Friday, August 3, 2012

Never too early to start thinking about the 2013 draft

OK, the Indians are still playing baseball, right?  Well, that is up for debate, given their 7 game losing streak.

About this time of year, however, I start thinking about next year's baseball draft and where the Indians are going to be drafting.  I mean, Baseball America has already put out their top 50 draft prospect list for 2013!!!!!

MLB Trade Rumors posts a reverse standings so you can follow your favorite team in free fall to a high draft pick next year.

Right now, the Indians stand 11th in bad records this year:

Given that  

Manny Acta is a much worse manager in the second half ,

and the Indians are slowly clearing out veterans, they have a decent chance to have one of the 10 worst records in baseball this year.

Why is one of the 10 worst records important?  Because it guarantees that the Indians won't lose their first round pick if they sign a top tier free agent this winter.

But there is a catch with the new collective bargaining agreement.  In the past if a team signed a Type A free agent they lost a draft pick.  Under the new CBA the current compensation system for losing "Type A" and "Type B" free agents will be eliminated. Instead,  teams will receive compensation for losing a free agent only if they offer -- and the player rejects -- a guaranteed one-year contract equal to the average salary of the league's 125 highest-paid players. Compensation for losing such players will consist of one Draft pick at the end of the first round.  When clubs sign a compensation-eligible player, they will forfeit their own first-round selection, or their second-round selection if they pick in the top 10.  Also, the player CAN'T have been traded during the 2012 season or they are ineligible for free agent compensation if they are signed by another team.

It turns out that the top 125 salaries is not a very high bar for a one-year contract as the  125th highest salary for 2013 is only going to be about $7 millions, less than our option of Roberto Hernandez (nee Fausto Carmona) next year.

Looking at the Free agents this winter the following players either have options or look like they would probably get a $7 million plus one year offer" AND they haven't been traded this year, yet.

Brian McCann C
Lance Berkmann 1B
James Loney 1B
Mike Napoli 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Stephen Drew SS
Johnny Peralta SS
David Wright 3B
Curtis Granderson OF
Michael Bourn OF
David Ortiz DH
About 15 starting pitchers ($7 millions buys you a Fausto Carmona/Derek Lowe type free agent starting pitcher)
About 5 relief pitchers ($7 million buys you a good closer or a top of the heap 8th inning guy)

So over 30 players will be likely to be offered a $7 million plus one year deal by their current clubs AND be eligible for FA compensation as a result.  That still leaves a lot of free agents to sign but does skim off the top of the group, some of whom probably would not have qualified as Type A free agents, had the previous system been used again.. 

While the Indians won't play for Wright or Granderson or any of the top FA pitchers, they might make a play for a second tier guy who would require them to lose maybe their first round pick.

Thus, finishing in the bottom 10 records is SOMEWHAT important but, for a small market team with a low budget who MIGHT sign one of these top 30 free agents, but not nearly as important as it will be for teams like Philadelphia, Toronto, Milwaukee and the NY Mets, all of whom want to be contenders next year and so will probably be big players in the FA market this winter and most likely WILL sign one or more of these top 30 guys away from their current team.    If they can sign top free agents and keep a top 10 draft pick, they will want to do that, especially, I think, teams like Milwaukee who like to straddle the content/rebuild fence every year.  If  one of these larger market/perennial contender teams end up with the 11th worst record in baseball, losing that 11th pick next year (and maybe the 11th pick in the second round if they sign two compensation free agents) could be a hard pill to swallow.

So this year, more than ever,  protecting your first round pick is very important.  The only way to do that is to finish badly in the standings.  The Indians are clearly in a downward spiral that should put them in the bottom 10 by the end of the season and can sign many free agents who are decent and won't require compensation.  For a small market team this is right where you want to be: protected first round draft choice, extra pick at the end of the second round in case you sign a compensation free agent.  The only downside is that signing a compensation free agent would probably make the Indians take a slot signable guy in the first round as, if they go big with a bonus in the first round, they have one less draft pick (or more) to low ball later on to make up that difference.  What you want is EXTRA draft picks that you can go a little under slot with so you can sign more hard-to-sign guys at the top and later in the draft.  Plus, the higher the draft slot the more pronounced the money you can have to sign that pick. 

For me, the Indians should stick to 2nd tier, non-compensation free agents this winter and overspend to get the best (sort of what, in hindsight, they should have done with Josh Willingham this past winter) of them.

They should get a high pick, protect it in the first and second rounds and end up with 3 picks before the third round.

This will be unpopular with the fans who will want one of those top 30 guys but I think the Indians can do just as well feeding from the middle of the lake if they go for the highest tier of those middling guys.

So there you have it.  My first 2013 draft article.  Such is the life of a Cleveland Indians' fan:


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