Outside of the not-so-mysterious spike in home runs in both the majors and Triple-A (it's the ball), and the quirks of the current collective bargaining agreement, which expires in 2021 and has seen the game's young stars held down in farm systems across the league in the name of service time and veteran stars like Craig Kimbrel, Dallas Keuchel and others go unsigned to preserve draft picks, the game has another issue.
Maybe 'issue' isn't the right word for this one. But as the trade deadline fast approaches — 3 p.m. Wednesday — the league's in-season market looks like the pressure will continue to rise in the coming days until the first move, whoever blinks or strikes first, sparks a wave of transactions — unless that first spark never comes.
The addition of the second wild card spot in both the American and National Leagues in 2012 has undoubtedly made the postseason more exciting. Cardinals fans and I have different feelings about what transpired at Turner Field on Oct. 5, 2012, in what was the first-ever wild card play-in game, as Orioles-Rangers started 3 hours later, and the 2014 AL Wild Card game was one of the most exciting baseball games I've seen.
But it's also created a bottleneck in the market, particularly among sellers, so much so there is a legitimate argument to be made for pushing back the trade deadline to Aug. 15, or even further. Very few teams know they are in 'sell' mode at this point, and some teams that were looking at selling, like San Francisco, are 17-4 in July and 22-9 since June 21, are now second in the division and still listening to offers for Madison Bumgarner and relievers, but can comfortably allow a bidding war to escalate in the coming days.
At the start of play Saturday, only the Yankees, Twins, Astros and Dodgers were better than 20 games above .500, but 14 others were .500 or better. Six teams were worse than 20 games below .500, but Seattle and Baltimore have likely done all the selling they were going to do during the last few seasons and offseasons, and any moves Detroit makes will likely hinge on trying to get rid of Miguel Cabrera's massive contract.
The Royals and Blue Jays, and to some extent the Marlins, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Reds and Indians, and even the Mets, who have inserted themselves into the conversation and possess a trio of desirable starters in Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Zach Wheeler thus find themselves in a position with lots of leverage.
Kansas City is four years removed from a ring and in no pressure to move someone as valuable as Whit Merrifield unless they can upgrade their current roster and farm system dramatically. Plus, they've already traded twice with Oakland and once with the Cubs this season. Apart from the World Series, the same is largely true for Toronto and Marcus Stroman.
The rest, particularly in the National League, are content to hold off on trades and continue on their current course within striking distance of that final wild card spot until a truly impressive offer comes in.
There is certainly top-end talent to had, particular in starting and relief pitching, and this year both leagues look ripe for splashy moves to shake up the standings.
And if you're a fan of the relative power sellers have in the current system, or at least a fan of one of the sellers temporarily empowered, and see no reason to shift the trade deadline back, Tuesday and Wednesday will be like Christmas.