The Nats make their picks today -- five times in the first 70 selections, as we've been told a hundred times this week if we've been told once -- and the thought that keeps crossing my mind is how much more interesting the day could be if the Nats could trade a pick or two for more picks. But they can't. They can't trade picks, and they can't trade picked guys until a year after signing.
I understand the policy reasons for prohibiting a team from trading its draft picks, but the prohibition still seems wrong to me. Any first-year law student is taught about the "bundle of rights," or "stack of sticks," or "pack of
French Freedom Fries" a property owner holds, representing all the things someone can do with something he or she owns. While a draft pick is not exactly ownership in real property, the prohibition against trading picks still seems like an unnecessary and unfair restraint against the Nats' rights as pick-holders.
This is not to say I would trade picks if I were in the Nats' front office, but it would be nice to have the option. I look at it this way: Washington has several picks, but it could always use more. The farm system is barren, and the ability to "trade down" could be an acceptable strategy to stockpile more picks. Consider it the Jimmy Johnson strategy early in his rebuilding efforts with the Dallas Cowboys, however much I grudgingly compliment the Cowboys on anything.
This draft is considered "deep," but as I understand it, there is a definite top tier of talent: Vandy pitcher David Price, who is considered the best player (and pitcher available) and who will go to Tampa at No. 1; Rick Porcello, who is considered perhaps the most talented and polished high school pitcher since Josh Beckett but who might drop due to signability concerns; Josh Vitters, who is considered the best high school bat in the draft; and Matt Wieters, a Georgia Tech catcher who is considered a fast-riser and potential impact bat.
Mock drafts seem to indicate that Wieters is a possibility for the Nats at No. 6. Teh blogs like Wieters, too, and I'm cool with that. Honestly, I don't know enough about these guys to say any different. I'd be happy with Porcello or California high school hitter Mike Moustakos or super-toolsy Georgia high school outfielder Jason Heyward or Canadian prep pitcher Jean-Claude Van Damme, but Wieters seems like the pick. Porcello's demands seem to be steep enough that he'll either be gone before the Nats pick or could stay on the board for twenty picks thereafter. Wieters also has his list of demands, but rumors are the Nats won't make money too much of an issue with him. If it's Wieters, that's cool.
Yet, if money's not a tremendous issue, I can't help but think this No. 6 pick might be more of an asset in a trade (if, again, that were by rule an option). Granted, if you trade down, you are relinquishing the chance to acquire a top tier pick in terms of value, as Mel Kiper Jr. might say. But what if you find a team who really values that pick, has several early-round picks, and is willing to relinquish several of those picks for the chance to get a guy like Wieters? For instance, the San Diego Padres have stockpiled an incredible quantity of picks for today's draft (eight of the first 87 picks -- No. 23, 40, 46, 57, 63, 64, 82 and 87), but they don't pick before No. 23. Other than the rule against trading picks, what would stop them from using some of these stockpiled picks for a chance at a higher spot? I don't know if they would be motivated to do so (again, but for the rule against doing so), but I'd have to think it would be an intriguing option. Not that the drafts are tremendously analogous between football and baseball, but football teams love to trade up and down. Fans love it, too, because it's fun.
So here's what I would propose in my hypothetical universe, setting aside all rationales for the rule against trading draft picks: Washington sends the No. 6 pick in the first round to San Diego for picks No. 23, 40, and 46. Would the Nats make this trade? (Maybe not; you have a pretty decent shot at an impact player at No. 6, less so even at No. 23.) Would the Padres? (Maybe not; three first and supplemental-first picks are a lot to give up for a pick that's not even top-five.)
But back to reality -- sure, Wieters with No. 6. Or Moustakos. Or the guy from America Jr. For a bunch of guys I don't really know anything about, the draft sure is fun!
[Update: The Nats take college pitcher Ross Detwiler with the No. 6 pick. NFA's instant reaction:
The previous five picks wiped the board a bit; Moustakas went No. 2 to Kansas City, and Wieters went No. 5 to Baltimore. Other than Porcello, who's a massive signability concern, this was probably the best value left on the board. A slightly less valued (by most) college lefty, Dan Moskos, went No. 4 to Pittsburgh. I was intrigued by high school outfielder Jason Heyward, but what do I know? The answer is nothing. This looks like a pretty good pick. I will note that the Orioles took a substantial heap of pressure off the Lernastens; it would have been hard to justify passing on Wieters.]