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.

Reds’ manager Bryan Price extended through 2017

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 28: Manager Bryan Price #38 of the Cincinnati Reds looks on during the fifth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 28, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
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The Reds will roll with manager Bryan Price for at least one more season. Per MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, Price has been extended through the 2017 season with a club option for 2018. He won’t be the only familiar face leading the team, as the Reds have reportedly asked the entire coaching staff to return as well.

This is Price’s second consecutive season with 90+ losses since Cincinnati signed him to a three-year contract back in 2014. While he hasn’t been able to replicate the same kind of success that former skipper Dusty Baker found in 2012 and 2013, he’s been saddled with a team that’s still in the throes of rebuilding, not one that looks on the cusp of playoff contention. It is, after all, the same team that has not seen a healthy season from Homer Bailey since Price’s arrival, one that unloaded Jay Bruce for a pair of prospects earlier this year and one whose pitching staff set a single-season record for most home runs given up by a major league team.

Justifying Price’s extension requires a different kind of yardstick, one that measures player development and individual success over the cumulative win-loss record. Here, Price has overseen solid performances from contributors like Adam Duvall, who is batting .244/.297/.506 with 2.9 fWAR in his first full major-league season, as well as young arms like Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen, among others.

From comments made by Reds’ CFO Bob Castellini, Price’s success within a rough rebuilding process appears to have cemented his place within the club, at least for the time being.

I like the young, aggressive team Walt and Dick have put together with players from within our system and from recent trades. […] Bryan has been here seven seasons now. He’s comfortable with the direction we are heading with our young players, and we are comfortable with him leading us in that direction.

Dusty Baker calls the Nationals “a baby making team.” Whatever that means.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 31: Manager Dusty Baker #12 of the Washington Nationals looks on before the start of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on August 31, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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When the Nationals fired Matt Williams a year ago, it might’ve been a safe assumption that they were going to go with that new breed of young, handsome recently-retired player-turned-manager who, despite a lack of experience, allegedly knows how to deal with modern players better and knows how to handle a clubhouse. Those assumptions have proved largely off with these guys — Williams was a disaster, Matheny wins despite himself and Ausmus looks like he’s perpetually on the verge of a breakdown — but that’s the all the rage these days anyway.

Instead, the Nats hired Dusty Baker. Though Baker had tremendous success as a manager everywhere he went, he was maligned by some for some pitcher handling stuff in Chicago (which said pitchers have long denied was an issue, but let’s let that lie). He was also, more generally, thought of as a “retread.” Which is what people who prefer younger folks for jobs tend to call older people, even if the older people know what they’re doing.

And yes, I will cop to thinking about managers that way a lot over the years, so I’m not absolving myself at all here, even if I was pretty OK with the Dusty Baker hiring. I’ve evolved on this point. In no small part because of how Dusty Baker has done in Washington. Flash forward a year, the Nats are division champions and Baker may be a top candidate for Manager of the Year. That, in and of itself, should show you how wrong the haters were.

But if it doesn’t, this sure should:

I have no earthly idea what that means and Castillo gives no further context. All I know is that it sounds cool as hell and of any current manager, only Dusty Baker could say that and pull it off.

Because he’s Dusty Baker and has nothing to prove to you. And if you don’t like it, shoot, he’ll just go back home to his winery or whatever and live out the rest of his days being cooler than you.