It’s the Draft Picks, Stupid!

One factor which has been conveniently ignored by almost all the beat scribes during this free agent season is the securing of additional sandwich picks at the amateur draft when teams’ free agents scurry to the highest bidder, assuming arbitration has been offered to these players. Almost all of the columns isolate these players like Pedro, and fail to look at the moves in a grander context, simplistically bringing up the hot-button issues like “loyalty”, “respect”, and other such semantic drivel. In the Sox’ case, they offered arbitration to each of Lowe, Martinez, Varitek, and Cabrera. As it stands, the Sox may pick up the two picks due to the Mets’ signing of Pedro, two more if Cabrera moves on to someone else (looking likely after the pending Renteria signing), and two more if Lowe bolts, which is almost assured. I don’t want to think about the two for a Varitek exodus, so let’s leave it at those three.

So, the cost of Pedro Martinez would actually have been $50M + the loss of these draft picks. Lowe would be upwards of 27M + the draft picks. Cabrera was looking like 30M + the loss of the draft picks. In this way, the Sox’ calculated offer of arbitration to all four of these guys was a very smart move – the replacement cost of minor league prospects and their upside at the major league minimum (if they pan out) for five years, versus the uninsurable risk of a guy like Martinez at $14M per for four years (heart and soul and all of that jazz nothwithstanding) makes the jettisoning of these players a no-brainer. In fact, the Sox’ pending signing of Renteria is really Renteria for 4/40 + the two minor leaguers at their nominal salary plus bonus. It’s almost like trading these guys with a bit of cash at the deadline for 6 high-level prospects, except that we aren’t at the trading deadline, there isn’t a pennant race, and there are still 3 months to get to an opening day roster. Very wise, if you are thinking long-term.

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