Why the MLB Trade Deadline Is the Best in American Sports

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Why the MLB Trade Deadline Is the Best in American Sports

"Trade ya."

While those exact words might not be used during the final hours of Major League Baseball's trade deadline, it's fun to imagine front office executives exchanging phone calls, e-mails and text messages that begin just so, as if they were eight-year-olds in an elementary school cafeteria.

"Trade ya my Fritos for your Ring Dings?"

The wheelings and dealings and movers and shakers surrounding the trade deadline are a huge part of what makes baseball so exciting at a time when we're caught somewhere between trying to recall the freshness of Opening Day in April and the buildup toward the playoffs that happens every September. 

Unlike pretty much every other major American professional sport, baseball's transaction cycle never really has a lull, particularly when it comes to the trade deadline.

Free agency officially starts almost as soon as the final out of the World Series is made, and Lord knows there are rumors and speculation about the biggest names about to become available months in advance. November through February is such a crazy four-month stretch that it even has its own nickname—the "Hot Stove."

Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

From there, we get into spring training, which is all about figuring out how those free agents we just mentioned fit into their new teams. It's also a time to determine which intriguing young prospect is looking like a candidate to head north with the big league team and argue over which player should win that key position battle.

And once the season starts, well, it's time for analyzing notable/surprising/disappointing performances and then waiting a month or two for the cavalry of top prospects to arrive before we get into the draft in June.

But each of those aspects isn't quite unique to baseball. Football has OTAs and training camp, basketball has the summer league and hockey has, well, whatever hockey has. 

Where MLB stands alone, though, is what comes next—the trade deadline.

Basically, once the draft is finished and the fallout has been dissected and broken down for a week or so, baseball goes full-bore into trade rumors, talk, speculation and rumblings. The deadline may be July 31, but the anticipation builds for a solid six to eight weeks, and trades can—and do—happen at any time. 

Here's a question for you: When is the trade deadline for the NFL? How 'bout for the NBA? Or the NHL?

Exactly.

[The respective answers, by the way: after Week 8; the 16th Thursday of the season, usually in February and, uh, we'll get back to that.]

To be fair, the NBA and NHL do see a fair amount of activity leading up to their deadlines.

Just last season in the NBA, a bunch of swaps were completed in the month leading up to February 21, but the biggest move was probably the three-teamer involving Rudy Gay, Jose Calderon and Tayshaun Prince.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Rudy Gay went from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Toronto Raptors this past season in the NBA's biggest trade of the year.

There were even more transactions in the NHL leading up to April 3, but as TSN put it: "Despite the flurry of activity near the deadline, the biggest story of the day might be the players who were not moved."

As for the NFL? Well, with apologies to Aqib Talib, the "big get" by November 1 last year, this headline just about says all you need to know.

In baseball, though, it seems that a superstar, or at least a legitimate difference-maker or three, is not only dangled but—gasp—traded just about every year.

You can probably think up a handful of names on your own, but in case you're feeling lazy, we've done the work for you. Big names like CC Sabathia, Manny Ramirez, Cliff Lee, Hanley Ramirez, Jake Peavy and Roy Oswalt went from one team to another—in just the past five seasons.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Hanley Ramirez was still a Miami Marlin around this time last year.

And that's to say nothing of the countless other quality players and seemingly spare parts who proved to be all-important additions—Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro, anyone?—that get to pack their bags each July.

Of course, not every trade deadline winds up being exciting. In fact, some, like Grant Brisbee of SB Nation, are even wondering whether this July might be the worst in recent memory:

This trade deadline is awful.

Michael Young used to be a good baseball player. You don't need me to tell you that. He's a seven-time All-Star, which is something that a few Hall of Famers can't say. And he's one of the more popular names in the Rumor Mill. Yankees? Red Sox? Dodgers? Who could use Michael Young? Then Ken Rosenthal tweeted that Young would accept a trade only to the Rangers, people freaked out. Boo, Michael Young. Booooo.

Except Michael Young is basically Greg Dobbs -- you might want him on a 25-man roster, but you definitely don't want him starting. Replace every Michael Young rumor with Greg Dobbs's name. Greg Dobbs might go to the Yankees. Are the Red Sox interested in Greg Dobbs? Greg Dobbs refuses to waive his no-trade clause. It's the kind of thought exercise that makes you rub your temples and evaluate the choices you've made in your life.

It's certainly possible that we've already seen the biggest deal of this month when the Texas Rangers obtained right-hander Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs for a package of prospects.

After all, it's not like Monday's run on relievers—Scott Downs, Jose Veras and Jesse Crain all got shipped out—would qualify as a busy news day by typical MLB trade deadline standards.

Part of the issue, no doubt, is that the expanded postseason format in which a second wild card in each league makes it into October simply means that there are more teams believing they still have a shot at the playoffs.

Plenty of buyers, not so many sellers.

Whether this is going to be an issue going forward, we'll have to see. But there could be ways to reinvigorate the deadline.

Of course, it's also possible that a bunch of deals go down in the next several hours, and we see players like Pence, Alex Rios and Justin Morneau get moved. And just because it seems unlikely now doesn't mean that Cliff Lee will still be in Philadelphia or Giancarlo Stanton will still be a Marlin as of 4:01 p.m. Wednesday.

Regardless, we know two things beyond the shadow of a doubt.

First, the moment Scott Feldman was traded to the Baltimore Orioles, MLB's trading period beat the NFL's for the umpteenth consecutive year.

And second, no one would ever trade Ring Dings for Fritos. But nice try.

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