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Thoughts on the Deadline

This year gains a distinction of being one of the first in recent memory to be incredibly boring. Meaning, there were no major deals that went down at all.

Over the last 10 years, we've seen major ones every year. I've posted a list of the biggest, in my judgement, from each of the last 10 seasons. Deadline deals, to be considered, had to be made within 3 days of the deadline. (All of the following is from Retrosheet)

1996 - Cleveland Indians traded Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza to New York Mets in exchange for Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino. San Diego Padres traded Bryce Florie, Marc Newfield and Ron Villone to Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Greg Vaughn and a player to be named later; San Diego Padres received Gerald Parent (September 16, 1996).

1997 - San Francisco Giants traded Lorenzo Barcelo, Mike Caruso, Keith Foulke, Bob Howry, Brian Manning and Ken Vining to Chicago White Sox in exchange for Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin and Roberto Hernandez. St. Louis Cardinals traded Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews and Blake Stein to Oakland Athletics in exchange for Mark McGwire.

1998 - Seattle Mariners traded Randy Johnson to Houston Astros in exchange for Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen and a player to be named later; Seattle Mariners received John Halama (October 1, 1998). Montreal Expos traded Carlos Perez, Mark Grudzielanek and Hiram Bocachica to Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Peter Bergeron, Wilton Guerrero, Ted Lilly and Jonathan Tucker.

1999 - Kansas City Royals traded Kevin Appier to Oakland Athletics in exchange for Jeff D'Amico, Brad Rigby and Blake Stein.

2000 - Cleveland Indians traded Paul Rigdon, Richie Sexson, Kane Davis and a player to be named later to Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Bob Wickman, Steve Woodard and Jason Bere; Milwaukee Brewers received Marco Scutaro (August 30, 2000). Baltimore Orioles traded Mike Bordick to New York Mets in exchange for Leslie Brea, Pat Gorman, Mike Kinkade and Melvin Mora.

2001 - Minnesota Twins traded Matt Lawton to New York Mets in exchange for Rick Reed. Pittsburgh Pirates traded Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal to San Francisco Giants in exchange for Armando Rios and Ryan Vogelsong.

2002 - Philadelphia Phillies traded Scott Rolen, Doug Nickle and cash to St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Placido Polanco, Mike Timlin and Bud Smith. Boston Red Sox traded Sun-Woo Kim and Seung Song to Montreal Expos in exchange for Cliff Floyd.

2003 - San Francisco Giants traded Kurt Ainsworth, Damian Moss and Ryan Hannaman to Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Sidney Ponson. New York Yankees traded Brandon Claussen, Charlie Manning and cash to Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Aaron Boone.

2004 - Boston Red Sox traded Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Murton to Chicago Cubs as part of 4-team trade in which Chicago Cubs sent Brendan Harris, Alex Gonzalez and Francis Beltran to Montreal Expos; Montreal Expos sent Orlando Cabrera to Boston Red Sox; Minnesota Twins sent Doug Mientkiewicz to Boston Red Sox; and Chicago Cubs sent Justin Jones to Minnesota Twins. Los Angeles Dodgers traded Paul Lo Duca, Guillermo Mota and Juan Encarnacion to Florida Marlins in exchange for Hee Seop Choi, Brad Penny and Bill Murphy. Tampa Bay Devil Rays traded Bartolome Fortunato and Victor Zambrano to New York Mets in exchange for Scott Kazmir and Jose Diaz.

Nothing really compared in 2005. The biggest names moved? Matt Lawton. Per VORP, he was the best name moved, and he ranks 70th among hitters.

My first reaction was that inaction was not necessarily a bad move, except in the case of 3 teams:

  1. Texas Rangers - With a surplus of first basemen / right-side of defensive spectrum players, it would have made a lot of sense to deal one or two for some necessary pitching help. I mentioned Adrian Gonzalez several times, and I am very surprised to see him in Texas, still.
  2. Tampa Bay Devil Rays - Trading Aubrey Huff was not a necessity. Trading Danys Baez, who was vastly overvalued, was. By holding out for unreasonably high prices (David Wright, Hanley Ramirez were names I saw in rumors), Chuck LaMar effectively priced himself out of the range of the 29 other GMs. His closer wasn't Eric Gagne, either; Baez can squeak into the Top 15 in the league on a generous list. He's certainly no Relief Deity.
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates - Jose Mesa fits in the same boat as Baez... in a market where closers were coveted, the Pirates were inactive.
So little of consequence happened that it makes for difficult analysis. Gaudy rumors about Alfonso Soriano, Manny Ramirez, Aubrey Huff, and Billy Wagner did not amount to much, and names like Kyle Farnsworth, Matt Lawton, Ron Villone, and Geoff Blum were the big acquisitions.

I have a few hypotheses about the causes of the inaction. My guess is that it's a combination of these three reasons:

  1. Competitive balance - Fully 24 teams are within 6 games of a playoff spot. It's very easy to get caught up in a pennant race when success seems so tangible.
  2. The Kazmir Effect - I don't know how much this occurred, but I noted in a diary a few days back that the asking prices for many players were excessive and unrealistic. I call this the Kazmir Effect because I think that the price for Victor Zambrano last year might have skewed the market THIS season.
  3. Salary structure - Fewer teams seemed inclined to take on large "albatross-like" contracts, from players like Todd Helton, Mike Sweeney, and Manny Ramirez. Likewise, smaller market teams were expecting both financial relief and prospects in these trades. There just wasn't much of a match.
  4. The Offseason - Frequently, we heard that teams expected to net better value in the offseason rather than at the deadline. This was the watchphrase that seemed to keep Overbay in Milwaukee, so I'm wondering if this influenced any other "holds."
Any other hypotheses would be quite nice in the comments.

Lawton's a legitimate leadoff hitter, so I'll give the Cubs kudos on that deal (career line of .269/.370/.422 and a line of .273/.380/.433 this year). Adding Farnsworth for the Braves seems like a nice move. If Mazzone can harness his very powerful arm, they might have a top flight reliever there. He's been exceptional this year with his 11.6 K/9 and his mediocre control (20 BB in 43.,2 IP).

Marc handled the legwork on these deals, so please refer to his article for a more in-depth review. I suspect that we will have more work on this sort of thing at this time NEXT year, but, for this year, it was certainly quiet.