The Trade Deadline Doesn’t Matter As Much This Year by Dave Cameron July 24, 2017 We’re now a week away from the July 31st trade deadline, so over the next seven days, we’ll probably some pretty good players change hands. Sonny Gray is going to be dealt. Yu Darvish might be. A.J. Ramos, Justin Wilson, Brad Hand, Addison Reed, and Pat Neshek will strengthen various bullpens. Every contender wants to add an arm or two, and so we’ll see a lot of pitching-oriented trades. But if your favorite team doesn’t make a deal in the next seven days, I wouldn’t get too frustrated, because this year, the August trade market might be a more viable way to upgrade than in most years. For a pretty good group of players, the July 31st deadline isn’t really any kind of deadline at all. July 31st is the last day teams can make a trade without having to pass the traded players through waivers. Most years, this forces the big names to move before the non-waiver deadline, as players valuable enough to be highly coveted by contenders won’t clear waivers, and thus can’t be traded in August. But this year, a larger-than-usual number of available players are potential August trade chips. The most obvious August trade chip is Justin Verlander. The Tigers indicated they were serious about getting younger when they traded J.D. Martinez last week, and with so many teams looking for pitching, there will be teams who would like to have Verlander despite his struggles this year. But no one wants to pay him $28 million for each of the next two years, not for his age-35 and age-36 seasons, given how he’s currently performing. Because of his price tag, and the fact that every interested team would want the Tigers to pay down Verlander’s contract, the Tigers can easily make a deal for their ace in August. In fact, it’s probably better for the Tigers to wait until next month to move Verlander. Right now, potential suitors could pivot to trading for a rental starter like Darvish or a controllable starter like Gray, but those guys will be off the board next week. Verlander can essentially be marketed as the starter of last resort, and every team who decides not to pay the deadline price for a pitching upgrade could then see Verlander as the best remaining option. Given that a number of contenders already have playoff spots locked up, and are just looking to upgrade their October rotation, there should be buyers who won’t care that acquiring him later means they get him for fewer regular season starts. So if I’m the Tigers, I wouldn’t push Verlander too hard this week. If someone wants to take the whole contract in August by claiming him on waivers, well, good; that frees up a ton of money to spend on other players who could help more long-term. But given the price tag, he’ll almost certainly clear waivers, and the Tigers will be able to get a decent prospect return for him in August if they pay down a good chunk of his remaining salary. And Verlander isn’t the only guy who would either clear waivers, or whose market wouldn’t dramatically change if he got claimed. We’ve already seen that there’s not much demand for rental corner outfielders, so the Mets probably don’t need to move Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson in the next seven days. With roughly $4 to $5 million left from their 2017 salaries, and moderate production at a position in low demand, the Mets can probably count on getting about as much for them in August as they would in July. The team’s leverage is more about just not trading them than marketing either player to multiple suitors, so even if one gets claimed, they’ll still have the ability to say “give us something or we’ll pull him back”. The Martinez return should dampen any expectations that the Mets will bring a significant return back for either player, but if the Mets want to move them for some prospect depth, they can probably do that in August as well as they can in July. The same goes for Melky Cabrera in Chicago, who also fits into that expensive-but-okay aging corner outfielder mold. Any team looking for a short-term left or right fielder could have plenty of choices for an August acquisition. August trades aren’t just limited to players with relatively high salaries. Often times, teams aren’t incentivized enough to block trades of marginal role players, so decent part-time guys get moved in August even without prohibitive contracts. And this year, there’s a lot of those guys available. Seth Smith, Asdrubal Cabrera, Matt Joyce, Howie Kendrick, Yunel Escobar, plus back-end starters like Francisco Liriano or Marco Estrada may very well clear waivers simply because there isn’t enough demand for their talents for teams to claim. These certainly aren’t the sexiest names out there, nor will any of these guys likely win you the World Series by himself. But really, this is a deadline with a pretty lackluster group of available players anyway. With the Pirates keeping Andrew McCutchen and a number of fringe contenders deciding to hang on to their best players, the 2017 trade season is mostly going to be about picking up guys with questionable 2017 performances or short track records of success. And given the guys who are going to be on the market, the difference in what you can acquire in July and August just won’t be as pronounced as usual.