Rob Neyer is critical of the Expos continued attempt to contend this season.
I agree with him in principle, but cannot blame the 'Spos for what they are trying to do. What incentive do they have to hold on to their prospects? Their future is so uncertain that it would be foolish to hold onto players who cannot help them this season.
Neyer points out that they are "long shots for even the playoffs." True. Their situation is not much better than the Cleveland Indians, a team headed in a complete different direction that traded their #1 pitcher to Montreal before the All-Star game. Montreal is 10.5 games out of first and is 6th in the NL, 6 games back in the wildcard standings. For comparison sake, Baltimore is in 6th in the AL, 13 behind the Yankees, and 11.5 behind the wildcard leader. Now, the Expos are in a better position than Baltimore. But does anyone think of Baltimore as even having the slightest chance of making the playoffs? (That was rhetorical.)
OK, so they're probably not going to make the playoffs. If you're Omar Minaya, the Expos GM, what are you going to do in his position, A) stand pat, B) trade for the future, or C) trade for the now? Well, it all depends on what he's trying to achieve.
Let's assume that the Expos have three possible fates at the end of the season: 1) Being contracted, 2) being sold, or 3) status quo.
If the Expos are being contracted, prospects won't matter (so that eliminates B)--the Players' Union would try to negotiate re. the players on the 40-man roster but has no say in what happens to the rest of the players in the system. The owners would probably hold a draft for (at least) those players. If you're a GM who covets someone in their system, why not go after them now, and shed salary this season in the process? Option A is a possibility but one would feel compelled to start trading because it could help you make the playoffs, that's part of what GMs do, and the publicity can't hurt your future employment prospects.
Say the Expos are sold. Again trading for the present is the only way to go. I would think that having name players is preferable to having a strong development system when you try to sell a ballclub. Cliff Floyd and Bartolo Colon will impress suitors more easily than a bunch of guys they never heard of (they don't even have baseball cards). Besides, all of the free publicity can't possibly hurt. The new owners will have to worry about the dearth of minor-league talent. But heck, if you're Omar Minaya, you probably won't be around to care.
If there is no change in the Expos status, then I agree this will come to haunt them possibly even next season. But since this is considered a remote possibility and it's only one of three possible outcomes, with the other two favoring trading for now, what would you do?
Well, maybe you don't think Omar Minaya is in complete control of the situation. Maybe Bud Selig and his cadre of owners who all own a stake in the club are actually pulling the strings. If so, the outcome is the same. No team should feel that intimidated by the Expos retooling since they are still so far back. The teams that trade with them, achieve their goals. If the Expos ae folded (which I doubt), the owners feel that they can get the players that they want via a draft. If the team is sold, Minaya has made it more desirable, and therefore, more remunerative for its current owners.
So if I were the Expos, I would eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die (maybe).