The argument (for/against) trading

I guess I've turned one article into a series of articles...  Not sure if that was intended, but I guess this is where the line of thought went.

Part I was talking about the process of building a sustained winner.  Part II looked at short-term FA options to fill in gaps while our draft selections develop.  This part looks at the 3rd leg of the stool - trades.

Before I begin, let me state that this article is NOT, I repeat NOT about specific trades for this offseason.  Rather, this is an article about trading in general.

As mentioned in the first article, trades generally fall into one of 4 categories:
  • Trading minor league talent for minor league talent. (Change of scenery, trading for need, etc.)
  • Trading minor league talent for major league talent. (Generally for a playoff run, filling in holes)
  • Trading major league talent for major league talent. (Trading for need, trading bad contracts, etc.)
  • Trading major league talent for minor league talent. (Acquiring talent for the future)

When dealing with trades, the first question to ask yourself before anything else is.

What stage is our organization in?

Are we rebuilding?  Are we on the cusp of contending?  Are we contending right now?  Once you answer that you have an idea of what you need to trade for.  Trades are different than FA or the draft in that there is another party involved while in FA/draft you are generally acquiring players with no other impact to any other team (other than the compensatory picks and the occasional thumbing your nose at other teams who were interested in drafting/signing said player).

Category 4 (major for minor) is mostly used for rebuilding.  Jack Zduriencik exhausted almost all the viable options here as he has pretty much flipped as much of the major league roster as possible to stock the minors.  There may still be pieces such as Brandon League, but there isn't much left.

Category 1 trades are usually quiet transactions mostly going under the radar.  Off the top of my head I can't recall such a trade.  The only one I can think of used a go-between in Cliff Lee to get such a trade accomplished.

Category 2 and Category 3 trades is where people argue bitterly on.

The easiest category 3 trades to speculate on are exchanging bad contracts in the hopes that a change of scenery of the players involved will do some good.  A good example close to home, and the former white elephant in the room was Carlos Silva.  These trades are generally add little to the team as it's really a *crosses fingers* type of trade where any improvement is a bonus.

Other Category 3 trades are more difficult to evaluate and depends on what your answer to the first question is.  Perhaps you were attempting to contend, were unsuccessful and now need to trade some of your older players who may not be around when the next wave comes.  Not rebuilding per se, just swapping out parts.  Perhaps you are contending and can trade from a position of strength for a position of need and can find someone(s) who have the inverse needs.

And while in an ideal world the trade would be a win-win for the parties involved, sometimes you just get what is offered to you and you have to make a decision of whether to hold out and hope for a better deal/keep the player, or take the best offer on the table.

Category 2 is a point of contention because the argument is made, "We just spent the last couple of years building the farm system and now you want to trade it away?", or "There is no guarantee how our prospects will turn out, so why not trade them for someone who is proven?"

Again, you have to first ask yourself where your organization is.  Perhaps your farm system is your strength and can afford to trade some of them for a major league player.  Perhaps you just need that last piece to make a WS run and you determine that it's worth trading your minor league talent to get that player.  Perhaps you're filling one of various holes that your organization cannot obtain within or via FA.  Once you determine what direction you are headed and what needs you have, you can tell what you should be targeting to trade.  Again, it's dependent on what offers you have on the table and what other teams' answers are to that same question.

Even in the case of a player who will eventually become too expensive to keep, you ask yourself the overlying question of where you are to determine what you would ask for in a trade.  Not contending?  Get prospects.  Close to contending? Get near-MLB ready talent.  Contending?  Well, you may want to keep him or ask for MLB players in return.

So next time, before you suggest a trade for the M's, ask yourself:

  • What stage are the M's in now?  Or, what stage do the M's perceive themselves to be in now?
  • What stage is the other team(s) in now? Or, what stage do the other team(s) perceive themselves to be in now?

Answering those questions will go a long way in determining whether that trade really has a chance of sticking to the wall or not.

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