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Jan 142011

On the heels of last night’s signing signing of Rafael Soriano, much of the Yankee blogosphere and fan base was opposed to the move for two reasons. The amount of money being paid for what is going to essentially be a middle reliever for the next year or two, and the draft pick compensation involved. In signing Rafael Soriano, the Yanks will lose their 1st round pick for this years coming draft which is #31 overall.

As far as the money goes, with the signing the Yanks are still a shade below 200 mil and well below last years payroll of 206.3 mil (BR) so they could certainly afford it. I’ll admit giving up the draft pick bothers me as well, especially for a reliever who only figures to contribute around 2 WAR if all goes well, and relievers are so volatile that it all too often doesn’t. Maybe this move allows the Yanks to move Joba Chamberlain back to the starting rotation, in which case it would have the triple effect of building a solid bridge to Mo this year, fill a much needed rotation slot for 2011, and have a replacement in house for Mo if he begins to show his age and/or retires in 2 years.

One thing is for sure, we can throw out everything Brian Cashman has publicly said about the Yankee 2011 plans up to this point. He said he wasn’t going to give up a 1st round draft pick for a reliever, and that Joba will not be shifted back to the rotation. This is the first time I can remember Brian Cashman so clearly and obviously saying one thing and doing another. I thought he was unfairly attacked for his “Bubba Crosby is our starting CF” comment, which was a simple statement of fact based on the Yankee roster construction at that time. I also gave him a pass for the “fantasy land” comment leading up to the Mark Teixeira signing, where it was later revealed there was a late breaking development of Tex heading to Boston, where Brian had to go to ownership and ask Hal to expand payroll for a unique and pivotal circumstance. But this one appears to either be a flat out, bold faced lie or a complete turnabout in his position, neither of which makes Brian look good. If this move is a reaction to Andy Pettitte not signing a contract, or some info related to his retirement, then don’t make the initial comment about the draft picks. It’s not as if the fallout from Andy not signing was something that Brian couldn’t see coming.

Moving back to the fan complaints about this move, I recently did a piece where I posted the Baseball America Top 10 Yankee prospects from 2004-the present. With all the reaction to the Yanks losing their 1st rounder, I thought it would be timely to go back through those Top 10 prospect lists to see how many of them were 1st rounders, and where in the draft the annual Top 10 were acquired by the team. Going back to 2004, here’s how all of those top 10 prospects were acquired:

1st round-Bronson Sardinha, Jeff Marquez, CJ Henry, Eric Duncan, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Andrew Brackman, Slade Heathcott
Supplemental-Joba Chamberlain
2nd Round-JB Cox, Austin Romine, JR Murphy, Estee Harris
3rd Round-Zachary McAllister, Brett Gardner, Christian Garcia
4th Round-Brad Suttle, Ross Ohlendorf
8th round-Dellin Betances, Austin Jackson
9th Round-Mark Melancon, Tyler Clippard
11th Round-Alan Horne
26th Round-Phil Coke
27th Round-Brandon Laird

International Free Agents-Dionar Navarro, Robinson Cano, Jose Tabata, Rudy Guillen, Joakin Arias, Eduardo Nunez, Marcos Vechionacci, Alfredo Aceves, Jesus Montero, Gary Sanchez, Arodys Vizcaino, Hector Noesi, Manny Banuelos.

I have a few takeaways. First, its pretty obvious that how most of the best Yankee prospects of the recent past were acquired via the International draft or as IFAs. Next, the Yankee 1st round results have been very, very mixed. While many of the 1st rounders have showed up on BA Top 10 lists, few have made it to the show. Only Hughes and IPK have any MLB experience to speak of, and even if we eliminate Brackman and Heathcott as incomplete (as we should) you still have only 2 of the 6 first rounders making it to the major leagues. Take Hughes (6.4) and IPKs (2.8) career WAR , divide it by the 5 years of drafts it took to obtain them and you get…less than 2 WAR. Which is what Soriano will give you next year, and hopefully for each of the next 3 years. One could argue you’re paying twice, with both money and talent. But as we discussed earlier the Yanks can easily afford it with their current payroll, so the money won’t impact how the Yanks operate. From an organizational standpoint it’s not a bad move, especially if it allows them to move Joba back to the rotation to fill a much needed rotation slot.

Next, it’s interesting to see how the MLB amateur draft isn’t as linear as one would think. Brett Gardner was a 3rd rounder, current major leaguer Austin Jackson was drafted in the 8th round, as was top pitching prospect Dellin Betances. Phil Coke was all the way down in Round 26. We can even go back to the Core 4 for more evidence along these lines. We all know Derek Jeter was a high 1st round pick, but the other three were not. Andy Pettitte was drafted in the 22nd round of the 1990 draft. Jorge Posada was drafted in the 24th round of that same draft.  Mariano Rivera was an IFA. So you have two sure HOF players, and two borderline HOF players, but only one picked in the 1st round. Baseball’s not like Football or Basketball, it’s a very difficult sport to draft.

There’s no doubt that many of the annual MLB All Stars were selected high in the first round of the MLB draft, but that’s a position we all hope the Yanks will never draft at. Given where they draft on an annual basis and the rate of success they’ve had with 1st rounders, losing a 1st round pick to fill a clear need on the MLB club is not as big a cost as many fans think it is.

5 Responses to “On losing 1st round draft picks”

  1. As long as they spend the same on the draft I’m a little better with it. Also Ben Badler at BA tweeted that with next years Int free agents been very deep he thinks the Yankees will be aggressive there also.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  2. So, here is where I disagree.

    First, let’s not forget what these assets brought. Jeff Marquez was a big part of the Nick Swisher trade. Ian Kennedy helped bring in Curtis Granderson. C.J. Henry was the centerpiece of the Bobby Abreu trade. First round picks hold trade value simply by being first round picks – teams are looking to discuss them.

    Second, the Yankees have gotten much better at drafting. The only real bust since Damon Oppenheimer has taken over was C.J. Henry, with the jury still out on Culver, Brackman and Heathcott. And had Gerrit Cole signed, the draft would look a lot more impressive.

    Third, you need to include the guys that were traded for in the WAR calculations. We probably don’t get Curtis Granderson without Ian Kennedy. That’s a lot of wins now and in the future. C.J. Henry may or may not have been a sticking point for Abreu, but he was in the deal nonetheless.

    Fourth, you need to project into the future. Phil Hughes is going to be worth something for many years. He’s also cheap, allowing the Yankees to take his wins and spend their money on overpaid relievers, adding value.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Steve S. Reply:

    All fair points, and that sounds like a blog post of your own. I would quibble with two points:

    1-Abreu was a pure salary dump, so sending a first Round pick back was window dressing. Both sides knew there was no value there.

    2-Betemit was the centerpiece of the Swisher deal, Marquez was a throw in who was out of options.

    Also, if you want to include the WAR of Grandy, Abreu, etc then you also have to subtract what they cost in dollars. Trades are all about NET value.

    Finally, if you want to project out Hughes and IPK then do the same for Soriano, and calculate Joba’s added value if he’s moved to the rotation.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  3. I am with EJ on this.

    I recognize, too, that the Yankees may blunder with draft picks. Those blunders also rest on the shoulders of the GM — he’s responsible for picking the scouting director. If Heathcott, Brackman, and Culver do not pan out, Oppenhemer will eventually face the axe (unless later round picks offset the mistakes) but the errors will go on Cashman’s debit sheet. Nevertheless, first-round picks are the lifeblood of a successful organization in most pro sports, including baseball. The probability — and it’s always about probability; nothing is certain in scouting — of finding blue-chip talent is simply much greater there. You should give up the first-round draft choices only when you are filling an area of high-need.

    A set-up reliever just does not meet the test, especially when a team has huge holes in its starting rotation. I am sure the Yankees will “shorten the game” when Mitre and Nova start, and probably when A.J. is on th emound. But that is a recipe for overusing the bullpen, as Torre did. Girardi, who takes care not to burn out a pitcher through overuse, is better at bullpen management than his predecessor. But if 60% of your rotation is a poor bet to go even six innings in a game, the bullpen innings build up in a hurry. The team thrives into July, perhaps early August. But by September some of those overused relievers are toast.

    At this point, the Yankees have everything to gain and nothing to lose by giving Chamberlain a chance to earn a place in the starting rotation. I have my doubts but, really, could he be any worse than Mitre? And Chamberlain as a starter would be more valuable as a trading chip, if nothing else. In the pen, he seems relegated now to a sixth inning role.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  4. Scout –
    If the Yanks are going to have to employ a shortening game policy with AJ Burnett, then the team’s chances to compete for a playoff spot are zilch. I agree that Joba needs… no the team needs Joba to have another shot at making the rotation. I’d take Joba over both Nova and Mitre. With Jeff Francis signing with KC, potential ML free agent starters are dwindling. Francis would’ve been an interesting fit but Cashman dragged his feet on that one.

    I just want to say that this team doesn’t stand a chance in he*l if AJ Burnett bombs once more.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

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