We have 3 games to go and the 4th, 5th and 6th slots for next year's draft are still undecided (along with a bunch of other draft slots, of course).
For those of you following this blog you know that I have been keeping a running tally along the left margin to update you on where the Indians stand. This is also available on other sources, I am sure, one of those being mlbtraderumors.com.
Right now the Indians, on the heels of their 6-4 record in their last 10 games, have moved from the 4th slot in next year's draft to the 6th slot. They are currently 0.5 games behind Miami who have moved up the draft ladder by going 1-9 in their last 10 games. They are 1.5 games behind Minnesota who they have been battling over the last month for the 5th slot.
Miami finishes the season with three games against the Mets. Minnesota finishes with 3 games against Toronto. Cleveland finishes with three against the White Sox. Thus you would say that Cleveland has the advantage as Chicago is the only one of the three opponents that has not been eliminated from the pennant race. Unfortunately, due largely to the two games that the Tribe took last week from the White Sox in Chicago, the best the South Siders can do is tie for the AL Central Championship. The Detroit's magic number of 1 it is likely that the second and third games of this series will have the White Sox playing their AA/AAA roster against the Indians at some point as those guys have probably not gotten much PT with the Sox still in the race.
Also, Boston is two games "behind" the Indians at this point and if they lose all three and the Indians win all three Boston will pass Cleveland in the draft.
Why do we care about this? Well, if you are going to suck, suck bad so you get the highest draft pick. The higher the draft pick the better. The one thing we found out last year is that the budgets for each slot in the draft go up exponentially, it seems. Here are the budgets for the top 8 slots last year:
1. $7.2 million
2. $6.2 million
3. $5.2 million
4. $4.2 million
5. $3.5 million
6. $3.2 million
7. $3.0 million
8. $2.9 million
It's all about flexibility. The difference between the 1st slot and the 4th slot in the first round is $3 million. The difference between the 4th and 6th spot in the draft is $1 million. So, the higher your budget, the more flexibility you have to save money if you draft a guy who will sign for under slot. The Indians did that this year in drafting Tyler Naquin and Kieran Lovegrove for less than slot and using that excess to sign Mitch Brown and D'Vonne McClure to overslot bonuses. But still, you have more flexibility the higher you draft because the greater your budget, a lot of which is determined by your first round pick position.
If the Indians finish 4th and draft a player who they sign for $3.0 million or draft that same player 6th and they sign him for $3 million, the differeence is that they have $1 million extra to spend later on. The talent of the player is the same, just your budget for that pick is higher. Who wouldn't draft the more signable player 4th if you were going to draft him 6th?
Add to this that the draft this year will have fewer picks in it. There will be fewer compensation picks as teams have to first MAKE a qualifying offer to a free agent to get any compensation. That offer will be in the $13 million for a one year deal range so not many free agents will get that kind of offer. In addition, if a player gets a qualifying offer and signs with another team his former team is compensated with a sandwich pick BUT the first (or second) round pick by the team that signed the player is just lost, it doesn't go to the team that lost the player.
So, you are losing picks in the first and maybe second round due to teams signing free agents with qualifying offers and the compensation round, except for the competitive balance lottery winners (12 overall with the Indians getting a pick after the second round) is actually getting smaller so this draft should have less picks in the top 3 rounds than usual. That means more prospects available in every round and the team with the most picks and the highest budget should be able, with shrewd drafting, to get better talent than its competition AND not be subject to any penalties.
Add to all that that your options are better the higher you draft in EVERY round and while the difference between 1st and 8th in the draft is huge, the difference between even 4th and 6th is significant.
So, while we yawn through the last series of the season and grimace while we watch Vinnie Rottino, Casey Kotchman, Jack Hannahan and even Thomas Neal get ABs they don't deserve, realize that the Indians are still playing for something.
They are playing for flexibility in the 2013 draft. Go Tribe! Get some flexibility.