The August waiver trade deadline is dead, and in 2020, pitchers will have to face a minimum of three batters MLB and the player’s union agreed to eliminate the second trade deadline Wednesday evening as part of several rule changes coming. Jeff Passan of ESPN wrote about the upcoming changes including changes to All-Star voting, a $1 million bonus for winning the Home Run Derby, and an expansion of MLB rosters from 25 to 26.
Thus far, I haven’t seen express a dissenting opinion about the waiver trade deadline going away. The deals were confusing and outside of Justin Verlander, they were generally for low impact players. The reasons for taking away the deadline are to promote competition and allow for some stability for the players.
The thinking is that more teams will be buyers because more teams are sort of “in it” at the end of July. Maybe that’s true. Maybe more teams will take a realistic view of their roster and sell earlier, creating a wider gap between the rebuilding teams and the contending teams. Whatever the impact, it probably won’t be that disruptive. Regardless of what happens, I don’t think anyone is sad to see the waiver deadline go.
Same with the three-batter minimum. At first glance, this looks to be a pretty massive change. It’ll add a new wrinkle to bullpen management. A manager will have to be certain a pitcher can get the next three guys out, and guys with massive platoon splits will fall by the wayside. But the minimum only applies as long as the inning is still going. This should reduce the number of mid-inning pitching changes and makes games go a little bit quicker.
Overall, these rules are fine, but there’s one major issue with them. They are a slap in the face to the 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants.
On August 22, 2010, the Giants were 6 games back of the San Diego Padres. The Padres had their eye on Cody Ross, who had been placed on revocable trade waivers by the Marlins. The Giants didn’t so much as need Ross—they had already picked up Jose Guillen—they just needed the Padres not to get him. The Marlins being the Marlins, just dumped Cody Ross and his massive $4.5 million salary on the Giants.
Ross wound up having an OPS+ of 122 down the stretch for the Giants, but he did his best work in the NLCS. In Game 1, the Giants were facing off against Roy Halladay who in his last start had just thrown the first postseason no-hitter since Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Ross homered, not once, but twice off the future Hall of Famer.
Without the waiver deadline, Cody Ross never would have been a Giant. It’s possible that without him, the Giants wouldn’t have even made the postseason let alone make it past the Phillies and win the World Series. The best part of all is that the Giants were just doing it to spite the Padres. This was the best of all possible outcomes for a system where a second-place team can make a move before the team in first. We shall never see its like again.
Not only that, a three-batter minimum would have made Javier Lopez less effective not only in the NLCS against the Phillies, but in his career as well. Lopez was the quintessential LOOGY and he was never better than when he was making Ryan Howard and Chase Utley look like they had never even conceived the concept of baseball before.
Charlie Manuel, then the manager of the Phillies had to put Placido Polanco in between Utley and Howard to counteract and Lopez, but Lopez was able to get him out all the same. Had there been a three-batter minimum, Lopez could have still been successful in that moment, but who knows, maybe he never would have gotten the opportunity because there wouldn’t be a place for him on the roster.
These changes going forward, should have a net positive outcome going forward, but had they been in place in 2010, it’s possible the Giants don’t win the World Series that year. If they don’t win it that year, maybe they don’t win in 2012 or 2014 either. Who knows? Maybe they won’t win the 2020 World Series because Kole Calhoun won’t be available on the waiver wire, and prodigal son Josh Osich never gets to reinvent himself as a LOOGY.
Baseball will be better with these rules, but that doesn’t mean it’s not taking something away.