None of us like it when our favorite team is playing horrible baseball. We don't like 101-loss seasons. We don't like it when the last three weeks of the regular season are as much about draft position and 'playing the kids' as much as they are about getting clutch two-out hits. Magic numbers trump tragic numbers. Every single time.
That said, this July will look somewhat similar to last July, where it seemed each new dawn was greeted with a new trade rumor. Or an actual trade. As the training wheels are off on the new trade season with Hisanori Takahashi and Brent Lillibridge already being dealt for the famed "PTBNL or cash" result (hint: expect cash, and not much), don't say you weren't warned.
The definition of 'trade value' is loosely, 'if someone wants you on their team'. Hence, it appears, Lillibridge and Takahashi have more trade value than Carlos Marmol. But that isn't where I'm going with this. There is a new layer of value in Major League Baseball now. Or, at least, there will be within 10 days.
NFL fans are familiar with 'the draft chart'. As 'trading up' and 'trading down' for draft picks is immensely popular in pro football, many draft aficionados know that if the 29th pick is traded for the 34th pick, the standard value of return should be (insert random appearing numbers here), Yeah, some people have that website on their list of favorites. Hence, they can tell which team 'reached' and which team made a 'value pick'. Until someone gets hurt, or...
Back to baseball. Most July baseball trades have generally been prospects for veterans. Cubs fans remember that from last year far too well, followed by the ramifications of trotting out Triple-A talent at far too many positions in September, not a pretty sight. Usually, toward the July 31 deadline, the rumors and trades reach a frenzy, leaving some teams wondering who will close out the season at a few positions. Fans will wonder the same things. However, this time around, there may be seller/seller trades.
Why would that happen this year? The new Collective Bargaining Agreement may make it so.
I'll use the Lillibridge trade as the standard-traditional win-win trade. The Cubs have no use for Lillibridge, in Chicago or Triple-A Iowa. The Yankees have a few infielders hurt, and Lillibridge might come in handy if a few more guys get dinged. The Cubs will either get a long-shot option from the Yankees Dominican complex, or $250 to put toward their next waiver claim. Either is of more value now to the Cubs than Lillibridge.
However, there may be a new type of trade brewing. As of July 2, international spending money can be traded. Imagine, then that a front office realizes there is no way they will spend all the money allotted to them for international spending. The GM with excess spending room has doubtless been in contact with teams that would simply love to spend more money on kids from Venezuela. The Cubs and Rangers lead everyone's list in that potentiality. If the seller has a need at the parent-club level, flipping international spending cash for a Cody Ransom or Kevin Gregg makes sense. Prospects could often be involved as well.
Despite being second for available spending, and favorites on two of the highest-ranked international options, the front office wants more than just those two (outfielder Eloy Ramirez and shortstop Gleyber Torres). Since (as I understand it) running down your available pool depletes the amount of added money the Cubs can take on, trades may be plentiful. And early. Here is a brief primer on the current set-up, and the cover boy is rumored to be signed by the Cubs. The expectation (and strong likelihood, of course) is that most of the international-cash-based trades will be with contenders.
However, if a team (I'll use the White Sox as an example) is as out of it as the Cubs, Dioner Navarro for a trade wedge (only certain amounts of spending money can be traded, each borderline unique to each team) makes no sense. So how can the White Sox trade international spending cash with the Cubs?
Before I get there, now is a really good time for general managers to be on the same page with their farm directors. It is really helpful, at this time of year, to know what your team wants. Equally, it's nice to have evaluated what you have, not only at the big league level, but in the pipeline. If a trade possibility comes up for the Cubs, and another organization is more sold on (for instance) Arismendy Alcantara than Team Theo is, now might be a time to flip him in a bigger trade for value. I don't expect that, as Alcantara has had a very solid season.
Back to the prior topic though, if the Cubs think they have enough outfield depth that a Reggie Golden, John Andreoli, or Zeke DeVoss is redundant in the system, that is a good thing to know. If, in discussions with a team looking to flip a wedge for minor league talent, the ChiSox express an interest in one of those three, a trade becomes very possible.
If the Sox think their last $355,000 wedge (that's just making up a number) is of no value to them, but they'd like to jump Golden to High-A ball (he's in Low-A for the Cubs), a different scenario of the Lillibridge trade crops up. If the player and wedge are both valued more highly by the team that lacks what they want, it makes all the sense in the world.
Will trades like that happen? Probably not. But there will be trades. Draft wedges will be dealt, and hopefully, some of the PTBNL trades (that are often for inconsequential amounts of cash) will become PTBSALIV (player to be signed after living in Venezuela). It sort of rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?
July baseball will be Cubs' fans last look in Cubs unis of some players that fans have come to love. Some of the trades will work well for the North Siders. Some of them will merely get a few players playoff shares. Or at least closer to them. The swap meet has begun. It will intensify. Due to the CBA rules, I'd expect a bevy of trades between July 2 and 5, or thereabouts. Some will be head-scratchers.
Since the team is in a distant fourth place, bring it on.