The MLB trade deadline is the cutoff after which players cannot be traded from club to club for the rest of the season. Historically, the MLB trade deadline has always been July 31st before the new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) allowed Rob Manfred to choose a date between July 28th and August 2nd in 2022.
So, what is the history of the MLB trade deadline? When can MLB trades begin? What happens if teams trade a player after the MLB trade deadline? Can an MLB player refuse a trade? Finally, why do baseball trade deadlines even exist in the sport?
Keep reading to learn more about the MLB trade deadline.
What is the History of the MLB Trade Deadline?
In 1917, the National League designated August 20th as the first official trading deadline. Following the National League a few years later, the American League established July 1st as their trading deadline. In 1921, the National League and the American League convened to establish August 1st as their mutual trading deadline. Then in 1923, the date was moved to June 15th and was fixed for about 60 years until the players’ strike in 1985.
In 1985, despite a billion-dollar television deal and increased revenues, club owners attempted to claim that baseball was losing money and failed to adjust players’ pensions to reflect the increase in revenue. The strike only lasted two days but pushed the MLB trade deadline to July 31st.
While the MLB deadline was only a loose deadline due to trading through waivers, 2019 saw a significant change in Major League Baseball trading. By eliminating the possibility of trading through waivers after the MLB deadline, buyers and sellers were forced to make their decisions earlier rather than later. Consequently, the regular season became balanced.
2022-26 Collective Bargaining Agreement Update
In 2022, the deadline was on August 2nd, with only one game beginning before the deadline. That matchup was between the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres at 1:10 pm.
When Can MLB Trades Begin?
MLB trades usually begin two days after the start of the last game of the latest world series and continue into the off-season. Whether or not a team buys or sells depends on the team’s standings and players. During the off-season, it is common for baseball enthusiasts to try and predict trades. Along with that, trying to figure out what teams will be buyers or sellers that next season via the trade deadline.
Why Would a Team Want to Trade Away a Player Before the Deadline?
Teams tend to trade away players due to the current direction of a club and their chance of winning right now. For example, if a team is consistently towards the bottom of their division that season, they might decide to trade one of their star players before the trade deadline, especially if they are in their last year on the contract. The thought process is trading away a top player can infuse an organization with top prospect talent, which can help them in future years.
Why Would a Team Want to Trade for a Player Before the MLB Deadline?
Teams that feel they have a chance to make the playoffs might become aggressive via trades toward the deadline. Just like the example of one team trading away a star player, another will look to add them to their roster.
One famous trade that worked out for both sides was the Yankees trading Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs in 2016. The Chicago Cubs got Chapman and won the World Series that season. The New York Yankees got some prospects and signed Aroldis Chapman in the offseason to a mega contract to keep him on their team for years to come.
What Happens if Teams Trade a Player After the MLB Trade Deadline?
While the word “deadline” may seem final, players have often been traded after the deadline through revocable trade waivers or a club negotiating a trade with another club that placed a player on waivers. However, as of 2019, the trade deadline is officially an actual deadline, and waivers no longer qualify a trade beyond the deadline.
Various trades in the past have led to significant outcomes after being negotiated past the deadline. In 1992, David Cone was traded from the Mets to the Blue Jays and took them to their first World Series title. Other teams have acquired new players through waivers past the trading deadline and significantly changed the course of the team’s success throughout the season.
Can an MLB Player Refuse a Trade?
An MLB player can only refuse a trade if they have a no-trade clause. According to the 10 rule, a player who has been active on a major league roster for ten full seasons and on one team for five years must consent to a trade.
After six years in MLB, players achieve free agency and can negotiate contracts according to their terms. Free agency came about after Curt Flood did not want a trade from his team St. Louis Cardinals, to the Philadelphia Phillies. A lawsuit about this later took place in 1969.
Why Do Baseball Trade Deadlines Exist?
The primary purpose of the trade deadline is to prevent clubs from making trades late in the regular season after the playoff picture has become clear. If, for instance, the Yankees are in a dead heat with the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles for a division title with only a couple of weeks left in the season, the Yankees might find it advantageous to shore up a weak bullpen or maybe even a bullpen that’s just a little heavy with right-handers, with a solid lefty.
Suppose the Tampa Rays, now out of playoff contention, have a superstar reliever that fits the bill for those crucial innings down the stretch. Make it more interesting and say that the reliever also happens to be heading into the off-season as a free agent. The Yankees could make overtures to their division rivals to make a trade and grab the reliever, and the Rays, who will probably lose their all-star pitcher in the off-season, agree to the trade. A move like that so late in the season would give the Yankees an unfair edge to secure that postseason spot.
The Trade Deadline can force teams to make personnel decisions while postseason spots are up for grabs. For example, the Yankees traded Joey Gallo to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a prospect in 2022. Gallo’s production for the Yankees was less than stellar, only hitting for a .159 average with 12 home runs over 82 games. When he went to LA, his production was essentially the same. For both clubs, the trade was worth it as it was a low risk and high reward trade.
Conclusion: What is the MLB Trade Deadline?
The MLB trade deadline is the last point at which clubs can trade players during the season. The MLB trade history is rather extensive, having gone through various revisions. Trades typically begin within two days after the last game of the most recent World Series.
Before 2019, it was common for trades after the MLB trade deadline. However, the rule changes now stop teams from making trades after the deadline to keep the regular season in balance.
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