July 31 is always a day circled on the calendar of every baseball fan. This is the so-called trade deadline when a player can be traded from one team to another without the complexity of the waiver wire. Trying to explain the intricacies of the trade deadline rakes closely with trying to explain the infield fly rule. You know why it is there you are just not sure how they ever came up with such a complex rule. Beginning a couple of weeks before the all-star break and all through July teams attempt to assess whether they are in the play-off picture or will be standing outside looking in. When that picture becomes clearer then a franchise can decide if they plan on being buyers or sellers when the trade deadline arrives. Buyers are typically those teams who make a trade to try and get their team in a position to win this year usually at the expense of young minor league talent. Sellers are those who have an abundance of talent or are looking to reduce payroll while rebuilding for the future.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are in an interesting situation. During the June swoon, the team looked to be sellers when the trade deadline arrived. There were rumors that they would attempt to trade Luis Gonzalez to get minor league prospects that could help the team in the future. They were also rumored to be dangling Shawn Green and Miguel Batista. Trading any of these would allow the Diamondbacks to free up roster spots so that they could bring up some of their highly touted prospects to the major league roster. It would also give them the second half of the season to assess these prospects and the rest of the roster so that this off-season they could make the moves necessary to set the Diamondbacks up for long-term success. A funny thing happened on the way to executing this plan, the team started winning. July started with a sweep of the American League West leading Oakland Athletics. Then they played well going into the all-star break and continued this trend to start the second half. Before anyone knew it, they were a game and a half out of first place for the National League West and a game and a half out of the wild card. So instead of sellers the Diamondbacks now appeared to be buyers.
So as today dawned, I carefully watched the news wires waiting to see what the Diamondbacks would do. Would they make a blockbuster trade to bring the D-Train from Florida to Arizona? Could they come up with something to rent Barry Zito for a couple of months to make a playoff run? Or would the rumors become true and Greg Maddux would bring his magic to the desert playing close to his Las Vegas roots? Each passing moment built upon the last. The Yankees of course were active as always collecting players like kids collect trading cards. Money is never an object for the evil empire and today was no exception. But as the trading deadline came and passed, the Diamondbacks name was never called. The deals that dreams are made of passed us by. In the end the front office decided that the future was too bright and trading away the blue chips of the minor leagues would not be worth the price of winning today. At first I felt as though they were giving up being so close to winning this year but ultimately I probably would have made the same decision. The only question now is how are they going to get young players like Carlos Quentin, Stephen Drew, Jerry Scott Hairston, Brian Barden, and Alberto Callaspo an opportunity to show that they are ready to take the next step to the major league level. It will be interesting to see how this plays out for the remainder of the season.