Let’s Make A Deal: Baseball Trade Deadline Nears

By William Coppola

Baseball is the only professional sport that has these built-in days of excitement from beginning to end. The year never really ends as we go from the winter meetings for general managers, followed by the team winter meetings, then spring training — with the anticipation of opening day — followed by the Fall Classic that culminates every fan’s dream of seeing their team in the World Series.

But the one thing that is a constant, is the movement of players from one team to another. With the mid season trade deadline looming in a few days, teams are looking to either buy or sell to make their organizations better.

Sometimes it works and other times, it doesn’t. Every Met fan rues the deal that sent Nolan Ryan to the Angels for Jim Fregosi on December 10, 1971. And we all felt for George Costanza on “Seinfeld,” when he complained to George Steinbrenner about trading Jay Buhner. Sometimes, one team just gets lucky.

Baseball has had so many lopsided trades. Both teams truly believing they were getting the better part of the deal and being convinced it would help them. The fans are sometimes disappointed that a favorite player has been traded or are thrilled to get a star from another team.

Whatever happens in the next few days, will come after months of intense scouting by baseball men, who have seen thousands and thousands of players in their lifetime. They will write hundreds of reports that will be studied by general managers, advisors, coaches and owners. The scouts will look at a player’s every move, both on and off the field. Hours upon hours of meetings, messages and phone calls, will keep their heads filled with valuable information.

They are the behind the scenes nameless baseball men, who make things happen. They will be on the road, covering every part of the USA, as well as the Latin and Asian countries gathering as much information about a players skills and make-up as they can, to aid in these trades.

The days of two owners making a deal on a napkin after a long night of drinking are long gone. Today teams will make use of every tool in the shed to help in their decisions. It has become a blessing as well as a nightmare to have all of this technology available, including stats, film, and written reports. You will see trades come at the speed of light as we near the deadline. In the past five years, the bulk of all the trades came in the last day and night of the deadline.

We now have brilliant young college educated people in the front offices who decipher much of this information. Some of them never wore a glove, but are adept at numbers-crunching, iPhone, and social media communication. They are part of the decision making process and very valuable to each club in what they do.

But the baseball men who follow players every day of the week, for months and months are the ones who know what is best for their team. They are not fooled or influenced by stats. They use them, but their final decision is on what they see with their own eyes.

They have a sixth sense when it comes to evaluating a player. In this age of Statcast, sabermetrics, and all of the other mumbo jumbo statistical analytics that are compiled on a player, any GM who signs off on a deal that doesn’t have a stamp of approval from a scout is a fool.

That being said, let the deals begin.

William Coppola is in his 40th year in baseball as a player, coach, umpire and advanced scout.

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