I don't know when exactly it started.
I think probably it was in 2009, just before the first Cliff Lee trade, when there was word that the Phillies might be trading for Roy Halladay. Prospect names were being thrown around, the idea of Halladay was getting closer, and there was an incipient sense of expectation on TGP that something was going to happen. I remember one day, I'd heard that some kind of trade was imminent, and I checked in on MLBTradeRumors.com. And that was all she wrote.
During the offseason, I don't actively check the site, and often after the trade deadline is over, I'm off of it as well. But when there's word of a trade, or when it's close to the deadline, I'm generally at the door of Tim Dierkes and company three or four times a day. Yes, the air of rumor mongering is thick o'er there, and I'll admit the "sources say" stuff gets old after a while. But MLBTR runs a respectable dispensary of information, and I caught the trade deadline bug in a big way.
This season is no different, of course. I found myself checking my phone obnoxiously on my way up to my family's annual trip to Maine just to see if the Garza-Rangers thing would finally pan out. As a result, I have an opinion on CJ Edwards, something I could not have expected, say, a week ago. I remember arguing vehemently with my family that the Hunter Pence trade was awful the second I saw it, largely on the basis of a lurking fear after seeing so many rumors. I've hung on every prospect name, PBTNL, international signing, draft deadline deal, and big name veteran for four years. And I'm realizing something just now: I may have had it wrong the whole time.
It's easy to get caught up in the drama of the trade deadline, if only because it's an easy narrative. There's a definitive endpoint, a clear set of stakes, a solidly known cast of characters (be it GMs or players), and a tense investment in the success or failure of the deadline from your team's perspective. We've had gnashing of teeth in the Phillies sphere over the lack of trades (TRAID THE YOUNGS, NOT CHASE); lack of international signings (why haven't we signed the next Miguel Sano????); who will get traded to furnish the burning Viking funeral that is 2013 (plz not Franco). But perhaps we're feeling the pressure in larger part because the deadline looms a mere seven days from now. Perhaps it's really not as dramatic and world-shattering as we might believe.
I realize "cold water" articles like this are painfully irritating most times, but I'm not saying you shouldn't be excited about the trade deadline. Hell, I'd be a terrible example if I gave that advice. What I'm saying is that when a name is circulated heavily -- be it by MLBTR or the twitterati (apparently a real term and not something I made up) or whoever -- we get an opinion about that name that might outweigh its importance. I'm not really interested here in the volatility of prospects, if only because that's been done to death (though it's worth noting how much hype a Mike Olt trade got this year, versus the amount a hypothetical one was getting last year). Still, what's kind of fascinating to me, at least at the moment, is the international end.
You've probably heard the name Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, dynamite Cuban pitcher. You've also maybe heard about some of the Latin American players the Phillies have been linked to, like Luis Encarnacion. You may be under the impression that if the Phillies don't sign Gonzalez and Encarnacion, then they just don't get it because they are losers and probably cheap. And maybe that's true. But it could also be that these are names that rank high on lists at this point, but won't in the future. It may also be that a minor move may end up being more important overall.
In 2009, when the Rangers signed now super-prospect Jurickson Profar, he did not generate the explosion of enthusiasm you'd expect, given his now highly touted status. Profar warranted this announcement from MLBTR:
- As expected, the Rangers appear to have signed Jurickson Profar, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.
Oooh! Drama! Meanwhile, the top story was the Cardinals signing of Wagner Mateo for 3.1 million dollars, a signing that was later voided due to a failed physical. Mateo now plays for the Diamondbacks Low A affiliate, and has put together a 156/182/219 line in nine games this year. An yet, in 2009, had I the knowledge, I'd probably be pissed that the Phillies didn't sign him.
And at our SBNation Rangers hub, the first mention of Profar is astoundingly brief, just noting the Rangers strong chance of signing him, and focusing most of its space on a Dominican slugger named Guillermo Pimentel. Pimentel instead signed with the Mariners for a two million dollar bonus, and is currently playing in the M's low A affiliate with a 252/326/411 line over 224 plate appearances. Again, if I were a Rangers fan in 2009, I'd have been super pissed that my team missed out on Pimentel just to get Profar. And their reaction to Profar was mainly confusion: will he be a pitcher or a shortstop? Incidentally, it seems they made the right call.
In the end, I'm not going down the Profar memory lane to make fun of Rangers fans, and I'm not thinking through this issue in order to put a damper on draft deadline deals and international signing drama. I'm simply wondering if we ought to have a bit more perspective. We (read: I) put a lot of angst and worry into which prospects, which deals, and which bargains the Phillies will get, only to have player development make fools of us again and again. The Phillies did not sign this year's Miguel Sano...at least, we assume as much. Will they sign this year's Jurickson Profar? I don't know. But the frustrating truth of July and the mass of news it brings to rumor-loving Phillies fans is that the difference between the small deal and the big deal can be hard to discern two or three years down the line. Some peace in an inability to know would serve us well.