We're now officially in the month of the trade deadline, a month peppered with trade rumors, whispers, buzz, chatter, gossip and at some point even some actual trades. While significant deals do also happen in August, it's not quite the same: It's the Wild West without the whiskey, full of waiver claims and contract negotiations. July is crunch time for general managers and team vice presidents, and one of the big decisions that needs to be made is exactly when to pull that trigger. Whether you commit as early or as late as possible involves a number of risks and rewards, either way you go.
The benefits of an early move are fairly obvious. The earlier you trade for a player, the more time he has to help your team. Simply put, make a trade now and you could get 50 percent more playing time for the added player to improve your team. When we talked last week about the potential payoff in wins from July trades, we intentionally left some big June trades out of the equation. Yet if we include those late-June deals, we add some rare 3.0 WAR additions to the best trades list, including Rickey Henderson in 1989 (.294/.425/.438, 52 steals, 5.2 FanGraphs WAR), Tom Candiotti in 1991 (2.98 ERA, 3.0 WAR in 19 starts) and Nyjer Morgan, of all players, in 2009 (.351/.396/.435, 24 steals, 2.9 WAR).
Nyjer Morgan isn't a big name, but that's kind of the point -- three months of a 3.0 WAR player (per season) player is generally more valuable than two months of a 4.0 WAR player. For each of the current American League teams in the wild-card race -- I'm drawing the line after the Angels in the standings -- each team gains from 2 to 5 percentage points in their odds of reaching the playoffs by adding a 3.0 WAR player at the start of July, rather than at the end.
For a team looking to sell, the benefits of an early move are equally apparent. Ideally, you get to sell more wins to a team that is willing to pay to acquire them. If you're the White Sox and have Jose Quintana, you never put out a team news release stating that 2017 is meaningless. But in the big picture, everyone knows that it might be -- and that an extra win in 2017 doesn't make a return to the World Series more probable for the White Sox. Having more bidders tends to be preferable to dealing a star after most teams have met their needs and traded off their most interesting prospects.
But with these benefits come a myriad of risks that need to be weighed against the benefit, which is why, when push comes to shove, you typically see the bigger trades made toward the end of the month.