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Thread: Some Thoughts on Trading within the Division

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    Lark11 11BarryLarkin11's Avatar
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    Some Thoughts on Trading within the Division

    Sometimes an idea just outlives its usefulness and it's clear that that's exactly what has happened to the idea that you "never trade within your division."

    That particular philosophy seems to be a relic of days gone by.

    Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss a potential Erik Bedard trade with an Oriole fan. I mentioned that I thought they should send him to the Boston Red Sox for a package of Jed Lowrie, Lars Anderson, and Michael Bowden. His response, of course, was that the Orioles wouldn't trade within their division, which got me to thinking about just how illogical that philosophy really was.

    PRE-FREE AGENCY

    The idea that you shouldn't trade within your division is seemingly as old as baseball itself. While there was a time when it was a sound philosophy, free agency has changed all of that.

    Prior to the arrival of free agency in 1977, the idea had merit for two reasons:

    1) There was limited access to talent, so depriving your opponent of players was almost as important as acquiring talent for your own organization.

    2) The team who owned the player's rights could control them for as long as they wanted, so trading a player within the division meant that he could be playing against you for a decade or more. The player had no independent ability to leave that organization.

    For example, you wouldn't trade, say, Babe Ruth to a division rival, because that rival could utilize his services to torment you for the next 16 years.

    Given those two facts, it made sense to not deal with your direct competition, as by not trading talent to your divisional rival you were denying him access to talent he simply couldn't acquire anywhere else. However, that's just not the case anymore, as free agency has created a new labor market where anyone can shop for players.

    POST FREE AGENCY AND THE MODERN GAME

    In the modern game, free agency has completely altered the labor market for players. In the past, you either had to develop you're own talent or trade for it. There was no way to sign veteran players, so the methods of acquiring players were limited. That's not the case with free agency, where any team can go onto the market and sign a veteran player to add to their lineup.

    The emergence of this new labor market has undercut the trade philosophy. In fact, not only does the philosophy no longer make sense, the benefits and burdens of the philosophy have completed inverted and now cut against the team that implements it. In the modern game, the burdens of not dealing within the division are no longer borne by the opposition, but rather they are internalized by the organization who uses the strategy.

    The scarcity of available talent and the ability to control that talent is what made the philosophy tenable. Obviously, free agency has eliminated that scarcity and subsequently the effectiveness of the philosophy as well. The decision to not trade with a division rival no longer deprives the competition of rare, controllable talent, but rather deprives your own organization of the ability to maximize value of its assets.

    Again, the Orioles and Bedard are the perfect example. By choosing not to deal him within the AL East, they are removing two of the most valuable suitors from the mix. When trying to trade players, most organizations WANT the Yankees and Red Sox to be in the mix, as they drive the trade value of the player up. In addition, the existence of free agency removes the scarcity of talent and provides the Yankees and Red Sox of another means of acquiring talent. The reality is that the philosophy doesn't really hurt them at all, as they can sign an equivalent to Bedard next year in free agency.

    In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter to the Yankees and Red Sox if they trade for Bedard or sign C.C. Sabathia as a free agent after the season? Both are going to provide equivalent production, so what have the Orioles gained by not trading within the division? They can no longer deprive the opposition of talent, so, they will still be facing a top flight lefty, but now they'll do so without having maximized the value they received for Erik Bedard. So, the decision really only reduces the value the Orioles get for Bedard, rather than harming the AL East competition in any appreciably manner.

    The changing business model means that it's well past time to throw the "don't trade within the division" idea into the fire, as it just isn't a sound principle anymore. The lack of scarcity of talent means that depriving division rivals of talent just isn't effective anymore, so all it really does is reduce the demand and value you can get for your own player. If you are trying to deal a truly unique talent like Johan Santana, for whom there is no equivalent replacement on the free agent market, then the scarcity returns and there may in fact be value in not trading him within the division, but outside of that the modern marketplace has simply made the philosophy obsolete.

    Anyway, as always, just my $.02.

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    BobC, get a legit F.O.! Mario-Rijo's Avatar
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    Re: Some Thoughts on Trading within the Division

    I think it was a flawed concept to begin with. Certainly you don't necc. wanna improve your competition if you can help it, but there are ways to make deals to improve yourself w/o improving the competition. It boils down to how confident you are as a GM in making such a deal while either not improving the other team or downright making them worse. The other option would be to improve yourself moreso than the other team, regardless of how much the other team actually improves.


    Bottom line is most GM's probably look at it as the rule but that occassionally there are exceptions to every rule. If your the team improving more, especially both long term and short term it's a no brainer. If it's not a no brainer that's where you have the pause normally I would imagine.
    "You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."

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    Moderator RedlegJake's Avatar
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    Re: Some Thoughts on Trading within the Division

    I think its still valid. As a GM you don't necesarily want to fleece your trade partners - if you become known as a guy who tries to deal the other GM a sorry hand prety soon no one wants to deal with you or deals reluctantly. The best scenario is always win-win and that's the rub in the intra-division scenario. No way you want to make your direct competition better, with one exception. If you're competition is way behind and not going to seriously compete anyway then a win-win still works -ie. you both get better but you're ahead team-wise anyway. That would be the Reds dealing with the Pirates, for instance. If the trade helped both clubs the Reds are still better. Make a deal that strengthens yourself and the Cubs, however and you might be shooting yourself in the foot. And don't think free agency changes that thinking. You really think it doesn't hack Milwaukee off a bit that Cordero chose the Reds? Or that agents don't play division rivals against each other to up the ante for their clients?

    You always look at possibilities but major deals within a division are still pretty rare.

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    BobC, get a legit F.O.! Mario-Rijo's Avatar
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    Re: Some Thoughts on Trading within the Division

    Quote Originally Posted by RedlegJake View Post
    I think its still valid. As a GM you don't necesarily want to fleece your trade partners - if you become known as a guy who tries to deal the other GM a sorry hand prety soon no one wants to deal with you or deals reluctantly. The best scenario is always win-win and that's the rub in the intra-division scenario. No way you want to make your direct competition better, with one exception. If you're competition is way behind and not going to seriously compete anyway then a win-win still works -ie. you both get better but you're ahead team-wise anyway. That would be the Reds dealing with the Pirates, for instance. If the trade helped both clubs the Reds are still better. Make a deal that strengthens yourself and the Cubs, however and you might be shooting yourself in the foot. And don't think free agency changes that thinking. You really think it doesn't hack Milwaukee off a bit that Cordero chose the Reds? Or that agents don't play division rivals against each other to up the ante for their clients?

    You always look at possibilities but major deals within a division are still pretty rare.
    If all GM's aren't out to win every deal they are in the wrong business. Fleecing goes on all the time, but trades still get done. The key is to not appear to be attempting to rob someone, however if you allow them to fleece themselves other GM's aren't going to look at you any differently than they do the man in the mirror every morning. S.D. for example fleeced Texas a couple years ago and they still make plenty of deals.

    In other words if you deal with all GM's in a fair manner and don't consistently demand overpayment when you have the leverage people will be more than happy to deal with you. However the key is still getting the better deal, while not demanding overpayment.
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    Re: Some Thoughts on Trading within the Division

    The Wild Card probably has a little to do with easing pressure, too. But there are a few cases where the rivalry is so tight that the same thinking still applies. You won't see the Red Sox trading with the Yankees, in fact they often seem to make decisions based on what will hurt the other.

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    Lark11 11BarryLarkin11's Avatar
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    Re: Some Thoughts on Trading within the Division

    Quote Originally Posted by BCubb2003 View Post
    The Wild Card probably has a little to do with easing pressure, too. But there are a few cases where the rivalry is so tight that the same thinking still applies. You won't see the Red Sox trading with the Yankees, in fact they often seem to make decisions based on what will hurt the other.
    Agreed.

    The Wild Card provides another avenue for teams to reach the postseason, which lessens the value of preventing the teams in your division from improving.

    In the past, to make it to the postseason, you had to beat everyone in your division. Accordingly, your competition's loss was almost as valuable as your own gain. However, the advent of the wild card changed all that, as now you can still reach the postseason even if there is a team in the division that is better than you are.

    The direct competition seems a bit more diversified than in years past, so it's no longer just a race within the division.

    Ultimately, I think the Wild Card is another factor in the declining of importance of not trading within your division.

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    One and a half men Patrick Bateman's Avatar
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    Re: Some Thoughts on Trading within the Division

    Well theoretically, you do a trade because you feel that the players you are getting are of greater worth than the players given up. Assuming all trades fit that definition, then trading within the division should be a good thing. If you truly believe you are getting the better side of things, then really, you are making yourself better, and at the same time making a rival worse. The two would have to go hand in hand.

    The whole not wanting to trade within the division is a flawed concept IMO.

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    Re: Some Thoughts on Trading within the Division

    Quote Originally Posted by Austin Kearns View Post
    Well theoretically, you do a trade because you feel that the players you are getting are of greater worth than the players given up. Assuming all trades fit that definition, then trading within the division should be a good thing. If you truly believe you are getting the better side of things, then really, you are making yourself better, and at the same time making a rival worse. The two would have to go hand in hand.

    The whole not wanting to trade within the division is a flawed concept IMO.
    Generally correct, but even if you get the (slightly) worse players,you might improve yourselves, if you are dealing from a strength to improve a weekness.

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    Score Early, Score Often gonelong's Avatar
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    Re: Some Thoughts on Trading within the Division

    Quote Originally Posted by Austin Kearns View Post
    Well theoretically, you do a trade because you feel that the players you are getting are of greater worth than the players given up. Assuming all trades fit that definition, then trading within the division should be a good thing. If you truly believe you are getting the better side of things, then really, you are making yourself better, and at the same time making a rival worse. The two would have to go hand in hand.

    The whole not wanting to trade within the division is a flawed concept IMO.
    Generally you do a trade because you feel that the players you are getting are of greater worth TO YOUR ORGANIZATION than the players given up.

    The players you give up may have a greater worth to THEIR ORGANIZATION than the ones they gave up.

    If you make this kind of trade you may net no gain against a division foe.

    In some cases you may lose a trade on paper, though it makes you better. Lets say you have a $5000 TV that needs a $10 part. The only place that has the part in stock has it at $20. Do you "lose" that trade $20/part (when fair value is $10/part) or sit and stare at a blank screen?

    GL

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    One and a half men Patrick Bateman's Avatar
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    Re: Some Thoughts on Trading within the Division

    Quote Originally Posted by gonelong View Post
    Generally you do a trade because you feel that the players you are getting are of greater worth TO YOUR ORGANIZATION than the players given up.

    The players you give up may have a greater worth to THEIR ORGANIZATION than the ones they gave up.

    If you make this kind of trade you may net no gain against a division foe.

    In some cases you may lose a trade on paper, though it makes you better. Lets say you have a $5000 TV that needs a $10 part. The only place that has the part in stock has it at $20. Do you "lose" that trade $20/part (when fair value is $10/part) or sit and stare at a blank screen?

    GL
    That's true in many cases (ie. Hamilton for Volquez), but many trades can simply be simply by having a disagreement in talent/need.

    For example, the Guillen-Harang trade. Obviously in the long run the Reds felt they were getting the better players. Considering they didn't care about the short term because they simply weren't good enough. In cases like that, the trading within the division shouldn't matter (assuming the A's were in the NL central).

    I mean it depends on the particular siutation, but in any inter-division trade, if you feel the net benefits to your team outweigh the net-benefits to the other team, then you should pull the trigger, regardless of whether the other team benefits. Because you still gain something.

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    Re: Some Thoughts on Trading within the Division

    Interestingly, the Reds now have the former GM of a division rival and the former manager of another division rival. Any scouts or coaches from the Brewers or Astros they should pick up?

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    Re: Some Thoughts on Trading within the Division

    Quote Originally Posted by BCubb2003 View Post
    Any scouts or coaches from the Brewers...they should pick up?
    I've heard a lot about that Dan O'Brien guy...:


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