There were only four trades made during yesterday's Trade Deadline, and not one included an impact hitter.
Marlon Byrd, Nate Schierholtz, David DeJesus, Jason Kubel, Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Norichika Aoki, Mike Morse, Alex Rios, and Giancarlo Stanton were all mentioned in trade talks on MLB Trade Rumors during the last month, yet none of them were moved to a new team.
”Do you know how tough it is to acquire hitting in the major leagues these days?" SI.com’s Tom Verducci asked on MLB Network. "You just can’t find a middle-of-the-order hitter. He’s just not out there."
Impact hitters (such as David Wright, Evan Longoria, Jay Bruce, etc.) are signing contract extensions earlier than ever, swapping arbitration and free-agent years (and the potential for more salary) for guaranteed money and job security. These days, for the most part, if a hitter gets to free-agency, he's typically over 30 years old (or close to it) and on a statistical decline.
In 2010, at age 23, Bruce signed an extension keeping him on the Reds through 2016. However, two years into the deal he said he hoped to add another six years to his contract so he could stay in Cincinnati the rest of his career and never need to test free agency. This is not uncommon... just ask Wright.
As a result, teams are hoarding prospects -- especially elite pitching -- since it's the only way build a sustainable, productive team. For instance, I asked three MLB executives who they would rather have, OF Justin Maxwell or the Low-A RHP prospect he was traded for, and all three said they would prefer to have the prospect. Teams now know you cannot build a team on the open market and that is being reflected in the trade market.
According to people familiar with this summer's trade market, no one was willing to trade a prospect on MLB.com's updated Top 50 Prospect List. Instead, despite asking for more than one top player for Rios, the White Sox were only being offered 'organizational players,' i.e. Quadruple-A minor leaguers or low-level guys, years away and not even on a team's top list. The same was the case for Byrd, DeJesus, Morse and others.
“There were deals there to be made at a very high price, which was way beyond what we were going to pay in terms of prospects,” Mets GM Sandy Alderson said after yesterday's deadline. “I do suspect those same players may be available in the offseason.”
The conventional wisdom says impact hitters are more likely to get dealt in the off-season, if they're going to get dealt at all, a) because more teams can be in on the bidding, raising demand, and b) so the team losing talent can have time to replace him before Spring Training.
As such, I expect to see a TON of rumors involving Stanton this winter. However, as one talent evaluator who keeps tabs on the Marlins told me, Miami will expect the Mets to trade Zack Wheeler to land the slugger.
"No question, and rightfully so," he added.
The extreme value of prospects is not going anywhere. However, neither is Sandy Alderson's need for an impact hitter. I wonder what gives first?