If you haven't heard about Ervin Santana's new deal with the Braves by now, I applaud your ability to insulate yourself. Limiting stimuli is becoming a virtue more and more everyday.
However, assuming most of you have, I won't bore with the details of the situation that you are likely to have read dozens of times already.
In short, teams were hesitant to give up their first pick in the upcoming draft in order to sign Santana.
The Sporting News' Jesse Spector thinks that is "foolish."
"What does it mean to give up the No. 26 pick? In the history of the draft, the five best players from a WAR standpoint to be selected in that slot have been Alan Trammell, Dave Henderson, Dan Plesac, Brent Gates, and Jeremy Bonderman ... Those players are the best-case scenario for picks that low in the first round ... The Braves won’t get Santana’s cheap, pre-free agency years, but they will get a known commodity, which is better than the 90 percent chance that they would wind up sinking bonus money and development time into a first-round pick who turns out to be a fringe major leaguer ... Baseball’s draft is so uncertain, it is mind-boggling that teams have attached so much value to their first-round picks, especially outside of the top 10, which are protected from being stripped as free agent compensation. The draft is the great lie that all sports like to tell to fans, pretending that it really reshapes the competitive landscape by directing the best young talent to the teams who are most in need of it."
Maybe Spector is right. Then again, maybe he was just being overtly contrarian because writing another story about the loss of draft picks made him pukish. I, for one, taste bile every time I type ... that player's name.
I don't hate Ervin Santana (egghhkghgh), far from it. He was awesome last year. I'll always remember him well, but I'm glad he's not coming back. Personally, I've John Kerry'd the hell out of my opinion on the matter all offseason. But with a strong draft class coming up and an opportunity to add four guys from the top 56 of that strong class, the Royals are in a better spot for the future in my opinion. There has been some speculation that the Braves will be able to recoup their draft pick next winter, but Santana might just as easily accept a qualifying offer next time around, so compensation is far from a given. He did, after all, pretty much accept the QO this offseason -- even if was four months later than it probably should've been.
Anyway, Spector didn't even mention the potential for Atlanta to get the pick back next winter. That wasn't his point. His point was that Santana represents a more certain value ...
Although the countless number of excellent players selected after the 26th overall pick seems to all but negate his argument. There's no magic inherent to picks in the late-20s -- except for the 25th pick in the 2009 draft.
Another aspect of the hesitation to sign fringe free agents cuffed to draft compensation is the recommended slot money that also evaporates with the loss of the pick. Baltimore, for example, could have approached the draft with a recommended budget of a little less than $5 million for the first 10 rounds -- using last year's numbers (I left out the competitive balance pick because they don't have one this season. This year's will be slightly higher). Teams can exceed these limitations, but the tax penalties are similar to luxury tax penalties in order to punish teams for flexing their disproportionate major-market muscles. Instead, the Orioles lost their first two picks by signing Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz -- and about $2 million of their recommended budget, or about 40 percent. Damn.
The 26th pick will be worth about $2 million in June. With a decapitated budget, the Braves will have to cross a few players off of their list of targets, and although many of the top players in the draft will be taken before their first choice, the Royals showed how the framework of the draft can be manipulated last year when they drafted Sean Manaea with the 34th overall pick -- thanks to the money they saved by taking Hunter Dozier at No. 8 overall. That strategy could be copycatted in June because of how nicely it appears to have worked out for the Royals -- although, they might have gotten a little lucky.
In any event, the loss of a pick coupled with a significant salary -- even if it is on a one-year deal -- is a lofty price to pay. It might be hard to tell if it was worth it in June ... but in November it'll be a lot more evident.