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August 1, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Trade Deadline Non-Transaction Analysis

by Colin Wyers

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

We’ve been inundating you with transaction analysis for the past several days—which makes sense, as transactions have been the biggest generator of excitement over that stretch of time. But now that the trade deadline is over, we have a convenient opportunity to analyze the deals that didn’t happen.

Our general criteria for inclusion:

  • It had to be a player who wasn’t traded. If a player was traded, that typically explains why he wasn’t included in a different deal (unless that player is Ryan Dempster, of course).
  • It had to be a player with credible trade rumors attached to his name. Or at least kind of credible. Or at least printed somewhere on MLB Trade Rumors. Anyway, the point is that we’re not trying to second-guess why a player wasn’t on the trading block, we’re just looking at players whom we think were on the block.

One more thing before we proceed: this is all based on rumors and speculation. We don’t know for sure which players were really up on the block, except for the ones actually traded. And we don’t know what players were offered in return. We’re not trying to second-guess the general managers involved, but to construct a plausible explanation (or explanations) as to why these players didn’t move at the deadline, given what we believe we know from media reporting.

Alright, let’s proceed!

BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Red Sox did not trade SP-R Josh Beckett to anyone who would answer their phone calls.

Most likely, nobody was answering those phone calls.

SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Mariners did not trade SS-R Brendan Ryan to a team that hasn’t had a shortstop able to move to his left in over a decade.

Reportedly—and bear in mind that there was only one source that said the Yankees were even interested in this—the Mariners wouldn’t send Ryan to the Yankees.

My best guess as to why is that the Mariners have some pension money or something tied up in someone who provides health insurance to baseball writers, and they figured they would have lost a small fortune covering all the heart attacks that would occur if the Yankees were suddenly to have a credible alternative to “Derek Jeter, shortstop emeritus” on the roster. That’s pretty speculative, though.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Rays did not trade SP-R James Shields in some sort of convoluted scheme to sell while still contending.

The Rays were always going to be asking for a small fortune in return for a prized pitcher like Shields, especially one with some very tempting team options left after this season. And the Rays were going to be looking to make a deal that was essentially neutral to their team’s expected wins, given that they’re still jockeying for a wild card spot. It’s hard to tell how serious they were about trading him and how willing teams were to put together a package that would have fit the needs of the Rays. Presumably, any MLB-ready pieces that would have helped the Rays were pieces any potential suitors were counting on to help their own teams contend. 

CHICAGO CUBS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Cubs did not trade SP-R Matt Garza to a team looking for a front-line starter.

Cubs did not trade LF-R Alfonso Soriano to a team willing to overlook how staggeringly overpaid he is.

The Cubs waited too long to trade Garza, and he got injured. In hindsight, it looks like they should have moved him sooner, but that assumes an injury risk of 100 percent, and at the time there wasn’t any reason to think that his injury risk was anywhere near that high. What’s more, Garza is the sort of trading chip that can just as readily be moved in the offseason, so the Cubs can afford to be patient and wait for an offer that they feel justifies making a move.

And while Cubs fans may be anxious to be shed of Soriano, the Cubs themselves seem to be patient in finding a landing spot for him. That doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to deal him—reportedly, a deal with the Giants fell through because Soriano wouldn’t waive his no-trade rights—but they aren’t going to dump him just to dump him. He also has a contract that looks certain to clear waivers, or at least a contract so large that if he gets claimed on waivers they may well just decide that’s victory enough and let him go. So there’s still a chance he gets moved this season.

MIAMI MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Marlins did not trade SP-R Josh Johnson as part of their regular fire sale.

Marlins did not trade 1B-R Carlos Lee soon after acquiring him.

The Marlins picked up Carlos Lee to shore up their lineup during a disappointing season from Gaby Sanchez. Then they decided that they were in the mood to sell, not buy. There were several problems with this plan, though. First of all, Carlos Lee is Carlos Lee. Second, there were very few teams looking to acquire help at first base, which is the only place Carlos Lee can play anymore. Third, the Marlins traded the aforementioned Gaby Sanchez to one of those teams, cutting themselves off at the knees.

Josh Johnson is trickier. There were certainly teams looking for a starter of Johnson’s caliber who were willing to give up significant trade chips for one. Either the Marlins were holding out for an offer that blew them away, or teams devoted their attention to pitchers they thought would have a lower asking price.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Phillies did not trade SP-R Joe Blanton to a team in need of back-of-the-rotation pitching help.
Phillies did not trade LF-L Juan Pierre to a team in need of a slap-hitting outfielder.

Let’s be honest: a general manager has to figure out how to field a team for the rest of the season, and the next season, after the trade deadline is over. And he has to give people a reason to turn those turnstiles.

Even if a player is leaving at the end of the season and you don’t expect any compensation for losing him to free agency, there still is a bare minimum of a return that make it worth your while to trade him. If you want to get a guy off your roster without having to cut him yourself, you may trade him for the proverbial bag of baseballs, or more likely a low-minors player who projects as little more than an organizational guy. But if a player actually has value to your major-league team, you’re unlikely to let him go for a player you don’t think has at least some value to your organization.

We don’t know what the Phillies were offered for either of these players. But the Phillies did trade away two outfielders at the deadline, which:

  1. Left them rather thin in terms of outfield players available, and
  2. Got them under the luxury tax threshold.

So they didn’t need to move Pierre or Blanton unless they got an offer they liked. The most reasonable explanation here is, simply, that they didn’t get an offer they liked. Given the rather uninspiring nature of these two players, we shouldn’t be surprised.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Pirates did not trade SP-R Kevin Correia to a team that would let him start, even though he asked them to.

There probably wasn’t a team looking to acquire a player at the trade deadline who would let Kevin Correa start. And if there was, they weren’t going to give the Pirates anything that would be more useful to them right now than letting Correa stay in their bullpen and maybe pick up some spot starts.


Colin Wyers is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Colin's other articles. You can contact Colin by clicking here

Related Content:  Trades,  Trade Rumors,  Trade Deadline,  Rumors,  Trading

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