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This time of year – the lead-up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline – always intrigues me.
As a baseball writer, I hate it. The “hectic” part I’m fine with, it’s the rumors, and the vague and obvious statements that somehow pass for news (teams are interested in Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Manny Machado – duh), that drive me nuts.
As a fan of baseball, I love it. There’s nothing more fascinating than the last day or so before the deadline when teams frantically try to make themselves better, for now or the future.
As an observer of baseball players for a living, I’m torn about the trade deadline. It’s an exciting part of the game, no doubt. And I know that most of these men make crazy amounts of money, and so their lives aren’t like ours. But I also know that these guys are human beings with families and, oftentimes, roots in a place.
If you’ve ever lost your job, or even purposely changed jobs, you know how disruptive and anxious that time can be. Now, consider you are in the public eye, rumors have been swirling about your job security, and then, bam, it happens and you are uprooted from one place and sent somewhere else without your consent.
I’ll never forget standing in the tunnel at Yankee Stadium in 2011 and interviewing Koji Uehara after he had just been traded from the Orioles to the Texas Rangers (in a deal that brought the Orioles both Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter).
Uehara had expertly dealt with the culture shock of leaving Japan for the United States – but that was his choice. When he started talking about how he’d miss his Orioles teammates, Uehara, often stoic, broke down in tears. Many of you remember the same happening with tough guy B.J. Surhoff back in 2000. It can be a really emotional time for these guys.
And, honestly, so is the lead up to it. It’s why my entire 30-minute Baltimore Baseball radio show (and podcast) this week on WOYK 1350 (in York, Pa.) was dedicated to the trade deadline and the sentiments that go with it.
For instance, I asked Britton about the fact he’s not had any contract extension talks with the Orioles, and so if he’s not dealt this year, he may move along on his own after the 2018 season.
“I’ve let them know that I had interest in staying here, but they’ve never made an effort, a real effort, to kind of bring up those long-term talks. And that’s OK, at least I know where they stand,” Britton said. “And that’s why, at the end of the day, I understand it’s a business. So, we’ll see what happens this next week.”
Britton also admits that, as much as they try, he and relievers Brach and Darren O’Day do pay some attention to trade rumors. The feeling of impending change can be palpable in the bullpen.
“It’s a different atmosphere down there. It’s one thing when you are comfortable and you know you’re going to be with the team long-term,” Britton said. “We feed off each other, me Darren and Brad, we’ve done a lot of good things over the last three, four years together. So, it’s different. You can tell that there’s a … different feel to them, maybe we’re trying to overdo things at times, almost trying to overly impress people that we normally wouldn’t even care about impressing.
“Factors that are happening, not in this organization, almost like you’re showcasing yourself, which is not the mindset you want to be in. So, I think it’s been kind of a stressful time for everybody,” Britton added. “We’re older guys, but, at the same time, we’re human. We think about possibly where we’re going to go next. Darren has been through it, so he has that experience, whereas me and Brad don’t really have that.
“I think it’s going to be good for everybody when something happens or doesn’t happen, and then we can just worry about pitching.”
Ultimately, trades can end up being great for an individual player. We’ve seen that happen a lot. MASN broadcaster Rick Dempsey was traded twice during his lengthy big league career. The second time, when he was dealt from the New York Yankees to the Orioles in 1976, he was devastated. And it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to him in his career, he said in an interview with me this week.
Then there are those who aren’t traded, but are still affected by midseason moves. Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, for instance, signed a long-term deal in 2016 with the belief the Orioles would be good for years to come, and they made the playoffs last season. But now they could be in a rebuilding mode. Davis talked to me about that earlier this weekend, and some of his thoughts are included in this radio show, too.
If you want to hear my interviews with Britton, Dempsey and Davis – and my further thoughts on the Orioles’ trade scenarios – definitely check out WOYK’s on-line archives, download the show from iTunes or click the arrow below and listen to the full show.