The draft is now firmly in the rearview mirror, which unofficially marks the real start of trade rumor season. Of course, our own connection to that period was kicked forward a good bit by the late Craig Kimbrel signing, both because it ate up our attention, and also because it softened the urgency of the Cubs’ need to add to the bullpen.
But the need isn’t completely gone, and the Cubs – like so many other teams – will be considering their options over the next month with July’s Trade Deadline looming.
And you’ll note, I didn’t say non-waiver trade deadline or use any other modifier. It’s just the Trade Deadline now. Full stop.
That’s because, as of this year, the league and the players have done away with the so called waiver trade deadline at the end of August. No longer will there be a second bite at the apple, when you could try to trade for a player whose contract made him otherwise unpalatable to be claimed on waivers (or you could claim a guy and work out an arrangement to trade for him). No more “oooh so and so cleared waivers!” or “oh man, can the Cubs pick up a speedster for nothing on August 31 and then add him to the 40-man roster on September 1?”
All gone. Now it’s just one Trade Deadline on July 31. You want to make a deal other than just a pure scrapheap signing or waiver claim? A real trade? You’ve gotta get it done by July 31.
As MLBTR points out, there is a caveat that you could trade pure minor leaguers for pure minor leaguers after the Trade Deadline, but that’s essentially always true. And the reason we care about these trades in relation to the deadline is because we’re thinking about competitiveness at the big league level in the current season. A non-40-man prospect for non-40-man prospect trade is highly unlikely to impact a big league pennant race.
So, then, it’s all worth keeping in mind as trade rumor season really kicks up: unless you want to have to rely on pure waiver claims in August (highly uncertain and subject to other teams having priority), you best make your important acquisitions by July 31.
What that could mean is that the rumors get bigger and hotter a little earlier than we’re used to, and transactions may even get pushed up to a little earlier in the trade season. Outside of those possibilities, one thing I am certain we’ll see is a heck of a lot more minor, role-player-type trades late in July, and maybe right up to the deadline. The annual BN Trade Deadline Blogathon might get especially nuts …