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August 6, 2009

Future Shock

Getting Dealt

by Kevin Goldstein

This year's trade deadline might have been the craziest ever, not in terms of actual trades, but in terms of the talk about potential deals. Between all of the various outlets generating the rumors, those that simply aggregate them, and social networking sites like Twitter, trying to figure out everything that was happening became a 24/7 operation, while also requiring a sizeable filter to find the nuggets of truth. After the trade is done, everyone in the media chimes in once again to talk about who 'won' a trade, or what the prospects might become, but what about the prospects themselves. What happens when you are suddenly dealt?

Strangely enough, new Orioles third baseman Josh Bell found out about his trade in the same way everyone else does: via the internet. "A couple of teammates were saying there was a rumor going around, and I didn't really think anything of it," said Bell. "I showed up at the park on Friday, went online, and the Dodgers already had an announcement up early about adding [George] Sherrill to the bullpen, then buddies starting calling and congratulating me."

Normally, teams call players before trade information is public, but the Dodgers jumped the gun a bit with their release, and team Assistant GM of Player Development De Jon Watson called Bell once all of the medicals were cleared and the trade was official. "He basically called me and thanked me for everything I've done, told me I was traded and wished me good luck with the Orioles," Bell explained.

Twenty minutes later, Watson's equal with the Orioles, John Stockstill, called Bell and the 48-hour whirlwind began, with some assistance from Bell's agent, Josh Kusnick.

Kusnick is not the kind of agent who gathers a media crowd at the Winter Meetings. He founded Double Diamond Sports Management in 2002 with his father, Howard, and has developed and grown a small stable of clients from the ground up. He represents several prospects that are well on their way to the big leagues, including Josh Bell. As an agent with previous experience in having his clients involved with deadline deals, Kusnick immediately knew what his first responsibility was.

"Call his mom," Kusnick said laughingly. "Josh has a very close-knit family and the first thing I did was call Jackie," he explained. "I talked to her for an hour and just assured her, like I did with Josh, that this is a good thing, and something that could move up his timetable to the big leagues, and that's what this is all about."

For Bell, it was a mix of emotions. "This is the team that drafted me... the team I've been with for four years now. I've been around many of my teammates for all of this time, grown up with them, trained with them, made friends, some best friends and now it's like starting all over again," said Bell. "It's uncomfortable when our clients get traded because one of their first thoughts is that they'll never see any of these people again," added Kusnick.

The first thing Bell had to do was get back to Chattanooga and pack. As the Lookouts were on the road at the time of the deal's consummation, he caught a flight the next morning, and had less than a day to gather his belongings from the townhouse he shared with teammate Adam Godwin. "I had pretty much everything I own there," said Bell. "I filled up two big suitcases and made sure I had my computer, and figured that would be enough for the one month left in the season," he continued, noting that he left two bags behind that an aunt, who lives a couple hours drive away, will pick up later. "Then I called the landlady and told her this was my final month," he added.

Finding new roommates is a constant part of being in the minors, be it from trades or promotions, so even though he had nothing to do with the deal, Godwin, and 11th-round pick making a minor league salary, needs to find a new roommate for his final month in the Southern League. As far as moving expenses go, those are on the player as well.

One common problem, setting up new living arrangements, won't be an issue for Bell. Also traded from the Dodgers and assigned to Bowie was right-hander Steven Johnson, a Maryland native who Bell will live with during the season's final weeks. "It made life substantially easier having him get traded somewhere that he had a built-in roommate and place to live," Kusnick noted.

Meanwhile, Kusnick began doing the work to get Bell ready for his new organization. "He needed new stuff, obviously, because he can't wear blue with the Orioles" said Kusnick. "We have a relationship with many companies so we quickly ordered new equipment for him and had it over-nighted so he'd be ready with it day one," he added. "Players have enough going on with their entire careers suddenly getting turned around, these little things is what we are there for." As an aside, Josh likes his new colors, saying, "Black and orange... it gets to be Halloween every day."

Less than 48 hours after the deal, Bell arrived in New Britain for a road game, and was immediately put in the third spot in Bowie's batting order for the night. "The manager came up to me and introduced himself, showed me the signs, told me I was in the lineup, then we stretched and got in the game, so in that way, it was like any other day," said Bell.

Bell nonetheless noted that it was one of the strangest days of his career. "It was the weirdest feeling I've had in baseball, even weirder when I first signed," he explained. "You're just suddenly on a new team, and they know each other and there's chemistry there and they know the coaching staff and the way the team plays."

He went on to add, "There's a freedom in knowing a team and the core system there. It's really the unknown that I was worried about; it was a combination of excitement and nervousness, but in the end, this is a big opportunity for me."

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

Related Content:  Josh Bell,  Bell Road,  The Call-up

31 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Mountainhawk

Moving expenses are on the players? Rough. Is that true in MLB as well?

Aug 06, 2009 09:28 AM
rating: 2
 
wonkothesane1

The mlb players is covered by the union, so probably not.

Aug 06, 2009 10:51 AM
rating: 0
 
PJ

I really enjoyed this column! Very interesting behind the scenes perspective. Thanks!

Aug 06, 2009 09:35 AM
rating: 9
 
cburnell

Great piece. It's easy to overlook the difficulties that many minor league players endure in the hopes of reaching the MLB. Thanks.

Aug 06, 2009 09:42 AM
rating: 8
 
acamp45

Great read!!!!

Aug 06, 2009 09:45 AM
rating: 3
 
mymrbig

I concur with PJ, this was a fabulous column. Maybe one of my favorites from BP. Hopefully the teams are at least paying for his airline tickets!

Aug 06, 2009 09:47 AM
rating: 8
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Yes, the teams do pick up the travel.

I appreciate all the great comments here -- message received is that there is a big interest on "how the sausage is made" kinds of information, and I'll keep that in mind for future pieces.

Aug 06, 2009 09:52 AM
 
Paul Andrew Burnett

It seems like every time I move or help someone move I hear about a player being traded, sent down, or called up, which makes me wonder what happens to the guy's apartment. I suspect breaking a lease isn't a huge financial concern for someone making the major league minimum or more, but it probably is for guys at the lower levels. I always sort of suspected that clubs helped out with that sort of thing.

Aug 06, 2009 12:14 PM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

In addition, the renters themselves know that they are renting to ballplayers and understand how the business works, so their leases are, for lack of a better term, a bit looser.

Aug 06, 2009 12:33 PM
 
SC

Terrific piece, I'd love to see more of these at BP, perhaps during the offseason? These sort of pieces remind us that behind the numbers and the names are actual humans who have to deal with myriad challenges as they live a logistically challenging life.

Aug 06, 2009 09:49 AM
rating: 1
 
John Kearns

Yeah, this is great Kevin. Thanks for the inside look.

Aug 06, 2009 10:01 AM
rating: 0
 
elm
(41)

I want to chime in too with what everyone else has said: fantastic article!

I never really thought about what happens to the people left behind: since Chattanooga needs to replace Bell on the roster, can't the new guy room with Godwin? I would imagine that since, as you say, there's so much turnover on minor-league rosters, they have a system in place for this. But I would have also imagined that they covered moving expenses for traded players.

Aug 06, 2009 10:05 AM
rating: 0
 
hessshaun

Agreed with all. Yeah, the psychological influences from outside the game are all very interesting.

Aug 06, 2009 10:12 AM
rating: 0
 
Tim K

Thanks for the great look into the lives of the majority of the people who play the game for a living, most of whom you will never even hear about.

Aug 06, 2009 10:17 AM
rating: 0
 
fireorlime

We forget that we're dealing with real human beings sometime, I never considered the toll it takes on a minor league player to get traded like that. Thanks for the inside look, great article.

Go Josh, hope to see you in Bawldimore in 2010!

Aug 06, 2009 10:23 AM
rating: 0
 
Nelbowski

Kevin, as much as I love coming here to read your perspective on prospects as players, this was a pleasant surprise to open. I'd love to see more feature-type pieces about scouting and minor leaguers. Solid read, keep up the good work.

Aug 06, 2009 10:29 AM
rating: 2
 
BillyB

I'm piling on, but more pieces behind the scenes would be most welcome.

Aug 06, 2009 10:42 AM
rating: 0
 
oira61

Thank you, Kevin, this is a great article. I always wonder about how players actually live, but so few media outlets report it.

It's terrible that the teams don't help with moving expenses, especially because some of these guys will never reach the majors. Think about it: If a company in Tennessee hires me from California, they'll usually offer to pay my moving expenses. But here these guys have no choice, and yet they have to pay.

Aug 06, 2009 10:47 AM
rating: 0
 
drmboat
(754)

Kevin-
You may need to expand a little bit about the "not paying for moving expenses":
I would imagine that most of these players (like Josh) have a "home" that is not necessarily Chattanooga, since preferably Chattanooga isn't their final destination. So in essence, the team isn't "paying for moving expenses" because the guy is supposed to be moving from one semi-temporary location to another. The team will pay to get you to the right location though. In reality, a player will only be in Chattanooga for 5 months or so, so the amount of "stuff" that needs to get moved should be relatively small (like the stuff Josh talked about). We aren't moving beds and china cabinets here...

Aug 06, 2009 13:17 PM
rating: 3
 
keeperleaguegm

This is an excellent article. Hope to see more things like this.

Thanks Kev,
Keeper League GM

Aug 06, 2009 10:54 AM
rating: 0
 
Tank
(989)

One of my favorite articles of yours, Kevin. Really interesting, thanks.

Aug 06, 2009 11:12 AM
rating: 0
 
cardsfan89

Very similar to a series of articles that Matt Baker, the Springfield Cardinals beat writer, released recently. Here they are for those that enjoyed this.

http://www.news-leader.com/article/20090802/SPORTS02/908020325/-1/BLOGS01/Families+often+feel+the+pain

http://www.news-leader.com/article/20090802/SPORTS02/908020329/-1/BLOGS01/Going++going++gone

http://www.news-leader.com/article/20090802/SPORTS02/908020328/-1/BLOGS01/Like+a+revolving+door

I'll also give my thumbs up to some more human interest stories on life in the minors and how it compares to the big leagues. For example I know the spreads after the game are something that the AAAA love when they're up with the big league club.

Again, great article and well done.

Aug 06, 2009 12:51 PM
rating: 1
 
mcauld

Wow, thanks Kevin, such an interesting article about something I didn't know would be so interesting. Good to see many others enjoyed it as much as myself. Can't really think of similar topics at the moment, but I want more.

Aug 06, 2009 14:39 PM
rating: 0
 
JD Sussman

Great piece. It really humanizes these guys we follow for all these years.

Thanks KG.

Aug 06, 2009 15:49 PM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

I just read this to see what the hub bub was about....excellent...please give us more!

Aug 06, 2009 16:48 PM
rating: 0
 
GaryLG

Kevin, great piece. Good to remind us that ballplayers are human too. Thanks. Gary

Aug 06, 2009 17:23 PM
rating: 0
 
elbelz

I wish someone would trade me away from my company

Aug 06, 2009 18:32 PM
rating: 2
 
FastballVelociraptor

Kevin, awesome article, I'd love to see more of this kind of stuff on BP to complement the hardcore statistical stuff.

Aug 06, 2009 19:33 PM
rating: 0
 
penski
(286)

There is a good documentary available on DVD (and streamable on Netflix) called "A Player To Be Named Later" which follows the 2001 season of the Brewers' AAA team, focusing on a handful of players (Marco Scutaro included) and their personal and professional lives.

Aug 06, 2009 19:45 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Just throwing in my thumbs up. I loved all the little tidbits and the peek into the human beings behind the stat/scout sheets and agent bios.

Heck, if I had a son who was a prospect, I'd look up Kusnick after reading this article.

Aug 06, 2009 20:17 PM
rating: 3
 
deep64blue

Good stuff - thanks very much.

Aug 07, 2009 04:45 AM
rating: 0
 
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