It’s that time of year again, when trade rumors overwhelm actual news, and life in general. Jon Heyman, Ken Rosenthal, Jon Morosi, and Buster Olney pretty much take over the world by reporting “sourced” info about teams talking to other teams about potential trades. Almost every rumor is entirely useless and in many cases is just about driving page views. Some actual news will break and teams will make deals that they hope will improve their chances to win a World Series, but for the most part the attention devoted to trade rumors is a giant waste of time.
But for some reason people love the speculation. I don’t. I like analyzing the actual trades but I have zero interest in listening to “sources” telling a reporter that teams have or have not “checked in” about a player. The actual deals are cool, but so much of the deadline is about the deals that don’t get made.
Which leaves us with an opportunity to make it better. I’ve got five suggestions.
5. Move the Deadline to 4am
No matter when the deadline comes, teams will always work right up until it comes. Until recently it was midnight. What if we moved it to 4am and once a year we all stayed up watching the deadline unfold AFTER the day’s games? That sounds like fun. We’d all drag ourselves into work the next day comparing notes about when we finally gave up and went to bed. It would add an interesting, sleepover element to the affair and on-air commentators would be so slap-happy the would say even crazier stuff than they will anyway.
4. A Dedicated Twitter Account to Track Minor League Players Being Removed from the Game
This doesn’t need much explanation. You know you love the moments before a deal is announced when you hear prospect X just got pulled in the 4th inning. A trade is about to happen and you have no idea what it is but you know it’s serious because they took the player out of the game. How this doesn’t already exist, I have no idea.
3. Dugout Hugs Cam
Another no-brainer. When the players, minor and major leaguers, get pulled from the game because they are traded they hug their teammates goodbye. We should dedicate an MLB.TV channel to jumping around behind dugouts looking for hugs just like MLB Tonight jumps around games looking for big moments.
2. Trolling GM’s
This is a response to #3 and #4. While everyone latches on to players coming out of games in late July, they also make too much of it. We need more GM’s to call their minor league teams and have them take players out of the game for no reason. Imagine it. “Breaking News: Carlos Martinez pulled in the middle of the 3rd inning despite retiring first 7 batters,” and then everyone erupts about a trade coming down the pipe. Then nothing happens and it turns out the Cardinals were just messing with everyone. That would be awesome.
1. The Accountability Check
One of the things that bugs me about trade deadline season is that the Trade-Industrial Complex reporters answer to no one. Their connections in front offices help them hear about actual trades, but it also puts them in position to hear and report about rumors that are not at all newsworthy. Like, not even close to newsworthy. This is an actual report (I know it’s from May but it’s my favorite example ever):
So here’s what I propose. We catalog all of these reports from all of the major guys and keep a live tally of how much what they report turns out to be nonsense. I don’t know for sure, but it seems like their accuracy rate would be hilariously low and might show them that not everything they hear is worth sharing. Also, it would offer us a fun way to compare current rumors about the same player. For example, on Tuesday, Jeff Sullivan grabbed these two gems at pretty much the same time:
When those two things pop up at the same time, you know at least one of those reporters is playing it fast and loose. I think it’s fun to call them on it. They take their job way too seriously and act as if they are guarding Deepthroat as a source instead of an Assistant GM who wants to make friends in the media.
So those are my suggestions and I’d love to hear yours. I’m often annoyed by the trade deadline because I don’t generally enjoy the parts of it most people seem to enjoy. I like analyzing the trades when they happen and I don’t care about dreaming them up or hearing what “sources” have to say. These five might make the deadline more fun, and some of them could actually happen. Seriously, #3 and #4, someone get on that.
The Tigers have been looking for a bullpen piece for a long while, essentially all season long. They’ve had great contributions from Benoit and Smyly, but do need a trusted arm to round out the back end of the bullpen. What they need is a righty who dominates righties and can get lefties out as well in big situations. That’s pretty much what they got. They needed a healthy Dotel, which they don’t have yet, so they went out and traded for one.
The deal looks like this. The Tigers sent 19 year old OF prospect Danry Vasquez and a Player to Be Named Later to the Astros for RHP Jose Veras. Veras will be used in late inning setup situations in tandem with Drew Smyly and instead of Bruce Rondon. I like this trade, let’s break it down.
Jose Veras is a journeyman reliever on a cheap contract that includes a cheap team option for 2014. The Tigers are getting a year plus of Veras in this deal and at almost no financial cost. Veras has thrown 43 inning in 42 games this season and has a 9.21 K/9 and 2.93 BB/9. The strikeout rate is very much in line with his career pace, but the walks are a big step forward. He has a 2.93 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, and 0.6 WAR, which all point to a very good overall season. He’s also doing it in the AL West, so his competition is actually going to get easier.
Veras is having his best season to date and his win probability added and run expectancy numbers are also in line with his stat line. All told, it looks like the Tigers are getting a solid relief pitcher and there aren’t any red flags involved. By New English D’s own reliever metric, SOEFA, Veras comes in at 0.24, which is an above average number.
Veras throws a sinking fastball, curveball, and splitter which all seem to be effective pitches for him and he doesn’t have a big platoon split. What is very encouraging for me about the Veras pick up is that the entire key to his improved value is his decreased walk rate. Take a look at his BB/9 over his career:
What I find encouraging about this is that I think this is coming from a real change in his approach on the mound. Something I found out while researching a piece about Adam Wainwright and Matt Moore is that throwing strikes overall is less important than throwing first pitch strikes. Getting ahead early is more important than hitting the zone period. Check. This. Out.
Veras is throwing dramatically more first pitch strikes this season than ever before and it seems to be leading to fewer walks. If Veras has really changed his approach this much, I can completely buy into the drop in walk rate. If Veras really is a 3 BB/9 guy with his K rate, he could be a very solid and valuable piece for the Tigers as they go deep into October.
This move doesn’t just improve their 7/8th combination, but it makes the middle relief better by pushing Alburquerque and Rondon earlier into the game. Veras makes the Tigers better.
As for what they gave up, I’m comfortable with it. Vasquez ranks 5th in TigsTown’s midseason update and #8 on Marc Hulet’s preseason list among Tigers prospects. He has plus potential at the plate, but there are questions about his defense already. He’s 19 and already a LF only type player, it seems. The key to Vasquez is that he’s at least three seasons away from the majors and won’t be ready to contribute until about 2016 and beyond. The Tigers window is now and another solid bullpen arm could be very helpful in October. The Tigers are trading potential value from 2016-2022 for a shot at a title in 2013-2014. As far as I’m concerned that is a risk you take when the prospect isn’t a top tier guy. Unless the PTBNL is a significant piece, the cost is worth the benefit.
The Tigers needed another high leverage reliever for the stretch run and the postseason and they got one in Veras who seems to have turned a corner in his ability to limit runs via a lower walk rate. That walk rate looks real given his first pitch strike rate. They gave up a good prospect to get him, but that prospect is far from the big leagues and the Tigers are in a very real position to win now.
Veras should help the Tigers down the stretch and could be a difference maker in October. Flags fly forever and this is a move that makes a flag more likely without a huge cost.