You know what baseball could use? An expansion draft.
The NBA, the NFL and the NHL all have held expansion drafts since the last time Major League Baseball had to fill out the rosters of two new teams. It was 12 years ago that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks joined the American and National Leagues, respectively, and selected from a list of the rejects from the other 28 teams in the league.
Let's have some fun. Let's imagine two new teams -- say, the Charlotte Bailout Recipients and the San Antonio Presidios -- joined the major leagues in time for the 2010 season. Let's imagine the Red Sox had to figure out who the Red Sox would protect from poaching.
There rules in 1997 were as follows:
* Each new team selected 14 players in Round 1, 14 players in Round 2 and 7 players in Round 3, thus accumulating 35 plays.
(With Tampa Bay and Arizona now on the other side, we'll boost those numbers from 14 to 15 in each of the first two rounds.)
* Each existing team could protect 15 players, period, from their entire organization -- from the major leagues all the way down to Single-A.
* Each team could only lose one player per round.
* Each team could add three players to its protected list per round.
* Players chosen in the two previous amateur drafts were automatically protected.
The final rule means the Red Sox wouldn't have to worry about protecting Casey Kelly, Ryan Westmoreland or any of their newest draft picks. They would, however, have to do some work to figure out who they would select -- keeping in mind that the two new teams would tend to select players closer to the major leagues so as to fill out a legitimate roster in their first seasons.
That would take some effort for Theo Epstein and a staff that has accumulated an impressive stable of talent over the last few years.
In 1992, the Red Sox lost Jody Reed and Eric Wedge.
In 1997, the Red Sox lost Jeff Suppan and Jim Mecir.
Here's how it might look in 2009 -- keeping in mind that players like Jason Bay and Billy Wagner, as impending free agents, would not be eligible to be protected:
The no-brainers (10)
Daniel Bard, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Victor Martinez, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Junichi Tazawa, Kevin Youkilis.
The prospects (3)
Lars Anderson, Ryan Kalish, Josh Reddick
The bubble (2)
J.D. Drew, Daisuke Matsuzaka
Matsuzaka, thanks in part to the team's huge initial investment in his services, gets the last spot over relievers Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez. Veterans like Mike Lowell, David Ortiz and Jason Varitek are unlikely to be selected -- and more easily replaced if they are.
The guess here is that either Charlotte or San Antonio would select first baseman Casey Kotchman.
The Red Sox then could add to their list.
The next group (3)
Delcarmen, Michael Bowden, Jed Lowrie
It would be an interesting call for the Red Sox if they had to choose between their top three middle relievers this season. Both Delcarmen and Ramirez have an edge on Okajima because they're younger, but Delcarmen wins out by a nose because the Red Sox have more familiarity with his stuff and because he remains a potential closer -- and thus more appealing trade bait -- in the eyes of some teams.
The guess here is that either Charlotte or San Antonio would select Ramirez.
The next group (3)
Okajima, Anthony Rizzo, Luis Exposito
The guess here is that either Charlotte or San Antonio would select backup catcher George Kottaras.
What's interesting is that the Red Sox's dearth of talent in the upper levels of the minor leagues would protect them from being hit too hard. Even if Kelly were eligible, for example, it would take a huge leap of faith for an expansion team to draft a pitcher who's three or four years away from the major leagues.
With Triple-A Pawtucket having had such a terrible year, the Red Sox wouldn't be hit quite as hard as a team like Tampa Bay, a team with quite a bit of talent in the major leagues and at the high levels of the minor leagues.