With the non-waiver trade deadline in Major League Baseball just 10 days away on July 31, teams that are in contention are going to look to add the piece they believe they need to push them over the top.
Teams that are out of contention, meanwhile, will be looking to move expensive veterans in favor of young prospects in hopes of facilitating a rebuild.
But the addition of the second wild card in 2012 has changed the equation, with fewer deals happening on deadline day.
In 2012, the first year of the expanded postseason field, there were 10 trades on July 31. In 2013, that number was down to five.
In 2011, there were five trades, but in 2010, there were an even dozen.
This season, it might be hard to differentiate the buyers from the sellers.
Through games of Sunday, July 20, 13 of baseball’s 30 teams are within five games of their division lead. Additionally, there are six teams in each league within five games of a wild card spot.
David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays is thought to be the big prize heading to the deadline this year. The Rays are a team on a tight budget and Price is already earning $14 million this season and is arbitration-eligible again in 2015 before he becomes eligible for free agency.
That would make him an attractive pick up for a team looking to win now, with a chance to also win later, considering Price would remain under their control for another season.
But what makes up an ideal deadline move?
The goal would be to make the postseason without completely gutting your organization for the future, finding that balance between winning now and not suffering for it later.
So if you don’t win now (and by “win now,” I mean reach the postseason—MLB’s playoffs are far too much of a crapshoot to declare “championship or bust”), it’s not going to be considered a good deal, regardless of how well the player you acquired did.
But even if you do win now, if the guys you gave up wind up leading their new teams to future success while your franchise downshifts toward mediocrity, that can’t be considered a very good deal, either.
So there are two ways to look at this.
We’ll look at the five best and worst trades just on a single-year basis. To be considered one of the best deals, the team had to reach the postseason. To be gauged one of the worst, no postseason bid could happen.
For purposes of this piece, a deadline deal had to occur within a week of the deadline, so we’re looking at deals made July 25-31 each year since 2001.