The crickets are getting sore throats, amirite. No, no, I’m kidding. It’s not that bad. They don’t use their throats to make that sound anyway.
But it HAS been tremendously inactive around baseball this week, the final week before the August 2 Trade Deadline. What’s the deal? Where are the trades? There are rumors, aplenty, yes, but where are the actual deals? Is this normal? This feels abnormal!
It’s easy to forget that we’re still kind of in a new world as far as trade timelines go. Specifically, this is just the second year of having the MLB Draft – which sucks up all the attention and energy in front offices – at the All-Star break, and thus having the Trade Deadline just a couple weeks later. That definitely figured to back things up, and push most of the activity to the very end of the month.
So maybe the fact that we haven’t seen virtually ANY trade activity around baseball here five-six days before the Trade Deadline is just the current normal? We can’t yet know for sure, but maybe it was like this last year, too, and I just remember it wrong?
Nope! It’s much quieter than last year! (I have two theories, by the way, but we’ll get there in a moment.)
I was curious, so I looked back at last year’s trade season to see what the timeline looked like. Using the enormously helpful Transaction Tracker at MLBTR, I can see that there have been just two “trade season type” trades this year (the Mets picking up Dan Vogelbach, the Rays picking up Christian Bethancourt) so far this month. Contrast with last year, when there were seven “trade season type” trades by the time we reached five full days before the deadline.
The first, most around here remember, was the Joc Pederson trade, with the Cubs sending the outfielder to the Braves for Bryce Ball on July 15. From there, we saw some relatively minor trades, but Nelson Cruz was traded to the Rays – remember that one? – on July 22, a full nine days before the deadline. Rich Hill, as your standard depth rotation arm, was traded on July 23. The big (at the time!) Adam Frazier trade to the Padres was July 26, which would be riiiiiiight around now if it were this year. The next day saw several trades of note, and things were really off to the races.
So maybe we’ll still see things accelerate as soon as tonight, and take off tomorrow? I guess things wouldn’t be THAT off from last year if it plays out that way, but we’re still talking about dramatically less activity leading up to today.
What’s the deal? Fluke? Well, maybe. But I have two theories:
1.) Juan Soto. You know the story there: when someone so foundational, so transformative, is definitely available in trade, a lot of teams will not make other buying moves until they’re certain they can’t get Soto. It would take only a few teams playing the waiting game to hold up a few other teams, which would hold up other teams, and so forth. We’ve seen this kind of thing before, and I think it’s a major factor at play.
2.) But this is also a major factor: the new CBA. Specifically, the extra Wild Cards. There are more teams closer to contention this year than we would’ve seen in the past, which means I think some teams were waiting longer to fully commit to aggressively buying or selling. That, too, can have a rippling out “waiting” effect, and slow things down. Sellers don’t want to sell their best pieces to the highest bidder until they actually know all the bidders are bidding! And, in turn, I bet there are some buyers who have their eyes on particular and preferred trade pieces, who aren’t quite yet being made available.
So, in sum: where are my trades? They’re coming. But they appear to be coming later than last year.
Hopefully a definitive Soto decision (anything but a trade to the Cardinals!) comes soon, and that starts to shake things loose. I’m itching for some activity.