MLB Trade Rumors: Five Reasons a High-Cost Rental Isn’t Worth It
The Major League Baseball trade deadline is a month away and already teams are getting themselves in position to acquire a big talent that can help push their team to the postseason.
Often times the object of a team's desire is a player who will be on the free agent market the following fall. Those trades are especially risky given all the factors that go into the deal. There are are examples of the rental deals working out (Carlos Beltran to the Astros), but the team must take a calculated risk.
Teams must believe that this one player or pitcher will be the difference between going home or the playoffs. There are five risk factors that can make the trades undesirable for both sides:
Signability comes with the fact that the acquired player is a rental. The team acquired the player they wanted for the stretch run, but the real heavy work comes after the season when the team must make a move to re-sign that player.
That can be a tough sell given the player's value on the open market compared to what the team that acquired him at the deadline can afford.
Nowhere was that more evident than the acquisition and following free agency of CC Sabathia.
The Brewers traded for Sabathia and successfully rode him into the 2008 postseason. However, the Brewers simply couldn't compete with the Yankees on the open market. The Brewers went as high as an unprecedented (for their club) $100 million to retain Sabathia, but that was no match for the Yankees' $161 million.
2. The Player Acquired Is A Bust
It happens, and one of the most notorious victims of this was the Mets in 2004 with their acquisition of Victor Zambrano. Zambrano made three solid starts to begin his tenure with the Mets, then went down for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.
Zambrano went 7-12 in 2005 before making just five starts in 2006 and bowing out of New York as its most shamed trade acquisition in recent memory. (Sorry, Mets fans)
As for the other side of the coin...
3. Giving Up Top Prospects
Surrendering prospects is one reason why general managers lose sleep. The combination of a potential bust being acquired combined with the chance that a prospect blossoms into a superstar is a game-changing and possibly organization-changing risk.
A few examples including the Twins acquisition of Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano from the Giants for A.J. Pierzynski. How about the Red Sox acquisition of Larry Anderson from the Houston Astros for a young Jeff Bagwell?
Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps? (Made even more famous by one Seinfeld episode)
Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano?
...and so on down the line.
4. Teams Don't Make the Playoffs
The whole point of acquiring a big piece at the deadline is provide the team with a catalyst and/or missing element to get into the playoffs.
Unfortunately, that does not always pan out. For example, the Braves sent the Rangers two key pieces to their current squad (Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz) for Mark Teixiera in 2007. Teixiera delivered on his end by hitting .317 with 17 home runs and 56 RBI for Atlanta after his arrival. The Braves, however, still finished 5 1/2 games back in the division and missed the playoffs.
It was a smart deal at the time because Teixiera still had 18 months left before becoming a free agent. However, in 2008 the Braves realized they would not sign Teixiera to a long term deal and shipped him to the Angels in another deadline deal.
To pull off a trade and mortgage the future of the club, the team needs to be absolutely sure before executing the trade. These are decisions currently faced by the White Sox, Mets, Phillies, Rockies among others.
5. The Prospects Don't Pan Out
Most often teams trade their impending free agents out of an understanding or fear that they won't be able to retain them in the offseason. So, they make the deal hoping that of the prospects they get in return will help the club build for the future.
This is a risk taken by the teams doling away the marquee player. The Toronto Blue Jays were victim of this when they traded David Cone to the Yankees in 1995 (who boosted the Yankees to the wild card). In return, the Blue Jays received Marty Janzsen, Jason Jarvis and Mike Gordon. All three of them never played one day in the big leagues.