Impact of the Additional Wild-Card Teams on the MLB Trade Deadline

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 29: Zack Greinke #23 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays in the fourth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 29, 2012 in Anaheim, California. Greinke is making his Angels debut. (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

Now that the dust of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline has settled, let’s take a look at how a few of the changes implemented prior to the start of the 2012 season impacted this year’s transaction frenzy.

If you weren’t aware, or have been living under a rock for half the season, one major change had to do with baseball’s post-season system. Where there were three division winners and a single wild-card team from each league entering the playoffs in years past, there will now be two wild-cards teams representing each the AL and NL.

What exactly does this mean?

First of all, there are two more teams that will be in the post-season, meaning a third of the league will essentially make the playoffs.

As the trade deadline approached, this caused the buyers to outnumber the sellers.

If we take a look at the AL standings today, you have your five teams that would currently be in the playoffs, and then you have seven other teams that are currently within eight games of the final wild-card spot, including the 50-57 Seattle Mariners.

That means more than 85% of the league is either in the playoffs or can at the very least make a case for their post-season chances.

The NL doesn’t feature quite as many teams that can honestly say they have a shot at the post-season, though there are still four clubs currently sitting outside of the playoffs that are within nine games of the final wild-card spot.

Altogether, this gives us nine teams that are double digits-plus out of a wild-card spot.

This was generally the case as we entered the days leading up to July 31. As usual, teams on the periphery of the playoffs refused to give in and sell. The only difference this year is that there were more teams on the periphery given the additional wild-card spot.

Now, just because teams didn’t give in doesn’t mean they became ultra-buyers. Teams such as the New York Mets, Arizona Diamondbacks, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox basically stood pat this summer, completing about a dozen trades. None of these deals were blockbusters, as arguably the most recognizable names acquired were all former Houston Astros; J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and Chris Johnson.

Those that made the most moves this season were the teams in heated division races, including the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds, and the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers.

(Interestingly enough, the Yankees and Red Sox are nowhere to be found on this list.)

There’s room for debate, but the list of the 12 highest-profile players to be dealt this season looks something like this (in no particular order); Zack Greinke, Hanley Ramirez, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, Paul Maholm, Ryan Dempster, Francisco Liriano, Anibal Sanchez, Brandon League, Jonathan Broxton, Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers.

Between the eight teams listed above, they acquired 11 of those 12 players, in addition to Ernesto Frieri (not a deadline deal but impact is obvious), Geovany Soto, Marco Scutaro, Randy Choate, Barry Enright, Omar Infante and Travis Snider.

This is nothing new; teams competing for a division crown have and will continue to make splashes come deadline time.

Where the impact of the additional wild-card can be most seen is in the trades that didn’t happen.

As noted before, with the increase in teams that technically had a shot at contention, there were few clubs willing to truly sell this summer.

While the Milwaukee Brewers did ultimately trade Greinke, they waited and waited and waited until it was obvious their season was not going to result in a trip to the playoffs. They also didn’t trade any of their other marketable pieces, including Corey Hart, Francisco Rodriguez and Aramis Ramirez. You can debate the merit or desire in trading Hart and Ramirez, but there’s no doubt they wanted to trade K-Rod.

The Indians were in a similar situation, and Cleveland was actually in a better post-season position for much of the season than the Brewers. But, like the Brewers, the Indians decided to wait it out as their standing in the AL Central deteriorated. Now, after the passing of the deadline, Cleveland is left sitting with players such as Chris Perez, Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner, who may or may not be around the next time the team fields a truly competitive club.

So, while teams on top still made their moves that they believe put them in a better position down the stretch, there were others caught in a sort of undecided limbo. There have been teams such as this in years past, but with the additional wild-card team now presented, there were certainly more this season.

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What impact do you think the additional wild-card had on the 2012 trade deadline?

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