I hope no one thinks they got caught up in a pump-and-dump scheme in the last two days with the build-up to today’s IFA period. Like I said this morning, it was no lock that trade activity would happen, but, based on the action all around baseball last year – in terms of bonus slot trading, and then attendant deals – it sure seemed likely. And, hey, there’s still a lot of time left today.
So, why aren’t we seeing action? We knew the Cubs wouldn’t be in on any of the big name signings because of their $250,000 limit, but why no trades? And it isn’t just the Cubs – there hasn’t been a slot trade all day after there were three on this day last year (all by the Cubs, incidentally). What’s up?
It’s possible it’s just a sample size problem. After all, we had a sample size of 1 (one year) to work with before today, on which to base our predictions for activity this year (and all by one team). Not exactly a deep pool of data. It’s also possible that teams reevaluated the way they approached IFA deals in the last 12 months, and the urgency to make the deal today isn’t quite the same as it was last year. It’s not like slots have to be dealt today – we just assumed they would be based on (1) history (but small sample) and (2) the obviousness of the Cubs’ likelihood to deal a slot or two.
I also think it’s possible that we’ll see these slot deals pushed back a little bit, given how many teams are blowing out their budgets already. With so many teams projecting to go over their budget, perhaps teams with slots to trade (i.e., the Cubs) are holding back, waiting to see how things shake out before trying to get the best deal from the teams that could still get under the harshest penalty (15% over their pool). And maybe, similarly, the big spenders are waiting to see how many of their deals they can get finalized before deciding whether acquiring slots is worth it – either to get under the max penalty, or to see a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the tax they’ll pay. Keep in mind, we don’t believe the slots to have a ton of value, so the Cubs don’t really lose much by sitting back and seeing what happens.
It’s probably some combination of all of these things.
At the end of the day, the Cubs will still very likely have more than they can spend in bonus pool money (details on that here), and perhaps they’ve decided to wait out the market a bit to see if their IFA slots will be more valuable to them when they finally put together larger player deals. After all, whatever slot they deal today for a minor prospect is a slot they can’t later offer to, for example, the Blue Jays to sweeten their return in a player deal.
(One final possibility which is entirely speculative: competitive balance picks for the 2015 draft are tradable, but not until the competitive balance lottery takes place in a couple weeks. Slots for a draft pick? It’s conceivable, even if hard to plan for, since we don’t know which teams will be getting those picks for sure until the lottery. Once again, maybe the Cubs are happy to wait and see.)