Change-UpJuly 29, 2008
Another Thought on the Trade Deadline
By Patrick Sullivan

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?


What in the heck is wrong with the Red Sox? They're killing me here.

Apparently, 2 months of Texiera + draft picks was worth Casey Kotchman and a minor league relief pitcher. Can't say I disagree, given the Angels minor league system. With Kendry Morales in the wings and Mark Trumbo coming up fast if they can't sign Texiera, this move is unlikely to truly hurt the Angels long term and short term gives them the best chance they'll ever have of getting to the World Series.

I don't think the Angels made this trade with the idea that Kendry Morales and Mark Trumbo are waiting in the wings. Instead, I believe the trade is all about giving the club the best shot at winning this year with the hope that Teixeira will also sign a long-term deal after the season is over. The draft picks are just a nice consolation prize if Teixeira decides to sign elsewhere.

I don't think so either, but having the two of them as long term options if Texiera doesn't sign a deal with the Angels is still a very good backup plan, and one that makes this trade workable even if Texiera doesn't sign a deal.

And now the Dodgers have Manny being Manny in exchange for two players who may or may not be worth compensatory draft picks. LaRoche was a 39th round draft choice (who probably was worth more than that, but still) and Morris (IIRC) was a compensatory first round draft choice before he had Tommy John surgery. Neither player is very young. LaRoche has excellent plate discipline, but he still needs to either bat better or slug better (or ideally both) to be considered a productive third baseman, especially since hs seems to be a below average third baseman from the spreadsheet linked to the article above, and Morris is uncertain at best. Given that Manny is certain to get two comp draft choices if the Dodgers don't sign him, it appears they get two months of Manny (which so far looks very good) and then two draft choices likely to be worth more than the players they gave up, making it an excellent deal for the Dodgers.

Still, the Dodgers look to have a lot of holes next season. They either need to sign Casey Blake or count on Blake Dewitt hitting better (his fielding is excellent). They need Abreu or Young or maybe even Dewitt (if they resign Blake) to fill in the hole at second base, and they need to sign Furcal (if he proves he's healthy) or have Hu improve at shortstop. Their outfield is set whether or not they sign Manny, and catcher and first base should be solid for a few years, but three major infield holes plus pitching uncertainty given injuries and free agents does not make the 2007 Dodgers look like a dynasty no matter how far they get this season.