Some interesting stuff from Buster Olney in his morning column pertaining to the trade deadline, and, specifically, how the pendulum has swung over the years towards teams being inclined to desperately hold onto their young talent:
Earlier this month, a veteran official engaged in trade talk with a younger peer about a second-line major-leaguer -- someone far below the pay grade of Carlos Beltran or James Shields.
The veteran official asked for a minor-leaguer in return. Not a top-tier minor-leaguer. Not a second-tier minor-leaguer. Maybe a third-tier minor-leaguer, a prospect with a notable weakness who is generally projected as fringe major-leaguer, at best.
The answer: No.
"When you've reached the point when you're refusing to trade prospects who aren't even close to being your top guys," said the veteran executive, "then all that really is is being afraid to make a mistake. If you're not willing to trade a minor-leaguer who you don't rate highly, then it's just fear. And that's a tough way to do business, because there the opportunities to win don't come every year."
The trade market is very different than it was in the days of Heathcliff Slocumb-for-nameless-prospects. I sent out an e-mail to a number of officials and asked them how it has changed. Here are some of the responses:
From an AL executive: "No doubt the buyers have become exponentially more protective of their prospects. And, because of that, it seems like there's far less activity until the deadline is upon us and someone just has to give in (or no one does and deals don't get made). The K-Rod deal that happens 2-3 weeks before the deadline is certainly the exception these days."
From an AL official: "I'd say one of the biggest changes has been the advent of Twitter and the impact it has had upon the coverage of the deadline and the game. Now there appears to be a race to be first -- instead of being right -- and to get it out there in 140 characters or less. Every rumor is quickly and widely disseminated, oftentimes without regard for its possible veracity. This causes many more potential deals and players' names to be 'out there' and has created an additional element for teams to try to manage."
From an NL executive: "I think teams increasingly value (or over-value their prospects). In general, most GMs would rather make financial errors rather than errors involving prospects."
From an AL evaluator: "Teams value prospects more now than ever. Realistically, most acquisitions at the deadline really don't make a difference. The biggest change is the media attention to it. Pressure is put on teams to do something even when they probably shouldn't."
From an NL evaluator: "The most notable thing for me is the media information and coverage, which can be good as well as bad. The other things is that as contracts have become richer, deals are more about moving money than pure talent exchanges."