Why MLB's Trade Deadline Is Busier (and More Reliever-centric) Than Ever – The Ringer (blog)

Ever since 1986, when MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline shifted from mid-June to late July, July 31 has been a singularly busy day on baseball’s calendar. On a graph of trade activity by calendar day, the 31st’s accumulated trade total looms like the Burj Khalifa in the downtown Dubai skyline.

This week was no exception: Rumors and announcements were thick throughout deadline day, and news of just-completed trades trickled out even for several minutes after Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, when teams were forced to lay down their pencils. Aside from the Nationals’ dalliance with dealing Bryce Harper, this year’s market lacked superstars after Orioles infielder Manny Machado went to the Dodgers two weeks ago, but the trade activity didn’t tail off just because the individual talent on offer wasn’t quite as eye-catching as it has been in some seasons. In fact, every team in the majors made a trade this July, and the month’s total activity continued a trend toward more trades—and, in particular, more trades for relievers—that has significantly enlivened the sport’s most intense trading period in the past few years.

The graph below, created by baseball analyst and author Scott Lindholm based on Baseball-Reference data, displays the number of trades and player purchases made, and the number of players involved in those trades or purchases, in July of each season (plus August 1, if the deadline was that day) dating back to the mid-1980s. The entries for this year and last year show nearly identical—and previously unsurpassed—activity.

In early August 2015, I noted that the preceding July had featured a historic amount of trade activity, highlighted by swaps involving high-profile players such as Troy Tulowitzki, Johnny Cueto, David Price, Ben Zobrist, Yoenis Céspedes, and Cole Hamels (who was traded this July, too). As it turns out,

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