Deadline deal: Is trading the future ever worth short time payoff?

07/30/14 by Mike Catania

Sports is a funny business.
Franchises spend millions on not only the players on the active roster but to ensure that they're developing talent on a smaller scale, such as the minor leagues, or are equipped to make the most prudent and potent decisions when it comes to the draft and bringing in rookies that hopefully will transform into long term staples with their teams..
Despite all the work that goes into this process year after year, one event can conceivably throw the proverbial wrench into all that hard work.

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It's called the trading deadline.
No where is this more apparent than in Major League Baseball. The trading deadline comes and goes each year, and teams that are division leaders and within a few games of the wild card are referred to as sellers, while the ones that are cellar dwellers find themselves as, you guessed it, sellers.
As transactions are mulled over, one question, particularly for the smaller market teams, looms large.
Is mortgaging the future by trading away high level prospects really worth nabbing a high profile free agent for the final months of the regular season?
For the smaller MLB squads, the answer typically is no chance. Those teams live and die by their minor league system and fostering young talent to keep replenishing their major league roster when their latest crop of talent decide to pursue large, million dollar deals that these teams simply can't afford.
In rare instances, however, these small teams are poised for a playoff run and are forced to fill weaknesses in the hopes of making the postseason but also have to compete with payrolls that are more than 150-200 million dollars. Consider that their payroll typically is less than half of that.
And with that, the minor league talent and handing it over to other "sellers" is the only way these smaller clubs can compete with the Yankees and Dodgers of the world.
The truth is most MLB general managers have to really analyze how deep their minor league talent pool is and if losing a high level prospect is going to set them back one year or several. Also, the smaller teams must look at the player they're getting in exchange for one of their minor league guys. Do they have control over his contract and options beyond this season? And if so, is his asking price after the season out of the smaller team's ballpark?
The idea of incorporating what is referred to as "rental players" never works out the way it is ultimately planned. Kudos to the small market General Managers for taking a leap of faith to grab these for hire players, but those moves only should be made if they're at somewhat of a bargain and keep in mind that the future for most of these less rich ball clubs hinges on how well they groom talent.
Not just the act of going out and buying it. Buying into that mentality isn't going to make anyone chuckle on these smaller market teams but rather question why they got into a bidding war that they'll almost never win.

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