The Day That Separates the Contenders from the Pretenders

Today at 4 p.m. Eastern Time marks the Non-waiver Trade deadline for Major League Baseball.

This magic day is when teams that feel like they are missing one or two pieces to make a run deep into the playoffs make deals with teams that are nowhere near playoff level and want to shed expensive contracts and look towards the following season.

Often times a player is traded as a “50-game rental” since their contact expires at the end of the season and they will become a free agent. Other players are traded with several years left on their contract.

A third type of trade involves a player getting moved to a new team with the old team still paying a portion of the salary of the player that is no longer on their roster.  I have never really understood that type of trade since I think that if a player is traded the new team should be responsible for all of the related salary.

But for the contenders the trades are deemed worthy as the hope is the player will lead them to a World Series Championship. Sometimes the late season trades work and sometimes they don’t.

For the players on the trade bubble the days and weeks leading up to today can be very stressful as they wonder where they will end up finishing the season.  The pending trades of players also affects how they are used leading up to any potential trade.

With the trade deadline looming many players on the trade rumor mill were taken out of the lineup for games on trade deadline eve. After all no one wants to risk a freak injury negating a trade at the 11th hour.

After pitching on Opening Day as the ace of the staff, Bud Norris of the Houston Astros was awaiting his fate at the trade deadline. Photo R. Anderson

After pitching on Opening Day as the ace of the staff, Bud Norris of the Houston Astros was awaiting his fate at the trade deadline.
Photo R. Anderson

For the Astros this meant that Bud Norris was taken out of the rotation for his scheduled start against the Baltimore Orioles last night.  It is very likely by the time you are reading this Norris will have a new team name on the front of his jersey.

While many teams from the Atlanta Braves to the Pittsburgh Pirates have been mentioned as a potential landing spot for Norris but no one seems to know for sure who the winning team will be.

The only thing certain is that much as they have the past three years the Astros want to get rid of their highest paid players and trade them for minor league prospects and this year that honor of highest paid player to get rid of falls on Norris.

I actually hope that Norris gets traded to a contender since watching him pitch a strong game only to have the bullpen blow it in the late innings is getting very painful to watch.

While I do not consider Norris the ace of a staff I think he would make a good middle of the rotation pitcher for a team with a strong rotation.

And Norris could also potentially join the list of former Astros who were traded and became World Series Champions. Lance Berkman accomplished that with the St. Louis Cardinals and Hunter Pence got his ring with the San Francisco Giants. So it definitely seems like if a player wants to win their best bet is to be traded.

Carlos Lee was traded from the Houston Astros to the Miami Marlins at the trade deadline last year as part of an annual housecleaning and payroll dump that has become commonplace at Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Carlos Lee was traded from the Houston Astros to the Miami Marlins at the trade deadline last year as part of an annual housecleaning and payroll dump that has become commonplace at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

While the final destination for Norris remains up in the air at the time of this writing the Astros have already been active in the trade market.  In fact, earlier in the week Astros closer Jose Veras was traded to the Detroit Tigers for some Class-A level talent that may or may not ever see a Major League game.

Of course one could certainly argue that as bad as the Astros have been this season they really didn’t need a closer anyway since the number of games that they were in a save situation was certainly a small number.

So the closer was sent away and an already porous bullpen was asked to try to pull together and not blow so many leads.

That is the risk teams take in the trade the present and hope for a brighter future philosophy.

The Pirates have used that model for over two decades before finally posting winning records. To put that in perspective there were people who were born and graduated community college without ever seeing the pirates have a winning record.

While the Astros have not had quite as many years of futility so far there is very little to give one much confidence of that changing any time soon. So the process of acting as a feeder club to the contenders while rolling the dice on unproven talent will continue for the foreseeable future.

And with far more pretenders than contenders each year the non-waiver trade game will continue year after year until a time when the playing field is more level between the haves and the have nots.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to check the wire to see what washed up prospects the Astros are targeting next.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson