Among the changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement that have an impact on the trade deadline, the most discussed here has probably been the reduced ability of teams making trades to receive draft pick compensation for the players they acquire, if those players leave in free agency after the season. The change obviously depresses the trade market (slightly? dramatically? we’ll see), and makes things tougher for sellers like the Cubs.
But there was an offsetting change, that theoretically helped the trade market for sellers: the addition of another Wild Card in each league. With two Wild Cards in each league, and with an increased incentive for teams to win their division (avoiding an additional layer of the playoffs), more teams are “in it” this time of year, and more teams should be looking to improve their team. In theory, that enhances the market for sellers.
Buster Olney has heard a differing theory from some GMs, and I thought it worth discussing. In short, he’s heard that some GMs in charge of teams who could be in Wild Card contention believe it “isn’t worth” going all out on a trade to put yourself in a position to win a Wild Card berth. For those teams, the playoffs could be a one-game-and-done proposition.
It’s possible, then, that the change to the playoff system has actually had a deleterious effect on the trade market, rather than an expanding one. This is obviously of tremendous import to the Cubs, and I suppose we’ll have our answer in two weeks, when the trade deadline has passed. But it’s an interesting discussion.
So, I put it to you: if you are the GM of a team who is, say 10 games out in your division, but 5 games out of the second Wild Card, how aggressively do you look to add at the trade deadline? What if you know that winning the division is unrealistic, and the taking the Wild Card is merely possible? Is the one-game playoff worth it?
What if you’re a perennial playoff contender? A perennial division doormat? Don’t the arguments cut both ways: for the contender, maybe they take a pass on adding this year, because they’re in the playoffs all the time. Or maybe they feel like they absolutely have to add to keep up their regular playoff appearances. Maybe the doormat wants to wait until they’re really ready to be a playoff threat before trading away pieces that they’ve sucked so long to earn. Or maybe they’re so desperate to finally get to the playoffs that they’ll pay out the nose to upgrade, even if the reward is a mere one-game playoff.
In terms of trade rumors, I can tell you that having more teams in competition for a playoff spot – Wild Card or otherwise – has absolutely increased the volume of teams talking about making deals. But is that all just talk? Are teams actually going to be more reluctant to make a move when we get down to it? Thoughts?