The news broke on Thursday that exchange of data and video would be permitted between MLB organizations for teams’ Alternate Sites:
Sources: MLB is facilitating an Alternate Site video/data sharing system for clubs, with opt-in to share/receive. Will increase odds of trades leading up to the August 31st trade deadline, as Alternate Sites were a black box of information.— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) August 13, 2020
And on Friday, MLB said it’s considering allowing teams to add up to 15 players to those sites:
Only the few dozen selected by each organization for a spot in its 60-man player pool have had any semblance of development since spring training was shut down on March 12.
That might be about to change.
Multiple sources have indicated to Baseball America that MLB is considering allowing teams to add roughly 15 additional players to their player pools.
While it’s possible to be encouraged by the systemic transparency, the entire mindset of Rob Manfred seemingly authorizing what should be standard practice is disconcerting.
For instance, if the Cubs wish to acquire a reliever in the next two weeks from a team fading from contention, no informational exchanges were permitted (until this week) from their South Bend site. If a team is going to trade a veteran, it will likely be for a youngster at the alternate training site. Here’s a bit more detail about what’s being done:
There's separate opt-ins for both data and video, as some Alternate Sites are limited in what the facility can accommodate. Clubs were instructed to share whatever info is recorded. Indications are about 2/3 of clubs have opted-in. Data/video flow to clubs hasn't started yet.— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) August 13, 2020
In most years, initial discussions may have spurred a scout, or troupe thereof, to examine the efforts of a handful of prospects. With no minor league games in 2020, scouts can't be dispatched to those to assess prospects. As team access to alternative training sites was limited, any trades might have been made on 10-month-old data, which discourages trades.
Manfred is walking a tightrope here. He wishes to have teams interested in trades, and having the capacity for them. But he has limited player exchanges, almost entirely, for players at alternative training sites. The before-the-deadline trade is often decided upon by "which team requires the least in return" as opposed to "the best perceived player available."
For instance, let's make it Cubs-specific. I would imagine the Cubs are "in discussion" with eight to 10 teams on which relievers might be of value this month. Expanding it from "teams in discussion" to "players being discussed," how many potential relief arms the Cubs are contemplating? Thirty? Fifty? How will they decide on the relievers they do choose to acquire? Some of it will be based on "quality acquired." Some of it will be based on "acceptable amount surrendered." No team is likely interested in giving up a quality (potential) long term piece for a middling short-term reliever. The current system seems to be attempting to revisit "Jon Garland-for-Matt Karchner" scenarios. However, recent Cubs trades have sent away minor-league talent like Tyler Thomas, Clayton Daniel, Jhon Romero and Rollie Lacy. These players were not significant enough at the time to have been considered for any "alternative training site" material in an applicable parallel universe.
The goal in deadline trades this year figures to be to "trade the least possible to get an upgrade" as opposed to making a major swap. Since any player involved in a trade must be on the 40-man roster or at the alternate site, that limits exchanges, especially if nobody knows how the players are doing.
Manfred seems to be prioritizing "sameness" of the 30 teams. If anyone has been wanting to overachieve in scouting or development, that's been quashed. Allowing information sharing, when everyone in baseball has a smartphone, seems obvious. Manfred's limits on the information that can be shared, and players that are trade-eligible, seems to encourage trades for something little other than "cash considerations." The best thing about the information sharing to me? It seems highly unlikely the Cubs will trade a long-term piece to add a reliever who could go 2018-version Brandon Kintzler or 2019-version Kintzler in equal likelihood. As for Manfred? He’s still making it up as he goes along.