Well, that trade deadline was boring. Plenty of bait (Blanton, Johnson, Piazza, Kennedy, Stewart, the DFA'd Kielty) but not a single fish caught today. What's going on here? Two things:
The Moneyball effect. There has two subeffects from this:
There are fewer teams Billy Beane can win a trade from, because more and more teams know how to properly value players
Beane has acquired so many undervalued players that the fleeceable teams still undervalue them, and won't pay enough for them
The changes in free agency rules. With the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, the team that signs a Type B free agent no longer loses a draft pick of their own, while the team that loses him still gets a free pick. That means there is less risk that a Type B free agent will accept arbitration if offered, because there's no downside to signing such a player anymore. Type B free agents are worth at least a free sandwich draft pick, so you don't want to just dump those guys for scraps--the player you get back has to be worth more than the draft pick.
Nobody outside of MLB the MLPBA and the Elias Sports Bureau seems to be sure what the Type A/Type B formula is, but I've heard speculation that Piazza, Kennedy, and Stewart may all end up qualifying as Type Bs. In fact, some of the decisions the A's made before the deadline may have designed to make these players Type B free agents. What we do know is that the formula is based on the past two years of performance, and you are ranked according to your position. The top 20% at each position are Type A players, the next 20% are Type Bs.
Outfielders, first basemen and DHs are grouped together for these rankings. Someone like Mike Piazza is more likely to rank in the top 40% if he's considered a catcher than if he's lumped in with the huge pool of OFs and 1Bs. He played 99 games in 2006 as a catcher, and 8 as a DH. Before he got hurt, he had played 26 games as a DH in 2007. So if he DHed for 66 more games, he'd end up as a DH for free agent purposes. Piazza was ready to come back and DH in early July, but the A's asked him to stay on the DL and try to catch. Why? Presumably because Jason Kendall sucked, but I think it's so that he'd be calculated as a catcher. Eventually, they gave up the idea of having him come back as a catcher, and said, OK, you can DH. When did they do that? When there were 67 games left in the season. Do you think Mike Piazza sat out two games before the trade deadline? You betcha. At most, he'll now have a combined 99 games as a DH in the past two seasons, same as his number of games as a catcher.
I'm not quite sure why Joe Kennedy was dropped from the rotation in early July--he had one bad outing, but he really wasn't pitching as bad as his 2-8 won-loss record would indicate. Unless, of course, the A's wanted him to be a reliever for free agency purposes, as well. I'm not sure how they determine whether you're a starter or a reliever--I doubt it's strictly on games played like position players, since starters only go once every five days. But if Kennedy has a greater chance of qualifying for Type B status as a reliever than as a starter, I'm sure the A's are all over it.
In recent years, the A's have found players like Travis Buck and Huston Street in the sandwich round. Is a 2-8 Joe Kennedy going to land someone with that sort of potential in a trade? Kennedy's not a bad pitcher, and I'm sure he's better than some of the dreck that a few contenders I can think of are running out there, but no one is going to send over a potential Buck or Street for him.
So blah, no new prospects to get us excited about the future--yet. We'll just have to wait for the 2008 draft for our next dose of that kind of pleasure. At least there's a good pitching matchup tonight to look forward to: Dan Haren vs. Justin Verlander. And even if there wasn't many happy returns of the day, I shall be thankful at least that I am not a Pirates fan, wondering why my team just took on Matt Morris' salary for no good reason.