Dodgers use financial might to put monetary value on draft pick

The Dodgers made a trade last week in which they acquired Ryan Webb, Brian Ward and the 74th selection in the 2015 MLB Draft for Chris O’Brien and Ben Rowen. When it was first reported on Twitter, it didn’t make a ton of sense on the surface.

Minutes after the initial report, it came to light the Dodgers were also acquiring the Orioles’ Competitive Balance Round B draft pick — No. 74. That is what this trade was all about, and the Dodgers have now, effectively, set the bar for the cost of a draft pick.

Before we get to that, let’s just recognize the Dodgers paid $2.75 million (Webb’s salary) for the pick. You might say they were also getting Webb as a reliever and Ward as minor-league catching depth, but Webb was released by the Dodgers on Monday, even after accepting his assignment to Triple-A. It was an odd situation, as Webb was a somewhat competent reliever, but the Dodgers’ front office felt it was content with its reliever depth in the high minors.

What the Dodgers clearly valued was the draft pick. Competitive Balance draft picks are the only picks that can be traded under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. It’s strange because in the NFL, teams can trade their own picks, but they cannot trade compensatory picks, which are essentially what competitive balance picks equate to.

The 74th pick in the draft has a slot-recommended amount of $827,000. If you add that to the $2.75 million, it appears the Dodgers value pick 74 at $3.577 million. That has to be the high end, seeing as it’s the Dodgers that placed the value on this pick. A team like the A’s or Twins would value it differently (i.e. less). It makes me wonder what picks 37-42 (Competitive Balance Round A) would be worth to them. I’m hoping we’ll find out.

Andrew Ball at Beyond the Boxscore attempted to analyze the value of picks in the 2013 MLB Draft. For picks No. 61-100, he came to a value of $2.58 million on it — not far off from the original $2.75 million of Webb’s salary. When you factor in the slot amount, it looks like a bit of an overpay. But, if the Dodgers intend to apply that extra money gained to draft and sign a player who is looking for an over-slot bonus at Nos. 24 (1st-round pick) or 35 (supplemental 1st-rounder for Hanley Ramirez), it might have even more value than it does on the surface.

The MLB Draft, more than any other draft, is an unknown the further you move away from the first round. There are so many players, so many scouts and so much information out there that sometimes guys who end up being really good major leaguers fall to the later rounds of the draft. Odds are, the Dodgers aren’t going to land the next David Cone or Graig Nettles (both No. 74 overall selections), but they increase their chances of landing a guy just by having the pick.

This is something the previous regime would never have done. Not to rip Ned Colletti anymore than we already have over the years, but this kind of a deal takes imagination and strategy — neither of which Colletti displayed in his tenure. Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Co., made this deal happen solely for the draft pick. They placed a value they thought was appropriate on the pick and acquired it. I’m sure they’re trying to do it again, and this might be one of two chances they get to do so. The CBA is up after the 2016 season, and there will, undoubtedly, be some wholesale changes to amateur player acquisition (draft pools, international signings/draft, etc.). If they can exploit (for lack of a better term) the system to benefit the farm system, then why not do it? They have all the money, and this is a way the Dodgers can use their financial might to gain the advantage over other teams. They’re planning to do so during the next July 2 international signing period, and they’re attempting to do so when it comes to the Rule 4 Draft.

The pick will probably be unheralded and ultimately not provide any value to the Dodgers on the field. But, the fact the front office valued the pick enough to spend $3-plus million on it shows its forward-thinking and willingness to try to improve the team in ways other than signing the best free agent available every year. This strategy can be implemented for at least one more year, as changes are coming with the new CBA. It remains to be seen how the draft is impacted.

In a draft that doesn’t have a ton of top-end talent and depth, but rather some solid depth, grabbing the 74th pick (and having five of the first 101 picks) can only be seen as a good thing.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.