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Do Closers Fetch More When Traded Midseason?

Discussing the Mariners and David Aardsma today, David Cameron wrote, "There is a school of thought that closers garner more in return when moved at the deadline than in the offseason, though I haven’t seen much in the way of real evidence to support the assertion."

Looking at the last three seasons and offseasons, let's look at examples with the help of MLBTR's Transaction Tracker.  This post won't answer Cameron's question in a statistical sense, but it may help shed some light.

I found four closers who were traded during the 2008-10 seasons: Octavio Dotel, Matt Capps, George Sherrill, and Jon Rauch.  I've omitted the trades of Brian Fuentes, Chad Qualls, Kerry Wood, Billy Wagner, and Joel Hanrahan, as those five either weren't closing at the time of their trades or had prohibitive salaries. 

Five closers were acquired during the last three offseasons, not including this one: Rafael Soriano, J.J. Putz, Kevin Gregg, Jose Valverde, and Brad Lidge.  We're omitting Huston Street and Matt Lindstrom, who had lost their closer jobs before being dealt.  Gregg was on the outs in Florida but we'll include him.

More data points would be nice, but this is a start.  Teams overpaid to acquire Dotel, Capps, and Sherrill midseason, though Ned Colletti authored two of those deals.  The prices did seem lower for Putz and Valverde during the offseason, but not necessarily for Gregg or Lidge.  I think the conventional wisdom has value - contenders are more desperate for relief help during the summer, and with no free agent alternatives they're willing to surrender slightly better prospects for closers. 


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