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?

  • Joker

    Deleterous effect. Whoa…slow up Ace, some of us haven’t had enough caffeine yet from them big, ten cent words.

    • Joker

      Deleterious (see, can’t even spell it right this morning). BTW, when will the EDIT feature be restored? You’re killing me, Smalls!

  • dabynsky

    I know the timing isn’t abnormal, but I am really ready for some deals to be made. I am tired of speculating on what the market is going to be with all of these changes.

  • TT

    So the people in charge of teams figure that a one game playoff is too much of a toss up to bother making material upgrades, but somehow a best of 5 series is so much better that they’d give up assets to make those upgrades in that case? Really?

    • andrew

      That one extra game decreases your chances of winning it all by half. If you could win the division there is a 12.5% chance you win it all as opposed to 6.25% with the wildcard.

      In fact winning the wild card two years in a row makes a team less likely to win a world series than a team that won the division once and didnt make the playoffs once. This is of course offset by the fact that winning the wild card twice gives a team a shot at winning two worldseries, but if you are just looking for one, waiting for the division is better. Of course no team can be sure they will win either the wildcard this year with a trade or the division next year without a trade so all of this would be ultimatelydecided on a team to team basis. I think the additional wild card will make some teams wait and some go for it.

      • Dougy D

        I would say that it makes them more likely to win a world series due to the fact that they are in the playoffs twice, plain and simple. Also, doesn’t 6.25% + 6.25% = 12.5% ? I guess that means that they are just as likely to win it if they make the wild card twice as they are if they win the division once. I understand that they will have to win that additional one game playoff (which could use up their ace), so that does make it more difficult. Either way, I would prefer to be in the mix 2 times rather than once.

        • andrew

          Thats not how probability works dude. You cant add up two independent events, otherwise if you won the division 8 times you would have a 100% chance of winning and thats not true.

          To find the probability of winning at least one WS when winning a wildcard two years in a row you have to subtract the chance you win no WS from 1. So there is a 15/16 chance that you dont win the world series the first year, multiplied by the 15/16 chance you dont win the second year (because these are independent events), this gives an 87.79 percent chance you win no WS. 100-87.79 is 12.11% chance you win at least one world series. This is less than the 12.5% chance you have when you win the wild card

          I wasnt saying which is the right choice, but those are the probabilities. The normative decision on what the team *should* do would depend on a lot of factors beyond this such as, the state of the farm system, injury situation, age of team, etc.

          • Dougy D

            I hear what you’re saying. I wasn’t trying to be a statistician with the comment. I was just trying to get across the point that I would rather be in the playoffs twice rather than once, even if it means the chance that I could be knocked out in one game. Therefore, I like the odds of winning the world series better with the 2 playoff appearances as opposed to 1 playoff appearance.

            Also, I totally agree with factoring in the state of the organization with any trade decisions. That’s why I think that a team that is competing for the division would chance giving up more (Garza type trade) than a team that is trying to squeak in the last wild card spot (Dempster type trade). Of course, it’s not up to us though. I am sure the powers that be are trying to squeeze everything they can out of 2 teams right now for Dempster, and then are going to tell him that they would really like to trade him to the team with the best deal. If he doesn’t want to go there, they will tell him about the next best deal. It would be interesting to shadow Hoyer or Epstein on a day like today.

    • Patrick W.

      Yes. Think of it this way: Let’s say you have 1 excellent starting pitcher followed by 2 Very Good starting pitchers, you will get to pitch each of them in a 5 game series. If it’s one game playoff you might have to use up all three just to get to the playoff, and you might not have your best available for that game.

    • Myles

      To this point:

      If you have a 60% of winning a one-game playoff, probability shows you have a ~68% chance of winning a five-game one.

      • andrew

        that assumes every game you have a 60% chance to win. More likely you have a 60% chance at home and 40% chance on the road. so overall if you were in a 5 game set youd have 60% chance still

  • BD

    Based on the Carlos Lee trade, it sure doesn’t seem like that market was hurt.

    • stillmisskennyhubbs

      Still can’t figure that trade out, especially for the Marlins. (Although he likes to hit at Wrigley, so beware this series.)
      Maybe with El Caballo, the Ms thought they’d have the horses to compete….

  • Andoalex

    I think a lot of it depends on the team. For instance if I’m Detroit and know I get to trot Verlander out there for the one game playoff that makes a big difference compared to a team not having a bonafide ace on the staff.

    • LWeb23

      There is no guarantee you get to trot him out there tho. The one game playoff is going to be like 2 days at most after the regular season. What if you are trying hard to get that last wildcard spot, and you send Verlander out on the last game of the regular season?

      • Andoalex

        That’s definitely possible. Just thinking that having the possibility of throwing an ace out there would make me consider doing more trading due to more confidence in a one game playoff as opposed to if I thought my #1 could get outpitched by another team’s fairly easily.

  • Itzscott

    I’d think a smart GM that’s going for it would want to load up his team to have a better shot at getting beyond the 1st round.

  • cubchymyst

    If your one of the teams on the fringe, wouldn’t you want to increase the talk to make the teams above you overpay. Its a bidding war, fake like your in it to force the opponent to overpay. For me, the more teams involved in the talks the more likely the teams that are really in it are going to overpay, to make sure they get what they want, because now that mystery is a lot more probable.

  • JB88

    Don’t buy it for a second. MLB is still about making money. Adding a playoff to your resume drives patrons to the gate. Increased playoff chances increase the number of season ticket holders. I’d bet a dollar that the Cubs saw dramatic increases in their season ticket holder lists in 1985, 1990, 1999, 2004, 2008 and 2009. Just get in and that will increase the tickets which equals more money for ownership.

    • Brett

      This, too.

  • Whiteflag

    Its been said a few times…once you get into the playoffs its a crap-shoot. I’d make a trade just to get a chance and wouldn’t worry about being one and done.

    • Brett

      This, by the way, is where I land, too.

      • andrew

        but you are twice as likely to win it all in this crapshoot when you win the division than the wildcard. By crapshoot,I mean that your team has a 50/50 shot at winning each series it plays in. Wild card requires winning one more series so the length of the series is irrelevant.

        • Whiteflag

          Ah..but the odds of you winning if don’t make it to the playoffs is even worse 0/100. I think if you can make if have a chance to make to the playoffs you go for it. Maybe, you don’t win it all, but there is money to be made and fans to win over.

          • andrew

            the problem is that you have to balance your chances of this year with next year. If improving your team marginally to increase the chance you make the wildcard (a chance you already had if you were in the position to buy) makes it harder to win the division next year or the next few years, then that is a big loss. this logic relies on the assumption that without a trade the teams chance is 0 and with a trade they automatically make the playoffs, but thats not true. If you dont make the wildcard after making a big deal, that is a huge loss as it means you lose a shot at the division in the coming years yet failed to increase your chances of winning at all.

            On a separate note, I think teams that are securely winnning the wild card might have the bestchance to buy big. Its a low risk scenario because at best it propels the team to win the division and double their odds of winning it all, or at worst, it means they fall short, still win the division but have a slightly better team meaning they increase their odds by a little bit to in the playoff

            • Whiteflag

              You are right. You need to be reasonable. But I’m not buying the extra wild card hurts the trade market. I’m thinking it either increases the number of teams or keeps them the same. For me personally, I’m going all in if I’m that close.

              • andrew

                I dont think it hurts the trade market necesarily because the decision on whether to go for it is based on so many subjective factors that the GM has to weigh like injuries, state of farm system, age of the team etc. If im the blue jays I’d stay put for example because I know that the team will improve much more next year because of people coming off injuries and prospects developing than I would if I traded for this year. If I’m the tigers I think I’d realize that my team is only getting older and i should put my foot on the gas to win the division this year and make a trade. The question is if more teams are in a position closer to the tigers than the bluejays, and im not sure what the answer to that is.

            • Lou

              The problem with this logic is the interplay of subjective factors that you’ve stated in your last post in this thread. Say your Pittsburgh. Do you really balance your chances to win this year by going after a trade that’s big splash (i.e. Upton) or a lesser splash but which may cost you prospect (trading for another back-end SP)? How many opportunities do you have realistically when your track record for the past 20 season has been nothing short of dismal? Then you factor in a return in attendance this season and a ballpark that built raised a stink with citizens who largely where a band of NFL fans and didn’t like the idea of their property taxes being raised. I just think sometimes just looking at numbers fails to translate to market factors and their predominance. After all, MLB is a business. Being a business, implies that MLB teams rely heavily on marketing which also implies appealing to the common fan who may not necessarily be the most intelligent baseball fan. If I as a baseball owner can capitalize on the strength of a season it could me an upturn in revenue and bringing more fans back to the ballpark, regardless of multiple playoff appearances. I know some of the subject has already been stated, but I don’t think it can be stated enough in terms of how the ownership groups of MLB teams operate.

  • bluekoolaidaholic

    “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”

    I respectfully disagree. IMHO the Crane Kenneys and Tom Ricketts of the world would LOVE to have an additional layer of sellout crowds for an additional layer of playoffs.

    • baldtaxguy

      Joke, right?

    • andrew

      no they wouldnt

      1. that additional layer is one game which might not be at home.

      2. even if it is at home, the risk that you lose it means you lose the chance of getting the more guaranteed home games in thenext round, so no sound business strategy would make going to the wild card game worth it.

      • Lou

        Can’t say I agree with this? I don’t know if ownership groups for MLB teams even go as far as your thinking with your 2nd point.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    I think teams wanting to make a deal this week for a Dempster probably isn’t as urgent as we would like it to be. Major injury issues have surfaced on teams like Votto and Bautista. That has a major impact on how a team feels about making trades. The Blue Jays ability to make a run is greatly effected. I see them backing off at this point. They haven’t been big spenders and have rebuilt their organization and they don’t appear to me to be giving up their prospects for rental players. That kind of goes against their recent philosophy. The Reds are probably scrambling right now with Votto going down for a month at least. I think that teams who are more than 4 games out of the second wild card position won’t buy. They are still developing their organizations and don’t want to pay a large price for a potential one game playoff. That goes against their organizational directions on how to grow back into relevancy. So another year for their best prospects to develop and help there own cause is a better plan than going after a rental player.

    • Dougy D

      A “rental player” for the Jays may turn into a 3 year deal with Dempster, as he is Canadian and may like to continue to play for them (barring the demand for a ridiculous contract by Dempster). I don’t think that Dempster is ready to hang it up, but I don’t see him signing again with the Cubs for a ‘hometown discount’ if they trade him away to someone else. Of course it is a little bit difficult to tell what is going through Dempster’s mind, as we are not him. Maybe they would now favor Dempster over Garza, as he might come a little bit cheaper, prospect wise, and try to get LaHair in the deal as well to help out while Jose B. is on the DL.

      • andrew

        Just because Dempster is Canadian doesnt mean he would sign a cheap extension to play in toronto. Hes from the british columbia which is the other side of the country. Hed be much closer to where hes from if he signed with LA or oakland or seattle or somewhere out west.

  • The Show

    Garza, W. Castillo, Szczur/B.Jax and/or Vitters to Toronto for d’Arnaud, Syndergaard, McGuire and Sweeny/Dean.

    • The Show

      Then Dempster and/or Barney to Detroit for Crosby.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    I would think that teams like Detroit would be reluctant to trade a Castellanos 3B prospect when 3B is probably their biggest weakness on defense next to 2B. If I was running Detroit I would ride the pitching that I have through the second half. The Whitesox are due to fall apart soon enough. I think the NL Central will be flipped upside down in the next month. If I’m Detroit I am patient and the division will come back to them. If it doesn’t happen then they are loaded for next year when Martinez comes back. I think there are some Posers in these Wild Cards races and they will fall out of contention over the next 4 weeks. Pittsburgh is one of them. They folded like a lawn chair last year. The Orioles will be the same way and same for Cleveland as well. Most of these teams can’t afford to mortgage the future to be in a 1 game play off when realistically they are another year or so from being top of their division talents.

    • baldtaxguy

      No chance in hell that the NL central will be flipped upside down.

    • stillmisskennyhubbs

      Leyland was just quoted as saying that they’re satisfied with Cabrera’s defense (which boggles me). So they have been playing/teaching Castellanos in the outfield. He last played there as a freshman in HS. I also think they are wise to wait out the White Sox, as much as Ilitch reportedly wants to win NOW, they could stand pat or at least bargain more cannily.
      As to the Pirates, they could/ should make a move to separate themselves from the Reds (with Votto out for several weeks) and the Cards (whose pitching is shaky, I’m glad to see). With no one in the division excelling, the Pirates may see this as their chance to make a big jump in the standings. LaHair might help them big time; Reed Johnson, or Camp/ Russell would on a lesser basis. Would love to get Taillon from them.

  • mudge

    Me I’m going to relax and wait and see what they do. I don’t see them trading off the entire load of veterans though, I think the FO genuinely wants to keep a respectable team on the field – guys like DeJesus, Maholm are here to provide some semblance of that. So you’d move DeJesus or Johnson, but not both. You could trade two but not three of the starting rotation. It seems like Castro is trying to learn a more patient approach and it’s messing with his timing. Probably a temporary setback on the road to a better OBP. Defense is always underrated, but it’s apparent that post-steroid era, it’s a huge boon to a pitching staff. It’d be tough to see Barney go.

    • Whiteflag

      Agree with all of this.

    • baldtaxguy

      I also think its unlikely that on 8/1, Castro has the most ML years of service on the 40-man. But, in addition to the Demp, Garza, etc. probables, if deals can be cut for Maholm, for Dejesus AND Johnson, etc. in return for prospects, you don’t think it would happen?

      “Over time and together we will build a solid foundation that delivers sustained success for the Cubs. That starts with a commitment to scouting and player development.”

  • baldtaxguy

    Add’l wild-card helps. More buyers at the end of the day, than with 1 wild card.

  • Patrick W.

    I think it depends on the way the divisions stack up at any given time. If you have a team that is leading a division with another team right on their heels, it’s likely both teams would be looking to “seal the deal” by making a trade. If you have a team that is running away with the division, and then 6 or 7 or 8 teams in serious contention for the two wild-card spots, you might see the second team in that division less likely to deal. They don’t think they have a serious chance of winning their division and the competition for the one game playoff is already tight.

    • Patrick W.

      So, by my own logic, I would predict it would be harder to get good deals from the Orioles, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays than it would be to get good deals from the Tigers and Indians in the AL.

      In the NL Atlanta, LA, NY, StL and Pittsburgh are all likely to be more active.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    The NL Central won’t literally be flipped upside down. But the Pirates aren’t going to win the division. The Reds are seriously affected by Votto’s injury. The Cardinals lineup is back to full strength and they will be better in the 2nd half. The Brewer’s will move up in the Division as Cinci probably drops 4 or 5 games in the standings over the next month. The Pirates choke and puke like last year. So as far as the NL Central goes the Brewers and Cardinals will battle it out and the Cardinals will probably win that battle because it’s seems they always do. The same things will happen in the AL Central. Even if Detroit doesn’t do a damned thing they will win the Division because the Whitesox and the Tribe will choke and puke. They are 130 game teams. Meaning they will compete until the 130 game mark and then nose dive like always. Don’t care what moves they make. They won’t add anything that can prevent that from happening.

    • stillmisskennyhubbs

      I for one am not counting the Pirates out. Hurdle has them believing. McGahee and their other “fringe” bats have upped their production in the past few weeks. SP is solid if not spectacular for this division, and the BP is ok. McCutcheon is a stud player, and James McDonald is having a career year….as is Burnett of all people.
      If the Reds stumble without Votto, or they lose a starter; and the Cards continue to stink on the mound (yay), it may just be the Pirates by default. That at least would be refreshing.

  • Carew

    how bout this? The braves are lookin for bullpen help too, so Demp/Camp for Minor/Delgado/high ceiling AA pitcher? and possibly a throw-in

    • Carew

      I meant that as a reply to Patrick’s take that ATL would be active

      • bbmoney

        I don’t think ATL would even consider that.

    • Lou

      I’m actually thinking the Braves C Christian Bethancourt for a starting piece but yes I think Dempster’s landing spots are the Braves or Nationals and packaged with Shawn Camp.

  • Edwin

    I think there are more buyers at the end of the day, but I think they’re looking to spend less. If anything it splits teams up in to two sets of buyers. Teams that can still compete for the division now have even more of an incentive to do so, and will look to add short term value like they have in years past. Teams that are going soley for a wildcard, or teams that already have a comfortable lead in the division, are probably less willing to spend.

  • kubphan82

    One and done is far better than not at all… Just to sneak in and have the chance to advance is reason enough to stack your “on the fringe” team for a push. As the perennial losing team, making the one game playoff would be progress and possibly break a streak of missing playoffs. For the perennial winning team, missing the playoffs could be a slap in the face and fans don’t want to know your team bailed without making a run. People are having a hard time that the Cubs are giving up and we’re pretty far back. If you are a middling team looking at a playoff position you already know you’re not receiving a favorable draft position, you should go for one or the other (draft or playoffs).

    The playoff revenue alone would allow you to trade middling prospects for improvements to a team. If I’m the Dodgers, I’m all in for Dempster, despite the fact that more teams are driving up his price. He is the only difference maker this season on the block that makes sense for them, and could be the difference in how far they go into the playoffs. If I’m the Red Sox, I’m all in for Garza.. I don’t want his extra year of control to go to the BJ’s or Yanks, creating a hole for this year AND next year.

    I suppose the only situations where you wouldn’t go for it depends on what you need, what is available, and what you have to give up… If it’s all lacking, you should probably sit still or sell…

  • Andy

    I think there definitely is something to what Buster is saying…but I still like it because.

    1 – It keeps more fans interested later since they have a chance…Aside from crazy fans like ourselves, gone are the days when people would follow their sports teams when they were out of contention…so you have no choice but to adapt to society and the “If we can’t win it all what is the point” mentality.
    2 – It places a GREAT emphasis on the division title. Gone are the days when the Yankees and Red Sox are playing what woud be an exciting season finale series but all it does is determine seeding in an identical 1st round setting. The best division races are when the 2 teams are really really good, meaning the loser will be getting the wild card. I love that we are back to the days or having 2 powerhouses battling it out for the division title.

  • MI6

    From a purely financial consideration, how important is it to be a wild-card contender? Winning is a means to the owner’s end—earning money off of the team. Given that view, moves that don’t cost much on the long term but strengthen fan interest and attendance would be more important to an owner whose team is close than really splurging and going ‘for broke’. Ergo such an owner would want Soriano if the Cubs pay most of his salary, and midrange ‘shore-ups’ like Barney and Maholm but not the high end ‘stars’ like Garza and Dempster.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    I agree with MI 6. The Dodgers are the exception this year. New Owners New TV Revenue deal. I don’t think the Yankee’s, Rangers need to buy. The Angels are going to come on in the second half so maybe the Rangers would come after Garza. The Redsox are going to go after the wildcard, expectations are too high in Boston for them to stand down. The other divisions that don’t have the Major Market teams that aren’t used to being in the playoff’s don’t step very far out of line because they can’t afford the risk of sacrificing their farm systems that are hard for them to develop.

    The Baseball Model is the haves and the have nots.

    Major Market – Major Revenue can afford to spend big – They can buy players and make sacrifices in their farm system to buy.

    Mid Market – Have to build a farm and get their players from their system. Try to build a team that they can hold together / cost controlled long enough to make a few years of runs. Only team that has been able to stay consistently competitive with this approach is the Rays. But it’s the model the Mid Markets are following. Cleveland does it, Cinci does it, Milwaukee does it and so on.

  • THEOlogical

    This is off the top of my head (not having put much thought into it) but if the GM’s are worried about losing draft picks, why not eliminate that equation. Say they get a rental, for the remainder of the season, and offer him a deal worth the top 5 percential of players at his position, albeit, one yr or more. And if he rejects, then they don’t lose a pick. Or say, if the team wins it all, they don’t lose a pick. I’m sure the CBA can be changed or rewritten to come up with a better solution.

  • SoCal Cubs Fan

    I will be interested to see how Pittsburgh does in the lotto tomorrow. There is a possibility that they could have 3 picks in the top 45 next year. One of their top pitching prospects and 2 of the choices for Dempster would be sweet.

  • Edward

    Can someone refresh me on how compensatory picks work under the new CBA? If Demp is moved will we get any picks since the receiving team will not? Or are there no picks issued to either team when a player is moved mid-season? What if we hold onto him and he signs elsewhere?

    • Vladimir

      It used to be the recieving team would get a sandwich pick next year if he was a B type or more if he was an A type if they offered him arb, just like what we could do. But now the player has to be with the team the full year. Which is why, on top of Garza’s ability, we should expect on top of what we would get, something of a round 1.5 talent.

  • Bill

    If you think that there’s any statistical formula that’s worth referring to in order to try and predict a teams chances of winning it all; you clearly haven’t been paying attention over the past decade or so. The big problem with the extra wild card is that it takes away from one unique quality that makes baseball different from most other major professional team sports, the fact that one person typically can’t win or lose the game. The only loop-hole with here is that having a dominant pitcher changes everything. This one factor shapes a teams approach in respects to the trade market around this time. You know the Tigers love the idea of the one game playoff because Verlander is arguably the second coming of Sandy Koufax. The issue happens to be i(ntentionally or non-intentionally) resolved by the scheduling of the new playoff format because Pitchers typically need three or four days of rest. So if you’re Detroit, you probably go after a second ace to counteract the problem. Either way, this one day playoff has to become a 2 out of 3 series or if it’s not, they need to seperate the wild card round far enough before the first divisional round. At the end of the day, without a salary cap; the main issue is still that the inequality between big market and small market teams is just magnified by the new playoff format.