Dealing with baseball’s trade deadline

While owners and players keep digging in their heels and the threat remains that the 2020 season is going to be buried, I wonder about its structure if it can be salvaged.

I’m waiting for clarification on the taxi squad beyond the expectation that it would hold 20 players.

I’m waiting for clarification on the trade deadline. As in, will one exist?

Major League Baseball eliminated the Aug. 31 waiver deadline last year. The July 31 deadline could be pushed back due to the season’s late start or it could disappear.

I have no idea whether the Arizona Fall League will be shelved due to health concerns or some other reason, and whether baseball’s Winter Meetings - set for Dec. 6-10 in Dallas - will be reduced to Zoom and phone interactions with media kept at home.

But back to the trade deadline.

Players would have a shorter period to build or hold their value. But more teams could be coaxed into contender status due to an expanded playoff format that reportedly allows for four wild cards per league.

Thumbnail image for Iglesias-Throw-White-ST-sidebar.jpgThe Orioles began spring training with a few potential chips, including starters Alex Cobb, Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone, relievers Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier, and shortstop José Iglesias. They’ve been inclined to hold onto Trey Mancini and he’s unable to play in 2020 while undergoing chemotherapy treatments following his colon cancer surgery in March.

They were unable to move Givens and second baseman Jonathan Villar at last year’s deadline, with the latter dealt to the Marlins in December, less than a week after placed on outright waivers. Starter Dylan Bundy was traded to the Angels in the same week.

The only July activity of significance, beyond the purchase of pitcher Asher Wojciechowski’s contract from the Indians, was the Andrew Cashner trade with the Red Sox. The Orioles sold pitcher Dan Straily’s contract to the Phillies as the deadline approached.

Straily was 2-4 with a 9.82 ERA and 1.993 WHIP in 14 games (eight starts) with the Orioles and he surrendered 22 home runs in 47 2/3 innings. He accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Norfolk and was 4-0 with a 2.38 ERA and 0.941 WHIP in six starts covering 34 innings before the Phillies acquired him.

There were no awkward moments or tearful goodbyes, which leads me to a couple of vivid deadline memories.

Reliever Tommy Hunter learned about his trade to the Cubs on July 31, 2015 as reporters raced to his locker for comment. He had joked about his uncertain status minutes earlier while keeping an eye on a television near his locker. The clubhouse was closing to the media as news broke that Hunter had been dealt for outfielder Junior Lake.

Hunter told us later in a hastily arranged scrum outside the clubhouse that he was headed home to hug his wife and spend the evening with her. Meanwhile, his teammates were furious over a deal that saved the club about $1.5 million. Hunter said he cracked a few jokes to lighten the mood.

Reliever Koji Uehara tried unsuccessfully to fight back tears after his trade to the Rangers in 2011 for Hunter and first baseman Chris Davis. The Orioles were in New York for a series against the Yankees.

Second baseman Jonathan Schoop and starter Kevin Gausman had tears in their eyes while talking to the media following their respective trades to the Brewers and Braves at the 2018 deadline. Again, we were in New York.

No one took the news harder than outfielder B.J. Surhoff. This one tops my list.

Surhoff thought he had survived the 2000 deadline and was staying with the Orioles. The clock moved past 4 p.m. with no announcement. However, the paperwork was in the works and Surhoff was devastated.

Beyond his love of the organization and his teammates, Surhoff had special ties to the city. His wife Polly is a Baltimore native who spearheaded many of the Orioles’ charitable drives. Their four children attended local schools and played sports in a variety of leagues. Their son, Mason, was diagnosed with autism and made tremendous strides because of the treatment program at Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Going to a contender didn’t pacify Surhoff. He sat in the auxiliary clubhouse for his press conference and kept pausing to regain his composure. He affectionately called out a member of the public relations staff, who stood near the outfielder, for having the advantage of turning away to hide his own tears.

“It’s my career, but it gets much more complicated by things that are important to me. Very important to me,” he said.

“I made the decision to come here almost five years ago and it was the right decision for me and my family. I loved playing here.”

More tears.

Surhoff already had put on his uniform when summoned into manager Mike Hargrove’s office. I’ll never forget the reaction of his teammates, most notably ace Mike Mussina, who was furious.

The veterans were close. You hurt one of them - and I’m including Cal Ripken Jr., Brady Anderson, Chris Hoiles and Mike Bordick, among others - you hurt all of them.

It became so uncomfortable, the media was told to leave the clubhouse and give the players their privacy. I was a bit agitated by the nature of the demand, the way it was delivered more so than its intent. Hargrove noticed as I moved to the hallway and asked that I please give them a few minutes. I appreciated the respect he showed me.

The Orioles traded six veterans within three days as general manager Syd Thrift tore down the team. Mussina suggested that the turnover could impact the odds of him re-signing as a free agent.

“I just think we got a little bit, it seemed like we were having a little too much fun and went too far,” he said. “If they were trying to make a point, I think they did that.”

So did Mussina, who signed with the Yankees.

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