A shift in the spring trade market

Updated: March 27, 2012, 10:23 AM ET
By Buster Olney

There is always some degree of trade conversation occurring at any time of year. Put two scouts in the same room and they'll swap information about their respective teams, like who might be available and what their team could be looking for in return.

But many club officials report that they've heard less trade talk this spring than they can ever remember. Oh, sure, it seems like a bunch of teams are looking for catching, like the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Philadelphia Phillies, and there are discussions about fringy players who can't be sent back to the minors without being passed through waivers. A big trade can always come together quickly.

However, there is relatively little aggressiveness in the market, officials say, and there are some theories as to why this is the case.

As club officials have increasingly focused on player value in the last decade -- you could call these executives "The Spawn of Moneyball" -- the perceived difference between young players and journeyman (and more expensive) veterans has shrunk.

Last year, the Detroit Tigers paid $3 million to Brad Penny to be their No. 5 starter, and in 31 starts, Penny pitched 181.2 innings, posted a 5.30 ERA and walked 62 and struck out 74. Opposing hitters batted .306 against him, with an OPS of .844, the second-worst in the majors among qualified starters.