This isn’t about an earth-shaking trade that would have turned a league on its ear. In fact, it isn’t even about a deal that was actually executed. It is about a player exchange that never was – and likely never will be.
The reason it is being outlined here is to provide a reminder than making trades requires time, diligence and a bit of aggressiveness. And when you don’t have those elements working for you, you may end up with nothing other than wasted time tinged with frustration.
This past Monday, I received an unsolicited trade inquiry from a long-time industry friend. Our league is a 40-man keeper format with only monthly free agent moves. Because so many teams stockpile away multiple prospects in hopes for the future, when players are injured, some owners get caught with no MLB-eligible reserves in the time between when free agent acquisitions are allowed.
Such was the case for my friend, who needed a corner infielder when one of his starters unexpectedly hit the disabled list. Scanning league rosters, he noticed Kennys Vargas of the Twins among my reserves.
The designated hitter with first base eligibility had struggled early in the season, was sent down to the Minors to get his game back together and had recently returned to Minnesota.
I had acquired Vargas as my first pick in our league’s supplemental draft this spring, 11th overall. I needed a fill-in for Josh Hamilton at the time and Vargas was the best option available. He hasn’t done much for me, but with a $1 contract, Vargas represents a potential keeper for next season – if he steps up his performance, that is.
Here are the time stamps of our communication, which began late Monday morning. The weekly transaction deadline was 7:05 p.m. (I am not mentioning the other team, as I am not trying to point a finger at anyone.)
11:34 a.m., Him to me: “We're down a corner and see you have Kennys Vargas on reserve. Do we have something you would trade him for?”
I should have known this situation was doomed when the first e-mail did not identify which team had sent it. I only figured out who was asking when looking at the address when sending a reply.
Since I wasn’t even sure who was asking when I prepared my reply, I decided to come back with what I felt I needed from any prospective trade partner – pitching.
11:51 a.m., Me to him: “Which pitchers might be available? Another option might be a scrub going my way and a swap of picks next spring. As a point of reference, Vargas was my #1 pick this spring, late in the first round, so I am not going to give him away. He is a potential keeper at $6 next year."
I wanted to set the bar relatively high in terms of Vargas’ value, at least initially. It was an opening statement.
12:03 p.m., Him to me: “Totally understood on giving him away. For our part, we only have the hole for two weeks and aren't going anywhere this year, anyway, but we would trade the right pitcher, that is someone without a future on our team. Which ones work for you?”
“It's fine if you'd rather hold onto Vargas, too, but if you see a fit let me know."
I felt this reply was more lazy than cagey. Yes, my potential trade partner is not contending for the lead, but still, he is the one looking for a trade, so I thought he should be doing the leg work. How would I know which of the 18 pitchers on his roster might be available?
As a result, I decided to push him into putting some names on the table.
12:29 p.m., Me to him: “How about you throw out the names of those futureless pitchers and I will see if any catch my eye?”
At this point, the line went quiet. After over an hour had passed, I assumed my potential partner was looking elsewhere to make a deal or just lost interest.
If I was someone important, I would say that I was “out on assignment.” In reality, I had to disconnect from the internet to mow my six-inch high lawn, a job that generally takes a half-day with good conditions.
1:45 p.m., Him to me: (Listed the last names of six pitchers.)
I did not see this reply for about four hours, around 6:00 p.m.
It was an interesting group offered, not insulting at all. Two were among his nine active starting pitchers. Two were reserves, guys not throwing all that well currently, and two were name-brand pitchers currently on their team's disabled list. None were probably keepers, but he already said that coming in.
I knew one of the two DL’ed arms was very close to returning to active duty. While his performance was down compared to his peak, there was more upside there than with Vargas, in my opinion.
After a quick check, seeing that no other trades had been announced, I formally put up a trade offer on our team website, sending him Vargas in return for Pitcher X. With one click, he could accept the offer quickly.
6:32 p.m., Me to him: “Sorry, I had to go out for a few hours. If you are still interested, I will take a gamble on Pitcher X. I put up a trade in the trade center. If you are going in a different direction, no problem.”
With slightly more than a half-hour remaining until the roster deadline, nothing happened. This time, the four-hour delay was on his side of the failed deal.
10:57 p.m., Him to me: “I was out after about 6 p.m. so I didn't see this until just now. I don't think we can do it now until next Monday.”
"I would have accepted the trade earlier tonight, but will have to reevaluate come next weekend, just to see how the wind is blowing.”
“I'm sorry I missed it earlier.”
Again, this was not a huge trade. Good thing, since it failed. In my opinion, had we gotten down to specific names two e-mail exchanges earlier, the deal would have gotten done.
As it turned out, it was probably good for my aborted trade partner that the swap was not made. The Twins gave up on Vargas again a few days later, sending him back to the Minors a second time this season. It may take longer for him to earn another shot.
The veteran Pitcher x offered to me was in fact brought off the DL this week but did not do well in his first outing. I would not have activated him anyway, so I did not miss anything initially, either. Of course, the hurler could still improve down the road.
When everything is said and done, I cannot be too upset. After all, the Twins player called up to replace Vargas on their roster is none other than top prospect Miguel Sano. It just so happens the third baseman is on my team in this league.
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.