Why Hasn't 2nd Wild Card Made MLB Waiver-Trade Window More Active?

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Why Hasn't 2nd Wild Card Made MLB Waiver-Trade Window More Active?
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Trading in Major League Baseball doesn't end until Aug. 31, but it sure feels like just about all the wheeling and dealing wrapped up back on July 31, doesn't it?

In part, that's because the non-waiver trade deadline brought not just a flurry but a full-on storm of moves, as 12 trades were completed between 18 different teams involving 37 players (and two draft picks). That was the most transaction action on deadline day since 1998, as Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com points out.

No wonder August's waiver-trading period has felt like a letdown by comparison.

It's not that there haven't been any swaps so since Aug. 1, because there have:

Waiver Trades That Have Happened
PLAYER TRADED FROM TRADED TO TRADED FOR
Josh Willingham Twins Royals Jason Adam
Roberto Hernandez Philliies Dodgers 2 PTBNL
Jacob Turner Marlins Cubs Tyler Bremer and Jose Arias
Gordon Beckham White Sox Angels PTBNL
Kevin Correia Twins Dodgers PTBNL
Vinnie Pestano Indians Angels Mike Clevinger
Geovany Soto Rangers Athletics Cash
Brett Jackson Cubs Diamondbacks Blake Cooper

MLB Trade Rumors

That's eight moves, which actually isn't far behind the 11 that happened last August.

What should be immediately discernible from the table, however, is that the trades just aren't all that exciting or impactful. Certainly not when the biggest name to change jerseys is Josh Willingham.

At least last August, fairly well-known players like Alex Rios, Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd found new homes.

And of course, there's still some residue remaining from that memorable, shocking August 2012 blockbuster when the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers essentially remade their rosters in one fell—and financially monstrous—swoop.

Matt York/Associated Press
Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford were only two of the players involved in the August 2012 blockbuster between the Red Sox and Dodgers.

A waiver trade that big, both in names and dollars, is unlikely to happen again any time soon, if ever. But why has August been such a bummer this year?

It's not that there isn't a need or demand for pitchers and position players, especially with so many clubs still in the hunt because of the second wild card in each league. In fact, that's the biggest reason for the inactivity this month.

Through Wednesday's games, only 11 teams—five in the AL and six in the NL—could safely be considered completely out of the running for a playoff spot, depending on how one classifies the Tampa Bay Rays and Cincinnati Reds.

Because so many teams are still in it, there aren't nearly as many options as there might have been in the past, when only four teams in each league made it to October.

What's more, the few clubs that are out of it aren't exactly swimming in available players who might make an impact for a contender. That's why those teams aren't any good in the first place, right?

The other thing to remember, and it's related to the above, is that this remains a seller's market. That means the teams who would consider trading players away have the ability to ask for a haul, whether their players have passed through waivers entirely or were claimed by a specific team.

The only case when that doesn't apply is if a club views trading a particular player as a salary dump. That is more or less what happened when the Chicago White Sox sent second baseman Gordon Beckham—who hit just .221/.263/.336 for them despite a $4.175 million salary this year—to the Los Angeles Angels for the ubiquitous Player To Be Named Later.

Beyond that, a number of players were put on waivers already, only to be claimed and then pulled back by their team, which eliminates them from being traded for the rest of the season. This reportedly is what happened to, among others, Cole Hamels, Yunel Escobar and Chad Qualls.

Same goes for Byrd and Morneau, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports, otherwise those two players could have been involved in a waiver deal for a second consecutive year.

JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press
After reportedly being claimed by the Brewers, Justin Morneau was pulled back by the Rockies, so he won't be traded for a second straight August.

That's a formula for an inactive waiver-trade period.

As Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the prospects of his club making any last-minute additions via a waiver swap, "I'm not totally encouraged by it."

There isn't an easy fix to make Augusts of the future more trade-filled, either. Not unless there just so happen to be fewer contenders in a given season.

One possibility, though, could involve moving the non-waiver trade deadline back from July 31 into August, say Aug. 15 or Aug. 31. It's not like that hasn't been done before: Back in 1986, the deadline was moved to its current July 31 date—after six decades of being set at June 15.

As for the final days of this year's deadline, which remains Aug. 31, there still are some names to keep tabs on.

The following players already have cleared waivers, according to MLB Trade Rumors, meaning they can be traded:

Players Who Could Be Traded After Clearing Waivers
PLAYER TEAM POSITION REMAINING SALARY
Bartolo Colon Mets RHP 2014: $1.5 M; 2015: $11 M
A.J. Burnett Phillies RHP 2014: $1.25 M; 2015: mutual option
Alex Rios Rangers OF 2014: $2.1 M; 2015: $14.0 M option ($2.0 M buyout)
Jonathan Papelbon Phillies RHP 2014: $2.2 M; 2015: $13.0 M; 2016: $13.0 M option
Scott Feldman Astros RHP 2014: $2.0 M; 2015: $10.0 M; 2016: $8.0 M
Trevor Cahill Diamondacks RHP 2014: $1.3 M; 2015: $12.0 M; 2016: $13.0 M option ($0.3 M buyout)

MLB Trade Rumors, Cot's Baseball Contracts

Will any of them be traded between now and Sunday? Quite possibly, if an interested—or desperate—suitor is willing to pay the price.

Will others not on the above list get moved? Almost certainly.

Because even though this August hasn't been quite as gloriously chaotic as July was—and clearly won't be in the end—one thing should be clear: As long as teams can make trades, trades will be made.

 

Statistics are accurate as of Aug. 28 and come from MLB.comBaseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, except where otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

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