April 4, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; MLB commissioner Bud Selig in attendance before the opening day game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

A Seller’s Market

When baseball announced this past off-season that an extra wild card spot for the 2012 playoffs would be added, reactions were mixed around baseball. I’m sure some fanbases in places like Toronto rejoiced, thinking…finally a legitimate chance for their team to make the playoffs!If only things were so simple…

You see, owners see dollar signs. There is no better way in baseball to keep people coming to the park over a long summer than being in a playoff race. We’ve been lucky enough to experience this for much of the past 6 seasons in Detroit, so why should we and a select few others get to have all the fun? Well, I’m not suggesting that we should. Adding another wildcard in both leagues could very well be good for baseball if you are thinking in terms of what is good for the overall health of the game. The more fans watching the sport as NFL training camps start awaking from their slumber, the better.

More playoff teams in the hunt, however, likely means a more significantly boring trade deadline is coming, and teams like Toronto and Baltimore (and some extent Detroit) have to be careful. While Detroit could still very easily win its division, the Blue Jays and Orioles are the poster child for what this extra wild card is all about. Playing in a division where the financial cards of some of their division brethren are stacked against them, the extra playoff team is allowing last place Toronto to stick around in the playoff picture. On top of Boston and New York, Toronto has to deal with Tampa, the little engine that does, and a resurgent Baltimore franchise, that is most likely going to fade off into non-contender by August.

So when does Toronto throw the towel in? Well, apparently not yet. Not even after losing three of their starting pitchers in the past week, at least according to MLB Trade Rumors. So, it’s obvious. They need pitching. And if it’s obvious to me, it certainly has gotten GM’s of teams that are selling to have a piqued interest in our neighbors from the north.

But what are they buying and from whom? That is the real question. Tigers fans. Pay attention here, because this isn’t just about Toronto.

With more teams pushing towards a playoff run, GM’s of around 20+ baseball teams are going to be looking for that piece that can help put them over the top. A select few will be looking to sell…and in this market, they are holding all the chips.

When July 31st, the non-waiver deadline, rolls around this year; Colorado, San Diego, Houston, Chicago, Seattle, Oakland, and Minnesota, should all be in sell mode. If they are smart anyway. Philadelphia could potentially join that mix, as could Milwaukee. With only 7 or 8 teams likely to be selling off pieces at the deadline, the price for these not-so-prized players is likely to be steep. I’m no economic genius by any stretch, but even I know that when the demand goes up, the supply can charge the heck out of you.

For the most part, most of these teams that are selling are bad because they have bad players. I mean, Houston is going to look to trade Carlos Lee and Wandy Rodriguez. While those two guys are performing well, they aren’t exactly guys you should be emptying out farm systems for, and they have contracts their employers want to unload as well. Colorado is going to try and sucker Toronto into overpaying for Jeremy Guthrie. There might be a few real good players like Hunter Pence and Carlos Gonzalez dangled, but teams are going to have to pony up in terms of quality prospects if they want to land anything of quality.

Imagine Tigers fans, if Detroit put Doug Fister back on the market this season, what they could get back for him. I’m not suggesting the Tigers do that, but you get the point.

In the end, I’m not sure that this is good for baseball. Having a trade deadline that is likely to be more about hype, and little about actual movement of players, is a tease that is likely to frustrate fans more than anything. Those “finally my teams in it!” cries will be replaced by, “why the hell didn’t my team make a move?” anguish laced tirades. Well to answer the question, simply because sellers are going to be able to hold buyers to the flame.

It doesn’t mean I’m not okay with Detroit making a move at the deadline. If we are still middling around the .500 mark and need a boost, I would expect Detroit management to do so, but to do so with some common sense. I don’t want the Tigers to get into a situation where they are having to part with Jacob Turner in a deal because San Diego is talking to 8 different teams about Carlos Quentin. I know David Dombrowski is smarter than that (and trading seems to be his strength), but maybe Detroit’s owner and his desire to win gets out of hand.

And while I am at it, let me get back to Toronto, and offer some advice when this article makes it to the desk of Alex Anthopolous. I respect the way they are building their franchise, but you got three starters hurt, you can’t replace that in the trade market right now without gutting your farm system a little. Stay away from being a buyer for now and wait until the off-season. This isn’t your year.

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Tags: Detroit Tigers Doug Fister Trade Deadline

  • timoteus

    As per usual. John, another excellent article.  I had not thought of the trade-deadline consequences to the expanded playoffs.  So now you just have the bottom-dwellers in sell mode, but as you pointed out, there’s a reason those teams are bottom dwellers (i.e. mediocre, at best, players).  So teams are going to have to seriously ante-up to acquire a player of any significance.  I have to admit, I was adamantly opposed to the expanded playoffs.  But you know, the baseball gurus who make these decisions almost NEVER call to ask my opinion.   :o)   Be good, brother.

  • ChrisHannum

    The second wild cards does also reduce the financial returns to getting a wild card spot (in terms of playoff tickets sold).  I’m not sure that a 1-and-out in the playoffs would give the boost they’re looking for to season ticket sales the following year either.

  • http://www.DoctorDaveT.com/ DoctorDaveT

    And now for an opposing point of view….
    With more teams looking to buy, sellers (ie – losing teams) will get more value for their tradable commodities. This should make the sellers more competitive in coming years.
    This is simply one more way that losing teams gain a future competitive advantage: 1) they get to draft first; and now 2) their older but good players have more trade value at the deadline.
    Like you mentioned – imagine if Fister were on the market this year.
    That’s the whole point of the trade deadline: bottom dwellers get an opportunity to gain multiple cheap prospects for expensive proven talent.
    If this rule were in effect during the 1990′s, Detroit may have garnered more prospects. What might that have done for Detroit Baseball from 1992-2005?

    • timoteus

      Dr. D:  that’s also a good point.  I guess it kinda depends on where your  team  is sitting.  If your team has struggled the past few years, and they’re selling, the opportunity will be there at the deadline to score some prospects and turn things around more quickly.  Flip side is if you’re team is usually at least in the hunt, it will be more costly to acquire that “final piece.”  May have to ponder this one awhile.   :o)

    • MCBjohnverburg

       @DoctorDaveT We shall see. Sellers have to be realistic. Yes, they have the advantage, but ultimately maybe very few deals get done because buyers might scoff at asking prices.

      • http://www.DoctorDaveT.com/ DoctorDaveT

         @MCBjohnverburg Please pardon if this seems rude, John, but it sounds like you’re on both sides of this issue. In your original post, you make the point that trading for talent is now “a seller’s market”. In your reply you just made, you said “Sellers have to be realistic.” Which is it?
        To be quite honest, (italic/) sellers don’t have to be realistic (italic/). Sellers can get whatever they can from the highest bidder. Realism and auctions have nothing to do with each other.
        As a fan of a “buying team” (el Tigres!), I don’t like it this year’s “market” (having to give up a Turner, Smyly or Castellanos is terribly unappealing); but for fans of “selling” teams, you gotta love the opportunity to stock the farm.

        • MCBjohnverburg

           @DoctorDaveT This isn’t a true auction situation. In an auction an item goes up for bid, and last bid wins. Once a bid is out there, it’s in. In this case the seller has to say yes, so there is some realism involved here about the value of what players these teams are selling, if they truly want to move them . Let’s put it this way. Let’s say Wandy Rodriguez in a normal market has 1000 dollars of value. Just using that number as a baseline. The Astros can’t realistically expect to get 10000 dollars worth of return for Wandy. However,  because it is a sellers market, and there are more buyers, the 1000 value might get sold for 4000, hence being a sellers market. Sure the Astros can ask for ten, but if they aren’t realistic in their demands, no deal is going to get done, because unlike an auction, these offers can be withdrawn.

        • http://www.DoctorDaveT.com/ DoctorDaveT

           @MCBjohnverburg Thank you for making my point. In your example, (italics/) the Astros just quadrupled their value (italics/) for WR.  Doesn’t that help restock their farm?

  • ChrisHannum

    Expect a post-form reply to this very interesting piece later today…

  • timoteus

    Hey peeps, just wanted to say how much i’ve come to enjoy this site.  Posters here seem to be very respectful of others’ posters opinions.  I’d pretty much stopped posting on other Forums because I don’t much care for the way people treat one another behind the anonymity of a faceless post.
    The respect is something you certainly don’t get everywhere.  Thank you, friends.