A Beginners Guide to… Trades

This is a weekly feature where we will be taking you through the basics of different aspects of sport that you may not already know. The aim is to expand peoples knowledge so not only will other posts on here make more sense, but you can show off your new found knowledge to your friends. If you think we miss anything or have a topic you want us to cover Comment, Tweet or Email us and we will get to work on it.

Me again!

Oh, Is it that time already? Things have been a little crazy…

I am actually ready and excited for this weeks lesson.

Well, that’s a good start!

You don’t seem convinced

Less of it, you’re just a framing device

You’re a framing device

Shall we get started? This week, I will give you a beginners guide to trades.

Just so I know, is this going to be simple or long and winding?

That will depend on how quick you are to learn.

Oh… I see… so what are trades?

Trades are the way that teams in North American sport transfer players between each other.

Okay… this seems an obvious question? Who is the most expensive Quarterback of all time?

First off, well done for knowing Quarterback, clearly, you’re paying attention. But I’m confused, what do you mean?

Like Neymar… who is America’s Neymar?

Ohhh… it doesn’t quite work that way. They don’t tend to exchange money nowadays they trade for assets

Assets such as?

Players, draft picks, Negotiating Rights.

How does the market work? Is everyone looking to sign stars?

Not quite, there tends to be buyers and sellers. Buyers are teams after championships looking for stars. Sellers tend to be weaker teams who want to get younger players and draft picks.

Wait… if you’re bad why would you try to get rid of your stars?

Various reasons, they tend to be paid more and if you’re bad you’re probably not making much money. Losing big contracts is a good way to cut costs. You have to consider a star player probably won’t want to be in a poor team. In American sports, it tends to go in cycles, bad teams don’t stay bad and good teams don’t stay good. Think of it as a bell curve. When you’re at the bottom, you need to rebuild your team the best way to get on the up is young players and drafting the next generation of stars.

That makes sense I guess… How about buyers?

Well, the window for winning could only be a few years and you tend to find that teams will go all out and jump through the window of opportunity when you can. They don’t pay as much attention to younger players. Think of it like Chelsea, or Man City they want to win now.

Do they have to trade straight up one for one?

It tends to be in packages, people put deals together depending on value. So a few examples are below. It depends on what the team are wanting to do and what they are offering. You might want to get rid of salary, you might be wanting to refresh. If teams are willing to take more off you, you may give them more

Here are a few examples

Team A                                                  Team B

Star Aging Quarterback                     First-round draft pick
Second-round draft pick                                                                                                                        Young wide receiver

Team A                                                   Team B

Star Defenceman                                Three Prospects
Huge Contract

It’s all about balance and making sure both teams get value

Okay… so you can mix things up a little bit. Why would you ever just trade draft picks?

Well, if you have the 6th pick overall, but you really want the player going second you could trade a package of picks to get higher in the draft and make sure you get the player that you really want.

What about rights?

Again, if it’s someone that you really want to sign, you might be willing to give up a little to get that first chance to get negotiate with them.

I think I’m starting to get it. Let’s talk about real life that will help. So what are the biggest trades to ever happen?

The first one I think of the “The Trade” when Edmonton Trade Wayne Gretzky to LA for money and a few bit part players. The Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees starting the Curse of the Bambino and of course, the Lakers trading Shaq to the Miami Heat.

Why couldn’t someone like Gretzky have said no if he didn’t want to go?

Well, players really have no say in anything to do with the trade, if the team accepts it then they move on. In the modern day, players tend to have No Trade Clauses, meaning they can’t be moved and if they waive it they get to give a list of teams that they are allowed to be traded too.

What about when there isn’t a clause? Or a player won’t waive it.

Famously Toronto Maple Leafs legend Mats Sundin wouldn’t waive his no-trade Clause when the Leafs were bad. In theory, they could have traded him in and improved. Sticking with Toronto, this summer Kawhi Leonard was traded there in the summer and safe to say he wasn’t happy about it.

Okay… I guess you wouldn’t want to leave a bad team for a worse one. Surely, there are times that this doesn’t work out and teams get robbed?

Of course! There are some really famous examples of this too. Obviously, the Babe Ruth trade comes to mind he went onto be one of the greatest players of all time. Randy Moss went to Oakland and then to the Patriots, playing with Tom Brady Moss was a superstar and Oakland got a 4th round pick that never went on to play in the league.

Surely that is the risk of trading draft picks? You never know what they will be. 

You know, I’m starting to think you’re learning a thing or two. It’s hard to predict what will come of it the player might be a bust. Or the alternative is what happened to Brian Burke when he was GM of Toronto. I swear we aren’t picking on them. They traded for Phil Kessel, giving up their first round pick assuming they would be a playoff team with Phil. They weren’t Boston ended up with the second pick in the draft getting Taylor Seguin.

Why wouldn’t you put something in to protect that from happening?

Now you tend to get “Conditional draft picks” added to trades so for example. It’s a 1st round pick if we get to the playoffs, if we don’t it’s a second. Sometimes it’s like if the player resigns here you will have a 2nd round pick rather than a third.

That seems simple…

Well yes, in principle it is pretty simple but there are much more convoluted ones. You can put lottery protection, so you get a first round pick unless we are in the draft lottery. You can have a first round pick this year, or a second round pick next year. Really the possibilities are endless. Sometimes to sweeten the deal NHL teams can retain salary.

Come again?

Basically, they will pay some of the player’s salary for the length of the contract even though they no longer play for them.

Surely that will help big-name trades?

You would think so, but the Blockbuster is sadly going the way of the video store and seems to be on the out. GM’s are much more cautious than before as their jobs could be on the line.

I think I’m getting this… hit me with the most convoluted trade with lots going on and I will see if I can get it.

That is a difficult one because we only really know what information is released by the GMS but let’s try this on for size. So the Pittsburgh Penguins wanted Derek Brassard from the Ottawa Senators, but they couldn’t afford to pay his wage under the salary cap. So… The Penguins sent a first round pick in 2018, a 2019 third round pick Ian Cole and goaltender prospect to Ottawa and got back Vincent Dunn and a third-round pick. Meanwhile, Vegas Golden Knights sent a couple of picks to Ottawa for Brassard. The Penguins then traded Ryan Reeves to Vegas for Derek Brassard and Vegas retained 44% of his salary.

That’s a lot to take in… but I think I have it.

Hit me.

So trades are like transfers, but rather than money teams exchange players, draft picks or contracts. Sometimes it goes badly, sometimes it goes well but you never really know what you will get. Star players can put a clause in their contracts so they don’t have to move teams.

I think you do have it!

Come back next week for another beginner guide. Anything you want us to cover? Comment, Email or Tweet us @unlikelydanblog


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