If you are like me, you are paying very close attention to spring training results as battles rage on for starting spots, rotation positions and in some cases, assessing how position shifts are working out.
Let’s take the Arizona Diamondbacks, for example. While early reports are that Cuban Yasmany Tomas is not showing proficiency at third base to put it mildly, a move to the outfield would only complicate an already crowded situation.
While prospect Jake Lamb could step in at the hot corner, that doesn’t help the outfield logjam. Without Tomas, the club already has five starter-quality outfielders in A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Mark Trumbo, Ender Inciarte and Cody Ross.
In the same division, the National League West, during the off-season, the new-look San Diego Padres loaded up on outfield talent via trade. New GM A.J. Preller became a household name in part through acquiring three new starters in stars Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton.
Those moves bumped last year’s incumbent starters to the bench in Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin and Will Venable. Will Middlebrooks should be on the roster, but there seems no room. Then there are prospects like Tommy Medica, Abraham Almonte and Rymer Liriano who will also apparently have to wait, making for a strong Triple-A club, at least.
Up the coast in Los Angeles, the Dodgers have some high priced talent with no place to put them. Outfielder Andre Ethier has at least three years to go on a huge contract with at least $56 million remaining, but has no place to play. Cuban infield signee Alex Guerrero’s contract states he does not have to be sent down to the Minors, yet there does not even seem a spot for him on Los Angeles’ bench.
The St. Louis Cardinals have injury questions with their rotation, but one of the healthy starters so far this spring is veteran Jaime Garcia. Despite his great stuff and good results in Grapefruit League action, the lefty could be the club’s number seven starter with youngsters Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales also looking good in the fight for the final rotation spot. It is difficult to envision the Cardinals paying Garcia $9.25 million to idle in the bullpen.
The Chicago Cubs have a quality starting catcher in Welington Castillo who has been displaced by trade acquisition Miguel Montero. Though Castillo is slated to make “only” $2.1 million this season, his value would be considerably higher to a number of teams with lesser starting backstops.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Against that backdrop - or would backstop be more appropriate? – consider it likely that as Opening Day approaches, some trades are coming.
There seems a better than 50-50 chance that if they occur, they will be interleague trades. The reason I say that is quite simple math. Of the 29 possible trade partners for any team, 15 are in the other league. The odds are tipped further in that direction since many clubs are very reluctant to even consider deals with division rivals for obvious competitive reasons.
So, where am I getting with this?
If you are like me and compete in a mono league with an early draft, the potential of these interleague deals occurring after draft day but before the season begins should be causing concern.
Do I draft a player if there is a risk of a trade that could knock him out of my league’s eligibility pool before he even plays a game? How much do I discount him because of the possibility?
Of course, the level of concern all depends on your league constitution.
Let’s use Tout Wars as an example. We will be drafting this weekend, at least two weeks prior to the season opener. The longer than usual gap has been created by a combination of an earlier draft and a later MLB Opening Day.
Here is the relevant sentence in the league rules, with the emphasis mine:
“Performance stats of a player shall be assigned to a Tout Wars team only when he is on the active roster of that team and on the active roster of a major league team in the appropriate league (or if in season he has been traded away from that league to the other major league).”
So, there is the rub. Exactly when does “in season” start?
The Major League Baseball schedule says Sunday, April 5. Yet, a common-sense interpretation would be to include the post-draft time in the period covered by the rule. In other words, one might assume that a drafted National League player dealt to an American League team on March 31 would still be NL-eligible this season.
In this specific example, a simple constitution change from “in season” to “post draft” solved the matter – but only because I brought it forward and my recommendation was quickly accepted.
Here is my general advice to you. Do not assume anything. Do not wait until you are stuck in a jam to find out how your league commissioner would rule on a gray area matter such as this and potentially cause broken glass in an ugly dispute.
After all, losing a $10 David Peralta in a trade to the AL before the season starts, for example, would be equally as painful as your $10 Zack Wheeler going down for Tommy John surgery. Instead, wouldn’t you rather know about this eligibility exposure before you decide whether or not to draft Peralta in the first place? (Sorry, I can’t help you if you own Wheeler!)
Understand that your situation does not have to mirror this particular one. There are many other potential rules murky areas waiting to be uncovered.
If you find one that could impact your draft, get the rule clarified up front. Don’t forget that once you do, make sure your constitution is upgraded to remove the ambiguity. Insist it be done right then, before it is forgotten. I have been in too many situations in which good intentions are ruined by poor execution, again leading to unnecessary and avoidable league strife.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.