Saturday, July 25, 2009

Shuffling around draft picks

MLB Trade Rumors has made an arrangement with a Detroit Tigers blogger to publish a reverse-engineered approximation of the Elias Sports Bureau rankings that determine free-agent compensation.

If a player is classified as a Type A free agent, the team that loses him receives his new team's first-round draft pick as well as a supplemental pick. If a player is classified as a Type B free agent, the team that loses him receives a supplemental pick but the team that signs him does not lose a pick.

(The top 20 percent of players at each position are classified as Type A. The next 20 percent of players at each position are classified as Type B. The remaining 60 percent get a certificate of participation and a hearty pat on the back.)

First of all, let's see how the Red Sox position players stack up:

Jason Varitek: B
Kevin Youkilis: A
Adam LaRoche: None
Dustin Pedroia: A
Jed Lowrie: None
Nick Green: None
Mike Lowell: B
Jason Bay: A
Jacoby Ellsbury: None
J.D. Drew: B
Rocco Baldelli: None
David Ortiz: B

But here's the weird thing about the system: The Red Sox actually could improve their draft spot in the first round through their spending the free-agent market. Consider this scenario:

* The Red Sox offer arbitration to Jason Bay. He opts to test the market and ends up signing with his hometown Seattle Mariners.
* The Red Sox, having failed to land Bay, open the vault and sign Matt Holliday. (This doesn't seem likely, but the fact that Bay and Holliday ought to land similar contracts makes the ridiculousness of this all the more apparent.)

Based on the current standings, the Red Sox would draft 27th in the first round next season. But they would lose that pick to the Los Angeles Angels for the privilege of signing Holliday.

Because they'd offered arbitration to Bay, though, the Red Sox would receive the Mariners' first-round pick -- No. 22 overall, if the standings hold -- as well as a supplemental choice between the first and second rounds.

And here's where it gets even more wacky: Because the Red Sox already have lost their first-round pick, they can't lose it again. Toronto infielder Marco Scutaro -- you know by now how this blog feels about Marco Scutaro -- is classified as a Type A free agent. But if the Red Sox signed Holliday or Bobby Abreu or Jermaine Dye, they already would have lost their first-round pick. If they signed Scutaro, they'd have to forfeit only their second-round pick to the Blue Jays.

(The Blue Jays also would receive a supplemental pick, but that doesn't affect the Red Sox in any measureable way.)

The reason Holliday is worth a No. 1 and Scutaro a No. 2, by the way, is based on the points Elias assigns each player. According to the approximation we're using, Scutaro is worth 83 points; each of the three outfielders mentioned above is worth at least 85 points. If a team signs two (or more) Type A free agents, the first-round pick goes to the team that lost the player with the highest point value. That's how the Brewers last year only got a second-round pick for CC Sabathia and how the Blue Jays only got a third-round pick for A.J. Burnett.

The Red Sox, for their trouble, would lose Bay and the No. 27 overall pick as well as a pick somewhere around No. 75, depending on how many supplemental picks are awarded. But they would pick up Holliday, Scutaro and the No. 22 pick as well as a supplemental pick somewhere between No. 30 and No. 50.

That's actually a pretty sweet deal, isn't it?

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