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Not Signing Free Agent Because Of Draft Pick is Crazy

with 17 comments

Let me start with, I agree teams should build from within through a strong farm system.

But this idea that teams – like the Red Sox – can’t sign free agents that require draft pick compensation is nonsense.

I get as Rob Bradford writes, the pick could turn out to be a quality major leaguer.

But the baseball draft is a crapshoot.

For every Mike Trout (taken #25 in 2009 – what were the other teams thinking?), there is a Daniel Moskos (taken #4 in 2007 – one pick ahead of Matt Wieters, not the money-saving move Pittsburgh was hoping for).

So if the Red Sox think Adam LaRoche (not Mike Napoli and his rumored injury risk) is the answer for the team over the next three years at first base, sign him.

Would you do a trade to acquire a proven major leaguer like LaRoche for:

  • Kolbrin Vitek – drafted by Boston in the first round in 2010? Yes.
  • Bryce Brentz – drafted by Boston in first secondary round in 2010? Maybe yes, maybe no.
  • Anthony Ranaudo – drafted by Boston in first secondary round in 2010? Yes.
  • Reymond Fuentes – drafted by Boston in first round in 2009? Yes.
  • Bryan Price – drafted by Boston in first secondary round in 2008? Yes.

That said, it is not something a team should do every year because that move reduces their chances at striking gold high in the draft.

And the quality of the upcoming draft should factor into the consideration. With strong draft years something to weigh into holding onto picks.

Lastly, because the Red Sox were among the worst ten teams in baseball last season, free agent compensation would be a second –  not a first – pick (and Boston would lose draft money available for that pick too). A position the Red Sox may not find themselves in again (if GM Ben Cherington did a good job this off-season).

A pure philosophy of avoiding free agents because of compensation is wrong-headed.

Just like how trading prospects for established major leaguers typically works out for the team acquiring the proven big leaguer, go for the major league talent.

The Red Sox say they aim to contend in 2013 and to do so, the team needs a quality a first baseman.

If LaRoche is the best choice – sign him, don’t worry about the draft pick.

What do you think? Should the Red Sox hoard their picks – or use them to sign free agents?

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17 Responses

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  1. I think that somone like Hamilton(not for what he got) would have been worth pick compensation, but LaRoche doesn’t suit Fenway. He has played 15 games there and has a .148 BA, 2 HR, 5 RBI. So while I don’t disagree that pick compensation shouldn’t be a deal breaker for the right guu, I don’t see LaRoche as a guy that would thrive in Beantown and thus not worth the money allotment associated with the second round selection.


    December 29, 2012 at 10:06 am

    • Good point – that’s a recurring theme for GM Ben Cherington this off-season: Is he making the “right call” on which players to add to the team? As noted in a previous blog post, Boston’s free agent evaluation track record has not been stellar (Crawford, Lackey, Lugo, Renteria). We will find out what kind of GM Cherington is based on his decisions: Victorino over Cody Ross. Napoli (maybe) over LaRoche. Adding Drew, Dempster, David Ross, Jonny Gomes.

      Albie Jarvis

      December 29, 2012 at 10:30 am

      • Confirmation bias was rampant in this article. The author only lists the compensation guys who flopped (Fuentes, Vitek, Ranaudo, etc.). In the past several seasons, the Red Sox have been able to draft Barnes, Bradley Jr, Swihart, Henry Owens, Ellsbury, Buchholz and many other players who were more productive than the parting free agent. If you’re going to list past compensation picks, make an honest effort to show both sides of the spectrum.

        Also, in the new CBA, the rules have changed. The Red Sox can’t just throw money around, there is a real slotting system with a set bonus pool. If the Red Sox lose their second pick they lose the ~1.3m attached to the pick from their bonus pool. Losing that money would force them to go slot with their first pick at best, and they’d probably want to go underslot to compensate for the lack of high picks after. If a truly elite talent slipped to #7 (say Appel again, a distinct possibility), the Red Sox would be forced to pass as there’s no way they’d accept a slot deal. With the extra bonus pool, the Red Sox would have the flexibility to acquire an elite talent at #7, or simply add two quality prospects and go slot at both picks. I also don’t believe the Red Sox are saying they’ll never surrender draft picks for free agents, just not right now for non-elite free agents. Laroche isn’t an elite player, he’s post-prime right now despite coming off a career year, and paying for the decline years of a non-elite player while surrendering compensation isn’t wise. Red Sox fans never want a full rebuild, the team almost never bottoms out for top picks because of their crazy resources, and the “win now” mentality makes it difficult to ever obtain young cost controlled talent…if you waste picks on top of that, you set yourself up to be the New York Mets of the past decade.


        January 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      • First, thanks for your comment. I appreciate your views. In writing the post, I tried to take a fair look – by noting #1 or #2 picks in consecutive years (2008-2010) and not cherry pick years. And I left out the 2011/2012 drafts because it’s too early to evaluate them (examples: Owens and Swihart have not gone past Low A ball). I agree the Red Sox need to build from within – but still make the case a #2 draft pick is a crapshoot. Look at: 2005-Jonathan Egan (the second round pick in the Ellsbury/Buchholz draft); 2006-Justin Masterson; 2007-Hunter Morris; 2008-Derrik Gibson. I would trade LaRoche for any of those players, except, maybe, Masterson. My point: This year, free agents that require compensation should be on the table for consideration. Hopefully, it is a unique year – where the compensation is a second (not first) round pick. If the team can get 2 or 3 years of major league value for a potential prospect, it is a risk worth considering.

        Albie Jarvis

        January 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm

  2. I agree with sean. It all depends on who you are taking about…

    Harrison Potrzeba

    December 29, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    • Thanks for your comment – Agreed: Sox need to weigh free agent gained + plus number of years signed for – against loss of draft pick + where that pick sits (first or second round).

      Albie Jarvis

      December 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm

  3. for me it all depends on how sevre this hip is on napoli..even if they can put a clause in his contract where they dont have to pay him if he misses games cuz of his hip..we still dont have a 1B ..sooo i wouldnt mind getting LaRoche or maybe signing Bourne n trading Ellsburry for a 1B somehow or work something out..theres a lot of options

    mike cope

    January 4, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    • I agree – one of the things the Red Sox do consistently is look at all their options. If Napoli turns out to be an injury risk not worth accepting – signing a free agent (that requires compensation) should be on the table. Essentially, it’s the same as trading prospects like Sands or Pimentel for an established player. Especially this year, where the compensation is a #2 pick (and loss of money for signing that pick). Thanks for your comment.

      Albie Jarvis

      January 4, 2013 at 3:09 pm

  4. Not signing a free agent exclusively because he would require relenquishing a draft pick is stupid and shortsighted. I agree with that. However, I don’t think that’s what the Red Sox are doing here. Let’s remove picks from the equation — who would you rather have for the next three years: Napoli (pre-existing hip issue accounted for) or LaRoche? I would rather have Napoli. LaRoche just isn’t a guy I’m going to sacrifice a costly three-year deal and a pick for.

    I agree with what the commenter said above about the importance of the money that accompanies the pick.

    The final and maybe most important point is how you qualify a “second round pick.” From the PJ’s Tim Britton: “With the structure of free-agent compensation changed, the so-called sandwich round is now much smaller. Boston’s second-round pick will be No. 44; last year it was No. 87.” That’s a pretty stark difference.

    So I guess utlimately if your point is that teams should not determine who they pursue based solely on the draft pick situation, I agree. If you’re saying the Sox should sign LaRoche, I disagree.


    January 4, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    • Great point on the placement of where that second draft lands. I agree it matters. Thanks for your comments.

      Albie Jarvis

      January 4, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    • Normally, it would be a first rounder given up, but we actually have a protected first round pick, which is why if their is a year to not care about pick compensation it is this year.


      January 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      • Under the new CBA, there is never a year not to care about pick compensation, IMO.


        January 21, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      • Thanks for your comment – I agree: the Red Sox should “care” about pick compensation – but also not automatically rule it out as a tool to acquire a free agent who addresses a big league need for multiple years.

        Albie Jarvis

        January 21, 2013 at 3:22 pm

  5. I’m on board with your main point, but I don’t think it changes the situation with LaRoche. As others have noted, he’s not an ideal acquisition even without the compensation issue, especially if he requires a 3 year contract (keep in mind that first basemen can be acquired annually, so if you lock LaRoche in now you’re wed to him until the contract runs out). He also is coming off a strong year, which means he’s a “buy high” player.
    Compensation should be no more than a tipping point when “to sign or not to sign” is 50/50. It’s also worth pointing out that while plenty of higher round draft picks fall short, that doesn’t merit overlooking the value of the picks. Look at the recent history of MLB drafts (in the past 5-15 years)…the broad level of MLB success for rounds falls off a lot after the second round; while some picks fail in all rounds, you only get very scattered success after the first two rounds. A high-end second rounder is a tough commodity to part with just to fill a lineup hole, especially given the new collective bargaining agreement (that greatly reduced the number of “sandwich round” picks and therefore makes second rounders that much more valuable).


    January 4, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    • You raise good points – how about this: say the Napoli deal does not pan out. What’s your recommendation for the Red Sox at first base – and what will it cost (in compensation)? Thanks for your comments.

      Albie Jarvis

      January 4, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      • We should have already made a trade for Logan Morrison, young and under team control also plays left field. That is who we need, Aceves and Salty for Morrison.


        January 5, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      • Morrison could be a good bench add – the question: right now, he looks like Miami’s starting first baseman. They would need an answer there before dealing Morrison. Thanks for your comment.

        Albie Jarvis

        January 5, 2013 at 5:23 pm

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