MLB Trade Deadline: Much Ado About Nothing

On July 31st, 1975, one of the most infamous events in United States history took place when union leader Jimmy Hoffa disappeared from Detroit, Michigan. The disappearance of Hoffa has never been solved, and FBI agents have never located his body.

Why, you might ask, am I bringing this up? As far as I can tell, that may be the only significant thing that has happened on July 31st in the last 40 years. Unfortunately, despite what you might hear from "people close to the situation," July 31st usually just comes and goes just like every other summer day for us regular, old-fashioned baseball fans.

Baseball fans get teased with the promise of Christmas in July for the weeks leading up to the trade deadline with every big name rumored to be on the move in the newspapers or on "Baseball Tonight." Then every year on July 30th, the Grinch comes and steals Christmas in July and replaces all of the big-name trade talks with "blockbusters" like Matt Morris to the Pirates for a minor leaguer and a player to be named later.

In the era of 24-hour, round-the-clock coverage of sports, you can't blame the networks or websites for wanting to speculate about trades. Trade talks are interesting, spark debate, and keep viewers/readers attention during what most would consider to be a down month in sports. These talks, however, need to be taken for exactly what they are: rumors. The trade deadline is not nearly the event that they want you to believe it is.

Since not every huge deal goes down on the day of the deadline, here is a list of every player who was traded between July 28 and July 31st and went on to play on the winning World Series team that same season in the last 10 years:

Ronnie Belliard, Geoff Blum, Doug Mienkiewicz, Orlando Cabrera, Dave Roberts, Alex Ochoa, Jim Leyritz, and Matt Treanor.

Not exactly a real who's who among World Series heroes. Aside from Orlando Cabrera, there isn't a player on that list that who could have even been considered as a top-10 player at their respective position at any point in their career. Yet if you hear some of the talking heads go at it, you'd swear that not only has every team that's ever won brought in a big name at the deadline, GMs that don't make a deadline move are worse at their job than Lindsay Lohan's AA sponsor.

The point is that the trade deadline is not a time when teams acquire that one person who will surely put them over the top. More often than not, it is a time for bad teams to try and shake up their minor league system and unload some old players. If making moves at the trade deadline assured teams' success, the Pirates and Rockies probably wouldn't be the most active deadline teams in the past 10 years.

You can use all the fancy buzzwords like "buyers" and "sellers" to define a team's approach to the trade deadline, but based on the names I just gave you, I have a hard time believing that any of the past 10 World Champs "bought" a World Series title by bringing in any those players. I also have a hard time believing that very many teams are willing to "sell" the future because the calendar needs to be turned over the next day.

World Series are won by the teams who play the best in September and October. Occasionally, those teams have players who were acquired at the deadline that have an impact on the stretch run. They also have superstar batters who step up in the clutch, shutdown bullpens, and starting pitching that puts them in a position to win games.

Players from the last three categories are groomed in the minor leagues, signed as free agents in the offseason, or traded for in the offseason and given a full year to adjust to a new team. They aren't brought in a two months before the season ends and thrown into a pennant race. There are obviously exceptions, but by and large, personal moves in the offseason are much more important than anything that happens in the last week in July.

Yes, this year did feature a couple of interesting moves that featured some marquee players (namely Mark Teixeira and Eric Gagne) going to teams that will surely be contending late in September. But if history has taught us anything, Theo Epstein and John Schuerholz may have been better off trading for no-namers this weekend. After all, striking gold with a deadline deal for a superstar seems to be tougher than finding Jimmy Hoffa these days.

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