As we slog toward 4pm ET on Wednesday absent the typical verve associated with the deadline, baseball fans continue to cross their fingers in the hopes that the dam will break. Or that some damn news will break. That’s the same feeling we had ahead of the 2018 season, when sluggish free agency led to more seasonal affective disorder than a lack of vitamin D.
Things were even worse this season, as two top-tier pitchers had to wait until their draft-pick compensation vanished in June to sign new deals. And now as July 31 bears down, it seems as though teams have either forgotten they can no longer do waiver deals or they’re just convinced that the new kid is going to jump off his tractor.
But as it turns out, that kid has gotten his shoelace caught and I’m here making a prolonged Footloose analogy. Which I guess is fitting because almost no one is dancing and we’re getting close to the end of the movie. The Cubs are having trouble finding a partner despite their “feverish” efforts, perhaps because they’re not willing to pay the cover charge to get into the club.
And if Peter Gammons is getting info that’s even close to accurate, there are some very surly doormen demanding a very hefty fee. Though he wrote that the deadline falls during the 5th inning of the Cubs/Cards game Wednesday (the 8:15 ET first pitch is more than 4 hours after), which he says is the Cubs’ seventh of an 11-game road trip, Gammons does have salient info ($) on teams’ thoughts at the wire.
Teams can’t make a waiver deal after Wednesday and near the end of August pick up a Justin Verlander or a David Cone to win a World Series or a Don Sutton to win a pennant the way they used to. This year half the major-league teams hear their announcers make daily incantations about the wild-card race. A handful of American League teams are sinking in the loss column and circling the first pick in the 2020 draft. Rebuilding teams’ asks are so high that one general manager this weekend said: “The price on Tanner Roark is untouchable.”
I’m sorry, what? Are we talking about the same good-not-great 32-year-old who’s currently pitching for Cincinnati in his final year of contractual control, right? Assuming there isn’t some other guy by the same name who’s younger, better, and yet to hit arbitration eligibility, I have to believe Dick Williams and Walt Jockety have simply lost their damn fool minds.
Then again, this is the same team that somehow botched both deadlines last season when they failed to get so much as a bucket of balls for a suddenly competent Matt Harvey. I guess that’s where they get the saying, “A fish rots from the Reds down.” Wait, that’s not right. Anyway, my point is that Redsing isn’t confined to the field of play.
The Marcus Stroman trade serves as a potent counterpoint to the idea that sellers on the whole are asking too much, though the Blue Jays have also been stung by holding on too long. Case in point, closer Ken Giles has been unavailable lately due to recurring elbow inflammation and has lost virtually all of his value as a result.
And with the Giants in deadline purgatory, the reliever market simply hasn’t developed as many thought it would. So like a resale shop in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, the obvious sellers appear to be raising their prices to take advantage of the situation.
The Cubs have known for some time now that the cost to lift themselves out of the Central’s mire would be significant, but has it now gotten even higher than the room rates at Hotel Zachary? Clock’s ticking.