The New Hot Stove

If you’ll recall, Major League Baseball traded in their old hot stove this past off season and got a whole new system for heating up rumours with the renegotiation of the collective bargaining agreement between owners and players. The new rules, which eliminate Type A and Type B status, and restrict free agent compensation to players that spent the entire season with the same club, will make for entirely different transaction strategies from Major League ball clubs leading up to the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline.

This opens up a whole new list of possibilities, including the increased likelihood of a team trading a pending free agent at the deadline and then re-signing that same player to a new contract during the off season. For instance, the Milwaukee Brewers could trade Zack Greinke as a rental at the end of July and then negotiate a new deal with him in December and enjoy both Greinke and whatever in terms of prospects that they acquired for him in the summer. Fun stuff.

According to a Major League Baseball executive with whom Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports had the pleasure of speaking, the changes in the labour agreement could also lead to an increase in teams requesting a 72 hour window to negotiate a contract with prospective free agents that might be available through trade.

To use the Greinke example again, an interested team in the midst of trade negotiations would ask the Brewers for permission to negotiate a contract with the pitcher due to hit free agency to ensure that they would be able to lock the player up beyond the few months remaining on his contract.

Most recently, we saw such terms negotiated as part of the Boston Red Sox trade for Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres. Before the deal was sealed, Boston had a few days to speak with Gonzalez and his representatives. A deal was worked out, and later signed (once it was safe from a luxury tax perspective to do so) between the Red Sox and their current first baseman.

On one hand, teams selling their prospective free agent can expect to get a greater return on a player willing to sign a long-term contract extension with his new team as opposed to a mere rental for the stretch run (and hopefully, the post season as well). However, as Mr. Rosenthal points out, what sounds good in theory, doesn’t always work out well in practice.

If a deal falls apart, that’s 72 hours gone to waste – 72 hours of potential talks with other clubs, 72 hours that are critical as the deadline nears. The pressure on both teams to complete the trade – and potential for embarrassment – only increases if a trade agreement is reported before the player agrees to an extension.

And let’s say you’re the player in the middle of all this: Why would you rush into an extension with a new team when you’re months away from free agency? The circumstances – and money – would need to be almost perfect.

Shortly after the new CBA terms were announced, it was suggested that we might see more player movement prior to the trade deadline this season. While, that still might be the case, I have my doubts that those future deals will involve the type of players that are likely to warrant a qualifying offer and bring back compensation for their current team.

The equivalent (at least) of a first round draft pick seems like far too high of a price to pay in exchange for a player that might only play a couple of months in your team’s uniform, especially in MLB’s current environment which tends to value prospects and the potential for the low cost/high impact players hopefully available in the early rounds of the draft.

However, as a certain member of the Getting Blanked team likes to say, “Flags fly forever,” and so there may still be a front office or two willing to make a move that they believe ensures a World Series banner hanging from the rafters of their stadium.