Would moving baseball's trade deadline back two weeks help clarify the playoff picture? What if it was moved back a full month to Aug. 31?
What kind of a difference could that make? Since baseball's July 31 trade deadline passed, the Boston Red Sox have gone from 7.5 games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East to nine games out.
Granted, we're talking about a difference of 1.5 games, but it's a matter of perception. Being nine games back looks like a team is out of a playoff race, while 7.5 looks like there's still a bit of a chance.
What if Boston were to lose another game or two in the standings in the next week or so? An 11-game deficit essentially means a chance at contending for a division title is over.
Yet the Red Sox have only lost a half-game in the Wild Card playoff standings, going from 3.5 games back to four. Four games out still leaves a chance to contend for a postseason bid, but what if Boston fell behind by another two games? Would a six-game deficit in the Wild Card race by mid-August be insurmountable?
Tack on another two weeks to that time line, and the Red Sox could be looking at a 13-game margin in the AL East and seven or eight games in the Wild Card standings. Of course, Boston could move in the opposite direction as well. Another two weeks could put the Red Sox within five games of the AL East lead or in the lead for a Wild Card spot.
With another two to four weeks, the Red Sox would know for certain if they are in the AL playoff race or not. General manager Ben Cherington would know if his team should be adding players at the trade deadline or selling off assets to retool for next season and beyond.
The same could apply to a team like the St. Louis Cardinals. In another two to four weeks, they might fall out of the NL Central and Wild Card races. Yet they could also be within striking distance of a division title or one of the leaders for a Wild Card spot.
By then, the Cards would know if they were a buyer and might work harder to pursue the starting pitcher they really need. If they were definitive sellers, perhaps GM John Mozeliak could reduce his roster logjam.
For example, he could see how serious the Seattle Mariners are about acquiring Allen Craig, whose interest Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi reported shortly before the July 31 trade deadline.
Even though the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, playoff contenders are still trying to bolster their rosters for a run at the postseason.
The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired pitcher Joe Blanton from the Philadelphia Phillies. The Detroit Tigers added depth by getting utility man Jeff Baker from the Chicago Cubs. Then we had the Dodgers claiming Cliff Lee on waivers, setting up a potential blockbuster deal that would've tipped the balance of power in the National League.
With that kind of activity still going on, why not move the trade deadline back at least a couple of weeks to Aug. 15? Maybe that would've given the Red Sox time to rid themselves of Josh Beckett. Perhaps the Chicago Cubs could have shed Alfonso Soriano's contract (or most of it) to a playoff contender. James Shields might have yielded some prospects for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Moving the deadline all the way to Aug. 31, which is now the waiver trade deadline, might be pushing it a bit too far. That would only give teams a month with their new players, providing less time to arrange the ideal batting order or properly set up a starting rotation. Yet perhaps that's enough time. New players get plugged in rather quickly and can make a difference immediately.
Baseball would get an added month of trade rumors and rumblings. Creating more late-season excitement is why a second Wild Card team was added in each league. So why not adjust the trade schedule accordingly?
Give fledgling contenders more of an opportunity to bring in reinforcements and make a playoff run. Let those who fall out of the race get a further head start on their offseason too.
Perhaps best of all, a later deadline would give baseball some buzz later in the summer and into the fall, allowing the sport to get top headlines while the NFL and college football seasons gear up. The pennant races would become even more exciting.
Isn't that what baseball fans want the most?
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