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First Pitch: MLB Should Move the Trade Deadline Back a Month

I’m not sure how the trade deadline got to be on July 31st. I know that it has been July 31st since 1986, and before that it was June 15th. I just don’t know why the league decided to change the date, and why July 31st was picked.

Here’s what I do know. Two changes have happened since the 1986 season.

1. MLB moved to a three division and wild card system, doubling the amount of teams that would make the playoffs.

2. MLB much later added a second wild card team.

The result of this is that you have more opportunities to make the playoffs. Because you have more opportunities, you’re going to see more teams with a shot, even if those teams aren’t even good teams. Take today’s trade rumor. The San Francisco Giants are 45-51. They rank 4th in their division. There are 20 teams in the majors with a better record. Yet they’re not interested in trading Hunter Pence because they’re only 4.5 games out in a weak division.

It’s the same way around the rest of the league. With a third of the season remaining, 22 teams are within ten games of the playoffs, including current division and wild card leaders. Only eight teams in baseball are 11+ games back of their division or a wild card spot.

In a week and a half the trade deadline will arrive. So far the names on the market have been weak. That’s probably because there are only eight teams who could be considered sellers. You could probably consider more teams sellers, but those teams might not feel the same way. They might not be wrong either. The Dodgers were 30-42 on June 21st. A month later they’re 49-47 after a 19-5 run. So why wouldn’t the Giants consider themselves in contention? They don’t need to go 19-5 to be legit contenders in the NL West. In fact, if they do go 19-5, they’d have a .533 winning percentage, which would currently rank first in the division.

What Major League Baseball needs to do is move the trade deadline. They’ve added six playoff spots since the year they determined the trade deadline should be on July 31st. That means you’re going to have even more teams in contention on July 31st, and fewer teams looking to make deals.

MLB should move the trade deadline to August 31st. You might still have a lot of teams that are within ten games out of their division or a wild card spot, but ten games is a lot to make up in one month. You might have teams thinking they have a shot of making up ground with two and a half months to go, but some of those teams are definitely going to be sellers with a later deadline.

It’s not like MLB doesn’t already allow trades beyond July 31st. That’s just the non-waiver trade deadline. Teams can still make trades in August, although players have to clear waivers for a deal to happen. We saw that last year when the Los Angeles Dodgers traded for the entire Boston Red Sox team. So just remove the waiver restriction and allow trades through the end of August (teams are allowed to trade in September through waivers, but those players aren’t eligible for the playoffs).

There’s not really a good reason to stick to the July 31st date. That date was decided over 25 years ago, and MLB has undergone two major changes to the playoffs since then, putting more teams within shot of contention on July 31st. Moving the date back would create more activity, all while allowing real contenders to add for their playoff run, and allowing the rest of the teams to rebuild for future years.

Links and Notes

**Episode 3 of the Pirates Roundtable can be viewed here. This week’s episode features James Santelli as the host, along with Ed Giles of In Clemente WeatherMichael Waterloo of Pittsburgh Sporting NewsSteve Petrella of MLB.comCory of Three Rivers Burgh Blog, and Brian McElhinney of Raise The Jolly Roger.

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates International Signing Tracker.


**Pirates Have Four in John Sickels’ Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects.

**Prospect Watch: Allie Adjusting to High-A; McGuire With Two More Hits.

**Minor League Schedule: Dickson Gets Start For Jamestown.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Pirates1 Push Win Streak To Eight Games.


**Pirates Interested in Hunter Pence, But Giants Unlikely to Trade Him.

**Trade Values: Hunter Pence.

**Injury Updates: Rodriguez, McDonald, Walker, Hughes, McPherson.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Jeremy J Stein

    The potential for less sellers to ask for more than fair price is there too. Heck, even more buyers will drive up the price through bidding wars. Although I’m not sure long shot teams like the Giants would be buyers, instead they might be neutral.

  • Brian Bernard

    As a buyer, can you get enough value in one month to make it worth it to give up a prospect for piece? Maybe. I like the idea.

  • Jeff

    Too logical. Also allowing all the extra players in September changes the game in late innings.

  • impliedi

    I don’t know. Seems to me that if you’re going to move the deadline to Aug. 31, that they might as well just eliminate the deadline altogether and let teams make non-waiver trades all season long. The “deadline” is pretty stupid and arbitrary anyways, if you ask me.

    A side issue with the deadline, is that it is kind of a PR thing. It’s a “when is my team going to throw in the towel on the season”, which translates to when a GM gives up on his current team. If the deadline were moved to Aug. 31, it means that a GM making a trade in late July or early August, was giving up on his team “long” before the deadline, which a lot of GM’s might give a second thought to doing, preferring to stick it out a little bit longer. It would probably substantially drive up the cost of an early trade. It might force GMs to hold on to their overpriced veterans much longer than normal, which I think would be a bad thing.

    Would be curious to see what it would do to starting pitching trades, if the deadline were moved to Aug. 31. It means you’ve got to decide if trading away something valuable is worth the 5 starts you get out of that starter that you traded for during the month of September.

  • smurph

    My view would be a compromise. Make the trading deadline Aug. 20. That way you would have a better idea which teams are out of it, and it would give contenders a week and a half to get their 25 man roster established for the playoffs.

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