While the Chicago Cubs deal with decisions over whether or not they should mortgage part of their future for a better chance at success in the present, another debate topic has been percolating around the sport of baseball, as discussions abound as to whether or not MLB should move back the non-waiver trade deadline.
That deadline, which currently sits on July 31, was established in 1986, when baseball only had four playoff teams each season. That meant that by the middle of July, teams knew whether or not they were in viable contention for a playoff spot, and that meant that more teams were able to make decisions as to how they should proceed in terms of roster construction.
Nowadays, that number has increased to 10 teams, and you now have teams like the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers that still have an outside chance of making the postseason instead of knowing that they should be selling off assets and going in a completely new direction.
With that in mind, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred says that the league would be interested in changing the deadline:
“I think that the July 31st deadline is something that we may want to revisit in the context of the revised playoff format,” he said. “Obviously when you have two additional opportunities to be in the playoffs, you have more teams in the hunt and they may want to wait a little longer before they make decisions.”
Manfred’s statements bring up two interesting questions: should MLB change the deadline date, and if so, when should they move it to?
The answer to the first question is an emphatic yes. Having a dearth of trading partners makes the trade deadline pretty much meaningless as it stands right now, but moving the date would give teams an opportunity to either hold out longer before making a decision or take advantage of their status as sellers in order to get better deals on starting pitchers, giving teams more bang for their buck in a trade and likely increasing the return in those swaps.
As for when the deadline should be set, an August 31 deadline would be feasible, but likely shouldn’t be adopted. If a team were to trade for a starting pitcher, it seems unlikely they would be willing to give up much of anything for a guy who will only get a handful of starts before the postseason begins. Can you imagine the return the Detroit Tigers would get on David Price if they waited until there was only one month remaining in the season to ship him out?
Instead, the league should push the deadline back by two weeks, putting it at August 15. There is still plenty of meaningful baseball that could be played at that point, and it doesn’t really impact the return on players as much as a month-long extension would.
The Chicago Cubs are preparing to head to Arizona for spring training next week, but it doesn’t appear that James Shields will be joining them as multiple reports have surfaced suggesting that he will end up signing with the San Diego Padres.
The deal, rumored to be four years and in the range of $72-76 million total, is one that might be out of the Cubs’ price range, and considering the position they find themselves in with a huge financial outlay already in place for a veteran pitcher, that may not be the worst thing in the world.
Even if that deal ends up happening and the Cubs miss out on Shields, it’s far from an indictment of the front office or a suggestion that they aren’t going to be trying their hardest to win a division championship this season. In fact, a “failure” to sign Shields would represent forward-thinking by a franchise that has shown a lot of it in recent years, and fans should be excited by the notion that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are sticking to their guns about not paying for past performance, but rather to paying for what will come in the future.
All of that being said, signing Shields still wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Cubs to do. Yes, there are guys like David Price and Zack Greinke that will hit the market next season, and yes there is something to be said about a guy whose strikeouts-per-nine is going down season by season. All of those innings will eventually catch up to him, but for the next year or two, it can be reasonably assumed that he would be a solid second or third starter in the rotation, and would really solidify the group going into this season.