It’s that time of year when fans get antsy for trades. The good teams are beginning to distance themselves from the bad and players are going down with injuries. Fans start demanding moves to better position their favorite teams for the short and long run. In their haste, fans often make a few observations that bother me. I would like to address them here.
— Trade showcasing. Sometimes when a minor-leaguer is called to the big-league club to replace another marginal player, fans will suggest that he is being showcased for other teams to acquire in a trade. This makes absolutely no sense. What year is this? Between airplanes, video iPods, and up-to-the minute stats on your cell phone it can’t be difficult to see a player in Triple-A. How does bringing a player to the majors, where he will sit on the bench for most of the game before pinch-running, give a potential trade partner better information than going to see the guy play several full games where the outcome doesn’t matter? You can have him bunt and steal in odd situations to show off speed, play him at different positions to show versatility, or dial up his best fastball for the radar gun. These are things you absolutely cannot do in the majors. And if he could handle the majors, wouldn’t he already be there? If you want to showcase a player, it is probably better to send him down, not up.
— Trading bad players. The most popular fan solution to poor performance is to ship the guy out in a trade, especially if the player was once much better. If he’s not good, then you can’t get much for him unless other teams are dumber than the fans suggesting the trade. If you’ve noticed a player has declined, chances are that scouting departments of all teams are also aware. Trades occur when teams agree that they would prefer what the other team has. A common example occurs when one team is good now and is willing to sacrifice future play (via prospects) while the other team is willing to sacrifice good play now for good play in the future.
— Many bad players = one good player. I get tired of seeing three 27-year-old guys holding down the final slots on the roster–possibly playing a bit over their heads–netting a potential Cy Young candidate. My only response to this is that teams don’t make this type of trade.
— Although his contract is excessive, Player X is cheaper now because the season is half over. While it may be true that any acquiring team would only have to pay a pro-rated share of the contract, the team also gets pro-rated production. The season progressing does not make the player any cheaper.