Regular Articles

The non-waiver trading deadline passed almost three weeks ago. Aside from the Mark Teixeira deal between Texas and Atlanta no major deals were done. Since then a handful of decent players have shifted teams via waiver trades - but most waiver trades bring little if anything in return for the traded players. That invariably brings up a question that I answer every year.

(Question has been paraphrased to make it a little more applicable to every reader)

Q: Player X on my hometown squad is a free agent at the end of the season or has an option that he’s going to decline, so why didn’t my team trade him and get something in return?

A: Well, that’s a complicated question and it really has a number of different answers. First of all losing a player as a free agent doesn’t always mean that you are getting no compensation. Free Agents are classified as being a type A, B, or non-compensable by the MLBPA and management. Then a consensus value is derived by the Elias Sports Bureau who compiles both opinions. (“A” is the superstar caliber player and “B” is the above average players.) Depending upon the ranking of the player lost to free agency the losing team gets compensation as follows:

Class A - entitles the losing team to either a first or second round pick in the next season’s draft (based on whether they finish in the top half or bottom half of all MLB teams) PLUS a pick in between round one and two in the Amateur draft (the famed sandwich pick).

Class B - entitles the losing team to a “sandwich” pick after the first round is done, but before the second one begins.

Thus sometimes letting a player walk away at the end of the year brings more in return than trading the player in season.

Of course there are other reasons for not trading a player. One of the most overlooked of these is that sometimes a player will put more fans in the seats and thus earn the team more money than they would earn without him. For example if the Giants had traded away Barry Bonds at the deadline, it’s a fair assumption that their second half ticket sales would have been down considerably. Even if the player doesn’t have huge fan recognition trading him may send a message that the team has given up on the season - and that means fewer people come out to the ballpark. So, sometimes the reason is purely economic as to whether or not the team keeps a player.

Sometimes a trade just isn’t practical. Perhaps the player is cheap, won’t bring anything an organization needs, or just fills a gap where the team is weak. After all, it’s hard to play without a second baseman and if you don’t have anyone that’s ready to plug in then trading that guy brings down the whole level of the team.

There are other reasons that teams don’t just unload soon to be free agents - including the hope that they can re-sign them and that they’ll have an exclusive window to do that until the free agency period begins. That’s not to say that some GMs just don’t get it or are making a bonehead play - but most of the time they just are being smart.