Home MLB'Weekly' Hit Ground Ball Weekly Hit Ground Ball: Dizzying deadline day

Weekly Hit Ground Ball: Dizzying deadline day

by Matt Smith

WHGB11It’s the nature of most things these days that they are hyped to the moon. Promising something good isn’t good enough. It has to be the biggest, the best, the most controversial or outrageous to be worthy of anyone’s attention, apparently.

All of which leaves any sane person viewing any ‘big event’ with a healthy dose of scepticism. If you’re guaranteed excitement and drama, the chances are it will not live up to the billing; you might as well accept it to begin with and not get sucked in by the hype.

And yet every now and then that scepticism proves to be misplaced. The drama foretold really does unfold.

That’s exactly what we enjoyed last Thursday evening from the MLB trade deadline.

The British football transfer deadline is, ‘thanks’ to Sky Sport News, a ridiculous farce in which every minor potential deal is talked about as a major news story. ASBOs in waiting crowd around a gormless reporter at a dark training ground and get excited about a distinctly average player signing for an inflated fee who will soon become forgettable. Still, for that fleeting moment he gives the team the feeling that they are at least doing something and that’s all the matters.

It is still exciting if your team does happen to land a player who will genuinely improve the team, but there’s a lingering thought that most of the players couldn’t care who they play for anyway. The majority of transfers are characterised – fairly or not – by a player forcing his way out of the club, demanding his contract to be paid up in full alongside a loyalty bonus so that he can get a signing-on fee and a bigger salary at another team.

Nothing summed it up better than the sight of striker Peter Odemwingie sat in his car outside Loftus Road having driven himself to the club he wanted to join despite his present team, West Brom at the time, not having actually agreed to sell him. In that case ‘player power’ didn’t rule the day: Odemwingie’s move fell through and he was left looking like a prat and condemned forever more as the butt of many a joke.

In complete contrast, most trades in MLB happen without a player’s say-so. Austin Jackson was merrily standing in centrefield at Comerica Park on Thursday playing for the Detroit Tigers, the team he’s been with since the start of 2010, before he was called off the field mid-game and told he had been traded to the Seattle Mariners.

There was nothing he could say or do other than hug his team mates and start to pack his bags.

Asdrubal Cabrera was at Progressive Field, the place he’s called home since 2007, looking ahead to his team’s game against the Seattle Mariners when he found out that he wouldn’t be donning the Cleveland uniform that day after all. Instead, he sat on his own in the concourses outside the clubhouse and quietly took in the news that he would be moving to Washington.

That photo sums the emotions up well. Cabrera is moving to the current NL East division leaders and so it’s a good opportunity for him – rather than being traded away to a cellar-dweller as can sometimes happen – yet that doesn’t soften the initial blow of leaving behind the people and places you’ve become so accustomed to being part of your daily life.

Before we feel to guilty about taking such pleasure in players being cast hither and tither, they are of course doing what they love and getting paid very handsomely for the privilege.

In fact, it’s sometimes the amount that they are getting paid – or soon will be upon signing a free agent contract – that leads to a team trading them away.

Jon Lester’s preference clearly was to be a lifelong Red Sox player, yet he was unable to come to agreement with the team on a contract extension so he was traded to the Oakland A’s in the first shot of a thrilling deadline day of dealing. Both Lester and Boston have stated that their separation may not be forever and that they could still be reunited this offseason when he becomes a free agent; however you have to assume that if Boston couldn’t find a figure they liked when negotiating exclusively with the pitcher, they’re even less likely to once other suitors get involved.

There was even less chance of David Price staying with the team that drafted him and for whom he’s played his entire career so far. The Tampa Bay Rays probably couldn’t even afford his 2015 salary in his final year before free agency, so he was dealt in a three-team trade to the Detroit Tigers (the Seattle Mariners being the other team involved). The Tigers are not exactly shy at spending big on players, although as with Boston and Lester they were unable to agree a contract extension over the past off-season with Max Scherzer.

Acquiring Price will make it easier to part ways with Scherzer this offseason, both in having a ready-made replacement for 2015 and giving them another opportunity to sign an ace-level pitcher to a multi-year contract.

Seeing where Lester and Scherzer end up over the offseason, and if the Tigers can reach a deal with Price, will be fascinating, but the free agent market will struggle to match up to this past trade deadline.

Waiver deals

And don’t forget that the trade deadline is only a partial deadline, as deals can still be completed, just not in such a straightforward one-on-one team negotiation process. MLB Trade Rumors explains the process well here.

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