Last Wednesday, we witnessed the first true July 31 trade deadline, after the abolition of the August waiver trade period. While it was reasonably busy, especially at the buzzer, the amount of movement wasn’t as great as anticipated based on front offices placing significant value on their minor-league prospects, resulting in somewhat of a buyer’s market. That being said, however, we’ve been seeing an interesting new portion of the player market develop in the days immediately following the Major League Baseball trade deadline.
In the past, all teams would place their players on revocable waivers when August hit. While many players were claimed and pulled back, a number of rather expensive players would make it through and become eligible to be traded, and others would be traded via the waiver claim. This was especially true for non-contenders, who would hope to get anything out of the rental pieces signed during the offseason who they weren’t able to trade at the July 31 trade deadline and hadn’t played well enough to warrant a qualifying offer.
This year, that option is no longer available for teams on the outside looking in, which limits the benefit of keeping older players around, as the games don’t mean as much, giving the organizations an opportunity to get their young players’ feet wet in low-stakes games. This has resulted in teams cutting their veterans loose.
Over the past few days, the following players have been designated for assignment or released, leaving them available to join another organization before the end of the season:
- The Los Angeles Angels designated catcher Jonathan Lucroy for assignment to make room for the recently acquired Max Stassi
- The Pittsburgh Pirates designated infielder Jung Ho Kang for assignment to make room for Erik Gonzalez, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list
- The San Francisco Giants released Nick Vincent, rather than activate him from the disabled list
- The Washington Nationals cut ties with left-hander Tony Sipp, in favor of recently acquired right-hander Daniel Hudson
- The Texas Rangers cut ties with Asdrubal Cabrera, to make room for Isiah Kiner-Falefa on their active roster
There are also a plethora of players who became available despite longer team control, non-roster status, or just as simple roster casualties: righty Andrew Triggs (Oakland Athletics), Tyler Austin and Dan Winkler (San Francisco Giants), Alcides Escobar (Chicago White Sox), Eric Stamets, Neil Ramirez and Trayce Thompson (Cleveland Indians), Jacob Barnes (Milwaukee Brewers), Tim Collins (Chicago Cubs), Javy Guerra and Michael Blazek (Washington Nationals), and Luiz Gohara (Atlanta Braves).
As for Gohara, I wouldn’t be surprised if the move to release him was procedural. When minor leaguers on the 40-man roster sustain serious injuries, they’re sometimes released and subsequently re-signed soon after, and Gohara fits that bill, as he has missed the entirety of the 2019 season.
Regardless, with the removal of the August trade system, the league was left with somewhat of a void in the market of players who represent potential late-season improvements for contending clubs. Interestingly enough, with the lack of ability to trade veterans on expiring contracts and the increased number of player releases, a whole new avenue for contenders to improve their roster at an even lesser cost has been created. This could provide somewhat of a spark of excitement to August baseball that didn’t exist before.
While a team could make improvements with the August trade system, it was never a beacon for rumors and hype. Now, however, there’s the advent of a completely separate pool of players free to sign with whomever they choose. I’m excited to see the continued activity throughout August and the further development of the new system as time goes on.