Rule change might affect Phillies' ability to trade, but other rule could help


CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies could be buyers at the trade deadline this summer in a more impactful way than they were last year, when they added Wilson Ramos, Justin Bour, Jose Bautista, Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Avilan.

The difference this summer is that, according to The Athletic, teams won't be able to trade in August as they have for decades.

The change to one hard trade deadline of July 31 will go into effect this season, per Ken Rosenthal.

In past seasons, teams could still wheel and deal in the month of August using the waiver process. A team would place a player on trade waivers and if he passed through unclaimed, his team was free to trade him anywhere. If the player was claimed, his team had a window to swing a deal with the claiming team.

No more, it appears.

The Phillies have made trades in August frequently over the last two decades. Jamie Moyer was an August acquisition in 2006. So were Matt Stairs and Scott Eyre in 2008. They acquired Mike Sweeney in August 2010. They traded away Chase Utley in August 2015 and Carlos Ruiz in August 2016.

Last year, the Phillies acquired Bour, Bautista and Avilan in August in an effort to fill a few holes and try to stay in the race.

There have been some high-profile trades around the league in August. Justin Verlander was dealt from the Tigers to the Astros in August 2017 and helped swing that year's World Series. 

Last August, Andrew McCutchen, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Madson, David Freese, Curtis Granderson, Mike Fiers and Josh Donaldson were traded — players ranging from useful to good.

The new rule is designed to keep more teams competitive over the season's final two months rather than dumping the salaries of solid veterans. You can see the logic in it, though it could make things difficult for a team that suffers a bad injury on, say, Aug. 3 and no longer has the recourse to fill that hole externally.

More on the four-man outfield

There is no rule currently on the table to prevent teams from shifting their defenses any way they want, but it would not be surprising if a rule is instituted within the next two years.

We could see an increase or even an explosion of four-man outfields this season. The Blue Jays experimented with it this past weekend against Bryce Harper. It was the first time he ever faced that alignment and he hopes to not see it again.

Interestingly, though, Rhys Hoskins may be an even more logical candidate than Harper for the four-outfielder treatment. 

According to Sports Info Solutions, Hoskins had the sixth-lowest rate in all of baseball last season of hitting a ground ball or short line drive to the non-pull side. Hoskins was also in the top 10 in batted balls of at least 250 feet in the air. 

Both of those metrics make Hoskins one of the prototypical players to use this defensive alignment against. The biggest candidate in the league, according to this data, is St. Louis' Matt Carpenter.

It doesn't feel like baseball, the four-outfielder alignment. But most teams these days seek every competitive advantage they can find and this sure looks like one.

If this experiment becomes more commonplace during the season and hitters cannot adjust, the result would likely be even less offense, even fewer balls in play that turn into hits. Which isn't good for a game that has seen strikeouts skyrocket and hits decline.

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