Extra Wild Card Changes Teams’ Deadline Strategy

With the addition of an extra wild card team, the MLB trade market has changed. Fewer sellers, more buyers, and a whole lot of neutral teams shape the market.

There’s really not that many teams that will be full-on sellers at the deadline. Teams like the Astros, Cubs, and Twins are among the few that will be willing to give up major league talent for up-and-coming prospects.

Teams that in the past have been sellers for a while, are now considering being buyers. The Oakland Athletics come into today tied for an AL Wildcard lead. A team that for the past couple of years have been trading away big-time players for prospects, but this year may be different. Now, it’s doubtful the Athletics end up going all-in this year and giving up half of their minor league system, but trading one or two for a major league player that can help them now isn’t a bad idea.

Teams in cities like Oakland and Baltimore, among others have fans craving playoff baseball. The fan base would riot if the team acted as a seller even when there is just a glimpse of hope for a playoff berth. I would be angry too.

This is why these teams will likely take on the “neutral” persona. Some clubs there only chance may be the Wild Card. These teams will have to be wise with their moves and very cautious. They can’t give up too much just for the hope of one more game.

Just imaging if one of these teams gave up three of their top prospects for an elite major league player and then they go on to lose that one game wild card play-in. Basically, what they did was sacrifice the future top talent for one game. One game, that they ended up losing.

Is the Wild Card game really even a part of the playoffs? Technically, yes, but realistically, no.

The Cardinals situation is a bit more complex. First off, this is not a team designed to be sellers. It will be a long time before the club even considers selling. That would go against the aggressive, win-now attitude of the ownership.

After winning a world championship last year, the team bought time. Of course Cardinal fans want to win the prize every year, but realistically the best fans in baseball realize that’s highly unlikely. So there’s really not too much pressure on GM John Mozeliak to go all-in and the fans understand.

This year’s trade deadline will be interesting to watch unfold. The changes coming into 2012 will make it fun to watch this play out.

Zack

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