, and will be out for the rest of the season. Richards was probably the Angels best starter, and because of the timing of the injury, they’re running low on quality options to replace him. As Paul Swydan noted on Friday, there’s Bartolo Colon, Scott Feldman, and, well, not a lot of else.

This is the nature of players getting hurt late in the season; once past the July 31st trade deadline, talent is difficult to acquire. I’ve argued for moving the trade deadline back, though that idea does not necessarily have wide appeal. So what about a more minor change that could keep teams from getting sunk due to a late-season injury: a trade exemption for teams that lose a player from their active roster and place him on the 60-day disabled list after August 1st?

We could even limit the exemption to the same position as the player lost, so that a team couldn’t disable a middle reliever in order to acquire an ace. For a team like the Angels, their situation has changed enough since July 31st to alter their calculations. Maybe now, without Richards, they’d make the Phillies a great offer for Cole Hamels, even including taking the remainder of Ryan Howard‘s albatross contract? Or maybe they regret not meeting the Padres asking price for Ian Kennedy?

The intent of having a trade deadline is to stop teams from loading up on mercenaries and forcing a team’s postseason roster to somewhat resemble its regular season roster. But should we really be interested in punishing teams for losing players to unpredictable injuries towards the end of the year, simply because they had the poor fortune of losing a key contributor in August instead of July? Shouldn’t we be interested in letting contending teams maximize their chances of winning? And don’t we want rebuilding teams to be able to extract absurdly high prices from desperate buyers, thus shortening their path back to being a winning team?

Giving a team like the Angels a trade exemption to try to get a starting pitcher to replace Garrett Richards would make the AL West even more exciting, and potentially, lead to an even better postseason experience for the viewers. Even if the Angels overcome this injury and make the division series, is anyone really excited to tune in and watch Hector Santiago pitch a playoff game?




Print This Post



Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


Leave a Reply

52 Comments on "Should MLB Create a Trade Exemption?"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Billy Bean
Guest
Billy Bean
1 year 10 months ago

So you want to punish me for being smart enough to stockpile depth?

Book_Worm
Guest
Book_Worm
1 year 10 months ago

I completely agree with this sentiment. The reward for being a team that builds the best roster “One through Twenty-Five” is that you’ve got depth for situations like late-season pitching injuries.

Billy Bean
Guest
Billy Bean
1 year 10 months ago

I’ve talked about this in the last few seasons that we don’t even see the team as 25 guys. We look at around 30 guys as being “the team” because we know injuries will happen.

Billy Beane
Guest
Billy Beane
1 year 10 months ago

Can I get a cease and desist on you pretending to be me Bill?

If you just stop now, I’ll use my connections to see if Brad Pitt will play you in YOUR autobiography. Would that be good enough?

Billy Bean
Guest
Billy Bean
1 year 10 months ago

The E was the PTBNL in the Samardzija trade.

Rodney King
Guest
Rodney King
1 year 10 months ago

Billy, will you marry me?

Then you could be Billy Bean-King.

Detroit Michael
Guest
Detroit Michael
1 year 10 months ago

If you are going to pretend to be the Oakland General Manager, don’t misspell the name to be the MLB Ambassador for Inclusion. Those are two different people.

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 year 10 months ago

Why does the best team in baseball need a trade exemption?

Steven
Guest
Steven
1 year 10 months ago

As with people calling for a new rule limiting on how many pitchers a team can carry in order to limit pitching changes and cut down on game times… I think any rule that requires teams to label their players (by position) is going to be hard to defend. What would keep a team from putting a reliever in left field for an inning so that they can label that pitcher as a position player? Or starting a reliever for a 1-2 inning start so that they can label a reliever as a starter?

Costanza
Guest
Costanza
1 year 10 months ago

Eligibility. Teams have to declare which of their players can pitch on any given day.

It eliminates one of my favorite things, which is position players on the mound. But I don’t think that’s a strong enough reason to overturn whatever else has gone into the decision, however.

Alex
Guest
Alex
1 year 10 months ago

The DL is mostly a matter of opinion. I don’t think this is a great idea.

Costanza
Guest
Costanza
1 year 10 months ago

The DL is a list controlled by MLB that teams are required to register their players on.

Perhaps you mean “the decision to DL someone is mostly a matter of opinion”. Even that is a suspect statement; while there is some gamesmanship with the DL, I challenge you to produce evidence that a majority of DL assignments over any decent time period have much subjectivity.

leon
Guest
leon
1 year 10 months ago

Obviously nobody is implying the majority of DL assignments are made up, that would be ridiculous. The point is that teams can and do make up phantom injuries for strategic reasons, and there isn’t much MLB can do about it. Take the ‘shoulder tightness’ of Wei Chung Wang this year right after he had racked up enough active roster time to become unrestricted Brewers property this off-season.

OT
Guest
OT
1 year 10 months ago

or predictably shutting down a SP because of an innings limit because of “a sore shoulder.” Now that team gets an exclusive trade window

isavage30
Guest
isavage30
1 year 10 months ago

Fans of the team that Hector Santiago’s facing might be excited.

Wouldn’t this open a huge can of worms though, where you’re going to allow the Angels to trade for Cole Hamels or whoever because Richards was injured, while the A’s and the Mariners and other competitors are not allowed to negotiate with the teams that the Angels would be negotiating with? And then the Angels are free to take their time and land a Hamels and have both Hamels and Richards for next year and beyond?

Mike13
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

It will have a lot of opposers, but I think this can happen with some tinkering

Misfit
Guest
Misfit
1 year 10 months ago

Teams would be able to game the system by placing a fifth starter on the DL when that fringe team on July 31st finds itself out of the post season race by August 31st and has an ace to deal. If MLB wanted to move the trade deadline to mid-August I’d be fine with that, but a trade exemption would be too generous.

David
Guest
David
1 year 9 months ago

This. Even if you could somehow come up with a reasonable way to designate positions (How is a RP actually different from an SP) it would be a trivial matter to find a “hurt” minor league starter and bring him up for no other purpose than to move him to the 60-day DL. Most teams have some AAAA flotsam on their 40-man that they’d be willing to risk losing in a waiver move if that’s what stood between them and a playoff run.

Immanuel Kamment
Guest
Immanuel Kamment
1 year 10 months ago

What would be the rules governing the other team in the trade? I.e., if one team had an injury would that open up every other team in baseball to any trades with them that involved, e.g., a pitcher going one way?

Bradsbeard
Guest
Bradsbeard
1 year 10 months ago

Moreso than the prospect of fake injuries, it seems possible some teams will have a 5th starter go down with a legitimate injury which would allow them to potentially add a frontline starter. Or a 4th OF goes down, and they are able to significantly upgrade an OF spot. I’m not sure the rule would operate all that well as intended.

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
1 year 10 months ago

The concept of an exclusive trade window for a team is detrimental to competitive balance. Besides, as others have said, organizational depth is a big part of every sport. I do like these outside the box ideas, but this one is pretty bad.

Yinka Double Dare
Guest
Yinka Double Dare
1 year 10 months ago

If Santiago broke out the screwball again for it (or at least throwing it more) I think I’d actually be excited for that playoff start.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
1 year 10 months ago

Would this apply at any time? Last day of the regular season, guy gets hurt and you can trade for Cole Hamels going into the post season?

ALEastbound
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

How about reducing the 162 game schedule? This could help with young pitchers usage, injuries and overall depth.

Costanza
Guest
Costanza
1 year 10 months ago

Hahahahhahaa and lose money??

B N
Guest
B N
1 year 10 months ago

A better approach might be to give a one-time bump (maybe 5-10 spots) to the waiver claim of a team who has lost someone with a salary higher than the qualifying offer on a contract no more than 3 years old. Not a perfect solution, but a fair one. Also, not one that is particularly easy to abuse, except by casting old vets signed in the last 3 years into the well.

Kevin Quackenbush's Beard
Guest
Kevin Quackenbush's Beard
1 year 10 months ago

Maybe it’s just me, but the prospect of Hector Santiago starting a playoff game doesn’t seem such a big problem that a rule change is needed to fix it.

truffleshuffle
Guest
truffleshuffle
1 year 10 months ago

Can we call this the Ken Rosenthal exemption, due to his belief that all teams with poor records should trade their star players to contenders each year?

I don’t think we need more mercenary players in the game. I rather like the idea of franchise players being on the same team for most of their careers.

Mark L
Guest
Mark L
1 year 10 months ago

Oh god yes. It’s getting a little boring listening to journalists demanding trades, when it’s not for the benefit of the teams in question but gives them page hits or easy column inches.

Ben
Member
Ben
1 year 10 months ago

This idea is one that sounds reasonable on its face but suffers two critical drawbacks.

First, as others have mentioned, such an exemption would be essentially impossible to implement without opening up possibilities for abuse. There seems no way to prevent a team from upgrading, even substantially so, their pitching due to an injury.

Second, due to the zero-sum nature of baseball, allowing a team a special trade privilege due to injury harms their direct competitors as they are not afforded this same opportunity. As unfair as losing a top starter may seem to the Angels, if you give them the exclusive ability to trade for a Cole Hamels, I can only see this as even more unfair to a competitor such as the A’s. At least in the current system, the penalty due to injuries is directly felt by the franchise with injured players. Spreading out that disadvantage to competing teams which have no control over the training regimen, workload, etc. of the injured player seems more unfair than the original problem.

chrstn41
Member
1 year 10 months ago

I think you’d see a rise in #5 starters hitting the DL with a strained oblique. Then, voila, exclusive trade window.

Me
Guest
Me
1 year 10 months ago

I don’t think so. If teams wanted to upgrade the position before the July 31st deadline then they would have upgraded. Or they would have tried to upgrade and failed to meet the asking price. If they couldn’t afford the upgrade then they probably couldn’t afterwards with even less leverage.

This is all assuming that the injury to that #5 starter is… not entirely legitimate. If that was not your intent then disregard my comment

emdash
Guest
emdash
1 year 10 months ago

Not necessarily. Let’s say you’re a team undergoing a late-season collapse or rough patch – your division lead seemed insurmountable at the trade deadline, but the second place team is closing on you quickly. Being able to add a better hitter or replacing your fifth starter with an ace seems likely to be the difference between making the playoffs and not. You’re a win-now team with a short window of contention. Doesn’t it then become worthwhile to be less cautious and discover an ‘injury’ to a marginal player and trade for a much better one? A long hot or cold streak can drastically change a team’s situation between the trade deadline and mid-September.

MrMan
Guest
MrMan
1 year 9 months ago

This.

And so many other things. If you saw just these words: “exclusive rights to make a trade” Just the words should make this suggestoin dead on arrival.

AC
Guest
AC
1 year 10 months ago

I get the rationale, but it feels a lot like teams playing by different sets of rules. Richards goes down, Verlander loses his stuff and becomes entirely hittable. Angels get to make a huge trade to replace a starter, but the Tigers don’t?

Depth is ABSOLUTELY a key part of building a successful team. You don’t get a do-over because the GM didn’t make contingency plans.

Should the Mariners have gotten to start the season with a 27-man roster because two key starters went down in spring training? The replacements couldn’t be counted on for more than a few innings, so they should have been allowed to carry extra relievers. Every game counts the same; I don’t see the justification for making end-of-the-year exceptions and not early-year exceptions.

Big Daddy V
Guest
Big Daddy V
1 year 10 months ago

No.

jbones
Guest
jbones
1 year 10 months ago

seems like it couldn’t possibly work.. the one team can only acquire ONE player, and that player has to be the same position? But the team with the exemption can trade as many players as they want to the other team?

I don’t think it would take long for this to become a crappy team losing any player late and trading a solid vet to a contender for prospect of the same position as the injured one

Contending teams would just use other teams’ exemptions to trade beyond the deadline

jesse
Guest
jesse
1 year 10 months ago

Well some abuse would be limited by the player needing to go on the 60 day dl, as players put on the the 60 after august 1 out unavailable for the rest of the season including playoffs. But the 60 day dl is only an option if a team has its 40 man roster full meaning a team could be forced to sign undesirable players just to get the expectiom if their roster isn’t full

David
Guest
David
1 year 9 months ago

…so find some unemployed AAAA lifer and pay him the minor league minimum to occupy some space on the 40-man? I don’t see that standing in anyone’s way.

Christian Robinson
Guest
Christian Robinson
1 year 10 months ago

This sounds a like a question that would be asked in my fantasy baseball league.

Jon L.
Guest
Jon L.
1 year 10 months ago

Any rule that invites manipulation by benefitting a team for disabling a player is unworkable. The league would have to investigate situations in which an injury may have been invented, exaggerated, or even created. Opposing front offices would howl about teams developing a competitive advantage (and possibly a monopoly on starting pitcher acquisition) because they were “lucky” enough to have their fifth starter get hurt while an ace was toiling away for a mid-market team that was falling out of the race in August.

It would be a disaster. A rule making post-deadline trades easier probably cannot depend upon a team’s luck or situation. Personally, I think the game is better when the randomness of situations like late-season injury affects a team’s chances. Maybe more teams like the Mariners and Royals sneak into the playoffs because teams like the Angels and Tigers can’t throw more resources at player personnel in the waning weeks of the season.

David
Guest
David
1 year 10 months ago

What if a non contender like say the Phillies have a starting pitcher go down with an injury? Could they take advantage of this trade exemption to and make a deal for a SP and include Cole Hamels in such a deal?

Section 34
Guest
Section 34
1 year 10 months ago

This is a stupid post for the reasons detailed above, but I guess if it was either this or one more post about how the Orioles aren’t really any good despite their record, this is a change of pace.

DetroitFanatic
Guest
DetroitFanatic
1 year 10 months ago

They already do have an exemption. Anyone not on the 40 man roster can be placed on it if someone is moved to the 60 day DL. Combine that with waiver claims, and you have your problem solved. That’s how Matt Moore started game 1 in 2011, even though he was not on the 40 man roster. Bartolo Colon just cleared waivers, so go out and get him. In my understanding of the rule, this could even happen in September, if the new man on the 40 man roster replaces someone of the same position who was sent to the 60 day DL, he is post season eligible. This would require some tricky manuevering in the case of an injury, like not calling up someone to immediately replace him.

For example, if Richards was injured September 5th, and the Angels promoted Player X to replace him, then Traded for Colon, and replaced Player X with Colon, Colon would then not be eligible, because he did not replace someone on the active 25 man roster who was sent to the DL. However, if Player X was never called up, and the Angels played a man down for however long it took to acquire Colon, and Colon replaces Richards on the 25 man roster, Colon is then eligible for the post season.

Chris from Bothell
Guest
Chris from Bothell
1 year 10 months ago

If this is implemented, I also want a clause in there somewhere that officially defines what position a player is.

Not to prevent any sort of bait-and-switch like you mentioned in the article (cripple a middle infielder to get an ace pitcher). I’m more interested in:

– how utility men are classified
– how relievers converted to starters or vice-versa are classified
– the real reason to do this, which is the spectacle of running Adam Dunn out there once a week in mop-up relief duty, just so that if he goes down due to injury he counts as enough of a pitcher to trade for a pitcher

Bob Jones
Guest
Bob Jones
1 year 9 months ago

Or just get rid of the trade deadline altogether.

wpDiscuz