Confusion about midseason trades and award season

It’s award season in Major League Baseball as the World Series gets underway tonight. Some outlets and awards have announced their winners and finalists ahead of the Baseball Writers' Association of America announcing the finalists for their awards after the Fall Classic.

Last week, Rawlings announced the three finalists at each position in both leagues for the Gold Glove Awards. Yesterday, Louisville Slugger announced the finalists for the Silver Slugger Awards.

As it pertains to the Nationals, Victor Robles and Juan Soto are Gold Glove finalists, and Luke Voit, Josh Bell and Soto are Silver Slugger finalists. But for the Gold Gloves, Soto represents both the Nats and Padres, whereas for the Silver Sluggers, Voit represents just the Nats, and Bell and Soto represent just the Padres.

Confusing, right?

Also pertaining to the Nationals this year – and perhaps the next couple of years – is how these awards are credited to players who have been traded during the season, like Soto, Bell and Voit.

Neither Rawlings nor Louisville Slugger have clearly defined rules of how these awards are treated to winners who played for two different teams in a single season. Do both teams get to claim the award? Does the original team? Or does the team the player finishes the season with get to own it? Does the amount of time spent with each team matter?

As far as I can tell, no one really knows. Rawlings and Louisville Slugger both have criteria for their respective awards on their websites, but neither of them mention cases in which a player is traded midseason.

And through my admittedly not-too-extensive research, I found both awards treat such cases differently.

If a player is traded midseason and wins a Gold Glove, both teams have claimed that award in their record books. A recent example is Zack Greinke in 2019, when he was traded from the Diamondbacks to the Astros to aid in Houston’s postseason run (cut short by the Nationals, of course). This is an interesting case because it was an interleague trade. Greinke is officially listed as the National League Gold Glove winner at pitcher. But both the D-backs and Astros list him as a recipient of the award in their record books. Mike Leake of the Mariners is officially listed as the American League Gold Glove winner at pitcher.

Another example is Ian Kinsler in 2018, when he was traded from the Angels to the Red Sox at the deadline and won the award at second base after winning the World Series. Both the Angels and Red Sox have him listed as a Gold Glove Award winner for that year in their record books.

Silver Sluggers, however, appear to treat trade cases differently. Only the team that acquired the traded player in a year he wins the Silver Slugger claims the award. The original team is left out.

A quick search found this was the case in 1993, when Fred McGriff was traded from the Padres to the Braves and won the Silver Slugger in the NL for first base. He is officially listed as the NL first base Silver Slugger, and is found in the Braves’ record books but not the Padres’ list of award winners for 1993.

The same is true for Harold Baines, who won the AL Silver Slugger for designated hitter in 1989, when he was traded from the White Sox to the Rangers. He is listed as a winner in the Rangers’ records but not the White Sox’s book.

Adding to the confusion, Baines is listed as a Silver Slugger winner in 1989 on MLB.com’s official record of award winners, but as a member of the White Sox, not the Rangers. The same can be said for McGriff, but he’s listed as a member of the Braves, not the Padres.

And then on Louisville Slugger’s record of winners on their website, both McGriff and Baines are listed as winners with both of the teams each played for that year.

Let’s bring it back to the Nationals and this year’s awards. As an example, let’s say Soto wins both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger (the Gold Glove is unlikely but the Silver Slugger is a possibility). Would the Nats and Padres claim his Gold Glove, but only the Padres claim his Silver Slugger?

It’s very confusing and inconsistent, leading to questionable record-keeping by both the presenters of the awards and MLB.

The only difference I can see between the two awards is that there used to be different hitting rules in each league for a long time. The designated hitter in the AL and pitchers hitting in the NL up until this season may have called for stricter rules in determining which teams claim Silver Sluggers. But in the two examples provided, McGriff and Baines were traded within the same league. (I couldn’t find an example of a player winning a Silver Slugger in a year he was traded between the two leagues, so if you do, please let me know in the comments!) This, of course, is no longer an issue with the universal DH.

On the other hand, defense is essentially the same, no matter which league you played in, so it didn’t matter as much for Gold Gloves.

This is a very trivial matter in the grand scheme of things. It really only matters if a team wants to claim it has had a certain amount of Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winners. Which is their prerogative, but team awards matter more than individual ones.

It’s all very interesting and confusing, and it especially relates to the Nationals now since they traded and acquired three finalists for these awards. And I don’t have a solution to fix it.

But is it too much to ask for some official ruling on this?

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