When the freeze of transactions was defrosted in Major League Baseball we perked up. Would teams start wheeling and dealing after months of being stifled by COVID-19? Not so much.
There have been a smattering of free-agent signings (Anthony Swarzak, Oscar Hernandez), but still not much budging when it comes to legitimate roster-building. No Yasiel Puig commitment, with legitimate starting option Aaron Sanchez still sitting out there, as well. Still it is early, and we will likely see some of these free agent names come off the board in the coming days. Sixty-game season or not, the transactional silence won't last forever.
But how about trades? Well, that's another story.
While we got excited over the prospect of how teams might actually be wheeling and dealing to position themselves best for this sprint of a schedule -- even trying to guess what might happen leading up to that Aug. 31 trade deadline -- there were a few hurdles that have to be taken into consideration.
And all of the obstacles are rooted in the cause of all this mess -- COVID-19.
Talking to multiple major league executives, the consensus is that making trades is going to be more difficult than ever because of the coronavirus.
The first obstacle is the unknowns when it comes to any players dealt. Whatever team trades for a player is immediately risking getting someone who could be shut down at a moment's notice because of COVID-19. It is also a person who has been living in one sort-of-bubble and now will be integrated into an entirely different environment. And from the participant's perspective, they are taking on additional risks because the disciplined life they had worked hard to maintain is now being opened up, perhaps giving second thoughts about even playing.
For instance, the Red Sox players clearly feel the organization has done everything possible to make this working situation an actual possibility. Sure, there have been positive tests, but talking to those in the Sox' Spring Training 2.0 there is a sense that each passing day brings another level of understanding and acceptance. Do you think that is the sentiment shared in Houston, Tampa Bay or Miami? Not only are those teams playing in the hottest of hot spots, but the Astros have had to cancel workouts because of testing issues.
We also have the perceived need for depth, with some teams likely showing a reluctance to deal multiple players they might need more than ever due to the uncertainty of the virus.
There is another issue: Actually not finishing the season.
While this concern is secondary when it comes to issues surrounding the execution of trades, it is unavoidable. Whatever you're getting back in any trade is already going to be a crapshoot for 2020 considering the brevity of the schedule, but the idea that the difference-making piece a team might deal for might not even get a chance to prove himself because of the cancellation of the season has to be in the back of everyone's mind.
The executives all believed trades will be made, with the excitement and possibilities that await during that September stretch-drive leading to all sides involved to figure these sorts of things out.
Until then just understand why we might have to wait a bit longer for the usual mid-summer flurry of transactions.