Trade Deadline Flatline

July 31 is a nerve wracking day for players, front office personnel, and fans alike. Before the season started everyone believed they had a team that at least on paper would compete for a post season berth. Over the course of the first half of the season reality begins to set in and by the time the all-star break arrives teams can be divided into two categories – buyers and sellers.

The buyers are those teams who are looking for that one piece that will help propel them to the play-offs. These are the teams who are either on top of their division or within striking distance. Many of these franchises are looking to bring in a player short-term that can help them win some games. In exchange; they are willing to give up promising minor league prospects or players with a future upside in order to win today.

On the other side of this equation are the sellers. These teams may be underachieving or due to injuries find themselves in a position that the play-offs are unobtainable. They are willing to give up on major league players that may be too expensive or are at the end of a contract. The teams will trade established players and begin building towards the future.

Long before the trade deadline the Arizona Diamondbacks were identified as sellers. Their slow start in April coupled with the red-hot play of the Los Angeles Dodgers dug a hole so deep that the Diamondbacks could not get themselves out of. While frustrating for the fans, this situation does have some advantages.

Most of the teams in both leagues could still become playoff contenders by getting hot at the right time. For every team that has a shot at the playoffs, that means there is one less seller. Simple supply and demand dictates that fewer sellers means the cost for talent goes up. The Diamondbacks could therefore ask for more for their players than would normally be the case.

The disadvantage for the Diamondbacks is that the majority of their team is made up of young players with huge unrealized potential. These young players come with lower salaries and are under club control for longer. Those are not the kinds of players you want to get rid of. In fact those are what you are hoping to get in exchange for the players you are trading.

As the trade deadline approached, there were relatively few players the Diamondbacks considered moving. Starting pitchers Doug Davis and Jon Garland have been mentioned numerously as has reliever Chad Qualls. Infielder Chad Tracy and outfielder Eric Byrnes were likewise rumored to be available.

Davis and Garland are reaching the end of their contracts and the Diamondbacks hoped to get minor league prospects in exchange. With staff ace Brandon Webb out for the season and it being unclear whether he will pitch for the Diamondbacks next season; the Diamondbacks may be better off keeping either Davis or Garland and signing them to an extension. If they were to choose one it would be Doug Davis given his propensity to pitch deep into games.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have historically not been willing to invest heavily in relief pitchers. Chad Qualls has pitched well this season and has been one of the bright spots in the bullpen. The team believes they are close to competing so it would seem unlikely that they would be willing to part with Qualls who is under team control for another year at a fairly low salary.

I believe the team would happily trade either Tracy or Byrnes if they could find a team willing to accept the salary. With the recent acquisition of Brandon Allen for Tony Pena; the team clearly has a glut of first basemen. Tracy would seem to be the most expendable given his history of struggling defensively and not hitting left handed pitching particularly well.

Eric Byrnes finds himself in a similar situation. With the emergence of Gerardo Parra and Justin Upton coupled with the potential of Conor Jackson and Chris Young; Byrnes becomes perhaps the fifth outfielder on the depth chart next season. That is not a good position for a player that is costing $10 million per season. The problem becomes finding a team willing to take on that kind of payroll especially given the fact that Byrnes is hurt for a second straight season.

Given all of these conditions, it should not have come as much of a surprise that the Diamondbacks made absolutely no trades as the deadline passed. That doesn’t mean they are done wheeling and dealing. Players can still be traded after the July 31 deadline; they will just need to go through waivers before being traded.

I look to see the Diamondbacks put Davis, Garland, Tracy, and Byrnes on waivers and see if any team would be willing to take on one of these players. Of course the way this season has played out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see all of these players still on the roster come September. It has definitely been a wacky kind of year.

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