I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like this season’s trade market has been pretty pricey thus far. It’s a seller’s market for sure – just ask the Brewers, who managed to turn Francisco Rodriguez into a decent prospect in Nick Delmonico (the fourth best prospect in the Orioles system according to Baseball America). The Rangers gave up Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm and a player or two to be named later to the Cubs for Matt Garza. The White Sox will most certainly be sellers by the deadline, and you can bet they’ll place a premium price on guys like Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, and even Alexei Ramirez even though each of those players have some obvious warts.
A large part of the trade market’s demand is certainly a byproduct of the second wild card. More teams are contenders, or at least, more teams are on the verge of being contenders. Teams that probably should be considering selling realistically (i.e. the Mariners, Phillies, Royals) are instead showing a hesitancy to do so because they are still in the race (sort of), or perhaps because they think they’ll be competitive in the near future. In any event, I contend a lot of teams have a false sense of security with where they rank among their competition. Getting back to the original point though, and maybe this is an over simplification, but this season’s trade deadline has basically been defined by a bunch of teams who while are capable of “selling,” are afraid to commit to the idea which has thusly jacked up the prices on all the available players.
Instead, what we’ve seen is a lot of inaction by these very same teams as the deadline rapidly approaches. Meanwhile, the likelihood of these same teams moving dramatically through the standings remains rather unlikely. Hell, teams like the Phillies may ultimately wind up buying. I’ll be interested to see how teams like the Royals or even the former World Series Champs, the Giants, position themselves heading forward for the rest of the season and moving onward.
Then there is the Yankees. On one hand, they’re absolutely in the mix right now. With a 54-49 record, they’re seven games out of first place in the A.L. East but only 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card. Mike discussed a few of the reasons why it makes sense for the Yankees to try and contend via acquiring a few pieces by the deadline. Namely a few of the injured players will be returning, and who knows how many more productive years the team will get from older vets like Derek Jeter. Then there’s the unfortunate fact that this will be the last year they’ll have one of the all-time great relievers closing out the game. Of course, all of these points have not deterred the majority of RABers from advocating the white flag.
Realistically, I don’t see the Yankees as sellers. They’re perennial contenders and I don’t think the organization can philosophically accept the path of concession – in fact, they’ve already brought Alfonso Soriano back. The problem is, even if the team can squeak into the postseason this year, what’s the plan for next year? At some point, the team will have to consider radically revamping the core of the team, especially if many of the anticipated roster changes ultimately happen in 2014.
While trading players for prospects isn’t a sure bet, teams have proven that rebuilding doesn’t have to be an agonizing process – particularly teams with some financial backing. The Red Sox went from awful last season to divisional leaders this year after giving up several of their core players to the Dodgers. If the Yankees wanted to do something similar, they could trade Hiroki Kuroda, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, and even Robinson Cano. Some of those guys would net huge returns, especially in this tight market.
Of course, there are complications that cannot be ignored. Kuroda has shown a willingness to block trades. Granderson and Hughes both may be useful pieces next year, while Gardner and Cano are arguably the team’s most important players right now. The hurdles involved with moving these guys is not really the point though. I think the primary point here is whether it makes more sense to take advantage of the seller’s market while the team can capitalize on the return the most. Of course, maybe this is an irrelevant point anyway considering the trade deadline is less than a week away.