Major League Baseball is reportedly set to eliminate August trades featuring players who've cleared waivers in favor of a singular July 31 trade deadline in 2019.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the change Wednesday. First proposed by the MLB Players Association, it is meant "to protect the competitive integrity of the 162-game regular season, create more certainty for players and force teams to decide earlier whether they are buyers or sellers."
The most notable waiver trade in recent years came in August 2017 when the Houston Astros acquired starting pitcher Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers for a package of prospects.
Verlander proceeded to post a microscopic 1.06 ERA across five starts in the final month of the regular season. He then shared the Babe Ruth Award as postseason MVP with teammate Jose Altuve after compiling a 4-1 record and 2.21 ERA in six playoff appearances as the Astros won the World Series.
That season-changing trade occurred Aug. 31. Under the new rule, Houston and other title contenders would be forced to make a final decision about that type of blockbuster move a month earlier.
It's unclear whether the change will entice more teams to remain competitive for the season's final months.
MLB's sluggish free-agent periods over the last two winters have led to complaints from the players union and agents that not enough teams are trying to win, instead trying to emulate the Astros' successful rebuild by losing games to acquire high draft picks while trading veterans for prospects.
In February, Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer said the high number of clubs in a rebuilding mode "poisons the game," per Chuck King of the Associated Press.
"If you're constantly just going into this win-loss cycle that MLB is pushing, you create bandwagon fans, and that's not the type of fans that you want to create," Scherzer said. "You want to create fans that are following teams year in and year out. It's up to the fans, honestly, to demand that from the league."
According to King, Verlander said he doesn't believe teams that are making a lot of money while sporting undermanned rosters are going to change their ways in the future.
"Some of these players that are out there, if you don't think you're going to be competitive in the next 10 years, what are you doing here?" Verlander said. "I understand you might say 'rebuilding,' but there's only so long you can say that and then you're just not trying to win. You're just trying to pocket everything."
Moving the final trade deadline up by a month, when more teams are hypothetically in the playoff race, seems to be an effort to get more clubs involved in the buying process.