With MLB's July 31 trade deadline just around the corner, the rumor mill is in high gear. But what happens when the mill stops making gossip and starts producing good old-fashioned deals? What happens when the deadline dust settles and players actually have to, ya know, change teams?
From beer coolers to beard shaving, from replacement woobies to replacement uniforms, from squatting to sewing, here's what goes down once a rumor becomes real.
"I didn't want to shave," says Andrew Cashner. A couple of weeks before going from the Baltimore Orioles to the Boston Red Sox in the first major deal of this deadline season, the veteran hurler is remembering what it was like to be traded. The year was 2016, and Cashner went from the San Diego Padres to the Miami Marlins, where beards were forbidden. A native of Texas who hadn't shaved in five years, he thought long and hard about hanging it up instead of shearing it off.
"I contemplated going home. Like, not showing up. In this game, you don't really have a lot of decisions. So if it's something you don't really want to do, you don't have to do it." But the financial risk was too great. "I hadn't really made enough money at the time," says Cashner, who hit free agency for the first time following that season and signed a one-year, $10 million pact with the Texas Rangers, then inked a two-year, $16 million deal with Baltimore after that. So he caved.
"Never will I do it again. Mark my words. I'll go home."Red Sox pitcher Andrew Cashner on having to shave his beard to comply with team policy after being traded to the Marlins in 2016
Now that his pockets are deeper, the big righty insists he'd have no problem walking away if he found himself in a must-shave situation again (i.e. with the New York Yankees).
"Never will I do it again. Mark my words. I'll go home." Fortunately for Cashner, he landed in beard-friendly Beantown.
When Ian Kinsler was traded to Boston last July 30, it was pretty last-minute, and by that time, he didn't think anything was going to happen. He had just spent an off day in Tampa, ahead of a series against the Rays.
Minutes after he got to the Vinoy in St. Petersburg, where his Los Angeles Angels were staying, Kinsler heard a knock on the door. He opened it to find his agent standing there with a Red Sox-branded cooler filled with beer.
Jay Franklin, who heads up BBI Sports Group and who represents Kinsler, just so happened to be visiting Tampa and had gone fishing with his client earlier that day. When Franklin got the call from Angels GM Billy Eppler that Kinsler was going to Boston, he managed to wrangle the cooler and filled it to the top with Coors Light. Then, chilled beverages in tow, he headed over for a toast. "It was definitely a memorable experience," Franklin says.
Though Kinsler had heard about the deal before opening the door, his agent's visit only heightened his enthusiasm. His reaction to learning he was headed from the fourth-place Halos to the first-place Sox? "Super excited," Kinsler says. "I'm going to a playoff team that has a really good chance to win the World Series. I'm thinking about the guys on the team, where they're at, how many games they're up in the standings, who they have left to play."
"It was crazy," the 37-year-old husband and father of two says. "A lot of fun on my part. Honestly, it's a lot more difficult on the family."
It was supposed to be a mini-vacation.
Last summer, Brad Hand and his wife, Morgan, were having breakfast on a Wednesday morning with their two small children. The night before, Hand had pitched in the All-Star Game at Nationals Park, and now the family was holed up at a quiet resort on the outskirts of D.C., looking forward to a couple days of R&R.
Until Hand's phone started buzzing.
On the other end was Padres GM A.J. Preller, calling to inform the reliever he'd been traded to the Cleveland Indians.
Says Morgan: "That's when crunch time started."
Morgan's first call was to her mother-in-law in Minnesota. If she was going to stand any chance of packing up their lives in no time flat, she needed someone to watch the kids. She flew down to their home in West Palm Beach on Friday, dropped off her daughter Lila (then 2 years old) and son Cuyler (5 months) with their grandmother, who'd flown down to help, then hightailed it to San Diego, where she proceeded to pack up their three-bedroom rental in Coronado over the space of one short weekend. Then she flew back to Florida, grabbed the kids, and headed for Ohio.
"Now we have four Mr. Twos. Just in case." Brad Hand's wife, Morgan, on the perils of shipping their daughter Lila's beloved plush bunny
"I didn't think he was going to get traded," says Morgan, whose husband also had been the subject of deadline rumors in 2017 but ended up staying with the Padres, who signed him to a three-year contract in January 2018. "I kind of got too settled in San Diego and bought too many things."
Many of those things -- the big things, especially -- never made it to Cleveland. The Pack 'n Play. The Jumperoo. The TV.
"I didn't have time to deal with everything," says Morgan. Instead, she secured a pod and shipped the large stuff to Florida. The rest of their belongings either went in suitcases on the plane, or in their two cars, which she had shipped to Ohio. Only one problem: The vehicles took several days longer than expected to arrive. "Everything was in there," Morgan says. "That was rough."
It was roughest on Lila, who was missing her favorite pajamas. Making matters worse, the toddler's suitcase got lost on the flight from West Palm Beach to Cleveland. Inside it was a little bunny that's known in the Hand household as Mr. Two. Soft and brown with little flowers on the ears, it was everything to Lila.
Although the lovey eventually arrived, Morgan -- whose hubby has once again been prominently featured in trade buzz this season -- made sure it would never happen again: Their first night in Cleveland, when she realized the suitcase was lost, she went on Amazon and splurged on bunny inventory.
"Now we have four Mr. Twos," she says. "Just in case."
The travel director
The phone call after The Phone Call usually comes from the travel director.
"Once the trade is going to go through, we take control from a logistical standpoint," Chris Westmoreland says. Known to Tampa Bay Rays players and staffers as "Westy," he has been with the franchise since its inception in 1998. He spent a decade running the clubhouse, then in 2014 transitioned to his current gig. In that role, he's in charge of getting Tampa Bay's deadline acquisitions on a plane and with the team as quickly as possible.
Once they arrive, he's also responsible for getting a roof over their heads and cash in their pockets. Known as "seven and seven" to big leaguers, the current collective bargaining agreement stipulates that any new player who joins the active roster is entitled to seven days of meal money and seven days in a hotel. At a rate of $31.50 per day, the meal money comes out to about $220, which Westmoreland typically distributes to players in cash upon arrival. For lodging, the Rays stash guys at the upscale Vinoy if it's available. If not, they divert them to the Hilton Bayfront.
During that first week, Westmoreland makes sure to put players in touch with realtors so that by the time their seven and seven runs out, they've got a place to crash. Given the short time window, and the fact that most deadline deals involve players whose contracts aren't far from expiring, purchasing a home right off the bat is a rarity. While some choose to stay in the hotel on their own dime or go the traditional rental route, Airbnb is becoming an increasingly popular option.
Regardless of which path a player chooses, the travel director's job is to make it a smooth one.
"We want to make that transition as seamless as possible," says Westmoreland, who's on high alert with the contending Rays expected to be active in this year's deadline doings. "We want them to forget about the transition they're going through and just be comfortable."
The real estate agent
In a perfect world, two players going opposite directions in a deadline deal can simply swap places -- like Brian Dozier did last July when he went from the Minnesota Twins to the Los Angeles Dodgers and rented out the Glendale house of pal Logan Forsythe, who went from L.A. to Minnesota in the same trade. But thanks to divergent tax brackets and non-matching family components, situations like that are a rarity. That's where someone like Patti Seghi comes in.
Three decades ago, Seghi was in her 30s and raising a family in Cleveland. Whenever a new addition would join the Indians, the young mother of two -- whose father-in-law, Phil Seghi, was the team's GM at the time, and whose husband, Mike Seghi, was and still is the club's travel director -- ended up chaperoning the player's wife around town, showing the newcomer the different neighborhoods and making recommendations on where the family should live.
"It helps the ballclub to have somebody on call that knows what they're doing. I know what they're looking for, I know what's available. Short-term rentals aren't easy to come by, especially in the luxury market. But that's what I specialize in." Cleveland real estate agent Patti Seghi
One day in November 1989, Seghi found herself cornered by a duo consisting of her mother-in-law and Nancy Score (wife of Indians legend Herb Score). Their not-so-subtle suggestion/ultimatum: You should be a real estate agent. Thirty years later, Seghi is a seasoned realtor who, along with her hubby, essentially offers one-stop shopping to the Tribe's new acquisitions. It's a relationship that's mutually beneficial.
"It helps the ballclub to have somebody on call that knows what they're doing," says Seghi, who last summer helped the Hand family in landing a three-month rental on a four-bedroom Colonial in Westlake. "I know what they're looking for, I know what's available. Short-term rentals aren't easy to come by, especially in the luxury market. But that's what I specialize in."
These days, she gets an assist from folks who are in situations similar to the one she was in back in the late 1980s. When Cleveland traded for Hand last July, Amanda Kluber (Corey's wife) and Jenna Gomes (Yan's better half) reached out to Morgan to offer advice on where the Hands should settle.
Looking back, Seghi readily admits that she was a less-than-willing participant in her mother-in-law's vocation initiative. That she would have preferred to maintain her amateur status.
"I didn't want to go work," she says, "but that's what happened. I got backed into it." Not that she minds one bit now. "I'm very happy I did. Now that my children are grown and have their own lives, I have something to do."
Look good, play good.
If you subscribe to the old baseball adage, then there's nothing more crucial to a deadline deal than getting the new guy properly outfitted in his new threads. Although Fanatics, the apparel company that bought MLB uni-maker Majestic a couple of years ago, is technically responsible for cranking out new uniforms once a player gets traded, it takes time for fresh jerseys to get shipped from the company's production facility in Easton, Pennsylvania.
Enter the seamstress.
"We just Googled: 'Learn how to sew D.C.'" Nationals visitors clubhouse assistant Greg Melnick on how he and his brother, Andrew, became the team's seamsters
The Washington Nationals used to be like most teams in that they used a local contractor to come in and sew numbers and letters on a temporary jersey whenever a trade went down (once the official shirt arrives, the temp becomes a backup). But a couple of years ago, when Washington was looking for a new seamstress, the Melnick brothers took matters into their own hands.
"We just Googled: 'Learn how to sew D.C.,'" says Greg Melnick, who along with bro Andrew helps keep the Nationals Park clubhouses running smoothly (Greg is the visitors assistant; Andrew handles the home side). After a quick one-hour class in the capital's Adams Morgan neighborhood, the siblings were off and running.
Aided by a Brother 6000 sewing machine they ordered online and that lives in the equipment room at Nationals Park, the bearded and brawny 30-somethings are responsible for crafting new jerseys any time a player joins the home or visiting team while in D.C. If Washington finalizes a deal while on the road (like in 2017 when the Sean Doolittle trade went down while the team was in Anaheim), the host club handles production. That means that whenever a team travels, whether it's deadline time or not, they have to schlep a giant trunk filled with blank jerseys of all sizes (typically low 40s to mid 50s), not to mention all the letters, numbers, punctuation marks and accents. For the Melnicks, it's a labor of love.
"I really enjoy it," says Andrew, who estimates that he has sewn about 100 jerseys (including call-ups and special occasion one-offs) during his tenure as Washington's co-seamster. Thanks to all the reps, his production time has dropped from three hours on his first endeavor (Matt Wieters, 2017) to about an hour these days. His proudest accomplishment? The one-off he recently made for Patrick Corbin, who wore No. 45 to honor late friend Tyler Skaggs. "That was pretty special."
Corbin and the Nationals won that game, just like they've been winning most of their games lately. As a result, they've climbed right into the thick of playoff contention, meaning there's a good chance GM Mike Rizzo strikes a deal or two before the end of July.
In other words, the Melnicks might be churning out some new gear real soon.