The Trade Deadline Doesn’t Matter As Much This Year

We’re now a week away from the July 31st trade deadline, so over the next seven days, we’ll probably some pretty good players change hands. Sonny Gray is going to be dealt. Yu Darvish might be. A.J. Ramos, Justin Wilson, Brad Hand, Addison Reed, and Pat Neshek will strengthen various bullpens. Every contender wants to add an arm or two, and so we’ll see a lot of pitching-oriented trades.

But if your favorite team doesn’t make a deal in the next seven days, I wouldn’t get too frustrated, because this year, the August trade market might be a more viable way to upgrade than in most years. For a pretty good group of players, the July 31st deadline isn’t really any kind of deadline at all.

July 31st is the last day teams can make a trade without having to pass the traded players through waivers. Most years, this forces the big names to move before the non-waiver deadline, as players valuable enough to be highly coveted by contenders won’t clear waivers, and thus can’t be traded in August. But this year, a larger-than-usual number of available players are potential August trade chips.

The most obvious August trade chip is Justin Verlander. The Tigers indicated they were serious about getting younger when they traded J.D. Martinez last week, and with so many teams looking for pitching, there will be teams who would like to have Verlander despite his struggles this year. But no one wants to pay him $28 million for each of the next two years, not for his age-35 and age-36 seasons, given how he’s currently performing. Because of his price tag, and the fact that every interested team would want the Tigers to pay down Verlander’s contract, the Tigers can easily make a deal for their ace in August.

In fact, it’s probably better for the Tigers to wait until next month to move Verlander. Right now, potential suitors could pivot to trading for a rental starter like Darvish or a controllable starter like Gray, but those guys will be off the board next week. Verlander can essentially be marketed as the starter of last resort, and every team who decides not to pay the deadline price for a pitching upgrade could then see Verlander as the best remaining option. Given that a number of contenders already have playoff spots locked up, and are just looking to upgrade their October rotation, there should be buyers who won’t care that acquiring him later means they get him for fewer regular season starts.

So if I’m the Tigers, I wouldn’t push Verlander too hard this week. If someone wants to take the whole contract in August by claiming him on waivers, well, good; that frees up a ton of money to spend on other players who could help more long-term. But given the price tag, he’ll almost certainly clear waivers, and the Tigers will be able to get a decent prospect return for him in August if they pay down a good chunk of his remaining salary.

And Verlander isn’t the only guy who would either clear waivers, or whose market wouldn’t dramatically change if he got claimed. We’ve already seen that there’s not much demand for rental corner outfielders, so the Mets probably don’t need to move Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson in the next seven days. With roughly $4 to $5 million left from their 2017 salaries, and moderate production at a position in low demand, the Mets can probably count on getting about as much for them in August as they would in July. The team’s leverage is more about just not trading them than marketing either player to multiple suitors, so even if one gets claimed, they’ll still have the ability to say “give us something or we’ll pull him back”.

The Martinez return should dampen any expectations that the Mets will bring a significant return back for either player, but if the Mets want to move them for some prospect depth, they can probably do that in August as well as they can in July. The same goes for Melky Cabrera in Chicago, who also fits into that expensive-but-okay aging corner outfielder mold. Any team looking for a short-term left or right fielder could have plenty of choices for an August acquisition.

August trades aren’t just limited to players with relatively high salaries. Often times, teams aren’t incentivized enough to block trades of marginal role players, so decent part-time guys get moved in August even without prohibitive contracts. And this year, there’s a lot of those guys available. Seth Smith, Asdrubal Cabrera, Matt Joyce, Howie Kendrick, Yunel Escobar, plus back-end starters like Francisco Liriano or Marco Estrada may very well clear waivers simply because there isn’t enough demand for their talents for teams to claim.

These certainly aren’t the sexiest names out there, nor will any of these guys likely win you the World Series by himself. But really, this is a deadline with a pretty lackluster group of available players anyway. With the Pirates keeping Andrew McCutchen and a number of fringe contenders deciding to hang on to their best players, the 2017 trade season is mostly going to be about picking up guys with questionable 2017 performances or short track records of success. And given the guys who are going to be on the market, the difference in what you can acquire in July and August just won’t be as pronounced as usual.

We hoped you liked reading The Trade Deadline Doesn’t Matter As Much This Year by Dave Cameron!

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Anon
Member
Anon

Question: Verlander can veto a trade due to his 10/5 rights. Can he veto a waiver claim though? Would seem like those rights wouldn’t apply

jdbolick
Member

He cannot veto a waiver claim, but that only applies if the Tigers let him go without getting anything in return. If they attempt to work out a trade with the team that submitted a waiver claim or if they attempt to trade him after he passes through waivers, they would need Verlander’s consent.

TheGoodDoctor81
Member
TheGoodDoctor81

Could they go the PTBNL route to get around that? I’m guessing not, but PTBNL has been used before as a loophole (Trea Turner, since he wasn’t eligible to be traded for several months).

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

It would be totally crazy if the Tigers put him on waivers, the Yankees (or some other big-market team claimed him) and the Tigers just let him go. I doubt this is going to happen but it would make for some good drama.

Anon
Member
Anon

I agree it would be strange since he’s pretty clearly their franchise player. But from a pure business perspective, this has all sorts of appeal getting $56M off the books the next 2 years. Granted, except for his velo being up, all his peripherals are garbage this year (K’s down, BB’s up, LD% up, Hard% up, contact% up, SwStr% down). However he is only 1 year removed from being a front of the rotation stud.

I don’t think it happens either but. . . . .it’s not totally crazy. I could see it.

beconstructive
Member
beconstructive

JV is always tinkering with mechanics, and he always figures it out, eventually. It took a little longer this year, but he claims he got before his last start. I think the league knows this and will be watching his next two starts like a hawk. He can really turn it around on a dime and maintain it for long stretches like he did last season.

He’s healthy, and if he’s back to CY form, ~$70M for potentially 3 playoff runs is a potential bargain for a big-market team.

emh1969
Member
emh1969

Has Verlander really been that bad? If you subtract out his 4 games against Cleveland (a team that always seems to have his number), then his ERA drops to 3.75.

david k
Member
david k

You can take a lot of starters and subtract out their 4 worst outings and then end up with pretty good numbers.

emh1969
Member
emh1969

NOTE: I NEVER said his 4 worst starts were against Cleveland. They’re not. Don’t make things up.

sgvette
Member
sgvette

What’s the difference? Again, you could take 4 starts for whatever reason out of a starters season and his season’s probably going to get quite a bit better.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

Keep in mind, this is essentially the argument everyone was making with Quintana–that if you remove his worst starts at the beginning of the year, he looks great. I thought it was faulty logic to employ with Quintana, and it’s equally faulty to employ it with Verlander.

Tom Riddle
Member
Tom Riddle

I think the argument for Quintana (and the place where this can hold water) is that they were early season struggles, time has passed, and they’re unlikely to affect his future performance.

If you’re removing four bad starts across the year, then that makes no sense – or maybe it could if you remove everyone’s worst four starts or remove the bottom corresponding % of starts across the league and make your comparisons that way.

If you’re removing four at the beginning you’re implicitly still making an apples to apples comparison, as it’s likely fair to assume that league average or replacement performance since May is not so different than since April, whereas league average performance without your bottom 20% of starts is significantly different than with. The risk in that analysis is if you think the early starts should be discounted for some reason.

Erik.T
Member
Erik.T

Why would a team fighting for a World Series not be worried about his numbers against Cleveland?

YKnotDisco
Member
YKnotDisco

.258/.329/.441/.770 – League average is .763 (NP)

While not great numbers against Cleveland, I don’t see a team swayed another direction as a direct result of it.

I’m sure they would look at the whole body of work and not just a sample against 1 team (438 AB).

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC

I would actually be surprised if he cleared waivers. The contract is not bad, and I could definitely see a team wanting to keep him from going to a rival. However, I doubt the Tigers would just let him go, though I think maybe they should.

Anon
Member
Anon

Here’s another question then: do Verlander’s 10/5 rights survive a straight waiver claim? Would the new team have to take him subject to the 10/5 rights if they took him off waivers?