By: Andrew Riley, Ruling Sports Intern (Twitter: @Buriedtalents)
As the MLB non-waiver trade deadline approaches, there has already been a number of major transactions. The trade deadline marks the moment teams decide to either swing for the fences for a championship this year or to sacrifice bunt for a better chance next year. The closer the deadline gets, teams are classified into buyers or sellers based on their current record or the general sense of how possible it is to reach the playoffs. As a seller, a team has likely come to the conclusion that they are missing a too many crucial pieces needed for a championship team. As a result, based on many factors from both a talent and a financial standpoint, the team decides it is willing to field offers for current talent with the hopes of acquiring a useful player down the road. A buyer on the other hand, feels they are close to fielding a championship team and need one more arm or bat to put them over the top to achieve success. A buying team will then be willing to part with a less active but high valued talent, like a prospect, to obtain the final pieces. The significance of the non-waiver trade deadline is that the players involved in trades do not have to be put on waivers before being traded.
After the July 31st trade deadline trades may still occur, however the players must clear waivers first. When a player is waived, every team is afforded the option to pick that player, and his contract, to be a member of that club. Three things can occur if a player is picked up on waivers. The first option is that the waiving team and the receiving team can negotiate a trade for the waived player. The second option is that the waiving team can cancel the waiver and the player remains on the waiving team. Third, the waiving team does nothing, allowing the receiving team to get a free player without having to give up any talent of its own. Due to these limitations the possibility of being able to obtain top players lessens significantly after the non-waiver trade deadline. For this reason, there always seems to be a scramble near the deadline for top players. Which teams are scrambling this year?
The Texas Rangers have persevered through a decimated pitching staff the first half of the season. The Rangers have had ten different pitchers start games this year due to the injuries of Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, Roy Oswalt,, Alexi Ogando, and now Colby Lewis. Even without the injuries, the Rangers were lacking a true number one starter and there have been reports that they are interested in some pitchers available. The most prominent pitcher available is Zack Greinke. Greinke is arguably one of the top pitchers in the game and would be exactly what the Rangers need. Greinke is the only true number one left after the Phillies extended the contract of Cole Hamels. After Greinke and Hamels, the quality of the pitchers brought up in trade rumors is at least one tier below. Some names include James Shields of the Tampa Rays, and Josh Johnson of the Miami Marlins.
The Pirates quietly let it be known that they plan to make a run this year with the acquisition of Wandy Rodriguez from Houston. Currently they are in position of grabbing one of the Wild Card spots. The success of the Pirates can be narrowed down to the emergence of four players. Andrew McCutcheon is performing like the player that many scouts projected him to become. Despite a low batting average, Pedro Alvarez has hit twenty homeruns and many of them were timely enough to result in walk-off wins. James McDonald has struggled lately but has pitched masterfully during the first half of the season. The resurgence of A.J. Burnett has been a pleasant surprise and has eleven wins to his credit. The Pirates currently sit two games back of the Reds, but like the Rangers they lack a true number one starter. Rodriguez is hardly a number one starter but he is a significant upgrade and could provide the wins they were looking for. The question remains as to whether they will make more trades or they feel they have already filled the gap.
The curious case of the Miami Marlins continues to baffle. The season began with such hope and optimism after the big name, off-season acquisitions of Jose Reyes, Mark Buerle, and Heath Bell. The Marlins currently sit seven games below five hundred and nine games back from one of the Wild Card spots. The initial perception was that they would be a buyer as the deadline approached, especially after the acquisition of Carlos Lee. However, their record has been on a steady decline since then and it appears the Marlins management are tired of the lack of performance, as demonstrated by the Hanley Ramirez trade. Reports have suggested that they will entertain offers from just about anyone with the exception of Emilio Bonifacio. It is unclear what went wrong at this point but it appears the Marlins are looking to regroup and try again next year.
Boston Red Sox
It is unclear whether the Red Sox are truly going to be sellers at this point but it would make sense for them to at least entertain the idea. It is no secret that the Red Sox are in the toughest division in baseball and it is highly unlikely that they will overtake the Yankees to win the division. The possibility to obtain a Wild Card spot seems just as unlikely with the Angels having turned around an abysmal start, the Athletics playing consistent baseball and the Detroit Tigers looking like they are prime for a win streak. This year is as good as any for the Red Sox to reconsider some of the personnel and decide whether they fit in the scheme that Buck Martinez has laid out for the team. The whole first half has been marred with controversy with Martinez being at the center of it all. This year is Martinez’ opportunity to make some changes to the roster and get players that are his type of players. Martinez could have input in acquiring players that will buy into his style of managing and who will not have the baggage from teams of the previous years.
The MLB non-waiver trade deadline is both scary and exciting from a fan’s standpoint. The fan wants the best for their team but at the same time has developed a loyalty to the players he or she has watched for years. There would likely be an intense emotional reaction from a diehard fan if his or her favorite player were traded away. However, winning is a great cure for such things. In general a fan likely wants to know that their teams front office is trying to make the best possible decisions to win games, whether be immediately or eventually.