It is only right that the week leading up to the MLB trade deadline should coincide with Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week.” This season’s trade scramble is shaping up to be one of the wildest events in recent years — but, this time, the blood in the water is seeping from the pitching mound, not the batter’s box.

In the year of the home run hitter, pitchers are dominating the MLB trade deadline talks.

Early trades made last week have signaled this strange phenomenon. Lefty José Quintana’s move across town  last week from the White Sox to the Cubs proved a much-needed relief to a fatigued, ailing pitching staff. In addition, a deal with the White Sox netted the Yankees, not one, but two pitchers: David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. Red-hot Todd Frazier also landed in New York in the trade, but he hardly made headlines in comparison to the two exciting arms joining the Bombers’ bullpen — because the Yankees already possess a number of strong bats.

The most compelling participants  in  the trade were the pitchers.

This is not to say that heavy hitters are absent from the market — plenty of impressive sluggers are supposedly up for grabs this season, if only loosely. Only a few teams can afford Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, who surprisingly might be relinquished by a fan base that has already endured much tragedy in the last year. Rumors of the Reds’ possibly trading star first baseman Joey Votto, who has smashed a whooping 26 homers as of Tuesday, have been swirling since the preseason, although they have since quieted in the last week or so. Mets rightfielder Jay Bruce, another 25-home-run guy  this season, is on the market — but with notably little interest.

Chances are, unless you are either an MLB Trade Rumors junkie or an avid fan of one of the aforementioned teams, you have heard nothing of these potential deals.

Why? Because this year, none of the most significant deals are driven by sluggers. Almost every team on the market is looking for pitching during their high-profile dealings.

The highest bid, of course, is for Rangers ace Yu Darvish, whose suitors include the Yankees, Cubs and Dodgers. And while the Brewers are rumored to be stepping away from the negotiating table, both the Braves and Bombers are looking into the Oakland  A’s righty Sonny Gray. In addition, the Nationals, Dodgers and Red Sox are interested in Phillies reliever Pat Neshek. Even the struggling Justin Verlander might take a trip to New York in exchange for Jacoby Ellsbury.

But, in the year of the home run, why are teams more concerned with fighting the power-hitting trend than capitalizing on it?

Perhaps it is because pitchers are beginning — even if evidence has yet to appear in the stats — to find solutions to the home run epidemic. FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur believes that a spike in four-seam fastballs, meant to generate pop-outs, and various height adjustments can combat the home run spike. Tom Verducci recently published an article in Sports Illustrated  detailing the Yankees’ strategy of laying off fastballs altogether as the way of navigating the new home run landscape. All of these tactics are plausibly successful adjustments that pitchers are making in the wake of the home run spike, and the teams want to capitalize on them.

In other words, it may be easier to strike out a slugger than to acquire enough to out-hit the others.

Or maybe the desperation for pitchers is simply a result of human nature; good pitchers seem more valuable because they are, and, in this new age, increasingly more rare. In his article, Arthur noted that, even though Clayton Kershaw’s value is the same as in recent years, his number of homers allowed is at an all-time high. In other words, even the best pitcher in baseball is not at his “best” in the way he used to be — at least in regard to home runs.

So this week, the pre-trade deadline hunt for pitchers rages on.

Sluggers be damned .

 

 

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