Another non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone in Major League Baseball.
As is the case every year when Major League Baseball’s Silly Season concludes there were winners and losers with the rich in talent teams getting richer and the rebuilding teams continuing to rebuild.
Each year teams are labeled as either buyers or sellers at the deadline as they seek to either add players to help them in the short term or trade away players for prospects that they hope can help them in the long term.
What is often lost in the midst of the trade deadline are the teams that are caught in the middle of having the record to be deemed a contender and those that are in wait until next year mode.
The Tampa Bay Rays, who were considered by some experts to be World Series favorites at the start of the season, found themselves in the murky middle ground when it came to their ace pitcher David Price.
Many teams would give their left arms for a chance to add the former Cy Young Winner to their rotation but with the Rays overcoming a rough start to the season to finally play solid baseball which has them only eight games out of first place in the division, and about five games out of a Wild Card spot, one could argue that Price was needed to make a valid postseason run.
Repeatedly team management stated that it would take an epic “knock their socks off” offer from a team that included several top tier prospects to make them part with their ace at the deadline.
In the end the Rays traded Price to the Detroit Tigers for a less than sock losing trio of players that appear to have far less upside at the moment than Price.
With the trade the Tigers now have three Cy Young winners in their rotation and seem destined for another American League Championship Series showdown with the Oakland Athletics who also added depth to their rotation prior to the trade deadline.
Trades in baseball are nothing new but when a team trades away a fan favorite and leader in the clubhouse, such as Price who spent seven seasons with the Rays, there is always bound to be push back from the fans.
As expected when news broke that Price had been traded, many fans filled team message boards with angry comments saying that they were done supporting the Rays. Others asked how they could have traded Price for so little in return.
The answer to why the trade was made comes down to economics. The Rays have a long history of trading their aces when they are due big raises in free agency since Tampa Bay does not have the payroll flexibility to match many other teams when it comes to salary offers.
David Price just becomes the latest pitcher to be traded by the Rays joining Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir, and James Shields. What makes the Price trade different is the fact that it came in the middle of the season while the Rays were still driving for the playoffs.
Previous trades of pitchers and other impact players were usually made during the offseason.
In reality the Rays still faced a tough task in making the playoffs even with Price since the Orioles were winning just as many games as the Rays making it impossible to cut into Baltimore’s division lead.
But the Rays certainly still had a shot at making the postseason. Trading Price away during that run will likely affect clubhouse morale as well as well as fan reaction to the perception that the Rays have given up on the current season.
Many fans get heavily invested in players and when a long-time player is dealt it can feel like losing a close friend or family member.
I can still remember the disappointment I felt while sitting at Minute Maid Park a few years ago after learning that the Houston Astros had traded Lance Berkman to the New York Yankees right before he was scheduled to play. It had seemed like Berkman would spend is entire career as an Astro.
The harsh reality is most teams do not base their business decisions on the desires of the average fan.
Baseball is a business and like any other business it is driven by profits and the bottom line. For baseball teams the bottom line is enhanced through corporate sponsorships, suite sales, and television revenue.
While the money generated by a fan attending the game’s in person is certainly icing on a team’s financial spreadsheet it is a mere drop in the bucket for most teams meaning that the loss of a few hundred or even a few thousand fans is not going to affect them long term.
Once of the reasons often given for any new Ballpark or stadium project is the need to add additional luxury suites to increase revenue from the corporate community. Suites equal big bucks for teams at all levels of baseball. Rarely, if ever, will a team say that they need a new facility to make more affordable family seating in the outfield.
While those shots of happy families eating cotton candy look great on television, the fact remains most teams would prefer to have a Ballpark full of corporate clients spending big bucks on suites as opposed to stands full of families.
That is just the reality of the game and fans can either accept that fact to continue to have their hearts broken whenever a favorite player is traded away.
The days of a player spending their entire career with a single team and retiring to either become the manager of the team or a broadcaster covering the games are very likely behind us.
In fact, when the farewell tour of Derek Jeter’s 20 years in Yankee pinstripes is over it is likely that there will never be another player to spend two decades with the same team.
Time will tell if the fans boycott Tropicana Field the rest of the season as some have suggested in response to the Price trade.
Attendance at the Trop, and the desire for a new stadium, will likely continue to be a hot topic between St. Petersburg officials and team ownership this off season as has been the case for several years now.
But as long as the high rollers keep going to the Ballpark and filling the suites the loss of some disgruntled fans is not going to affect the Rays pocket books.
Welcome to the new reality of baseball where the bottom line trumps the box score every time.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see how DJ Kitty is handling the news.
Copyright 2014 R. Anderson