By Chris Pummer
Now that that we're at the All-Star break and baseball's trade deadline is around the corner, the rumor mill is spinning into high gear.
While it's fun to speculate by kicking around a few hypothetical trades, it might also be time to dispel the notion that trading for any aging veteran yields a bounty of draft-pick booty.
Dave Cameron at the U.S.S. Mariner blog tosses out a few trades that he thinks make sense (though some of them seem very debatable to me). He suggests that a team willing to take Raul Ibanez will get the two-month rental, plus draft picks when Ibanez signs a deal with another team at the end of the year.
That's true, but only if Ibanez is offered arbitration, he doesn't accept and another team signs him. Ibanez is making $5.5 million this year, and I wouldn't bet on the 36-year-old getting a deal nearly than that in the offseason. Why wouldn't he just accept arbitration, through which the acquiring team can offer him no less than his current salary with a 10-percent pay cut? That team is then stuck with a contract they probably don't want.
A famous example of a player surprisingly accepting arbitration is when Greg Maddux took the Braves up on their offer after the 2002 season. Maddux ended up getting as much in 2003 as he likely would have on the open market in a two-year contract. Plus it blew out the Braves' budget, forcing them to trade Kevin Millwood. And they got no draft picks out of the deal.
Now, there are situations where teams are likely to pick up draft picks.
The Brewers will get another team's first-round pick, plus a compensation sandwich pick (between the first and second rounds) when CC Sabathia bolts Milwaukee. But that's because Sabathia is a superstar who is certain to sign with not only another team, but likely a contender that won't have its first-round pick protected (the first 15 picks can't be snagged as free agent compensation).
For another, but slightly different situation, look to a rent-a-player deal the White Sox made in the offseason. Orlando Cabrera is in the last year of a contract that pays him $9 million this season. The Sox will offer him arbitration because 1) baring a horrendous second half, he'll garner interest from other teams and 2) there's no down side to Cabrera accepting. He wouldn't destroy the team's budget and could hold down the shortstop position for another year without forcing the Sox to bear the burden of long-term contract.
So yes, rent-a-player strategies can still bear some long-term fruits. But the idea that you can trade for any team's trash and turn it into draft treasure is just fruity.