The Pros and Cons of Trading Draft Picks

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Thumbnail image for stephen strasburg jersey.jpgDay two of MLB.com’s “Fixing the Draft” series deals with something for which just about everybody has advocated in some fashion in recent years: trading draft picks.

While the article is set up as a pro-con piece, the pros get about 90% of the space, with the only real cons cited being that (a) a team may just decide to punt the draft over time out of cheapness, thus depriving it of the one tool it has at its disposal to replenish its talent base; and (b) the rich teams will consistently trade for the top picks, allowing them to monopolize the amateur draft.

But these aren’t real dangers. For starters, as Keith Law pointed out in his comprehensive analysis of trading picks last summer (sorry, Insider only), teams are contractually obligated to field short-season clubs and they need bodies to fill roster spots in the low minors, so it’s not like anyone is going to punt their whole draft. As for trading away early round picks: teams can already do that via free-agent signings and do so all the time. The smart teams will keep early picks when it makes sense and trade them when they’re being overwhelmed with good offers from other teams. It’s a self-policing process for all but the truly moronic teams out there, and they were beyond help anyway.

And no, those overwhelming offers from the Yankees of the world won’t begin to dominate the draft. Why? There always has been and always will be a huge number of draft busts. That’s just how baseball works: the talent is so far from the majors when it’s selected, the odds of even the highest picks turning into major league studs is pretty damn low.

If the Yankees trade stuff to pick high in the draft enough times, they’re going to
experience diminishing returns, taking two or three guys like Matt Bush for every Stephen Strasburg (and Strasburg could be a bust too — we don’t know yet).  When this happens, eventually the Yankees are going to stop
trading so much and so often for these picks. Indeed, because the Yankees are smart, they’ll realize this from the beginning and won’t have to learn the hard way.

Ultimately I can see very little downside to the trading of picks. It gives teams flexibility. It would stir up more excitement in the draft itself. Moreover, it would likely have some depressive effects on draft bonuses due to the fact that top players may not demand huge bonuses to scare away the undesirable franchises from selecting them.

Upshot: I can see the players agreeing to this change in the 2011 CBA, and I think it will happen.

Marlins option Tom Koehler to Triple-A, recall Hunter Cervenka

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Long-time rotation mainstay Tom Koehler was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans on Monday and reliever Hunter Cervenka was recalled, the Marlins announced.

Koehler, 31, made 131 starts out of the Marlins’ rotation over the last five years, but his 12 this season have not been good, so the club hopes he can figure things out with a stint in the minors. He’s carrying a 7.92 ERA with a 44/29 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. Koehler battled bursitis in his right shoulder in May and June, which may partially explain his struggles.

Cervenka, 27, posted a 4.50 ERA with a 34/21 K/BB ratio in 34 innings of relief with New Orleans. He hasn’t pitched in the majors yet this season, but compiled a 3.53 ERA over 43 1/3 innings in the bigs last year in the Marlins’ bullpen.

Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are interested in Pat Neshek

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At the trade deadline, relief pitching is the name of the game and one of the names clearly available is Pat Neshek. Today Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are among the clubs who are closely scouting the Phillies reliever. Last week Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers and Rays were involved as well.

Neshek is an impending free agent, so he may come cheaper than Justin Wilson or some of the other bullpen arms available right now. The All-Star is 36 and is posting a fantastic season, featuring a 1.12 ERA and 45/5 K/BB ratio over 40.1 innings this season.