Shhhh. Do you hear that?
Silence. That's the sound of clubs around Major League Baseball gathering their wits in the wake of the non-waiver trade deadline.
And it will not be lasting long.
For all the fuss that's made about the July 31 trade deadline, it's of course not actually a deadline for clubs to make deals. Moves can still be made in August thanks to the waiver process—Bleacher Report's Jason Martinez has a primer if you need one—and the end of the month is a more realistic "trade deadline" than July 31 for postseason contenders.
Players acquired before Aug. 31 are eligible to play in October, after all. So for contenders out there that have holes to fill with outside help, now's the time.
And thanks to the implementation of an extra wild-card berth in each league, there are obviously more teams with October in their sights these days than there were in the old days. When the league-wide silence is eventually broken, it could very well be broken by a clap of thunder rather than a drop of a pin.
There was some thunder-clapping going on last August, and for good reason. Thanks in large part to the second wild card, the pennant races in both leagues were quite crowded.
Per ESPN, there were six teams within six games of the second wild-card spot in the American League at the start of August in 2012, and four of those were within 3.5 games. In the National League, there were three teams within 5.5 games of the second wild-card spot.
Add it all up, and there were 10 teams in line to make the postseason, and nine teams still very much in the postseason picture. That's almost two-thirds of the league, and that's crazy-pants.
And so began the August activity. The A's acquired Pat Neshek for their bullpen and a new starting shortstop in Stephen Drew. The Giants helped out their own bullpen with Jose Mijares. The Orioles shored up their starting rotation with Joe Saunders. The Nationals, feeling the heat from the Braves in the NL East, bolstered their postseason outlook by acquiring a new catcher in Kurt Suzuki.
And then there were the Dodgers, who effectively said "Screw it!" and went all-out last August.
They started by acquiring Joe Blanton from Philadelphia early in the month, and then pulled off one of the biggest trades in baseball history when they acquired Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto and an injured Carl Crawford from the Red Sox later in the month.
All for the sake of salvaging a playoff dream that was both fading and yet still very much alive due to the second wild card. Had there been no second wild card last year, the Dodgers might not have bothered.
Now, here's a spoiler: There's probably not going to be another deal like that one made this August.
The "Nick Punto trade," as it should be known for the sake of tongue-in-cheekness, was a total right-time, right-place situation. There just so happened to be a team on the decline with payroll to unload and a team on the rise with the cash and the desire to absorb lots and lots of payroll.
There are teams on the decline with payroll to unload out there now—he said while looking in the Phillies' general direction—but the Dodgers are set with both talent and payroll, and there's not another team out there in the same position they were this time last year. There likely never will be, as the 2012 Dodgers were in the middle of a truly unique transition.
Beyond that, there's also the fact that the wild-card races aren't as crowded in 2013. Whereas there were nine realistic contenders at the start of August last year, there are only six realistic contenders this year: the Orioles, Rangers, Yankees and Royals in the American League and the Diamondbacks and Nationals in the National League.
But while the potential for another August mega-blockbuster may not be there and the wild-card races may not be as crowded, one thing this year's August waiver period has in abundance is impact players. Consider it a byproduct of a very quiet trade deadline.
Last year saw Anibal Sanchez, Hanley Ramirez, Omar Infante, Ichiro Suzuki, Wandy Rodriguez, Zack Greinke, Francisco Liriano and Marco Scutaro get moved before the deadline was imminent. Then when the deadline was imminent, Paul Maholm, Brandon League, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, Jonathan Broxton and Ryan Dempster all got moved to contenders. It was indeed quite the busy deadline period.
But this year? Well, let's see...
Scott Feldman, Ricky Nolasco, Scott Hairston, Matt Thornton, Matt Garza, Francisco Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano all got moved early on. But with the deadline imminent, only a handful of deals impacted contenders: the three-team Jake Peavy trade between the Red Sox, Tigers and White Sox, the Alberto Callaspo deal between the Angels and A's, the Ian Kennedy deal between the Padres and D-Backs, and the Bud Norris deal between the Astros and Orioles.
And that was that. As B/R's Jason Catania put it, the emphasis for this year's trade deadline was on "dead."
But that's where the good news kicks in. Many of the players who weren't moved in July are still candidates to be moved in August. And to that end, the list of players who could be changing addresses soon is impressive.
With assists from Jason Martinez, Sports Illustrated's Jay Jaffe and ESPN's Buster Olney, here are some players who could be had this August: Cliff Lee, Carlos Ruiz, Michael Young, Jonathan Papelbon, Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham, Mike Morse, Kendrys Morales, Alexei Ramirez, Alex Rios, Joe Saunders, Phil Hughes and Jason Vargas.
Some pretty good names right there. And remember that a trade doesn't necessarily have to happen in order for these guys to pack their bags.
They could just be handed over, like what happened with Rios in 2009 when the White Sox took him and his contract off Toronto's hands. The Dodgers may have had the same idea in mind when they placed a claim on Lee last August.
Heck, there's already been one claim. The word from Jeff Wilson of The Dallas Morning News is that the Rangers have added infielder Adam Rosales from the A's via a waiver claim. Not exactly an impact player, but versatile veterans with occasional pop tend to come in handy during the stretch run.
Which current outside-looking-in wild-card contender needs help the most?
The Rangers may not be done. They could use some help at DH with Lance Berkman hurting and Manny Ramirez's chances to make the big club apparently dwindling. They're also going to need some outfield help if slugging right fielder Nelson Cruz is suspended by MLB for his alleged ties to Biogenesis. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports suspensions could be coming on Monday.
The Rangers aren't the only American League wild-card contender with problem areas. The Indians may feel the need for another starting pitcher to help them hold on to the second wild-card spot or track down the Tigers in the AL Central. The Orioles are weak at second base. The Yankees are weak at third base. The offensively inconsistent Royals could use a good, solid bat.
Meanwhile in the National League, the Reds may feel safer acquiring a bat rather than relying on Ryan Ludwick to provide offense in his return from a lengthy stint on the disabled list. The Diamondbacks could still use bullpen help even after the acquisition of Joe Thatcher. The Nationals could be in the market for a starting pitcher with Ross Detwiler out for a while.
Don't rule out division leaders making moves either. The A's are never one to be quiet on the transactions front. The Pirates are a good bet to be aggressive with their first postseason berth in two decades looking them in the face. The Tigers may be forced into a move or two by the looming Indians.
There's a surplus of impact players due to a quiet non-waiver trade deadline and a considerable collection of clubs that have improvements to make with October in sight. It's not a mixture we get every year, and it's certainly a mixture that teases loads of action-y action to come.
So keep your ear to the ground. After a quiet July, baseball should be in for a loud August.
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