Earlier today, MLB and the MLBPA jointly announced a series of rather significant rule changes. Most notably, there will be a 26th roster spot and a limit on September call-ups beginning in 2020. I really dislike limiting September call-ups. Blah. Here is the full press release. Make sure you check it out.
As part of the rule changes, baseball will transition to a single July 31st trade deadline beginning this season. That means August (and September!) waiver trades are no more. Gotta love MLB’s ability to fix things that aren’t broken. Anyway, Ken Rosenthal (subs. req’d) and Jeff Passan reported this was coming yesterday. Here’s Passan with an explanation:
What will be in place come this summer are a single July 31 trade deadline and (a single All-Star Game voting) Election Day. Deals after the non-waiver deadline made August a hotbed for incremental upgrades by teams, and the union’s hope is that getting rid of them will incentivize teams to be more aggressive in the offseason knowing that the fallback for August deals no longer is an option.
Rosenthal says “indecipherable trade waivers” are “baseball’s version of the U.S. tax code,” which is a bit extreme to me, but whatever. Bottom line is there will be no more trades after July 31st going forward. No more worrying about trade waivers or postseason eligibility or anything like that. August is really going to feel like the dog days of summer without trade rumors to break up the monotony.
The Yankees have not been all that active on the August trade waiver market in recent years. The Andrew McCutchen trade last year is far and away their most notable August trade in quite a while. Their last August trade of note prior to that was probably adding Chad Gaudin in 2009. Or maybe getting Brendan Ryan in September 2013. The Yankees did trade away Ben Gamel in an August deal, so I guess that counts.
Despite their general August inactivity, a single July 31st deadline will create some headaches for the Yankees, and all teams really. If you’re a contender, you have that much less time to improve and no way to react to August and September injuries. If you’re a rebuilder, you have less time to shop your players. If you’re a bubble team, you have to pick a path earlier in the summer. No more seeing what happens in August before deciding what to do.
Aaron Judge suffered his broken wrist on July 26th last year. The Yankees would’ve had five days to find a replacement under the new single trade deadline, which means no waiting out the market for McCutchen — getting McCutchen for nothing in particular on August 31st was a hell of a deal — and it means paying a premium at the deadline because teams would’ve known the Yankees were desperate for outfield help and running short on time.
The new single trade deadline makes optionable depth players much more valuable. Contending teams have to not only get the roster help they need prior to July 31st, but also secure contingency plans. Guys who can go up and down to Triple-A without waivers are ideal. I wonder if we’ll see more optionable relievers and utility guys get traded at the deadline now. Players like Jonathan Holder and Tyler Wade become that much more important.
At the moment the Yankees are in good shape with optional depth. Wade’s an optionable infielder, Clint Frazier is an optionable outfielder, Kyle Higashioka is an optional catcher, Greg Bird is an optional first baseman, Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga are optionable starters. That’s right now though. Who knows what the Yankees will look like on July 31st? August trade waivers meant the Yankees didn’t have to rush into anything when Judge got hurt.
Is there a loophole here? Could the Giants have released McCutchen in August with a gentleman’s agreement that he’d sign with the Yankees after clearing waivers (assuming he clears waivers!), then the Yankees trade San Francisco prospects (and any necessary cash) for future considerations in the offseason to complete the deal? Unlike trade waivers, teams couldn’t claim McCutchen just to block him. They’d have to take him and his salary on. A move like this would be tricky.
Passan and Rosenthal say the MLBPA hopes teams will be more aggressive in the offseason knowing they can’t get help in August and eh, I’m not sure about that. Would a single trade deadline help Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel find work? I don’t think so. Tons of teams can use them and they’ve yet to receive an offer to their liking. Would Adam Jones remain unsigned until mid-March with a single trade deadline? Yeah, I think so. I guess we’ll find out in time.
McCutchen trade aside, the Yankees have not been very active on the trade waiver market, but that doesn’t mean a single trade deadline won’t complicate things for Brian Cashman & Co. moving forward. Waiver trades were always available if the Yankees needed help, which they did when Judge got hurt last year. Now they’re no longer available. More than anything, this means hoping for good health after July 31st more than ever before.