Philadelphia has Trademania. The 76ers turned the NBA on its heels with the acquisitions this season of Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris in trades. The Phillies reeled in All-Star catcher T.J. Realmuto in a trade with Miami. The orange-hot Flyers made a deal over the weekend. Sports optimism across the board for the Major 4 teams – Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and 76ers – is collectively as high as it has been for decades.
How much does a trade impact a team? And at what point is it fair to judge if a trade worked? As the Eagles learned in 2018 when they traded for wide receiver Golden Tate in the middle of the season, there are varying degrees of impact, and within that is a cautionary tale of judging the value of a trade before its time. That’s difficult to do for Sixers fans at the moment after convincing wins over Denver and the Los Angeles Lakers and seeing how Harris fits in so perfectly to their high-octane lineup, but it’s important to note.
When the Eagles traded a 2019 third-round draft pick to the Detroit Lions to acquire Tate, the expectation was that Tate would very quickly assimilate into the Eagles’ offense and make a positive impact as a great, run-after-the-catch receiver. He would be plugged into the slot or would play on the outside and give the Eagles’ inconsistent offense another weapon in the passing game. The Eagles, the thinking went, would find creative ways to involve Tate in the offense.
But for much of the rest of the regular season, Tate was an on-and-off contributor. In the remaining eight regular-season games with the Eagles, Tate caught 30 passes and scored two touchdowns. Those were hardly spectacular numbers. But the Eagles surged down the stretch, winning five of their final six games, and reached the postseason and Tate had another chance to prove himself.
He did just that in the Wild Card playoff win at Chicago. When the Eagles most needed Tate, he delivered with five receptions, including a 2-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter to provide the winning points as the Eagles advanced to the Divisional Playoff round game in New Orleans.
“Another midseason trade works out as Golden Tate’s game-winner saves Eagles,” read the headline on a Yahoo Sports story after the game. That was, in fact, a general sentiment in the post-victory euphoria.
The next week in the loss at New Orleans, Tate had two receptions for 19 yards and the offense faltered after a strong opening quarter. The Eagles fell to the Saints and the offseason began. With NFL free agency one month away, what are the Eagles going to do with Tate?
Will they sign him to a contract that could pay him upward of $8 million to $9 million per season? Will they let Tate walk and become an unrestricted free agent and hopes he signs for a big deal with another team and brings back a compensatory draft pick (perhaps a fourth-round pick) in 2020?
At the end of the day, was the Tate trade a good one for the Eagles? He helped them advance in the playoffs, that’s for sure. But in the long run, do we really know?
It’s the same for the Sixers and the Phillies and the Flyers. Everything looks great right now and hopefully it stays that way. History says we won’t really be able to fairly judge the deals for at least a year or two to come. ••