There was logic to this line of thinking. While the extra Wild Card has created an additional play-off place to play for, that will not necessarily spur on teams to make a big trade.
Firstly, more teams are potentially still in the race meaning there are less teams clearly falling in the ‘sellers’ bracket than otherwise might be the case.
Secondly, there’s a growing debate on quite how valuable it will be to make the Wild Card ‘play’in’ game.
Obviously it’s much better than missing out altogether – if you’re in it, you can win it – but there’s a fair chance that your season might only be extended by a single game, making it more of a risk to give up too much in the way of prospects. Add in the fact that teams acquiring top players will no longer receive a compensatory draft pick if they leave as a free agent at the end of the season, and there are various factors that could make teams err on the side of caution and go with what they’ve got.
However, we’ve seen in the last ten days or so that there are teams out there trying to add a player or two to the mix, just as some teams are beginning to look to 2013 and beyond.
The most significant organizational decision has been made by the Miami Marlins.
I was cautious about jumping on the Marlins’ bandwagon prior to the season – I couldn’t quite see why so many were ready to hand them the division after finishing 30 games out last year – and 2012 has not turned out the way the team had hoped, leading to them making players available for the right price.
The first beneficiaries have been the Detroit Tigers, who traded for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to strengthen their challenge in the AL Central. Unsurprisingly, the General Manager of the Chicago White Sox, Kenny Williams, has been active too and while his efforts to acquire Zack Greinke did not pay off, he took a chance on Francisco Liriano yesterday and has added Brett Myers to the bullpen from the Astros.
The Marlins then parted ways with the previous face of the franchise Hanley Ramirez, sending him to the Los Angeles Dodgers who were in desperate need of some help in scoring runs. With new ownership now in place, it seems likely that the Dodgers will continue to look to add to their roster (Ryan Dempster being one obvious target), while the San Francisco Giants (aside from signing Marco Scutaro) and the Arizona Diamondbacks don’t appear to be on the verge of making any significant upgrades in the battle for the NL West.
Miami’s impact on the trade market might not end there. Every team in contention would love to acquire an ace-type pitcher like Josh Johnson. However, the Marlins’ recent moves are not a sign that they are heading into a three year rebuilding project. If healthy – a big ‘if’ of course – Johnson will play a huge role in the Marlins bouncing back next season, so they will have to be bowled over to part with their ace.
I would guess that he will still be a Marlin come 1 August, although a guess is as far as I’ll go when it comes to predicting anything about this trade deadline.
Wandy Rodriguez’s career in an Astros uniform has been on borrowed time for at least a year and he finally changed teams in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Buccos have two strong opponents to contend with in the NL Central, the Reds and Cardinals, and if they can add a bat without giving up one of their better prospects then they could still be active on the trade market.
The Phillies’ Shane Victorino keeps being mentioned as a possible target, even though the Pirates already have a star manning centrefield in Andrew McCutchen. Victorino is on course to become a free agent at the end of the season and the Phillies are unlikely to have the funds to keep him after their recent major outlay.
The Phillies took arguably the biggest potential trade target, and off-season free agent target, off the market by coming to terms with Cole Hamels on a six-year, $144m contract extension. That amounts to just a shade under £300k per week at the current exchange rate.
They now have a series of substantial financial commitments for 2013 and beyond. Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins will take up just over $128m of payroll for seven slots on the 25-man roster. If Hunter Pence stays for his final year before free agency, that will go up to over $140m for eight players.
They unquestionably amount to a quality core of players, but as this year has showed committing so much money to that core makes you vulnerable if any miss significant time due to injuries. The NL East promises to be a fascinating division over the next few seasons.
The Oakland A’s recent blistering form has also upped the stakes in the AL West. The Los Angeles Angels flashed the cash over the offseason by signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson and now they’ve added another top talent in Zack Greinke, acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers this past week.
The fact that the Texas Rangers were so keen to add Greinke as well suggests this could be a telling blow at the top of the division, making it all the more likely that the Rangers will seek to counter with a move of their own, especially after losing Colby Lewis to a season-ending injury.
We’ve already had a higher number of significant trades than was anticipated just a few weeks ago. Don’t be surprised if several more are made before the end of Tuesday.