If a Trade Deadline passes without any trades, was it really a Trade Deadline? Or just another Wednesday?
As the July 31 Deadline (4 p.m. ET) approaches, general managers around Major League Baseball are engaged in talks as they try to bolster their rosters for either a postseason run or future years to come. Some are skeptical that these conversations will lead to a bevy of deals.
“It’s been really odd so far,” one American League Central executive said. “Overall, people seem very unwilling to trade reasonable prospects for players that can help in the short term. That, coupled with extremely high asking prices for controllable players, make me think very little will get done by July 31.”
A number of executives noted the exorbitant asking prices for controllable players -- one called them “sky high” -- as recently as Thursday, as teams with those assets are demanding more than potential buyers are apparently willing to pay.
Could that mean a dearth of action between now and Wednesday?
“Prices for controllable players are very high right now,” a National League Central executive said. “You will probably not see nearly as many controllable pieces traded as are rumored. It will be interesting.”
Starting pitchers Noah Syndergaard, Trevor Bauer, Marcus Stroman, Robbie Ray, Mike Minor and Matthew Boyd have been some of the more popular names during this trade season, but none are slated to become free agents at the end of the 2019 season. That creates a lack of urgency on the part of their current teams when it comes to dealing them, as they can always shop them during the offseason, instead.
Rental players tend to be a different story, though the big names on the upcoming free-agent market aren’t necessarily available, either. The Giants’ plan appears to be to hang on to Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, while the Astros' Gerrit Cole and the Nationals' Anthony Rendon -- considered by most to be the top free-agent pitcher and position player this winter -- aren’t going anywhere.
Among the impending free agents expected to be moved before Wednesday’s Deadline are Nicholas Castellanos, Alex Wood and potentially Zack Wheeler. In other words, if you’re waiting for a rental deal of the magnitude of last year’s Manny Machado-to-the-Dodgers transaction to take place, you might be waiting until next July.
The fact that Major League Baseball has done away with August waiver trades makes the upcoming Deadline even more important, seemingly giving sellers the resolve to hold firm to their elevated asks as potential buyers become more desperate to add for the stretch run.
“It’s not surprising that sellers would try to leverage the single-deadline panic,” one AL East executive said. “I expect prices will come down as we get closer [to July 31].”
Stroman and Minor are generally viewed as top players who will be traded, but beyond those two, there’s a sense among some executives that other controllable players could stay put -- at least until November or December.
“It’s possible,” one NL East executive said. “But it’s still early. This weekend should clear things up.”
Bubble teams including the Athletics, Rays, Red Sox, Angels, Rangers, Brewers, D-backs and Giants have crucial series this weekend, while the Phillies host the Braves in a three-game set that could determine whether Philadelphia will fight for a Wild Card spot or the NL East title.
The closer we get to Wednesday afternoon, the clearer the picture will become for some teams, though the fact that 16 are within 5 1/2 games of a postseason spot could leave things muddled right up to the Deadline.
“Wait until July 30,” a second AL East exec said. “Things could shift in a hurry.”
When all is said and done and the Deadline dust has settled, several players figure to be slipping into new uniforms for the final two months of the season (and longer for those under control beyond 2019). After all, as one NL West executive noted, “It just seems like deadlines always make things happen.”