Chasing the Protected Pick

As the month of September has been winding down, you have probably heard people allude to the Phillies losing on purpose to secure a protected draft pick. They have lost six out of their last seven games — three each to the Mets and Marlins. The new collective bargaining agreement changed some of the ways bad teams were, essentially, given a kick in the right direction. Dave Cameron highlighted these changes at FanGraphs last October. He wrote:

Instead of offering arbitration, teams must now submit a qualifying offer equal to the average salary of the 125 highest paid players in the game – this year, that works out to $13.3 million. In essence, a team that wants to be compensated for losing a free agent has to be willing to bring that player back for $13 million in 2013, which will greatly reduce the amount of players who get tagged with a compensation requirement.

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Not only has the pool of players requiring compensation changed, so too have the specifics relating to the draft picks and where they go. Previously, the top 15 picks were protected, so any team finishing in the lower half of the standings could sign a free agent and only have to surrender their second round choice. That protection has been altered to only cover the top 10 selections. Additionally, because the Pirates get the ninth pick in next year’s draft for failing to sign Mark Appel, only the teams with the nine worst records in 2012 have draft pick protection – the Astros, Cubs, Rockies, Twins, Indians, Marlins, Red Sox, Royals, and Blue Jays will get to keep their first round selection even if they sign a player who received a qualifying offer. Everyone else would have to forfeit their first round pick.

Teams that finish in the bottom-ten in terms of won-lost record have their draft pick protected. In the case of a tie, which is a very real possibility this year, the team with the worst record in the previous year is given preference.

The standings prior to today’s action:

Team W L PCT GB
1 Houston Astros 51 108 .321 -
2 Miami Marlins 59 100 .371 -
3 Chicago White Sox 62 96 .392 -
4 Chicago Cubs 66 93 .415 -
5 Minnesota Twins 66 92 .418 -
6 Seattle Mariners 70 89 .440 -
7 Milwaukee Brewers 71 87 .449 -
8 Colorado Rockies 72 87 .453 -
9 Philadelphia Phillies 72 86 .456 -
10 Toronto Blue Jays 72 86 .456 -
11 San Francisco Giants 73 85 .462 1.0
12 New York Mets 73 85 .462 1.0
13 San Diego Padres 74 84 .468 2.0

With just a four-game set against the Braves remaining in the regular season, the Phillies still aren’t guaranteed that protected pick. They can finish as “low” as sixth or as “high” as 13th.

Why does this matter? The Phillies may not be big spenders during the off-season, but GM Ruben Amaro may look to add at least one player via free agency, particularly one to pitch in the outfield. Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, and Curtis Granderson are just a few who should receive qualifying offers from their current teams. If the Phillies finish outside of the “top” ten, record-wise, they may have to settle instead for signing a part-time player like Nate McLouth. The cost/benefit analysis is a subject for another article, but it will be considered. Not having to forfeit their draft pick makes any signing less of an issue.

This is all the Phillies are playing for in these final four games. Root, root, root for the home team. If they don’t lose, it’s a shame.

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26 comments

  1. Bryan

    September 26, 2013 07:49 AM

    Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz or Curtis Granderson would be pitchers in the outfield? Now I’m really confused.

  2. hk

    September 26, 2013 08:11 AM

    He meant pitch in in the outfield.

  3. MattWinks

    September 26, 2013 08:45 AM

    The big deal is the slots and hard budget. In the past you could forfeit a pick and then hand a guy with signability concerns a couple of million, now that money is not available.

    The other thing to account for is that under the old system you lost your first unprotected pick no matter how many FA’s with attached compensation you signed.

    Not to advocate not signing a big name free agent, but signing one guys costs a 2nd round pick and its slot of ~1.2 million (which is better than many comp round picks in the old system), then they would lose their 3rd round pick and so on. The system rewards losing and build through the draft and those already with good teams and punishes the middle.

  4. joecatz

    September 26, 2013 09:15 AM

    The Phillies are actually in a pretty good spot right now based on the rest of the teams AROUND them and their schedules.

    San Diego and San Francisco play each other

    The Mets and Brewers play each other.

    If the Phillies lose one game, and win three they end up with 75 wins.

    they hold tie breaker advantage (2012 records) over SF and Mil.

    so at 75 wins, or 3 out of 4 from the braves, even if the Blue Jays and Rockies get swept, the only way the phillies end up with the 11th pick is if:

    1. Padres or giants sweep each other, or giants lose three of four.

    2. Brewers take 3-4 from the mets, or they split 2-2.

    If the Phillies lose 2 games of their next four, and end up with 74 wins?

    the only way they lose the pick, regardless of Toronto or Colorado records is if:

    1. the padres sweep the giants.
    2. the mets win 3 out of 4.

    any other combination of w/l between those teams combined with phillies going 2-2 guarantees them the pick unless my math is missing something.

  5. joecatz

    September 26, 2013 10:01 AM

    If you take that back further,

    since 2010:

    vs LHP

    McCann (597 PA) 724 OPS, .317 wOBA, 24 HRs
    Chooch: (458 PA) .854 OPS, .370 wOBA, 11 HRs

    vs RHP

    McCann: (1384 PA) .815 OPS, .351 wOBA, 61 HR
    Chooch: (1206 PA) .795 OPS, .345 wOBA, 24 HR

    aside from the obvious HR differences, Chooch has literally been as good vs RHP as McCann and has been vastly superior vs LHP.

  6. bubba0101

    September 26, 2013 11:04 AM

    So this is what we are resigned to these days. It feels like the mid 90′s around here.

  7. Chris S.

    September 26, 2013 11:16 AM

    The Phillies have some nice pieces to build off of for next year so going out and getting Nelson Cruz would not be the end of the world especially because he would be a RH power bat we could use in the lineup. Plus we could probably get him on a fairly cheap 2 year deal.

  8. bubba0101

    September 26, 2013 11:44 AM

    If we are spending the money then I like Choo. We need on base guys

  9. Cormican

    September 26, 2013 12:07 PM

    Technically speaking, the Phillies can’t get the actual 11th pick, that belongs to the Blue Jays for not signing their pick in 2013. They would go from the 10th pick to the 12th.

    Also, if Nelson Cruz isn’t offered a QO, then sure I’d sign him. But, if he costs the 12th or 13th pick in the draft, I want no parts of him. I may give that up for the younger Choo, but 2014 looks to be a very good draft, especially for pitching. I’m not giving that up for a few years of Nelson Cruz.

  10. Pencilfish

    September 26, 2013 12:10 PM

    joecatz,

    With a team that is starving for runs, HR’s obviously matter, but it should also be noted that McCann and Ruiz’s places in the batting order are very different. Ruiz has usually batted lower in Charlie’s order, while McCann is a middle-of-the order bat. Sandberg has put Ruiz in the middle of the batting order in Howard’s absence, though.

    Assuming Sandberg keeps Utley, Howard and Brown in the middle of the batting order, I don’t know how McCann’s LH bat fits. We need a RH power bat in the middle of the order that can mash LHP and hold his own against RHP (I think you said this before, and I agreed), while keeping Ruiz lower in the order. Remember, Ruiz will only catch ~100-110 games a season if resigned.

    What about trading for Jose Bautista? He’s signed through 2015 ($14M/season) with a 2016 team option for $14M.

  11. Bob

    September 26, 2013 02:02 PM

    Jose Bautista hasn’t played a full season the past two years. I don’t want another injury-risk in this lineup when we already have to worry about Utley, Howard, and Dom Brown – who’s been injured the past two years as well.

  12. Pencilfish

    September 26, 2013 02:44 PM

    Bob,

    True, but who else is available? Hart and Cruz have injury histories, too. Stanton is a pipe dream. It won’t happen. Pence? Who knows if he wants back in Philly after the 2012 trade? Bautista can be a game changer for $28M/2years.

    There are other trade candidates like Carlos Gomez (27 and signed through 2016), Michael Cuddyer (34 and signed through 2014) and Josh Willingham (34 and signed through 2014).

  13. KH

    September 26, 2013 03:11 PM

    Shin Soo Choo would be a nice pick up at the right dollars and years but he is not a good centerfielder and if they were to play him there it would cancel out a lot of his vaulue.

  14. Phillie697

    September 26, 2013 03:33 PM

    @Pencilfish,

    Gaming-changing $28M/2yr players require game-changing talents to acquire. This team isn’t in a position to trade game-changing young talents for game-changing old talents so that they can finish 3rd in their own division.

  15. Joecatz

    September 26, 2013 04:58 PM

    I’m actually of the opinion that the phillies will explore adding a big bat via trade. Bautista, kemp, Fit the bill as does CarGo. I don’t think they can haul in Stanton.

    But none of those other names would shock me.

  16. Steve

    September 26, 2013 07:25 PM

    tonight about guarantees another plus for the top 10 chance. 7-1 with no outs in the 2nd. Go BP.

  17. pedro3131

    September 26, 2013 08:13 PM

    Who exactly on our roster is worth any of these top 10 offensive players in the game? It’s hard to even build an incredibly lopsided deal that would entice a team to give up a guy like Bautista, Kemp or Cargo.

  18. joecatz

    September 26, 2013 09:59 PM

    for those wondering, based on tie breakers, etc.. after tonights loss the Phillies are guaranteed a protected pick with two more losses, OR one loss and one San Francisco victory (including tonight as they currently are losing).

    if that happens nothing else matters.

  19. Pencilfish

    September 26, 2013 10:18 PM

    Getting Bautista may require a boatload of players, no question, but the Blue Jays have a big payroll and are finishing last in the AL East. They need pitching (as do the Phillies). I wonder if Biddle and/or Morgan and/or a reliever on the ML roster can be a starting point for trade talks. Maybe not, but FA are not the only game in town.

  20. Joecatz

    September 26, 2013 10:22 PM

    PF,

    Your not getting a Bautista, a Stanton, a kemp, a whoever without Franco and maybe brown. But no ones trading a superstar to Philly without one of those guys. Not base on what other teams can offer.

  21. Joecatz

    September 27, 2013 05:40 AM

    Giants won it’s now real simple.

    Phillies are guaranteed a protected pick with one more loss. Without That loss the only way they’ll get it is if the giants lose one more and the brewers or mets win all of their remaining games.

  22. pedro3131

    September 27, 2013 01:24 PM

    I don’t think there’s anyone in the Phillies farm system that is remotely close to the guys you’re talking about. Perhaps if we traded them our entire minor league organization they might bite, but even then, what’s the point of elevating us from a 74 win team to a 78 win team if it comes at the price of sacrificing what little hope for the future we have?

  23. joecatz

    September 27, 2013 01:57 PM

    You are correct Pedro. We should just burn our Shirseys, cross the border into Maryland and buy some Orioles gear, cause theres no way a big market team like the Phillies can figure out how to fix their problems ever again.

  24. pedro3131

    September 27, 2013 02:40 PM

    Orioles gear? it’s all about dat #nattitude … But just because I anticipate not making the play-offs for another few years doesn’t mean we can stop being fans. I can tell you I felt a great deal better this year going into it with the expectations that we’re probably a 75-80 win team then last year when I thought we had one more year to actually compete for a world series.

  25. Joecatz

    September 27, 2013 05:45 PM

    There are an infinite number of ways to turn this team into an 88-90 win team immediately without sacrificing the future at all.

    Resign chooch, make a huge post for Masahiro Tanaka, replace Kendrick with a more cost effective 5th starter, platoon Ruf with Howard, add one good bullpen piece, and the right LH bench bat and sign a corner OF that makes sense through FA, and provide they lose one more game, and depending on the OF you’ve just created about an 88 win team with much more upside without adding much in terms of payroll and at the same time, sacrificed nothing but a second round draft pick.

    It’s not unattainable.

    The key is not overpaying in free agency for wins that cripple the team long term, or trading everything of value this offseason for a white whale.

  26. hk

    September 28, 2013 06:42 AM

    It seems pretty apropos of this season that Cliff Lee would go 8 innings, give up run, strike out 13 and walk none and the Phils would clinch…a bottom 10 finish.

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