John Raoux/Associated Press
The 2020 MLB trade deadline will be unlike any other in baseball history.
With the shortened season, this year’s non-waiver trade deadline will fall on Aug. 31 rather than the typical July 31 date. As a result, teams will be basing their data on approximately one month of actual games, with Opening Day being held Thursday or Friday, depending on the team.
For a reference point, the World Series champion Washington Nationals weren’t even sniffing the playoffs at the 30-game mark last season.
The Philadelphia Phillies were still NL East favorites. The Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels were playoff contenders. None of those teams finished with more than 72 wins.
In other words, it’s going to be a nearly impossible task for executives figuring out how to monitor the trade market.
“If you’re a team who has a player in their walk year, are you better off getting something—especially if you get off to a bad start?” a National League executive told Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. “Some team we all think is good is going to start slow, so you could see them take less [for an impending free agent] than you would typically get because it’s better to trade a guy than not to. There’s so much unknown. I could see there being zero action or I could see a ton of action. It wouldn’t surprise me either way.”
Making matters even more difficult is the fact that few, if any, top prospects will be eligible for trade. Only players who are currently on 60-man rosters are available to move this season, which will likely limit the number of high-profile players on the block.
If the Los Angeles Dodgers scuffle through the first 30 games, there is almost no universe in which they deal free-agent-to-be Mookie Betts. Same goes for J.T. Realmuto, Marcus Semien and Trevor Bauer, all of whom could have found themselves available in a typical July market. It would probably be better for each of their incumbent teams to hold on to its impending free agent and recoup draft compensation should the player leave on the open market, rather than trade for a middling player on a contender’s 60-man roster.
The overwhelming odds are we’ll see a quiet deadline, featuring smaller moves that are meant to help contenders on the margins. Relievers, mid-tier starters and everyday players will probably make up the top of a limited market.