Winter Meetings trades aren't a simple matter

Dealing a franchise player adds extra layers to complicated process

December 5th, 2018

PHOENIX -- There was a time when trading was a line the Arizona Diamondbacks would not cross. Even mentioning him was a non-starter.
"We don't talk about Goldy in any deals," former D-backs GM Dave Stewart said at the Trade Deadline in 2015.
This year, though, the D-backs have said they will "listen" on any of their players, including Goldschmidt. That doesn't mean that D-backs GM Mike Hazen is going to take a page out of Roland Hemond's 1975 Winter Meetings playbook, though. There's a long, long road between "listening" and completing a deal.
Hemond, then the White Sox GM and now a senior advisor with the D-backs, famously set up a table in the lobby of the Winter Meetings hotel, had a phone installed and put up a sign that said "Open For Business."
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"It seems to me that it was probably a lot easier to move the pieces around the board then than it is now," said former D-backs GM and current Major League Baseball senior vice president Joe Garagiola Jr.
Indeed, Hazen and his staff first spent time this offseason evaluating just what went wrong down the stretch this season when a September slump kept the D-backs from making their second straight postseason appearance, and what changes they might want to make for 2019.
Only once they assessed that did they start to look at the trade market and engage other teams.
"I think the first step is trying to get a hold of the 29 other teams and figure out exactly what they're trying to do," Hazen said. "It starts with just trying to figure out who they're interested in on your team and then you sort of expressing who you have interest in and see if there are fits there."
And it isn't similar to a fantasy league, where you call another owner and say, "I'll give you Player X for Player Y" and a trade is made in minutes.
"Sure, it's like fantasy baseball -- except if you get it wrong, you lose your job," Garagiola said. "I think a lot of people in fantasy leagues, if that was the ultimate outcome, trades would move a lot more slowly in their leagues."
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The work of contacting the other teams for Hazen ran through the GM Meetings last month. It will continue at the Winter Meetings next week where some GMs assign members of their staff to be in touch with a handful of teams. It's each staff member's responsibility to check in daily with the counterpart on that person's assigned teams to see if there are any possible matches for trades.
Deals rarely come together quickly in this day and age, especially when they involve franchise players like a Goldschmidt or a Zack Greinke.
"Everything just kind of ratchets up," said Garagiola, who dealt both Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling during his tenure. "Clearly ownership is going to be involved in a trade of that magnitude, and their opinions have to be solicited and taken into consideration. The stakes are just higher."
Hazen noted that if a trade involves prospects, each GM is going to want to get the input of scouts and player-development people, which adds another level of complexity and time.
In other words, there's usually more talk than action. At the Winter Meetings, sometimes the best thing a GM can do is fight the urge to make a trade just to make one.
"Particularly if one or two deals get made, it's easy to get caught up in the mentality of 'I can't come back from the auction empty-handed,'" Garagiola said. "So then you come back with this gigantic moose head and you say, 'Where am I going to put this?'"