Baseball America staffers had to submit their predictions for the 2009 season back in early March so they could be included in our Major League Preview issue. Here are my picks from back then, and what I think of them now:
AL East: Red Sox. They have the most balanced team in baseball, though little margin for error. The Red Sox, Yankees and Rays are the three best teams in the game, and one of them has to miss the playoffs.
AL Central: Indians. I'm not liking this pick as much now that I see Carl Pavano, Scott Lewis and Anthony Reyes all in the rotation. I can't figure out this division at all, but I'll grudgingly stick with the Indians over the Twins.
AL West: Angels. I still think they'll hold off the Athletics, though I feel less certain with Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey and Ervin Santana all ailing. If the Rangers' young pitching develops quickly, maybe they'll surprise some people.
AL wild card: Yankees. They'll just edge out the Rays, but it won't be easy.
NL East: Phillies. Once again, they'll frustrate the Mets. In fact, I have New York finishing third behind my NL wild card pick.
NL Central: Cubs. I haven't liked many of the Cubs' offseason moves, but they still have the best team in the NL. The Cardinals are the only club I can see mounting a serious challenge in the Central.
NL West: Diamondbacks. I go back and forth on this one. Manny Ramirez hadn't signed when we made these picks, and as much as I like Brandon Webb and Dan Haren at the front of the Diamondbacks' rotation, give me the Dodgers by a game or two.
NL wild card: Marlins. Their lineup and rotation are better than most people realize.
World Series: Red Sox over Cubs. That still makes the most sense to me on paper, but how often do the two best teams actually make it to the Fall Classic? And how often can we identify them on Opening Day?
You're being a little harsh when you call Blake "mediocre," because he provides steady offense and defensive versatility, and the Dodgers probably wouldn't have won the National League West without him. Santana was one of Los Angeles' best prospects at the time of the deal and on the rise, but he had yet to receive the universal acclaim he does these days. The Dodgers also purposely gave up more talent in their deals last summer so they wouldn't have to take on more salary in return.
And yet it's hard to look at the trade and not think that Los Angeles paid more than it should have.
Most of the time when a team deals its No. 1 or 2 prospect, it's as part of a blockbuster to acquire some like Sabathia or Mark Teixeria or Miguel Cabrera or Josh Beckett, to name just four examples. I searched through five years of Trade Central archives to look for other instances where a club dealt one of its two best prospects for a lesser talent, and I came up with just five others. In reverse order:
|July 2008: The Phillies send Adrian Cardenas as part of a three-player package to get Joe Blanton from the Athletics.
December 2006: The Astros ship Jason Hirsh as part of a three-player package to obtain Jason Jennings and Miguel Asencio from the Rockies.
January 2006: The Red Sox surrender Andy Marte as part of a four-player package to land Coco Crisp, David Riske and Josh Bard from the Indians.
December 2005: The White Sox part with Chris Young as part of a three-player package to pry Javier Vazquez from the Diamondbacks.
July 2004: The Mets give up Scott Kazmir as part of a two-player package to acquire Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato from the Rays.
(I employed a loose definition of "mediocre." Jennings and Crisp were coming off career years they haven't been able to repeat, and their new clubs certainly didn't think they were mediocre at the time. Vazquez was coming off mediocre seasons with the Yankees and Diamondbacks, on the heels of four good years with the Expos.)
The most shocking of these trades was the Kazmir deal, which was regarded as a blunder from the start. The Mets had a dysfunctional front office with various factions vying for power, and they overrated both their playoff chances and Zambrano while underrating Kazmir. Kazmir reached the majors a month later and has won 47 games since, while Zambrano has won just 10 and scuffled in Triple-A last season. If not for that trade, the Mets likely would be shooting for their fourth straight NL East title this year.
The White Sox wish they had Young back to patrol center field, but at least Vazquez helped them win the AL Central in 2008 and brought back four prospects from the Braves in a trade afterward. The Red Sox haven't missed Marte, who hasn't been able to hit enough to warrant regular playing time in the majors.
Hirsh has been better and a lot cheaper than Jennings, but both pitchers have been limited by injuries. The Phillies have no regrets giving up Cardenas' promising bat for an innings-eater like Blanton, as they won 12 of his 16 starts, including all three in the playoffs en route to a World Series championship.
Blake homered to give the Dodgers a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning of Game Four of the NL Championship Series. Had that advantage stood up, it well could have been the turning point of the series for Los Angeles and spurred them to a championship. That would have made the trade much more palatable, but now it's going to be tough for Dodgers fans to take if Santana blossoms into an all-star catcher as expected.
When a team takes a player in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft, it must keep him on its major league roster all year, or else pass him through waivers and offer him back to his original club for half the $50,000 draft price before sending him to the minors. To avoid having teams stash Rule 5 picks on the disabled list, the player must spend at least 90 days on the active roster or else any remaining time has to be accrued at the beginning of the next season. As Timothy suggests, a club may activate an injured player in September to get him 30 days of service time.
I chose this question partially as an excuse to update the whereabouts of all the big league Rule 5 picks. Of the 21 players chosen, four stuck on big league rosters, while three are on the disabled list. The Diamondbacks (James Skelton) and Twins (Jason Jones) worked out trades to acquire the full rights to their choices, while the Brewers allowed the Astros to keep Lou Palmisano, bringing the total to 10 Rule 5ers who stuck with their selecting clubs.
Nine players were reclaimed by their original clubs. The Giants haven't given up Luis Perdomo quite yet, designating him for assignment to buy time, but the Cardinals are expected to reclaim him if San Francisco can't find a trade. The Orioles declined to take Rocky Cherry back from the Mets, who then released him, and the Red Sox signed him to a minor league contract.
Below is the complete list of major league Rule 5 picks and their status:
|Rule 5 Draftees, 2008|
|Player, Pos||Old Org||New Org||Status|
|Terrell Young, rhp||Cin||Was||On 15-day DL (shoulder)|
|Reegie Corona, ss/2b||NYY||Sea||Returned to NYY|
|Everth Cabrera, 2b/ss||Col||SD||On big league roster|
|Donald Veal, lhp||ChC||Pit||On big league roster|
|Lou Palmisano, c||Mil||Hou via Bal||Cleared waivers, sent to minors|
|Luis Perdomo, rhp||StL||SF||Designated for assignment|
|David Patton, rhp||Col||ChC via Cin||On big league roster|
|Kyle Bloom, lhp||Pit||Det||Returned to Pit|
|Jose Lugo, lhp||Min||Sea via KC||Returned to Min|
|Ben Copeland, of||SF||Oak||On 15-day DL (shoulder)|
|James Skelton, c||Det||Ari||Rights traded to Ari|
|Zach Kroenke, lhp||NYY||Fla||Returned to NYY|
|Gilbert de la Vara, lhp||KC||Hou||Returned to KC|
|Jason Jones, rhp||NYY||Min||Rights traded to Min|
|Darren O'Day, rhp||LAA||NYM||On big league roster|
|Eduardo Morlan, rhp||TB||Mil||Returned to TB|
|Bobby Mosebach, rhp||LAA||Phi||Returned to LAA|
|Miguel Gonzalez, rhp||LAA||Bos||On 15-day DL (elbow)|
|Derek Rodriguez, rhp||CWS||TB||Returned to CWS|
|Ivan Nova, rhp||NYY||SD||Returned to NYY|
|Rocky Cherry, rhp||Bal||NYM||Declined by Bal, signed by Bos|
The simple answer is that when baseball instituted the draft in 1965, teams weren't allowed to trade picks. I've never heard an explanation as to why that was the case. Since then, the ratio of changes to the draft discussed to those implemented looks like Stephen Strasburg's strikeout-walk ratio at San Diego State, and that alteration never has been made. It also would have to be collectively bargained with the union.
Allowing teams to trade draft picks has been discussed more frequently in recent years. When commissioner Bud Selig put together a blue-ribbon panel to study baseball's economics in 2000, it recommended that clubs be permitted to swap picks. Their report emphasized, "If clubs were allowed to trade draft picks, low-revenue clubs could receive fair market value for their draft position in the form of major league players, prospects or multiple picks in later rounds."
That opinion has several proponents, and it definitely would add intrigue to the draft. But there also is strong sentiment that allowing trades would result in agents and players manipulating the draft to an even further extent than they do now. Imagine the leverage it would give Strasburg and his advisors at the Scott Boras Corp. if they could tell the Nationals, who hold the No. 1 overall pick in June, that his sole desire was to play for the Yankees, Red Sox or some other club that would be more likely to meet his rumored $50 million asking price.