The New Trade Market

MLB players and owners agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement this offseason and they’re set to announce expanded playoffs starting in 2012. These changes will affect the mid-summer trade market in the following ways:

  • More buyers, fewer sellers – Those who followed this week’s NHL trade deadline know that fewer teams consider themselves truly out of the playoff mix when more spots are up for grabs. It’s already common for MLB teams to wait until they’re clearly out of contention to make players available, and the additional Wild Card spots figure to delay the moment at which teams are comfortable selling while reducing the number of teams willing to part with MLB assets. I won't be surprised if the market develops later than usual this summer. 
  • Prospective free agents traded midseason will no longer be eligible for draft pick compensation – For example, if the Padres trade Carlos Quentin for prospects midseason, his new team wouldn’t be able to obtain a compensatory pick in 2013, even if they make him a qualifying offer when he hits free agency following the season.
  • Increased asking prices for star players – Don’t be surprised if the asking price on available talent rises midseason. Let’s say the Cubs make Matt Garza available in early July, before many teams are truly out of the mix. There would be many buyers at that point and few alternatives in terms of quality starting pitching.
  • New market for non-elite players – Teams could previously hold onto non-elite players such as middle relievers and obtain draft picks by offering arbitration to those who qualified as Type B free agents. The new CBA eliminated the Type A and B classifications, so teams stand to lose players for nothing unless they’re prepared to offer them one-year salaries in the $12.5MM range. Most players aren’t worth that kind of cash, so teams might flip them to buyers for prospects to obtain long-term assets. That said, there’s definite value in fielding a respectable team, so it’s not as though GMs will be handing second-tier players over for nothing.

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