Something I look forward to every baseball season is the trade deadline. So much so, that I forgive the awful all-star game and its coverage, because I know it gives teams a chance to talk through possible trades without the day to day of games, travel, and injuries occurring around them.
Today, I was thinking to myself, is the baseball trade deadline the best in sports? And if so, why?
Baseball, more so than most other sports, allows a player to have an immediate impact on a team with almost no ramp up time. Think about a bat first player being traded, what does he have to learn about his new team to become effective? Almost nothing, except maybe that he should not kill the Queen. The fact that a player can walk in and not have to learn a new system, as they would in most other major sports, makes it much easier to bring an impact player to your team via trade. You could not do that, with say, a QB in the middle of the NFL season. Basketball is close, but I’ll get to that next.
No Salary Cap
I dislike salary caps in general, but they are especially obnoxious when it comes to trades. The NBA is the worst at this. That ridiculous ESPN trade calculator makes me angrier than seeing a PBR sell for $8.75. What you end up with is 20 player trades where really only 2 players matter and the other guys are paid to stay at home. Imagine if every trade we talked about with the Sox had to include James Shields and cash owed to Brett Lawrie to get the money right. That kind of garbage makes the NBA trade deadline unbearable. And I won’t get into hockey since I can’t wrap my head around a league where everyone has 74 year contracts.
No Draft Picks
This is technically not true, because there are a few select picks that can be traded as well as international bonus slots, but overall, you don’t see high profile players get moved for picks. This to me, is one of the best parts of the deadline. There is instant gratification, because you know which players your team gave away and received. Now, you don’t know what impact a minor league player will have (looking at you Mike Olt). Nevertheless, you’re not waiting to see who might possibly be available in the draft class of 2027. It also seems teams are much better at gauging the value of their prospects than they are at gauging the value of their draft picks, isn’t that right Mike Ditka?
Additional Wild Card
No matter how you feel about the additional wild card team or the 1 game playoff, you must admit, it drastically changed the trade deadline. Previously, there would be a handful of buyers and sellers. Now almost every team is involved. And there are teams that will surprisingly buy at the deadline. For example, the Blue Jays had scouts at the Sox games this weekend. Baseball Prospectus has them with about a 5% chance of making the playoffs, but hey, more buyers means more fun at the deadline.
This is where soccer and basketball get left in the dust, since there are like 3 good teams and then a bunch of garbage in those leagues. In baseball, getting to the playoffs is everything and at the all-star break, a high number of teams have a shot.
Yes, MLB has cornered the market on the trade deadline. And it’s for the reasons above and more, including the exposure and coverage of their minor league system.
As we traverse through this rebuild, trade deadlines should be quite exciting. But no trade deadline will be more exciting than when the Sox switch from sellers to buyers. I am looking forward to that, but for now…