Wednesday, July 31, 2013

No major deals at baseball's non-waiver trade deadline

Looks like it really is a "seller's market. Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline came and went at 4 p.m EST, Wednesday afternoon, and no deals of note were made. There had been many discussions in recent weeks about teams placing a higher value on their own young players and how the sellers were asking for a king's ransom, especially now that two extra wild card spots have been added to the postseason.

More teams are in the race (or think they are, anyway) and are less likely to want to sell at the deadline. And the teams that are really out of it--the Marlins and Astros of the world--have more leverage because more teams are shopping for the piece that will put them over the top.

Regarding the Pirates and what they would do at the deadline, many wondered if gm Neal Huntington would make a minor move or a major splash. A major splash like acquiring Miami's Giancarlo Stanton. But Stanton, 23, is one of the fastest players in baseball history to reach 100 home runs, and he'll be a free agent at the end of the 2014 season.

It would be very unlikely that Pittsburgh could re-sign Stanton, especially with Andrew McCutchen's contract extension set to kick in, and players the caliber of Pedro Alvarez approaching arbitration in the near future.

It would be one thing if Miami was willing to accept mid-to-lower level prospects for Stanton, but the Marlins wouldn't part ways with their superstar for anything less than one or both of Pittsburgh's top prospects, which would more than likely be pitcher Jameson Taillon and outfielder Gregory Polanco.

Both prospects are highly thought of and in the top 15 of MLB's top 100 prospects. In fact, both players have a chance to be with the big club next season. If Polanco even approaches the talent of a McCutchen, he's going to make the Pirates outfield one of the best in baseball.

The Pirates have done such a wonderful job of restocking  their once barren farm system, and to trade two of their top prospects away for a player that would be around for little over a season would make little sense.

Other players mentioned as possibilities for the Pirates were outfielder Alex Rios of the White Sox and pitcher Bud Norris of the Astros--two nice pieces but probably not game-changers. But, again, because it's such a seller's market these days, Pittsburgh would have had to overpay for them.

Honestly, I don't know why any team would want to sell off its future for "now" anymore. In the 70's, 80's, and early 90's, when only four teams made the playoffs, and clinching a World Series meant winning two "best of" series, it made more sense to sell off the future for the present. But today, with the playoff field expanding by 60% since 1995, it makes more sense for a team to keep its homegrown talent and develop as much of it as possible.

It's quite conceivable that the Pirates will wind up with the second best record in baseball and still have to settle for a wild card. Would it really make a lot of sense to mortgage so much of their future and chance the outcome of a one-game playoff?

A team like the Pirates, with their young core and rapidly improving farm system, has a chance to remain contenders for a long time, especially with an extra wild card added to the mix.

The fact that very little happened around baseball at the deadline tells me that more teams are going to try to keep their young prospects, and I believe that levels the playing field for the small market teams.

If you can't buy a championship anymore, and you can't raid another organization to get one, you must develop from within.

Maybe I'm just being overly optimistic and a bit naive, but perhaps the gap between the large and small market teams is narrowing very rapidly.

A Pirates/Rays World Series? It never seemed more realistic than it does right now.

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