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What is making trades so hard right now?

Updated: Jun 21, 2021

Bill DeWitt and John Mozeliak jpeg

The Cardinals are mired in a horrendous stretch. Since June 1st, they have lost 9 out of the last 12. This is after going 16-12 in May. The Redbirds have been missing top starter Jack Flaherty since May 25th, Martinez is wildly inconsistent, John Gant and his Houdini act seem to be getting stale, Kwang Hyun Kim is coming off his second stint on the IL this season, the bullpen is in Jekyll and Hyde mode, the offense shows signs of life. Still, it then goes into a coma for 4 or 5 innings (particularly with runners in scoring position). Bats coming off the bench seem to have a little spark. All of this leaves fans clamoring for some action by the front office.


Many fans Say get Max Sherzer, get Joey Gallo, find a bench bat. Oh, if only it were that easy, but it is not. It is not as easy as the movie Moneyball would suggest; make a phone call, and boom, the deal is done.

In today's market, many variables go into the trade process.

*Are you trading out of need, adding depth, or for the future

* Long-term contracts with guaranteed money, player opt-outs, options, No Trade Clauses, and the like.

*Trades that involve cash or international bonus money

* Who is willing to trade with you.

*Dealing with the Players Union


Right now, there is no doubt That St Louis needs help from the outside. Not just immediate assistance either. We need depth as well. With the injuries to not only the Major League club; but all across the farm system as well, we need help! So far, the Front Office has signed some minor league players to give some depth. (LHP Brandon Waddell, LHP Kevin McGovern, and RHP Cory Thompson) While these moves are not "earth-shattering," they can be important in the grand scheme. If you deal away farm hands for Major League talent, you need to absorb that or get some young talent in return. Now I have no inside knowledge of any deal. However, to me the addition of minor league Free Agents and waiver acclimations do point to a build-up before a trade or trades. Please make no mistake; we need to make a trade.


Giancarlo Stanton AP photo

The contract of players matters greatly when there are trade negotiations. You have, of course, the length of the contract. Will it affect your team long-term or just a couple of years? A short one or two-year contract could be just a fill-in until minor league talent is ready. But, on the other hand, taking someone with a longer-term contract has a substantial financial attachment like the Yankees did With Stanton in 2018.

It is to solidify a position so that players can be developed for other positions later or give you a consistent player or players to build around. Stanton also came with a No-Trade Clause. NTCs are designed to provide the player with a voice in the negotiations. This limits a team's ability to affect a trade if a player has teams he does or does not want to play for. Also, options in terms of opt-out years where a player can void the contract and go Free Agent. or team options where the team can either continue the contract or buy out the remaining years of the contract, thereby making the player a free agent (such as the Cardinals did with Kolten Wong). Then you have those players who fall under the 6-year arbitration window. These are players that teams like, usually low cost, and the team has control.


At times teams will trade for cash considerations as well as with players. Such as the Cardinals deal for

Nolan Arenado vis Jeff Roberson- AP

Nolan Arenado from Colorado, where the Rockies paid for Arenado to play FOR St Louis this year. St Louis has done the same with players like Mike Leake and Dexter Fowler. It is a way for a team to move a player with a HIGH dollar contract to make room for younger, cheaper talent in the following year. Also, to free up future space on the payroll for other acquisitions in the future. Then some trades involve international bonus money. Teams can trade money from their international bonus pool money for players in $250K increments. This money can be used to Sweeten the pot without actually giving up a player from their roster or minor leagues.


Now, as I mentioned earlier, the Cardinals need a dance partner or TWO.

I hear you saying, "Ok, Don, who are the trade Partners?" My answer is, that is a good question. Right now, there does not seem to be much help out there. Many teams have pieces we might like, but they are mainly in the same boat. Atlanta, Miami, Houston, LAA, Seattle, Kansas City, Toronto, Philadelphia, Washington, and even the NYY are pretty much the same boat, meaning they are still within striking distance of the top of their division. Then, of course, Boston, Tamp Bay, Chicago WS, Oakland, Houston, San Francisco, and San Diego are at the top or near the top and are not in a selling mode.

The only teams that might sell in June are Baltimore, Detroit, Minnesota, Texas, Colorado, and Arizona. (I left out NL Central division teams because I see no way that trade is made in the division). So you have, in a sense, 11 teams looking for talent with only SIX teams to draw from right now. So the question is, who IS motivated to move ANY players? Each team has its timetable, and while they are in dire straights now, their plan might be to hold onto top pieces to build around in the off-season. The other is that they will ask more in return than what these players are worth to get the talent they need for next year and beyond.


I also mentioned the CBA and the players union.

Tony Clark Exec Dir. MLBPA via Morry Gas-AP

With the current CBA expiring Dec 1, some teams might be leery of engaging in a deal that may look different 6 or 8 months from now. With things like service time manipulation and revenue sharing on the table as well as the luxury tax. Many may want to hold off making big deals to avoid getting stuck after a contract change, not to mention the possibility of a work stoppage, which in fact, both sides say they want to avoid.

However, as we have seen in the past, that may not mean much. Owners may have to make concessions in-service time/arbitration, which could affect dealing for young talent. The current service time is 6 years. Say that the union gets that reduced to 4 years. Now you have a shorter window of control, causing a team to re-evaluate where they are at in terms of competitiveness, their need, and how their farmhands are viewed around the league.


The pace at which it will find help, be it pitching or the bench, is slow, but it is slow for all teams wanting/needing help. Trading for anyone in June is usually going to cost you more in terms of dollars and prospects. The Cardinals aren't in a favorable position, With the injuries in the Minor Leagues. Deals like the Arenado trade don't just fall out of the sky.

That trade took weeks to iron out and to be agreed upon, and the Cardinals were "forced" to grant an extra opt-out for Nado to get him to agree. However, the wheeling and dealing it took to get the Rockies to eat $50 million of the salary. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in that discussion.

That trade could wind up as the next Brock for Broglio trade.

Some do seem to happen fast. Such as the Randy Arozarena / Jose Martinez for Matthew Liberatore and Edgardo Rodriguez and future considerations. No one was even talking about trading Arozarena, then BOOM, it happened. Even that trade took a little time. In some retrospect, maybe it should have taken longer, but that has yet to be determined.

After recent deals where talent has been traded for seemingly little return, such as Adolis Garcia for Jimmy Herget and cash, or Randy mentioned above, for Matthew Liberatore trade, some are even questioning Carson Kelly and Luke Weaver for Paul Goldschmidt. The Front office Has taken hits in terms of how they evaluate what they have. Prompting President of Baseball Operations publicly state that they perhaps need to change the way they evaluate players:

Evaluating trades at the time of the trade is, at best, a guessing game. The 2018 Luke Voit trade comes to mind. The Cardinals needed left-hand bullpen help. The Yankees had it, but they needed a 1st baseman. So the deal was made Voit for Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos. Voit took off in New York. The front office was blasted over the trade as most people focused on Chasen Shreve instead of the throw-in Gallegos.

Luke Voit via Julio Cortez-AP

Voit started right away for the Yankees. in 2018, he hit 14 HRs and drove in 33 while hitting .333 in 132ABs.

2019 He played 118 games .263/.378/.464 with 21HRs and 62RBIs. He led the Majors in home runs in the shortened season with 22HRs driving in 52 while hitting while .277. This year Voit is hitting .177, 3 HR, and is on the IL.

Shreve could never get it going in St Louis, pitching in only 20 games in 2018. He had a respectable ERA out of the pen 3.07, but his K to BB rate was only 1.78, and his WHIP was over 1.5. In 2019 he lasted only 3 games with an ERA of 9.00. He was released. Currently pitching for the Pittsburg Pirates enjoying an excellent season 2.03 ERA, 0.825 WHIP, and a K to BB rate of 4.33

Giovanny Gallegos via Brad Mils-USA Today

In 2018 Gallegos barely got called up for a cup of coffee 2 games 1 1/3IP giving up 1 hit striking out 2. in 2019, out of the pen for St Louis, he went 3-2 with an ERA of 2.31, 1 save a WHIP of 0.811. In 2020 he was 2-2 with 4 saves, an ERA of 3.6, and a WHIP of0.867. This year Gallegos is 3-1, 1 save, 2.27 ERA, and a 0.729 WHIP. While We do miss Voit's bat, we did acquire Paul Goldschmidt, and think what the pen would be like WITHOUT Gallegos.

The point being, it may take a year or two before a trade can REALLY be evaluated.


It means that as much as we think trades should be a well-oiled part of the game, it is far from it. This season I think the most significant impact will be the upcoming CBA, especially since it comes on the heels of the 2020 pandemic season. Now you have the recent uproar of foreign substances being used on baseballs. We won't likely know how the CBA will affect the future trade market.

There will be trades made this year, and some big names will probably move, but I think you are seeing teams on both ends working different options and scenarios. They are looking to address not only the now but the next year or two as well. I can see older players with NTCs or options worried about the market as well. So it should be an exciting couple of months and a couple of years as well.

Those are my thoughts. What do you think?

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