Major League Baseball has a new trend. Over the years Major League Baseball tends to add a few new rules or changes from time to time. Speeding up the game has been a big priority in the last few years. But a new rule change put in place for the 2019 season has spun off a big reaction to the baseball trend.
The Old Rule
The Major League trading deadline has always been sort of a holiday. It happens on July 31st of every season. The old rule was any player can be traded to any team. Players don’t have to pass through waivers to be traded. Teams don’t have to make claims on players to be allowed to trade for them. Any team in contention can upgrade their roster. Any team playing for next season can trade good players to get younger and less expensive players back.
Teams were allowed to make trades after July 31st. But those players would have to be placed on waivers and not claimed by any other team. A team can claim a player and then be given a short period of time to work out a trade with his current team. This one month period ends on August 31st. The significance of this date is for any player to be eligible for the postseason he would need to be a part of his team’s 40 man roster by 11:59 PM August 31st.
Most recently in 2017, the Houston Astros traded for star pitcher Justin Verlander on August 31st. That trade propelled the Astros to win the World Series that season. Trades were also allowed in September but those players are not allowed to play in the postseason.
The New Rule
Starting in the 2019 season after July 31st no trades are allowed involving players who played in the Major Leagues that season. You can make trades involving true Minor League players after July 31st. Some have suggested the trade deadline be pushed back to August 15th. Since there is only one trading deadline it might make more sense to allow more teams to figure out if they really are contenders. But this is something Major League Baseball can always change as they always are tinkering with the rules to make the game better.
The New Trend
In the ten days since the trading deadline, we have seen a new trend running wild in baseball. Teams are placing players on waivers or designating them for assignment. This allows other teams who are looking for a player to plug up a hole to either make a claim on a waived player or sign him when he gets officially released.
There is a reason why these players are getting released. Some of these players are making a lot of money and some are having bad seasons and are in decline. The bottom line is their former team just wants to move on and groom a replacement sooner than later. Had the old rule was still been in effect a lot of these players would be traded.
Players Changing Teams
The Chicago Cubs badly needed a catcher. The Cubs starting catcher Willson Contreras injured his hamstring and will be out of action until September. The Los Angeles Angels released catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Lucroy was once a star catcher but his play has fallen off steadily the last few years. But still, he is better than what the Cubs currently have. The Cubs signed Lucroy to fill a huge hole with a serviceable player for the league minimum.
There are other notable players who were released and also found new homes. Asdrubal Cabrera was released by the Texas Rangers and signed with the Washington Nationals. Zack Godley was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks and signed by the Toronto Blue Jays. Kevin Gausman was released by the Atlanta Braves and signed by the Cincinnati Reds. Brad Brach was released by the Cubs and signed by the Mets. And you can bet there will be more to come.
One might ask why a team would sign a player who was having a bad season or has declining skills. It’s simple. The alternative is not very attractive. For teams like the Mets and Cubs who are in a pennant race, they get a player who has a track record that can contribute down the stretch.
The risk is low and the reward is high. Because it’s a free agent signing and not a trade teams are not giving up anything in return. Granted the level of players that would be going back is low. But still, the player would be a minor league player whose greatest value might be organizational depth. Even better is that these players would be signed for the league minimum.
There isn’t any real reason why the Mets and Cubs shouldn’t take a chance on Panik and Lucroy. Both players have played in the playoffs before. There is also the long-lived baseball theory of maybe a player just needs a change of scenery. As this is the first year of this rule change there was no way for Major League baseball to predict the ripple effect of this. It has basically created a poor man’s free-agent period.
This new baseball trend has made it a wild west between general managers. It also gives a released player a new start albeit for a couple of months. Major League Baseball might not have been able to predict this. Maybe no one could have. But the initial results are fun.
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