Bill and The Common Man from The Platoon Advantage came up with an interesting idea: operating on the premise that MLB should expand to 32 teams, they decided to hold a mock-expansion draft using the rules from the 1997 expansion draft, the results of which you can find here. Seeing as how I love theoretical roster-tinkering, I practically leapt at the chance to be involved. And promptly screwed it up. We’ll get to that part soon enough, but first here’s a quick refresher on the ’97 draft courtesy of the Wikipedia:
1. The draft has three rounds.
2. Each drafting team selects 14 players in round one, 14 players in round two, and 7 players in round three (35 players per team).
3. Each existing major league team can only lose one player in each round.
4. All players throughout the organization are eligible for drafting with the exception of players drafted in either 2010 or 2011, players signed as international free agents in 2009 (who were under the age of 18 at the time), and players entering free agency at the end of this season.
5. Existing teams can protect up to 15 players in the first round. Three additional players can be protected after round one and after round two, bringing the total number of protected players to 21.
The last two rules are the most important because they take a whole bunch of important players off the table. Potential free agents Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Chris Young, Chris Capuano, and Francisco Rodriguez (among others), were off limits and didn’t need to be protected, as were prospects like Matt Harvey, Cory Vaughn, Juan Urbina, and Aderlin Rodriguez. With that being said, here are the 15 players I opted to protect in the first round:
1. David Wright
2. Ike Davis
3. Angel Pagan
4. Jon Niese
5. Josh Thole
6. Jenrry Mejia
7. Jeurys Familia
8. Wilmer Flores
9. Kirk Nieuwenhuis
10. Fernando Martinez
11. Cesar Puello
12. R.A. Dickey
13. Pedro Beato
14. Justin Turner
15. Mike Pelfrey
I really struggled with the final three spots. I added Beato because of his early success out of the bullpen, Turner due to his fast start, and Pelfrey because, well, I still can’t bring myself to believe that he can’t be useful. I thought a young, arbitration eligible pitcher would be appealing to an expansion team and, while I’m still not sure I’d want to pay his arbitration award I’d rather have him as a trade chip then lose him for nothing. As for the other two, I know full well that one was acquired off waivers and the other was a Rule 5 draftee, but I like what I’ve seen from them so far. You can argue, fairly, that I over-valued their small sample of work, but I didn’t want to lose either of them without compensation.
And so it came to pass that Lucas Duda became an ex-Met. I’m torn by it. On one hand it’s not really the biggest loss: Duda is a nice player who, given his defensive limitations, is probably better suited to an American League club. On the other, his one true skill (the ability to hit for power) is more valuable than anything Beato, Turner, and maybe even Pelfrey bring to the table. If a club offered me Duda straight up for any of one those three players I’d probably do the deal, which unfortunately didn’t occur to me until after he was selected.
With round one finished, I opted to protect Dillon Gee, Daniel Murphy, and Ruben Tejada got the call. No regrets here. Each of these players is experiencing success in the short term, and each has enough future value to justify their on-going presence on the roster.
The price for this decision was lefty prospect Mark Cohoon. I don’t think there’s a single player among the 18 that I’d protected until this point that I would trade for him, but I realize that he is a prospect that some evaluators might value more highly. I’m very interested to hear from anyone who would have protected Cohoon in this scenario, particularly because I’d love to hear who you’d take off the list (and why). I just don’t know enough about him to consider him a big loss and would love to know why that isn’t the case.
After round two I chose to protect Josh Satin, Zach Lutz, and Darrell Ceciliani, and I lost Reese Havens. This was a mistake. I should have protected Havens instead of Lutz or Ceciliani, but I thought his injury history would be enough to scare the expansion teams away. I gambled and lost.
While the losses of Duda and Havens sting (I really can’t get worked up about Cohoon: after all, somebody was going to get picked), the bigger disappointment was in who didn’t get picked. You may have noticed that I didn’t protect Jason Bay or Johan Santana. This was intentional: I was hoping one of the expansion teams would bite and take at least one of their contracts off my hands. It’s tempting to say that I would have protected them under different circumstances (if Bay were performing better or if Santana were healthy), but the truth is I would have left them unprotected either way. Their contracts are just too large to justify, especially when you factor in their current financial situation.
To sum it all up, I lost two players that I should have found a way to keep and didn’t lose the two players who I wanted to see selected the most. Not exactly what I was hoping for when I signed up, but I’m still very appreciative (and honored) that Bill and The Common Man asked me to participate.