The State of the Trade Deadline: Yesterday was pretty sleepy. Will general managers wake up today?

40 Comments

Justin Masterson was traded yesterday. And beyond that it was nothin’ but rumors. Jon Lester and John Lackey are still Red Sox. The Phillies have unloaded no one despite needing to unload just about everyone. Teams like the Brewers and Mariners, who are in tough races and have a need, have been silent. Teams like the Dodgers, who could probably disrupt everyone’s plans if they wanted to, are still quiet too.

That’s somewhat baffling, but here’s where we stand, less than eight hours until the trade deadline:

Jon Lester: There were rumors yesterday afternoon that the Orioles were closing in on a deal for Lester, but nothing happened. The Dodgers are apparently out. The Cardinals were allegedly in before picking up Masterson, but who knows if they still are now. My personal favorite here — the Pirates — has the sort of minor league talent the Sox likely want in return. But you have to figure Pittsburgh is not serious about a long-term extension for Lester, thereby making them balk at unloading the prospect truck. This one could go to the wire.

David Price: He had a bad game yesterday, losing to the Brewers, but I think he can be forgiven for that. The Rays conundrum here is that they’ve been winning lately and it’s really hard to sell off your best player when the fans think you’re contending. But do the Rays themselves think they’re contending? For as hot as they’ve been, there are still many clubs ahead of them in the standings, both in the AL East and the wild card. Mathematically, they still have a less-than-10 percent chance of making the playoffs. Can they forego a big prospect haul for that less-than-10 percent chance? I don’t think I could. If they don’t trade him today, they can’t expect to get nearly as good a deal in August. He won’t clear waivers, in all likelihood, thereby limiting the number of teams to whom the Rays can shop him. It’s gut-check time for the Rays’ front office.

[MORE: 30 seconds to know about the Trade Deadline]

Marlon Byrd: There aren’t a lot of decent bats on the market, making Byrd look like the best one by default. At least the most powerful one, as has 20 homers and a .477 slugging percentage at the break. The Mariners were long thought to be a favorite for Byrd, but they dropped out of the bidding yesterday afternoon. That could just be the Mariners being weird. Or it could be the Phillies being in denial. They have to unload players and Byrd is likely the most marketable one they have. Is Ruben Amaro holding out for too much? Will other teams with offensive needs — say, the Yankees or Royals — sweep in and get a late bargain today?

[MORE: Mariners out on Byrd]

John Lackey: It was reported yesterday that there was a “very good chance” Lackey would be traded by today’s deadline. The Marlins were said to be talking to Boston about him yesterday, but that doesn’t’ seem to be serious. Given that Lackey has a $500,000 team option for next season and given that he’s still a more-than-solid starter, just about every team should be interested in his services. To be honest, though, I have no idea why the Red Sox would want to deal him, so you have to figure they’ll be asking a lot for their bargain basement starter.

[MORE: Lackey to Marlins? Probably not]

Alex Rios: The other prominent bat on the market. He was hit by a pitch and left yesterday’s game, so that may scare people, but it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Rios’ speed and better defensive value may make him a better option than Byrd. He’s also someone who can walk after this season, under contract for what’s left of his $12.5 million this year and a club option for $13.5 million in 2015. The Mariners may have shifted focus to him.

Joaquin Benoit: Relievers are always a hot commodity at the deadline, and Benoit should be the hottest. For one thing, he’s been great this year. For another he has shown that he can and will close or set up, depending on your needs. Finally, the Padres have a “yard sale” sign set up outside of Petco Park so you have to figure they’re talking to people. They were rumored yesterday to be talking to the Dodgers, but it’s unclear how serious that is. Really, everyone needs bullpen help down the stretch, so anyone could snag him.

The Phillies: Byrd, Bastardo, A.J. Burnett, Papelbon, Lee and even Howard and Hamels have been in rumors. Still the Phillies have made no moves. This despite needing to turn the page on this era and think about the future. If nothing happens in Philly, things could get ugly.

As always, keep it on HBT all day, as we will be updating constantly, keeping you up on everything that happens between now and the 4PM Eastern deadline.

It is not Tony Clark’s job to compromise. His job is to advocate for the players.

Getty Images
16 Comments

Ken Rosenthal published a column today that I cannot describe as anything other than bizarre.

The news nugget in the column: the league and the union met on Monday to talk about certain proposed rules changes which, by now, are pretty familiar to you: a pitch clock, a further reduction of mound visits and, at least in spring training and in the All-Star Game, putting a man on second base to begin the 10th inning in tie games. You know, pace of play stuff that has been much discussed in this space and elsewhere.

The idea here is that the league wants the players to agree to implement these things. If the players do not, the league — after a one year waiting period which we’ve already gone through — can unilaterally implement them. Rob Manfred, for a lot of reasons, doesn’t want to do that, so he’s continuing to seek the players’ agreement. The players have never been big fans of in-game changes, so they resist. That all makes sense as far as it goes. It’s nothing new.

The bizarre part: Rosenthal spends most of the column arguing that the players need to set aside their own desires and compromise with the league “for the good of the sport.” (the headline actually uses that phrase). He argues that they should set aside the dissatisfaction they have over all manner of financial issues in the game right now and address the owners’ priorities. He says Tony Clark needs to lead them in this compromise:

For the good of the sport – a sport he loves as much as anyone – Clark needs to serve as a calming force, build a consensus for positive change and demonstrate greater leadership than before. Clark is aware league officials portray him as someone who says “no” to everything when he is responsive at all. This is his chance – an important chance, with far greater battles ahead – to prove that perception wrong.

This is crazy. For a number of reasons.

  • It’s crazy because presumes that it’s Tony Clark’s job to act a an intermediary between the owners and players and to prod the players to compromise when that is precisely the opposite of his job. He is their advocate. It is his job to fight for them, not to play the good cop for Rob Manfred;
  • It’s crazy because if there can be anything said about Clark’s style before now, being too tough a negotiator is not one of them. Sure, he may offer a quick “no” on small things like rules changes, but he has said “yes” to more major owner ideas in his six years at the helm of the union than his three predecessors did in the previous 45 years combined. I mean, we have a soft salary cap and specific rules aimed at depressing free agent salaries now. Clark actually said yes to those things. Marvin Miller is still spinning in his grave;
  • It’s crazy because there is no call whatsoever for the owners to make any compromises with respect to players’ current concerns over the slow free agent market and players’ suspicions of collusion. Indeed, there’s a paragraph in there that says, in short, “if players have a beef about that stuff they should file a grievance or else shut up about it.” I mean, it’s Rosenthal and he’s a very nice and polite man so, no, he does not put it that bluntly, but that’s the takeaway;
  • It’s crazy because the advice it proposes to Clark — any matters that the owners bring up should be handled piecemeal and that players should not ask for anything* that addresses their own priorities when the owners seek concessions from players on their priorities — is exactly the opposite of how organized labor works. Indeed, handling workplace matters in piecemeal fashion whenever management brings stuff up is exactly the situation that existed before the MLBPA had any power at all. It’s exactly how management would draw things up if they had it to do over again. 

Clark is not an intermediary between the owners and the players. He is an advocate for them. He is, quite literally and by specific design, on their side and it is his job to fight for what they want and for what is in their best interests. It is not his job to “compromise.” What’s more, the owners cannot expect the players — many of whom are hopping mad at how the past two offseasons have gone — to pretend none of that is happening and approach the owners with totally open minds and agree to do thing they don’t really want to do “for the good of the game.”

Should the players have negotiated a better deal on money stuff two years ago? Absolutely. But then again maybe the owners should’ve asked for these rules changes they want now back then too. That Rosenthal expects one party’s concerns to be “case closed” and the other party’s concerns to be perpetually subject to renegotiation makes no sense to me at all. In reality, everything is negotiable, always. Rules touching on every aspect of the game, on-field and off-field, have been renegotiated or altered in between CBA bargaining sessions over the years. If one side wants to re-open the CBA they can’t expect the other side not to do it too.

Rob Manfred and the owners have every right to come to the players and ask for stuff. They cannot, however, expect the players to pretend everything else is hunky dory and assume a “compromise” stance “for the good of the game.” And let’s be honest, if the “for the good of the game” standard is what triggers renegotiation of things, I’d argue that it’s high time to renegotiate the financial parts of the CBA, because the current state of affairs is doing the game no favors.

Whatever the case, Rosenthal’s column reads like a message passed from owners to the players with little regard for the realities of the current relationship between them. As one of my Twitter followers observed a little while ago, it reads like one of those political columns in which a member of one political party writes about how the other party “really needs to nominate someone who can reach across the aisle and compromise.” Maybe that’s what the writer would love to see, but it’s unrealistic in the extreme and flies in the face of what’s best for the other party. Same too here with the owners and the players.

I’m not sure where this column came from, honestly. It reads like a leaked strategy memo from the owners.

*UPDATE: To be fair, Rosenthal does say that the players should “work around the edges of the CBA” and propose “non-economic measures” that could possibly address teams’ seeming lack of a desire to compete and sign players. For my part I feel like that’s an artificial distinction — asking for the moon if you really just want a rock is not the worst way to get something in a negotiation — but it’s not as if Rosenthal is proposing a complete unilateral disarming of the players’ negotiating position.