Another Thought on the Trade Deadline
One of the items that I have not seen discussed regarding trade value calculus that I think is having major impact is compensation draft picks that come with impending free agents, particularly those of the Type A variety. This may seem like an obvious value component to readers of this site but remember, it was just four years ago that Brian Sabean intentionally signed Michael Tucker in the free agent market one day before the arbitration deadline.
It was well known at the time that the Kansas City Royals would not be offering Tucker arbitration so if Sabean had waited another two days, he could have had Tucker without surrendering his first round draft pick. Sabean's motives for such a move are more easily understood after reading the following excerpt from a 2004 San Francisco Chronicle article:
"Quite frankly, we're very reluctant to overspend in the draft. We're cautious in that regard because it's so fallible. Our focus is spending as much as we can and being as wise as we can at the major-league level and using the minor leagues as a supplement and not necessarily leaning on it totally. Teams that are allowed to have a three-to- five-year plan and allowed to lose or explain to their fans they're in a rebuilding mode have a greater latitude than we do. We always have to be in a reloading mode"
In the same piece he also says:
"Their [Baseball America's] credibility isn't worth a damn to me," he said. "I don't know what they use for a formula to decide what's a good organization and what isn't. Detroit was their No. 1 organization for three straight years, and obviously Detroit was getting an opportunity to draft at an excellent spot. However, none of those people have helped them win any games. So how do you feel about that organization being No. 1 now?"
This was in August of 2004. Detroit would win 95 games in 2006, making it to their first World Series in 22 years.
I highlight this in part because I like to have fun with Brian Sabean. Sorry, I just do. But in Sabean's defense not as much emphasis was being placed on the draft and player development three, four, five seasons ago. He took it to an absurd extreme but the point still stands. Now, however, teams seem to recognize the value of a high draft pick.
Last season the Red Sox felt like they insulated some of their risk in acquiring Eric Gagne by recognizing that a compensatory draft pick would come their way if Gagne walked in free agency. Sure enough, they had the 45th pick in June's draft as the result of an otherwise disastrous transaction.
Now perhaps I am selling the Texas Rangers short but I am hearing more about draft picks this year than in years past. Flags do fly forever but a short-term rental is a risky proposition given that just about any Major Leaguer is capable of thriving or failing miserably for a 60-game stretch. Draft picks had served to mitigate some of that risk, but this season it seems acquiring teams can no longer merely take heart in the draft pick(s) they receive along with the two month rental, but they now must pay up. The result has been that a sellers market has become an even juicier one.
Seriously, what is Adam Dunn and two first round picks worth to a team with a legitimate World Series chance? How about Mark Teixeira? And how do compensation picks alter the landscape for Manny Ramirez? Everyone talks about how hard it is to move Manny but what if the Sox pay the freight and the other team gets two draft picks after they decline his option and he turns around and declines arbitration?
Changes the game some, doesn't it?