The non-waiver trade deadline passed Monday, with no deals in sight from the St. Louis Cardinals. But, that doesn’t mean the dealing is over.
There were 21 deals in August last year, as teams’ hopes ebbed and flowed over the course of the month. What might happen this year with the St. Louis Cardinals as the “Dog Days of Summer” fade into the rear-view mirror?
The game plays differently after July. Now, to be dealt, players have to “pass through” waivers before a deal is made. This means a team, other than the intended trade partner, can jump in and claim a player off waivers, which contenders will often do to bollux up their foes. If this happens, the player is typically pulled back and kept by the offering team.
One advantage of an August deal, rather than one made in September, is that players acquired in August are eligible for the playoff season, where those acquired in September are not.
With that potential scenario in place to prevent August deals, why and how do they happen? Well, sometimes the price tag on the player or players in question is too high. Potential blockers don’t want to pay the freight and assume the remaining contract cost of a claimed player.
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Another reason might be a competitor doesn’t see the trade as a threat to their playoff chances.
If the Reds were to try to trade for a pricey, high-quality player, other teams won’t block the Reds because Cincinnati isn’t going to make any post-season waves.
A Giancarlo Stanton deal to a non-competitor, for instance, could readily happen in August because so few teams really want to pick up his atrociously expensive and player-friendly deal, which allows Stanton to unilaterally opt out after the 2020 season.
So a team, like the St. Louis Cardinals, could become more likely to complete a deal if their post-season chances recede as August drags on. This is especially so if their trading partner is not a high-value playoff contender who might find a deal blocked by one of their more competitive opponents.
Players floated at the July non-waiver deadline don’t always fit the bill for an August deal. An attempted Lance Lynn deal in August, particularly one to a team competing for a playoff spot or looking to fortify their October run, could in all likelihood get blocked by a competitor. Lynn is of little financial risk to any suitor because of his free-agent status at year’s end.
On the other hand, take a pitcher with a long-term, pricey contract, like Mike Leake‘s. If such a contract lacks a no-trade clause (or the player is willing to waive that clause), then a deal for a solid starter could readily get through waivers.
Leake’s deal, for instance, has almost $50 million wrapped up in the final three years, a rather steep price to assume for simply wanting to block an opponent’s move.
On the other hand, Jedd Gyorko or Kolten Wong is not nearly as likely to make it through if a team wanting to block a deal to a competitor has need for such a player. Both of them have very reasonable contracts and would not cost a blocker an arm and a leg; plus, the blocking team could unload them after the season, too.
August deals, as you can see, have very different considerations attached to them than those deliberated before the end of July. If the next two weeks lead to a dwindling of the Cards’ chances, then watch for at least the possibility of an opportunistic move to buttress their roster.