It’s Time To Move The Trade Deadline

The trade deadline is in eight days. Thus far, we’ve seen the Cubs trade away Scott Feldman, the Cubs trade away Scott Hairston, the Cubs trade away Matt Garza, and most recently, the Cubs getting close to trading away Alfonso Soriano. Okay, sure, the Marlins traded Ricky Nolasco too, but you would not be wrong to suggest that it has seemed for most of July that exactly one team was open for business while everyone else just kind of stood around and looked at each other.

More teams are going to get involved over the next week and a day. The Astros will probably trade Bud Norris. The White Sox will probably trade Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, and perhaps others. The Brewers might deal Yovani Gallardo, maybe. The Marlins might decide to dump relief pitchers and their salaries. But, by and large, this is shaping up to be an absolute snoozer of a trade deadline, and it may very well be time to question whether or not July 31st is the right date going forward.

The deadline has actually bounced around a lot, historically. As noted in this article on SABR.org, the first instance of a trade deadline appeared in the National League in 1917, and in that year, the deadline was August 20th. The AL came on board a few years later, and in 1921, it moved to August 1st, then in 1923, they pushed it way up to June 15th. It shifted back to the current July 31st date in 1986.

But when July 31st was picked as the date, there were 26 teams, four divisions, and no wild cards, so it wasn’t particularly difficult to discern whether or not a playoff run was in the cards by the end of the season’s fourth month. Now, however, there are 30 teams, six divisions, and two wild cards per league, so the percentage of teams that “make the playoffs” has more than doubled from 15% in 1986 to 33% in 2013. And now, with two wild cards in each league, nobody thinks they’re a seller by the end of July anymore.

The Royals, at 45-51, aren’t selling. The Mariners (47-52) aren’t selling either, and that goes for the Phillies (49-50), Rockies (48-52), and Blue Jays (45-53) too. I can understand why the Giants, coming off a World Series title, aren’t selling even at 45-53, and it’s probably too tough for preseason darlings like the Nationals (48-51) and Angels (46-50) to give up on what they thought were very good teams heading into the season. But, still, that’s a bunch of teams going nowhere hanging on to their veterans.

With the second wild card offering lower hanging fruit, even mediocre teams are deciding that they’d rather keep their teams together than punt a season too early. After all, the Phillies are only seven games back of both the Braves and Reds, giving them twice as many chances to believe that a team in front of them might fall apart. The NL West is lousy, so even the struggling Rockies and Giants are still less than a half dozen games out of that race. Under this playoff system, you have to be downright awful in the first half — or have a front office completely committed to a rebuild — in order to talk yourself into selling at the end of July.

So, why not do everyone a favor and move the deadline back a couple of weeks, or maybe even a full month? After all, if the entire point of having a trade deadline is to prevent teams from using their resources to buy a bunch of hired guns late in the season, then our current pair of deadlines fails that simple test anyway; just look at the Dodgers mega trade with the Red Sox from last August. Did anyone think that trade — completed on August 25th — corrupted the purity of the NL West race? Would we really be unhappy if teams could acquire rent-a-veterans in mid-August instead of at the end of July?

From my perspective, pushing the trade back a few weeks would be a win for everyone.

The Contenders: By allowing teams a few more weeks to evaluate their playoff odds, more teams would eventually come to the conclusion that they should sell, creating a larger pool of talent from which to pick. Unpredictable injuries that occur after August 1st could be accounted for, so a team wouldn’t have to go into the playoffs at a disadvantage simply because a key player had the nerve to get injured in the season’s fifth month.

The Sellers: Moving the deadline back a few weeks would create a larger advantage for teams that were committed to selling early — the teams that probably need prospects the most — and would give bubble teams more information in their buy-sell-or-hold decision process. By not waving a white flag in July, teams that should be building for the future could hold on to veterans a bit longer, putting a better product on the field for the close of the season and providing a more entertaining brand of baseball without sacrificing future value.

The Players: More players traded means fewer qualifying offers for veteran free agents, and more players ending up with legitimate contenders rather than than playing out the string for a team that thought they were going to be in it in July. Reallocating quality players from non-contenders to playoff clubs means a larger share of playoff revenues would go to veterans, rather than young players that teams called up when they couldn’t find anyone to trade for.

The Fans: MLB Trade Rumors is a traffic monster for a reason: fans love trades. They love thinking up trades, talking about trades, and reading about trade reactions. Our traffic goes way up at the end of July and during the winter meetings, and I’m sure it’s not just a FanGraphs specific bump. People love trades. Maybe there are diminishing returns to having too many trades, but I’m pretty sure we’re not anywhere near that point yet.

The July 31st deadline isn’t some time honored tradition that we can’t mess with. It’s an arbitrary point selected from a time when there were four playoff teams per year; now there are 10. What’s the point of having a bunch of teams paralyzed by indecision because a .500 record no longer means that you’re out of the race at this time of year?

Teams are already making trades in August anyway. Let’s just do away with the distinction between the waiver and non-waiver deadlines and have a unified trade deadline of August 15th, or even August 31st if you really don’t care about a team’s playoff roster looking like their Opening Day roster. After all, with the Luxury Tax as a spending deterrent, there are other tools in place that are serving the supposed function of the trade deadline.

I think I could make a stronger case that we don’t need a trade deadline at all than that it should remain July 31st, given the current playoff system. I’m still a fan of the second wild card, but a boring trade deadline seems like an unintended consequence rather than an actual goal being accomplished. Moving the deadline back to August could eliminate that consequence and give everyone a more interesting, and more effective, trade season.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


65 Responses to “It’s Time To Move The Trade Deadline”

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  1. Forrest Gumption says:

    Are you saying Bud Selig rushed one thing in without considering all the other things associated with it that were made obsolete, yet still exist anyway because he only changed one cog of the system and refused to change the structure of them?

    That describes literally every move he has made as Commish.

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    • Sparkles Peterson says:

      I’m pretty sure this was considered, and Selig decided that having more teams conduct themselves as if they were contenders was a positive step towards more teams convincing their fans that they were contenders.

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      • yeah says:

        I’m not sure. Wouldn’t this actually hurt teams that are basically mediocre? It allows more teams under or around .500 to believe that if they just get lucky enough in the 2nd half and then win 1 game they could be in the playoffs. In the end though the same amount of teams go to the playoffs and all those teams didn’t make any moves towards future improvement.

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        • Zachary says:

          Interesting development with this Wildcard change is that those who DO decide to sell could get quite a bit more. With so many teams wanting to pretend they’re competing, it can be a sellers market. Once teams realize this, I could see this early deadline being much more interesting. A Stanton trade in this climate would be monumental with the bidding war.

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    • M W says:

      The commish has absolutely nothing to do with moving the deadline, every owner in baseball has to agree to it.

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    • Hank says:

      I’m fairly sure literally doesn’t mean what you think it means.

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  2. Eminor3rd says:

    I disagree with your premise.

    I think the goal of the second wild card was to do just this — to incentivize more teams to try to win. While people are certainly interested in transactions, I think that interest is trumped by the promise of the postseason by the largest portion of fans. If the price for drastically increasing each team’s chance for a meaningful August/September is fewer sellers at the trade deadline, I think it’s in MLB’s best interest to pay it.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      If moving the deadline back causes more teams to sell, then you have the same [problem as before the new playoff system, which is half the league playing meaningless baseball for a substantial portion of the season.

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      • LK says:

        I’m not sure I get your point.

        Say a team falls out of contention on August 10th. Under the current system they play meaningless baseball and can’t make any trades once it’s clear they’re out of the race. Under Dave’s suggestion they can. They’re playing meaningless baseball from August 10th on in either case.

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        • Eminor3rd says:

          But they’re more likely to remain in contention longer if they’ve kept their best players

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        • LK says:

          But they’ve fallen out of contention on August 10th in both scenarios of the hypothetical. They’ve remained in contention the exact same amount of time. The question is whether or not they’re able to make trades *after* they’ve fallen out of contention.

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        • Eminor3rd says:

          Yeah, teams falling out contention at some point is inevitable either way. But by forcing teams to make a commitment to a direction over the last two months, you have maximized the amount of competitive baseball and minimized the amount of meaningless baseball, both in terms of length of time and breadth of teams involved.

          You’re right that it would be nice for teams (in their own best interest) to have a a cop out point, but the further you push the deadline back, the less the playoff teams will resemble the teams that got to the playoffs, and returns for sellers will be minimized. For example, if the trade deadline is September 15th or 30th, and teams are able to operate under a great deal of clarity, you’re going to have a ton of sellers trying to trade literally every pending free agent they don’t want to re-sign for next to nothing. Playoff teams will be able to cheaply stack themselves with a high number of 4 week acquisitions. I don’t think many fans want to see their teams field drastically different rosters during the playoffs.

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        • LK says:

          I’m not disagreeing that there’s a point where the deadline would be “too late” for the reasons you mention. However, moving it to August 15th (for example) would result in, for the vast majority of cases, the same amount of competitive baseball, while also fostering a more exciting trade deadline, and I don’t think would have the drawbacks you list much more substantially than the current system does.

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        • Eminor3rd says:

          I’m saying that moving it to the 15th for the purpose of giving more teams a better idea if they need to sell is essentially a return to the equilibrium that the league sought to change with the addition of the additional playoff teams. It does make sense in terms of each individual front office’s ability to make themselves better for the next year, but it reduces the number of contenders for the current year. The same number of teams will inevitably fail and wish they were sellers in retrospect, but being forced to stay competitive for the current season will give more fans a reason to watch baseball for the rest of the season, and that is what MLB wants to do, in my opinion. The current setup holds something like 20 teams still “going for it” at least through August, whereas any move to a later deadline would just reduce that number.

          I guess what I’m saying is you have to decide whether you want to give the front office more flexibility, or if you want to create a more interesting last two months for the fans. I don’t think we disagree on the actual implications of moving the deadline all that much.

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        • LK says:

          I think we do disagree.

          “It does make sense in terms of each individual front office’s ability to make themselves better for the next year, but it reduces the number of contenders for the current year.”

          I don’t think this is true. Teams aren’t willing to sell if they’re contenders for the current year – that’s why we don’t see any teams selling right now, even ones whose odds are long. If you’re saying that the current system forces more teams to pretend that they’re competitive even after they’ve fallen out of the race past 7/31, that’s certainly true, but I don’t think very many Mariners, or Blue Jays, or Royals, or Phillies, or Yankees fans are going to be fooled into thinking their teams are still in it in mid-August if they have a shitty few weeks leading up to the hypothetical August 15th deadline. Letting teams like that make trades in the first two weeks of August isn’t going to reduce the number of contenders – it’s going to reduce the number of teams who were too good to plan for the future but too bad to actually be interesting into September.

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      • Eminor3rd says:

        I’m saying that it forces them to commit to trying to contend for the rest of the season, rather than giving them a late option to bail out.

        After the trade deadline, if you have kept or added talent to contend, you are “going for it” until the day you are mathematically eliminated. However, teams trading before a deadline will make the choice to do so before they are mathematically eliminated. Therefore, keeping the deadline where it is will create more teams contending longer when compared to moving it to later in the season.

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    • busch says:

      I could see long-term negative effects of pushing teams to mediocrity every season. Eventually fans will get tired of it and attendance will slowly dissipate over time. Sort of looking at short-term gain at the expense of the long-term outlook.

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    • Baltar says:

      I know, Dave Cameron, that this is one of those posts that you write to stir up controversy and increase comments.
      Having said that, you haven’t justified your main premise that having a lot of trades is a good thing. I actually prefer fewer. I like to recognize teams from one year to the next, let alone one month to the next.
      The shorter the in-season trade window, the better.

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  3. Hm. I got confused because one of my other favorite baseball sites had the same article up. If Fangraphs and Pirates Prospects says so, it’s probably so: http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/07/first-pitch-mlb-should-move-the-trade-deadline-back-a-month.html

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  4. Josh M says:

    How many potential trades don’t happen because of the waiver vs non-waiver deadlines? I would argue very few. Of the guys who currently seem to be on the block gallardo is the only one who seems like he may not pass through waivers. I just don’t think it matters as much as it used to, but maybe I am overlooking something.

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    • SKob says:

      I think this is really the basis of why nothing will change here, nobody sees a real issue with the structure. If you are in full sell mode, then you ship out the pieces you can by the deadline. If you decide 2 weeks later that your team doesn’t have what it takes, you can ship out your overpriced veterans on waivers to save some coin. It’s set up exactly how the teams want it and it’s not going anywhere.

      The Yankees need Soriano right now, but he could be dealt anytime this year. Same for Peavy probably, Cliff Lee – maybe, Papelbon – definitely. Are the Marlins going to feel better about dealing Stanton in August? Will the Rangers give up more for him?

      The idea of trading prospects for a 1 month rental actually makes me sick, so for that reason alone I strongly disagree! I think the deadline is partially in place to prevent teams from doing something really stupid and destroying their future because they may suddenly be just 3 games out of the playoffs come the end of August.

      The real premise of the article seems to indicate that the author would rather see 6-8 super teams by the end of the year instead of 15 teams going for it with what’s on their roster. I don’t agree with that!

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      • Baltar says:

        Hear! Hear! Well said, old boy.

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      • murphym45 says:

        I think the key point isn’t about the 10th-15th best teams competing, but rather the 16-25th best teams feeling like they enough of a chance at the end of July that they can’t sell. Right now there are 14 teams above .500, none of them will be sellers. There are another two teams (Nats and Angels) below .500 but are still projected to finish with 80+ wins.
        The problem here is the next 6-8 teams like the Phillies, Mariners, and Royals, that are close enough to .500 that they can’t justify selling, but are still unlikely to make the playoffs. With the A’s and O’s 2012 season fresh in fans’ minds, it’s going to be tough to explain selling in July to a fan base when team is close to .500 and there’s still a lot of time left in the season.
        I don’t think Dave would say the goal is to have 8-10 teams competing instead of 15, but rather 15-17 teams competing instead of 22-24.

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  5. There is nothing magic about July 31, so the specific date doesn’t matter to me, but I can’t stand trade speculation. I don’t want to give Morosi, Rosenthal, Heyman, etc more time to tweet about “sources” and “reports.” It’s such a distraction from the actual competition. All most fans want to talk about is how to improve the team, rather than the players the team already has. That’s what the offseason is for, in my opinion. I’d rather just have it over with. Part of the fun of the deadline is forcing a team to make a choice about their strategy. Seems like pushing the deadline back makes the choices easier, and thus, less interesting.

    I wouldn’t get worked up about it, but I’d rather it be over earlier.

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    • Forrest Gumption says:

      Great post. Little idealistic, as we’d all love to see less of people like Heyman, but sensationalism and “trade rumors” are what get website hits so that will only ever be expanded, not scaled back. But your thought is the logical one. The game should be paramount, the constant focus, not the media, the scandals hyped or created by them or the umpires making the game about them, not the players.

      This is Bud Selig’s MLB. It’s not very good and could be better with simple steps.

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  6. lex logan says:

    I agree with Eminor3rd: I think dramatically changing teams in the middle of a season is bizzare, and the extra wild card was designed to keep more teams in the hunt, along with putting a premium on winning the division. Baseball should not move the trade deadline until after several years of evaluating the effects of the extra wild card. Personally, I’d rather see the deadline moved to an earlier rather than later date.

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    • technicality says:

      But teams dramatically change in the middle of a season by calling up prospects, too. The Mariners, for example, have a different shortstop, 2B, catcher, and center fielder than they had starting those positions at the start of the season: that’s half the guys on the field. That may be extreme, but there is a team or two that does that pretty much every year.

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      • JamesDaBear says:

        It’s not the same if a team is doing it to improve. The Mariners didn’t call them up because they’re punting the rest of the season. They’re a better team because of those new players.

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  7. FeslenR says:

    I disagree, this current trade deadline is just fine. It’s almost halfway in the season (unlike some other sports) and creates a ton of traffic. There’s already enough time for all teams to evaluate whether they are buyers or sellers.

    Don’t forget, there’s always the “waiver wire” trade deadline at the end of August.

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  8. wise506 says:

    This makes all trade less impactful than they already are. Players would be playing for their new teams for less games, and less likely to actually help a playoff push… also I think most of this is just whining because no one true star was traded this year, and probably wont be.

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  9. TKDC says:

    You really are trying to sell this, huh?

    For the sellers, right now the ones committing to selling are going to get more of a premium. The group that would be advantaged by this is only those who go from buyers/holders in July to sellers in August. Creating more supply does not at all help sellers. While selling early might net a premium over selling later, it is not as big a premium as it would be if selling later were much more difficult (as it is now).

    For the players, you realize that every player that is traded to a team means that a player on that team will no longer be playing in the big leagues, right? I’m not sure how you missed this. You should have said “Veteran Players.” The young players are players, too.

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    • placidity says:

      There are 25 roster spots on each team. So one young guy getting sent down on team Buyer means one young guy getting brought up on team Seller.

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      • TKDC says:

        Yes, of course, but the point was that the veteran goes to a competing team and gets paid more in playoff bonus money, but that is taken away from a young player. So on the whole veteran players are better off, while young players are worse off, though the young player on the rebuilding team is obviously very much advantaged while the young player on the competing team is crushed.

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    • Dan says:

      Along these line, doesn’t the combination of a July 31st trade deadline and the extra wild card create a possible market inefficiency? That is, a team that has management smart enough to realize that they are out of contention can be sellers in a tighter market, and get more return? Or at least reset the break-even point for chance of making the playoffs versus potential trade returns?

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  10. OtherSideoftheCoin says:

    I’m not sure I agree wih the logic on “Sellers” as there would be much more supply later on. A contender won’t have to part with its best prospects if it knows there will be more options available later. I would think that a later deadline would help the .500 teams get over the hump quicker in future years at the expense of the “junky” teams.

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  11. Iron says:

    It seems fine where it is, if anything I’d prefer to move it up to the all-star break. Not one of the arguments in the article above seem in any way compelling.

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  12. ramsey says:

    Why do we want more trades? I don’t see this as a goal. In fact, I think having lots of in-season trades would be rather ridiculous. We need continuity of rosters over the course of the year to maintain the integrity of standings. Too much in-season turnover makes a mockery of the system.

    Take the extreme case of no deadline. Then on September 30, all teams that didn’t make the playoffs would trade all their free-agents to the highest bidder among the playoff teams. Rosters would change dramatically on the eve of the playoffs.

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    • Los says:

      That’s not true. They still have to be on the roster by September 1 to be eligible for the post-season roster.

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    • Jason B says:

      “integrity of the standings”? I don’t understand this concept.

      But still wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

      (It sounds like it’s co-authored by Murray Chass.)

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  13. David says:

    Just thought I’d say to everyone saying the waiver wire trade deadline is the end of Augusts that is simply not true. Trades can be made by passing players through waivers in September as well. The only thing is those players are not eligible for post season rosters.

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  14. jfree says:

    Your analysis of player impact is wrong. Yes, veteran players would benefit from a later trade deadline. But the only players who are screwed on a regular basis now anyway are the players in the minors.

    Forcing teams – even playoff contenders – to call up young players, adjust their 40 man rosters using young players, and using up option years is the ONLY way to increase the pool of young free agents. And that in turn would reduce the number of long-term contracts to aging veterans.

    Frankly, I would prefer an earlier trading deadline – All Star Break or even “Super Two” deadline. Trading doesn’t enhance baseball (the sport) – ie teams out there playing their butts off to WIN the actual game that people pay to watch. It is all about baseball (the business) – and I don’t give a rat’s ass about making the latter “easier”.

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    • jfree says:

      And BTW – the only advantage for “marginal teams” being given a few extra weeks to “decide” whether they are buyers or sellers is — a few extra weeks where they can screw their paying fans while they pretend to compete. Which means — it is the fans – as always – who get screwed by the advice of pretend “experts” who assert that everything they suggest is a win-win-win all around.

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  15. jj says:

    This seems to be an article strictly to create comments (damn I am biting). Are you hoping to bring readers back to the article to see the discussion or do you really think this is an interesting idea. I can read this sort of stuff on ESPN or Sportsline. Come on this site is better than this.

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    • Jason B says:

      You’re on to him; Dave is clearly lying through his teeth in a cynical and transparent attempt to get some clicks. He doesn’t mind staking his professional reputation on throwing out a few half-baked ideas for an extra click or two.

      Well played!

      (I mean, really?! Even if you don’t agree with the concept, it’s possible, just possible, that one of the most respected authors on one of the most respected SABR sites disagrees with you. Perish the thought, I know, I know…)

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  16. Joe F. says:

    Wasn’t there some analysis a while back that suggested that few to no contending teams ever acquire a difference-maker at the trade deadline anyway? I.e. statistical proof that the “get a guy for the stretch drive”, “one more guy to put them over the top” sort of thing didn’t really exist in most cases?

    If so, and midseason trades are really about letting non-contenders reload, well, let them do it in the offseason.

    I say have no trading whatsoever from the day before the first game of the season, to the final out of the World Series. Let teams make their beds in the offseason and lie in them for 162+ games. DFA would be the player either accepts a minor league assignment, gets picked up off the waiver wire for full remainder of their salary, or simply goes the hell home until October. No more of this “let so-and-so get a ring” sort of oldy-timey nonsense, letting guys move around like it was a roto league, and especially no saving grace of “ooh, shiny new prospects” for teams that are terribly built. If a team is going to really make it to the playoffs, let it be with as many of the guys that broke camp with them in the spring. And if a team sucks, let ‘em play their kids.

    The one exception? A brief trading window that runs from the final out of the All Star Game, to 12:01 am the day of the next regularly scheduled game. Make the All-Star Break really interesting again!

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    • Johnhavok says:

      I like this, but only because it puts more of an emphasis on “here’s what our GM gave us, lets go see how good we are.”

      The real problem with it would be injuries and how they can relly mess with a roster. If enough guys get hurt and have to be DL’d, there’s only so many guys a team can bring up to replace them at what’s hopefully even 50-75% of the regular’s prodcution or value, and it would get pretty thin really quick. Not having the option to replace long term injuries via trade would not be ideal.

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  17. kp says:

    Not sure where all the negativity is coming from. The way I see it, the only teams that would be harmed are the true “basement” teams, as they wouldn’t be able to force contenders to pay such a high premium if more players were on the market. Middle-ground teams would benefit massively, though. They can still play the wait-and-see game. If they’re doing well, they can become buyers – which is good for them, their fans, and for competitive balance in general. If they’re doing poorly, they can sell – and get back prospects – which, again, is good for them, their fans, and (future) competitive balance.

    What we’re going to see this year is a bunch of mediocre teams that fall out of contention, and they’ll be hamstrung in whatever rebuilding efforts they want to do until after the season. Their fans will get to see a slightly more talented team that has no chance to reach the postseason, and they get to watch their veterans walk after the season.

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  18. Devil's Advocate says:

    We should always assume that the negotiations which created the current system through the years were wise and that sudden, marked changes may not produce the intended consequences but will almost certainly produce numerous unintended consequences, perhaps even the kind of unintended consequences which are complained about by Dave Cameron of FanGraphs.

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  19. Doug Melvin says:

    Anyone in the market for a former MVP?

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  20. Compensation Picks and Free Agency says:

    Pushing the trade deadline back might have the exact opposite effect of what you’re trying to push for in this article. With the changes in the free agency rules and compensation picks, teams might be less inclined to complete a trade for a player who will be a free agent at the end of the season when they would only have that player for about a month and then subsequently would not be able to make that player a qualifying offer to keep him or to receive a compensatory pick.

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  21. Paul Wilson says:

    Bud out, Dave in!

    For serious – the commish’s office needs some new talent and new ideas. Meh to the grandeur of Joe Torre or George W Bush as Bud’s potential successor. More of the same.

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  22. AverageMeansAverageOverTime says:

    When I first read this I thought to myself. Would this even have been written if there were more trades? Probably not.
    That being said, I’m more inclined to move the date up towards the All-Star break than back it up into mid August or later.

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  23. Matt P says:

    There are teams that have played 100 games already. By July 31st they’ll have less then 60 games left. That’s 12 starts for a pitcher. If you wait until August 15th then there are only 45 games left. How much value can you get for a veteran if you’re trading them that late in the season?

    And here’s the thing. Teams can go on real hot streaks over a short amount of time. If you’re not going to give up if you’re 8 down on July 31st then why would you give up if you’re 8 down on August 31st? The 2011 Rays came back from 9 down on August 31st. The 2011 Cardinals got a wildcard spot despite being 8 and a half down on August 31st. Oh and they also won the World Series that year.

    Waiting until August 31st isn’t going to make teams decide they want to sell. It’s just going to mean that teams will be buying assets for the playoffs rather then playoff run.

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    • Jason B says:

      “If you’re not going to give up if you’re 8 down on July 31st then why would you give up if you’re 8 down on August 31st?”

      Really?! Probability analysis isn’t your bag?

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      • Matt P says:

        The Royals are currently eight games out of first place. They have roughly a .6% chance of making the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus. Assuming that they remain eight games out of first place, they will continue to have about a 0.5% chance. The Angels are currently nine and a half games out of the wild card and they have a 3% chance of making the playoffs. Realistically, it should take 90 wins for the Angels to get a WC (currently Baltimore is on pace for 92 wins). That would require a 46-51 Angels team to go 44-21 (.676%) to end the season.

        If these teams are using probability to determine their chances then they’d be sellers by July 31st. If these teams are going on hope then there’s no reason to be sellers come August 31st. After all, the 2011 Rays and Cardinals got it done despite being 9 back.

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        • Jason B says:

          You don’t see a lot of movement because the chances are so slim (< 1%) to begin with. But I would encourage you to compare the playoff odds of a team that is, say, 3-4 games out on July 31 and 3-4 out on Aug. 31. An extra 30 games to maneuver is just a massive difference.

          (And certainly I'm not arguing that it can't or doesn't ever happen. We've seen it happen, like with the examples that you cite. But rare events happen all the time especially when there are a huge number of trials, like a baseball season; my main thrust was that being realistically in (or out of) contention on July 31 is markedly different than being realistically in (or out of) contention on Aug. 31.)

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        • Matt P says:

          Keep in mind that the teams that were quoted are mostly those that are out by about eight games. He’s talking about teams like the Royals(10), Angels(9.5) and Blue Jays (11) who are out by a lot. He quoted the Phillies (7 games out), Washington(8 out), Rockies (10.5 out). He isn’t talking about a team like the Yankees or Indians.

          Those teams are pretty much out of contention right now. If there’s a major difference (8 games), then a team has a low probability of being in contention whether it’s July 31st or August 31st. And if they’re not selling now, I’m not sure they’d sell in a month.

          If there’s a minor difference (3 or 4 games), then it may be that there’s a large difference in the probability of a team being in contention on August 31 vs July 31. On the other hand, every single win can change the odds significantly.

          As the sample gets smaller, the standard deviation gets larger. When the standard deviation gets larger, the statistical probability becomes less meaningful.

          Basically, it’s not unreasonable to overperform your winning projection over a short period of games. For example, if we’re talking about a period of one game then by definition a team will either overperform or underperform.

          If there’s a major difference, you’re pretty much eliminated by July anyway. If there’s a small difference, then you probably will be willing to try until the end and hope for luck.

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  24. Jason B says:

    From the article:

    “Reallocating quality players from non-contenders to playoff clubs means a larger share of playoff revenues would go to veterans, rather than young players that teams called up when they couldn’t find anyone to trade for.”

    Why is this a worthy goal exactly? For instance, pre-arb players or players who have not yet hit free agency (essentially the top ten guys in the trade value column, for starters) are creating HUGE value in relation to what they’re paid (or their pay is vastly below their production levels). It seems that pro-rata playoff shares is one small way of balancing out this inequality built into the current pay/free agency system.

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  25. Great idea, good article, I totally agree that the trade deadline should be moved back.

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  26. cass says:

    Not sure I speak for anyone else, but in the abstract, I, as a fan, do not like trades. I prefer to have contunity of players from year to year, all other things being equal. All other things are not equal and I do want my team to win, but in the abstract, I would prefer fewer trades and more continuity.

    Too many trades makes team fandom feel shallow, like a fan is rooting only for the laundry and not the players.

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  27. Shoeless says:

    Matt Thornton was traded, too, yo.

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