August Trades and the Need for a New Deadline

As impact trades continue to be made following the July 31 non-waiver deadline, Major League Baseball needs to consider a new cut-off date. 

The world may know July 31 as Major League Baseball’s trade deadline, but it is not uncommon to see significant deals go down once the month of August rolls around.

As it is every year, that was the case this past week. A handful of players were dealt following the conclusion of the game’s “non-waiver trade deadline” – a name that more accurately describes the day that is the last of July. While that day may be perceived as a general manager’s final day to wheel and deal, that is just not the case. See, teams can still swap players in August – it is just that things get a little trickier.

Once July passes, a player must clear revocable waivers before his team is free to trade him. The biggest obstacle is that players do not always clear. A team does not need to have genuine interest in a player to place a claim – they might just be looking to stop a rival from upgrading their roster. MLB Trade Rumors details the entire process in depth, but that is the gist as to why August transactions get so complicated.

Of course, those complications are not always enough to keep a deal from happening. These past few days prove just that, as a flurry of moves were made. The most notable deal saw the Indians send Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to Atlanta for Chris Johnson, while Mike Napoli returned to Texas, Cliff Pennington provided the Blue Jays with some infield depth and Eric O’Flaherty and Oliver Perez were added onto the Mets and Astros bullpens, respectively. Aside from the Cleveland-Atlanta transaction – which was all about bad money and fresh starts – each move was made by a contender looking to fortify its roster for the stretch run.

August 8, 2015:  Atlanta Braves infielder Nick Swisher (23) hits a double off the center field wall in the bottom of the 8th inning during a regular season game between the Miami Marlins and the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Rangers, three games out of a Wild Card spot, were so desperate for some right-handed power that they were willing to take on Napoli’s .207 average in hopes of a late-season surge. O’Flaherty and Perez will both act as lefty specialists and insurance options as two first-place teams try to protect their division leads. Pennington, while not much of a hitter, will serve the offense-heavy Jays as a solid defender off the bench as Canada’s team tries to end the longest playoff drought in the four major professional sports leagues.

Most likely, more teams will look to improve and more players will find themselves in new uniforms, as many organizations are still looking to shore up their postseason chances.

With so many teams still in search of help at this point in the season, it begs the question: When is Major League Baseball going to change the non-waiver trade deadline?

In a perfect world, every team should know where they stand as buyers or sellers by July 31, but nowadays, owners and general managers have a harder time making up their minds. One of the major reasons for this is the second Wild Card spot, which was introduced in 2012.

24 July 2015:  Chicago White Sox Left field Melky Cabrera (53) [4981] takes the batting helmet off the head of Chicago White Sox First base Jose Abreu (79) [4333] as Abreu is greeted by teammates after hitting a home run during the sixth inning of the game between the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH.

Teams like the White Sox, just on the cusp of contention, stood pat at the deadline.

The added playoff opportunity makes more teams hesitant to deal by the deadline, as so many are still in contention. This year, a case could be made that 18 teams still had realistic playoff hopes on July 31 – at least to the point where dumping their best players would have been an incredibly early waving of the white flag.

Obviously, 18 teams do not make the playoffs and now, just a little more than a week into August, it appears a few can be crossed off that list of hopefuls. However, with the second Wild Card should have come an extension on the non-waiver deadline. Make it August 11 or 15. Push it back a week and a half or two.

Notable trades, like the blockbuster one the Red Sox and Dodgers made in 2012, happen in August anyway, so why not lift the waiver restrictions for a little while longer? The game has drastically changed since the non-waiver deadline was set and teams now need more time to decide if they are in or out. It’s not like the commissioner’s office hasn’t noticed, either; Rob Manfred has already said he may want to “revisit” the date.

Baseball has evolved these past few years. It is time the trade deadline did too.

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