MLB Trade Deadline Looms Large Over Playoff Race
The Midsummer Classic’s in the rear view mirror and the MLB Postseason is still off in the distance, and that puts as right in sweet spot for trade season. As is tradition, Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline is sitting in its normal spot on the calendar – July 31 – and a wide range of buyers are lining up to find the best value for the final pieces for their roster’s march to October. With the newer Wild Card rules in place that guarantee a third of the league a spot in the playoffs, an increasing number of teams are reluctant to declare themselves sellers in the trade market, ostensibly raising the white flag on behalf of their players and fans.
One team wringing its collective hands over such a decision are the Tampa Bay Rays, struggling through this season due to a mix of underachieving players and plenty of injuries. Despite being in a notoriously small market, the Rays have managed to be perennial contenders thanks to a blend of savvy scouting and careful contract negotiations. Therefore, they’re justifiably reluctant to move their staff ace, David Price, a year before his contract is up in order to secure the future of their farm system and their chances in the AL East. With a hefty raise due after that contract ends, the rational approach for the Rays seems to be cashing in this particular stack of chips for a greater quantity and quality of assets to make a run of their own as early as 2015.
Three teams have been mentioned as major players for Price: NL contenders including the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals and the upstart Seattle Mariners of the AL West. The Dodgers and Cardinals are flush with cash to pay Price and the caliber of outfield and pitching prospects needed to get the Rays’ attention. Joc Pederson and Oscar Taveras, both young and talented centerfielders with the bat to play in the bigs (Taveras has already been promoted), are the top prospects for LA and St. Louis, respectively, to deal. In Seattle, where their playoff window opened wider and sooner than even big free agent signing Robinson Cano could’ve hoped, the Mariners have infielder Nick Franklin and pitching stud Taijuan Walker to include in a possible trade for an ace like Price.
A few big deals have already been done with over a week left before the MLB trade deadline. The New York Yankees acquired Chase Headley to fill their season-long A-Rod-sized hole at third base for pennies on the hundreds of dollars they were willing to pay two seasons ago when Headley was having a career year. The Angels and Tigers have both fortified their closer role by trades with San Diego and the surprisingly out-of-it Texas Rangers, respectively. And, finally, the Oakland A’s fired the earliest and loudest shot of the trade season, adding to league-leading squad by acquiring both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs for a heap of prospects including top-rated shortstop Addison Russell. It was a heavy bill, but the A’s now have another No. 1 arm for a season and a half as they make a strong push toward the World Series.