Today is June 19, just 42 days from the 2015 MLB trade deadline. Heading into today, the Milwaukee Brewers are sitting at a 24-44 record and are on a six-game losing streak. The Brewers are one game better than the Philadelphia Phillies, but are zero games better than any other team.
The Brewers will not make the playoffs in 2015. The way they are trending, it seems unlikely they will even sniff the playoffs in the next couple of years as well. So 42 days from the trade deadline, it's expected that the Brewers are probably going to make at least a move or two.
Over the next 5-6 weeks (and over the previous few), there are plenty of trade rumors bandied about. Included among those will be rumors that certain players are 'untouchable' and that a team is unwilling to part with them at all. We've seen that with the Brewers already: Guys like Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez, Jimmy Nelson and Wily Peralta have been mentioned at various times as 'untouchable'.
None of those players is actually untouchable.
An 'untouchable' player doesn't exist in the league. This is an important reminder: Don't take things like that literally. What untouchable means, really, is that a team will require a lot in return for a certain player. Every single player, on every single player can be had for a reasonable price.
Who would the most 'untouchable' players be in MLB, do you think? My guess for a handful of them: Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, Sonny Gray, Gerrit Cole. More, I'm sure, but those are the first few that come to mind. But every one of those players could be had for the right price.
The right price, especially for those players, is exorbitantly high, however, to the point where it's not even worth discussing. A team trading for any of those players would cripple themselves to the point where acquiring the player is useless because the acquiring team ain't gonna win anytime soon.
At the Brewers level, the most untouchable guy they have is probably Jonathan Lucroy. The 2014 All Star plays a premium position, is arguably the best in the league at the position, and is signed for just $9.25 million through 2017, assuming his option would be picked up (it would).
The Brewers maybe say Lucroy is untouchable, but that's only because they don't need to trade him. He still has two years of team control; his value is going to retain at least into the off-season. If anything, he may get more valuable if he shows 2014 wasn't a fluke and he has a fantastic second half. That makes him even more of a sure thing, potentially making him more valuable to a team that needs a catcher. The Brewers also have a lot of financial flexibility in coming years and could extend Lucroy if they decide it's worth it, something they can hold over the heads of an interested party.
So what untouchable means for Lucroy is: "We don't have a strong desire to trade him at the moment". The second a team comes in offering a plethora of top prospects for Lucroy, that sentiment turns to "It's tough to see Luc go, but we're thinking what's best for the ballclub with this deal."
Also important to keep in mind is that teams will leverage trade value through the media with comments like this. If the Brewers came out and said that Lucroy was available for trade, maybe teams see they could potentially get away with offering less. I think it can be overstated how much of an impact these kinds of things have, but saying the right thing is important. It's kind of like Twitter. You can be 'good' at it and say the right things and nobody cares. The second you say something stupid, people smell blood and attack. A GM saying a player is untouchable means nothing, really. A GM saying he is desperate to trade a player by the deadline means something.
Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez, Jimmy Nelson, Wily Peralta. None of them are untouchable. Every single one can and might be traded in the coming weeks. But only if another team is willing to give up a good enough package to convince the Brewers to deal them. All four players are signed past 2015, the Brewers have some position of power here.
Milwaukee will say a player is untouchable. Don't take that at face value. It just means they're looking for some good stuff in return.
It's a simple thing, but it's good to remember as the trade deadline nears.