The Astros and the Pirates finally broke the seal on the trade deadline yesterday. The A's sent Scott Kazmir to Houston for a couple promising minor leaguers, while the Brewers traded Aramis Ramirez back to the Pirates for a youngster who, if everything breaks right, might be an ok middle reliever. Both deals figure to bolster the contenders for their stretch runs, and fill some pretty urgent needs on both sides.
What's more interesting about these deals, from a strategic perspective, is who the Astros and Pirates dealt with: their division rivals. That doesn't happen all that often. Going into yesterday, since the start of the offseason, we had seen just six trades within the division out of the 83 deals. Most are minor swaps. The biggest, by far, is the Padres/Dodgers deal that sent Matt Kemp to the San Diego for Yasmani Grandal and others. Of course, that has worked out far better for the Dodgers than the Padres, who are one of the most disappointing teams in baseball, with Kemp as one of their most disappointing players.
In that light, then, it's easy to understand why we don't see more of these deals. General managers are afraid. Afraid that the players they give up will help a rival in the long term. Afraid that the deal they make to help them today will come back to bite them tomorrow. Indeed, if a deal doesn't work out, and the club has strengthened a rival, well...that's just a ready-made punchline for critics, and one that they would be reminded of several times a year. After all, not only has Grandal hit .286/.403/.520 on the year for the Dodgers, he's hit .250/.419/.458 vs. the Padres. He's also not going to be a free agent until after 2019. That's a long time for A.J. Preller to have to hear about the Kemp/Grandal trade (if he lasts that long with the Padres, that is). So yeah, I get GMs being reluctant.
The thing is, though, you either trust yourself and the decisions you and your staff make or you don't. If you believe you have assembled the best group of scouts and analysts you can find, and if you feel like you've done your due diligence, and if you feel like you have worked out a deal that makes your team better, well, the rest of it shouldn't matter. After all, the Astros and the A's are in very different places, competitively, with different priorities. It shouldn't matter if Billy Beane also comes out of this deal with two quality players. After all, Jeff Lunhow got what his club needed: a damn good left-handed starter for a postseason run.
The hesitancy of some teams to play the full market simply doesn't make sense, especially in an environment where more teams are in contention and where there are so few teams actively selling off assets. Indeed, if the Pirates didn't get Ramirez from Milwaukee, where else were they going to find a quality third baseman in this market? Especially one who could shift over to first base once Josh Harrison comes back.
Hopefully, the trades made yesterday are not just a coincidence, but the start of a larger trend. After all, baseball is more fun and interesting to talk about when deals are getting made, and opening up more opportunities to move players is good for all of us, not just for the clubs who strengthened themselves for the stretch run to come.