The hope of a hopeless MLB trade deadline, five years later

Invisible upright bass - Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

That is, the hope of the 2008 trade deadline.

Because I did not want to think about Bud Norris or Brian Wilson or Brian Wilson making Chuck Norris jokes that somehow related to Bud Norris, I was trolling through the MLB Trade Rumors archives from five years ago. Some choice quotes from just one Jon Heyman live-blog:

Major league executives believe the Braves did very well to get young first baseman Casey Kotchman (plus minor league pitcher Stephen Marek) for star first baseman Mark Teixeira, who's on the cusp of free agency.

Tim Redding's trade value just took a dip. "Jim Bowden overplayed his hand,'' one NL general manager said about the Nationals GM who is said to be seeking a haul for the solid but unspectacular starter.

It's starting to look like the Orioles will hang on to George Sherrill, reducing the closer market further. They were hoping to get a starting shortstop for Sherrill, such as Milwaukee's terrific prospect Alcides Escobar or Anaheim's Erick Aybar. So far, no go.

That all might as well have been written in Aramaic, because it certainly doesn't make sense five years later. Who are those people? What happened between then and now? Was there a meteor? What's a George Sherrill?

But in the middle at giggling at untouchable prospects who flopped and untradeable players who thrived, I came upon the most hopeless article I've ever seen. If the Royals don't make a trade (or, worse, if they make a win-now trade), or if the Mariners don't make a trade, you'll see an article or two decrying the lack of pragmatism and foresight for those two organizations. Those articles might make the team seem hopeless.

This one is worse than any of those could possibly be. Let's explore how.

The year was 2008, and the San Francisco Giants were awful. This was a repeat of the previous three years, and at no point had the Giants ever engaged in a fire sale. Barry Bonds was gone; Fred Lewis was his replacement. Aaron Rowand, a big free agent signed after a career year, wasn't doing much. Barry Zito was the free-agent spark plug from the previous offseason, and he was in the middle of the worst season of his career. The Giants' farm system ranked 23rd in baseball before the season according to Baseball America. It was a dark time.

But the trade deadline was approaching, and maybe the Giants could get a couple of prospects for whatever they had to offer. Every little bit helps, right?

Nothing happened. And that led to the saddest article in the history of baseball journalism. The headline tips us off.

Giants make no trades before Deadline

Sabean: 'We were in on a lot of conversations until the end'

Just yakkin' it up.

Rather than dwell on players he couldn't obtain as Thursday's Trade Deadline passed, Giants general manager Brian Sabean focused on the players the club still has, particularly the younger ones.

Most of the saddest post-deadline articles will start with "Rather than dwell," as they should.

Finding no takers for (Rich) Aurilia, whose versatility could have helped many clubs, or (Omar) Vizquel, whose superb glove might come in handy down the stretch for a contender, Sabean plans to meet with members of his staff and manager Bruce Bochy on Friday to rethink how the Giants will use their personnel for the rest of the season.

The Giants had a fire sale, but no one came. Because their veterans were awful. No one wanted Aurilia, who was pretty much done as a player. No one wanted Vizquel, who was almost certainly done as a hitter.

(This commitment to younger players) finally should mean more activity at shortstop for Emmanuel Burriss, as Bochy has promised, and fellow rookie Ivan Ochoa. Burriss and Ochoa each have started just three games since the All-Star break.

Burriss was a bad option at the time. Ochoa never played in the majors again, and his minor-league career ended in 2011. But at the time, they were the youth movement. The Giants couldn't make a trade, but they could say, "Settle down, everyone. We're going to sit the veterans more so that Emmanuel Burriss and Ivan Ochoa can play."

Sabean said that he wasn't disappointed by being shut out, expressing belief that the Giants will be able to sneak players they want to trade through waivers, a procedure which is now required.

"We're confident that this is an ongoing process," Sabean said. "It's not like our players aren't going to get through waivers."

"It's not like our players aren't going to get through waivers."

Think about that quote. It's beautiful.

"It's not like anyone would take a chance and see if they could have one of these players for free."

"It's not like people want these guys that badly."

"It's not like our players aren't going to get through waivers. Because they're awful and overpaid. Which is my fault. And I just signed an extension."

Reports that Molina could be headed to the Yankees or Florida Marlins proved untrue. Aurilia was mentioned in only one rumor, involving the Minnesota Twins. "I'm surprised there was no interest," Sabean said, referring to Aurilia. "We did all the work and there was no interest."

At the time, Molina was hitting .287/.315/.411. He had the pitch-framing abilities of a Molina. He was certainly someone that teams would have wanted, at least in theory. But the Giants were asking too much. He was going to be a part of the next good Giants team, see. And as for the rest of the trade candidates, "We did all the work and there was no interest." Again, because the team was really bad.

Ideally, the Giants wanted to acquire a young player who had Major League experience and could contribute for multiple seasons -- paralleling their 2005 deal with Seattle for (Randy) Winn.

"It was a nice thought," Sabean said. "But we (knew) before the last couple of days it wasn't going to happen."

That deal was a young starting pitcher for a 31-year-old outfielder. It ended up being a steal for the Giants, don't get me wrong. But that was the template. Known quantities to pair with the known quantities. Cost certainty. Limited upside. Safe.

Everything about this article, from the players who weren't traded, to the players who couldn't be traded, to the players who were supposed to take over, was sad. Really sad. Trade deadlines are supposed to be a time of renewal and irrational optimism for bad teams. The Giants had none of that.

Twenty months later, they won the World Series.

This isn't something to make myself feel better about the 2013 Giants; the nostalgia makes me a little wistful and melancholy, to be honest. This is something to make you feel better. You, the fan disgusted with what your team did at the trading deadline. The Mariners fan who can't believe that Oliver Perez wasn't traded for a C-prospect. The Royals fan who can't believe they were buying instead of selling. The Red Sox fan who is upset that they gave up too much.

We know nothing. Bartolo Colon is the best player from the Bartolo Colon trade. Raul Ibañez was someone the Mariners held onto at the 2008 deadline; Raul Ibañez is someone the Mariners are likely to hold onto at the 2013 deadline. And the reason this article isn't so sad in retrospect is that the Giants' first-round pick from a month before this article turned into one of the most valuable commodities in baseball.

Twenty months. In just under two years from now, you and your disgruntling team can be having a lot of fun. So complain about the trade deadline now. It's your right. But think back to the time when the Giants tried to trade their veterans, but couldn't. It didn't take long to work out.

What a strange game.

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