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Sudden Obsession with Draft Picks

Up until a year ago if a team signed a Type-A or Type-B free agent (which encompassed most quality players), that team would lose a draft pick. And guess what — no one cared. But suddenly everyone is considering draft picks to be the holy grail of building a champion, and teams are loath to give them up. What happened to alter the perception of draft picks?

draft pickWhen the Mets were busy signing players like Tom Glavine, Billy Wagner, Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay, they were not worried in the least about losing all of those first-round draft choices year after year. But last season the thought of losing the pick to sign Michael Bourn was nearly heresy.

This off-season, players such as Stephen Drew and Kendry Morales are having a hard time finding a contract because they are tied to compensation. In years past, they would have been signed by now.

So what happened? Well, under the new rules only a handful of free agents are subject to the loss of a draft pick. Perhaps when so many teams lost a draft pick for signing almost every quality player, it was easier to swallow. Now, teams who sign top free agents are in the minority of losing a pick, so it might be more difficult to accept.

The new rules also put monetary restrictions on a team’s entire draft, and when a team loses a pick, they also lose that monetary slot, giving them less money to spend. And since we all know everything is about money, this could be a major factor.

But here’s another concept — perhaps with the absence of PEDs in the game, players are not lasting as long, and more reinforcements are needed. In the old days, players were still performing into their late-30s and early-40s because of the juice, so younger players were at less of a premium. Now, though, the PED-free players are breaking down at the traditional age of 35, so youngsters are needed to take their place.

Is this new obsession warranted? No, according to Mets special assistant to the GM JP Ricciardi, who last month said, “No one builds through the draft. You add through the draft. €You can’t build a team through the draft because they just don’t all work out. But you can supplement your system, and I get all that. But if you’re telling me I have a chance to get Curtis Granderson over a second-round pick I think I’m going to take my chances with a proven major league player.”

He is 100% right. Sure, there are players like Mike Trout and Stephen Strasburg who come out of the draft and re-energize their teams, but cases like that are rare. For every player like that there is a Lastings Milledge or a Fernando Martinez, highly-touted draft picks who never lived up to their hype.

So swap a draft pick for a quality free agent? Every day and twice on Sunday.

4 thoughts on “Sudden Obsession with Draft Picks

  • gary goldberg

    i think also the since the advent of the mlb newtork that people know more about the drafted players and the players in the low minor leagues then they did even 10 years ago the cost seems to be more real

  • i agree with the overvaluing of draft picks but i think ricciardi has it backwards. You should be building through the draft and supplementing through free agency/trades. when a team (like the cardinals) drafts well overall, they can afford to lose a high pick or two b/c every where else on the field is already filled. A team like the mets needs better scouting honestly, and while i’m not saying they shouldn’t ever sign free agents that will cost picks, they should weigh the cost and return.

  • Met Fan 4 Ever

    When the free agent is someone like Glavine, Wagner, or Beltran (or the Bay that got lost between Boston and NY), then yes, sacrifice the pick. When it is a one-dimensional player like Kendrys Morales (no D) or Drew (nothing but D), then I say NO!

  • that’s a good point. today many teams are locking up their young guys and making sure they don’t hit free agency so guys like choo and drew are the big ticket names when they should be the mid tier to middle-upper tier

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