After a few weeks of rumors and a false start* the trade deadline exploded in earnest yesterday afternoon. First, Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez were traded from Miami to Detroit for Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly, Brian Flynn, and a swap in the competitive lottery draft, then Ichiro was traded to the Yankees for two inconsequential non-prospects. All of this happened in the time it took me to walk to my car, go to the grocery store, and drive back to my apartment (maybe 35 minutes in total).
Neither of these deals affect the Pirates much; Sanchez and Infante would undoubtedly improve the Pirates, but the price paid by the Win Now Tigers** was very steep; Turner is roughly on par with Jameson Taillon as a prospect (not quite as good, but much closer to the big leagues), Sanchez will be a free agent after this year, and Infante will join him in 2013. As much as Infante at short and Sanchez in the rotation would help these Pirates a ton, that’s not a price they can afford to pay. Ichiro, meanwhile, is an isolated incident. It’s true that the Yankees didnt’ pay much at all for him, but there’s no evidence that he’s got much left in the tank and while he wanted out of Seattle, I’m pretty dubious that he wanted to go anywhere other than to New York***. This was a Thanks For Everything, Ichiro, Now Go and Win Your World Series trade, not an attempt to get the best value for him on the open market.
As it stands, though, the most interesting thing that’s happened recently as it relates to the Pirates is the Padres giving Carlos Quentin a three-year extension over the weekend. On its face, it’s important because it means the Pirates can no longer trade for Carlos Quentin and man, a lineup that goes McCutchen/Alvarez/Quentin/Jones could have put an absolute hurting on some baseballs and it’s unfortunate that that won’t happen. Really, though, it’s important because Quentin was probably one of the most sought-after rental hitters on this market and the Padres decided that he has more value to them long-term than he does in a trade. Josh Byrnes is a smart guy; this didn’t happen by accident.
In fact, I suspect that it happened because the loss of compensation draft picks has changed the trade market pretty substantially. Quentin is a good enough hitter that he was going to command something of value from whoever would have traded for him. In the Pirates’ case, that likely would’ve meant Lincoln or whoever the Padres liked best out of Locke/Wilson/Owens or maybe a prospect like Robbie Grossman or possibly even a combination of a couple players from that group (as you can see, I haven’t put a ton of thought into what it would’ve taken to get Quentin). In any case, it would probably would’ve been a player that was of some value to the Pirates. In the past, knowing that Quentin would be a Type A or B free agent and bring one or two first round picks back after signing elsewhere on the free agent market, giving a decent prospect up for him would’ve been a fine proposal. Without that insurance policy, it’s tougher for a team like the Pirates to give away a player that could have substantial future value for two months of one player, even if that one player can mash.
As a result, Quentin’s value on the open market isn’t the same this year as it would’ve been in the past and so Byrnes decided to extend him. The Phillies are apparently considering the same thing with Cole Hamels. Obviously, as we just learned yesterday, players will be traded at this deadline. It’s looking to me, though, that things are going to unfold quite a bit differently than they have in the past. As a result, the Pirates may end up doing something that’s quite different than what we all expect.
*As far as I know, Ryan Dempster has not yet been traded to the Braves, though it appears that all that remains is his approval of the deal. I don’t know why he’d reject a trade to the Braves at this point, but then again, somewhere in the multiverse there’s a timeline in which in 2019, a 34-year old me is informed that he has to waive his 10/5 rights to be traded from the last place Twins to the first place Braves for my only chance to win a World Series and I whisper, “I can’t do it” over and over again, rocking back and forth with my knees pulled up to my chest.
**It amuses me that the Tigers are in Win Now mode, having just signed Prince Fielder through 2020 and having Miguel Cabrera signed through 2015, but then again, Jim Leyland isn’t going to manage for forever and Mike Ilitch is 83. Someone is going to have a hilariously immobile, injury-prone, defensive nightmareto clean up in Detroit starting in probably 2014.
***I do not know how Ichiro feels about Pittsburgh, but I’m betting it’s not much different than how he feels about Cleveland.