Maybe MLB should have a trade exemption

Last week, Garrett Richards blew out his knee and will miss the rest of the season. Richards was probably the Angels’ best starter, and because of the timing of the injury, they’re low on quality options to replace him. As Paul Swydan noted on Friday, there’s Bartolo Colon and Scott Feldman and, well, not a lot of else.  

This is the nature of players getting hurt late in the season; once past the July 31 trade deadline, talent is difficult to acquire.  I’ve argued for moving the trade deadline back, though that idea does not necessarily have wide appeal. So what about a more minor change that could keep teams from getting sunk due to a late-season injury: a trade exemption for teams that lose a player from their active roster and place him on the 60-day disabled list after August 1st?

We could even limit the exemption to the same position as the player lost, so that a team couldn’t disable a middle reliever in order to acquire an ace. For a team like the Angels, their situation has changed enough since July 31 to alter their calculations. Maybe now, without Richards, they’d make the Phillies a great offer for Cole Hamels, even taking the remainder of Ryan Howard’s albatross contract? Or maybe they regret not meeting the Padres’ asking price for Ian Kennedy?

The intent of having a trade deadline is to stop teams from loading up on mercenaries and forcing a team’s postseason roster to somewhat resemble its regular-season roster.  But should we really be interested in punishing teams for losing players to unpredictable injuries toward the end of the year, simply because they had the poor fortune of losing a key contributor in August instead of July? Shouldn’t we be interested in letting contending teams maximize their chances of winning? And don’t we want rebuilding teams to be able to extract absurdly high prices from desperate buyers, thus shortening their path to being competitive again? 

Giving a team like the Angels a trade exemption to try to get a starting pitcher to replace Garrett Richards would make the AL West even more exciting and, potentially, lead to an even better postseason experience for the viewers. Even if the Angels overcome this injury and make the division series, is anyone really excited to see Hector Santiago pitch a playoff game?