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.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.

Masahiro Tanaka throws off mound for first time since October elbow surgery

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According to the Associated Press — via Chad Jennings of The Journal News — Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October.

The throwing session took place in New York, and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild later told the media in Tampa that all of the reports he heard were good.

Tanaka might be behind some of the Yankees’ other pitchers when spring training officially begins, but he should be ready for the start of the 2016 regular season.

The 27-year-old native of Japan posted a 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season for New York. He owns a 3.16 ERA (123 ERA+) in 290 1/3 innings since becoming a major leaguer in 2014.

Tanaka is still pitching with a partially-torn ligament in his right elbow that could eventually require Tommy John reconstructive surgery. His surgery last October was of the arthroscopic variety and simply removed bone spurs.

Bud Selig to teach a class at Arizona State law school

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Before Bud Selig ultimately retired, he had a couple of false start retirement announcements only to have the owners beg him to sign on for one more term. In one of those false starts he talked about how the University of Wisconsin had set up an office for him in the history department and that he’d be doing some research and teaching a class now and again. And he has, in fact, taught some one-off seminars at Wisconsin’s law school and the like.

Now something a little more permanent along those lines is in the works for The Greatest Commissioner in Baseball History. The Arizona Republic reports that Selig will join the Sports Law and Business program at Arizona State University’s law school where he will teach and advise as well as start up a speakers series in which he will bring in high-powered guests. No word on how many speakers will talk about big, important historical sports law cases like, say collusion in baseball, which was orchestrated by an ownership class in the mid-to-late 80s, of which Bud Selig was far and away the most influential member. That could get sort of awkward, I suppose.

Either way, it’s a good way to keep busy. I mean, that’s what it has to be as he’s not hurting for cash, what with the obscene $6 million severance package the owners gave him to, I dunno, not give interviews about bad stuff that happened back in the day like Fay Vincent does all the time. Stuff like collusion. Maybe he gets the $6 million for some other purpose. Who can say, really? It’s never made any sort of sense otherwise.

Anyway, good luck in Tempe, Bud. Maybe I’ll stop by your office at ASU when I’m there next month — I always stay in Tempe — and we can chew the fat or climb that butte with the big A on it or something. First round at Four Peaks afterward is on me.

White Sox sign first baseman Travis Ishikawa

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First baseman Travis Ishikawa has agreed to a minor-league contract with the White Sox that includes an invitation to spring training.

Ishikawa was previously reported to have a minor-league deal with the Mariners last month, but the signing was never finalized. Now he joins the White Sox, who have Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche ahead of him on the first base/designated hitter depth chart.

Ishikawa had some big moments for the Giants in the 2014 playoffs, but he’s a 32-year-old journeyman with a lifetime .255 batting average and .712 OPS in 488 games as a big leaguer.

It’s possible the White Sox could keep him around as a bench bat and backup first baseman/left fielder, but Ishikawa seems more likely to begin the season at Triple-A.