Giants Paying Attention to Compensation

In 2003, Brian Sabean did what many considered unthinkable, and unforgivable. Signing Michael Tucker. It wasn't just that he did it, but when he did it that astounded and angered fans. Now, 3 years later, Sabean is doing the opposite to prove that what many have said about him for years simply isn't true.

Let's be honest, baseball draft picks aren't worth much.

More than any other sport, a draft pick in baseball is a serious risk to never be worth anything.  Even the Top 10 players in each draft have maybe a 50% chance of becoming a major leaguer, less to be an impact player.  Players beyond that are long shots at best.

Still, the events of December 7th, 2003, echo in San Francisco Giants fans minds.  It was the day Brian Sabean signed Michael Tucker.  More than that, it was a day before the arbitration deadline, where Tucker's former team, the Kansas City Royals, had indicated they would not offer him arbitration.  By signing Tucker on December 7th instead of December 8th, Sabean did only one thing: he gave up a first round draft pick for Tucker, one he would not have given up only hours later.

Ever since then, the Giants have been stigmatized by the reputation of hating draft picks, and signing players just to get out of them.  The attacks flew when the Giants gave up 3 picks the next offseason.  Nevermind that the Giants acted quickly to sign two eventual gold glove winners (Omar Vizquel and Mike Matheny) and the top closer in the market to address a desperate need (Armando Benitez), suddenly all Giants fans seemed to think about were what picks were being lost.

Now, in 2006, Sabean is proving that the move really was, as he claimed at the time, a move simply to limit spending.  In 2006, Sabean has already spent record amounts in the draft (giving a franchise high bonus to #10 pick Tim Lincecum) and outside the country (giving a country-high bonus to Domincan player Angel Villalona).  But nearly 3 years to the day of his most infamous draft related move, he is doing the opposite.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the Giants are waiting until after December 1st, this year's arbitration deadline, to sign Rich Aurilia.  The deal is all but done, and Aurilia's agent says that they have no problem waiting, although he hinted it does leave the door open for someone to swoop in.  But the Giants have chosen to wait, simply so they may not have to give up a pick to the Cincinnati Reds, should the Reds not offer Aurilia arbitration.

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal is doing a similar move with former Boston Red Sox second baseman Mark Loretta.

What's interesting about this is that the picks the Giants are saving are not first round picks.  Their first round pick is protected, being in the Top 15 overall.  If the Giants lose a pick, it would be their second round pick, which could be so low it wouldn't be in the Top 100 overall picks, the point at which the draft generally starts to become a real crap shoot.  If both players require compensation, the Giants would lose a third rounder, too, which would be even further back.

The Giants have also already earned 3 picks of compensation, at least 2 of which will occur long before that pick the Giants may lose.  Thanks to the New York Mets signing Moises Alou, the Giants will definitely receive the #32 overall pick in the Sandwich round, and will probably receive the Mets' first round pick at #29 overall (unless the Mets also sign Andy Pettitte).  The Giants have also picked up a pick for Mike Stanton which will occur in the 2nd half of the Sandwich round.

The Giants could still earn as many as 8 more picks, with three Type A free agents (Ray Durham, Jason Schmidt, Barry Bonds), and two Type B free agents (Shea Hillenbrand, Pedro Feliz) still on the market.  Whether they will get such picks depends on the Giants offering them arbitration, and if so, if they sign elsewhere.

In light of those picks, the Giants losing their 2nd, 3rd or even 4th round picks will be all but inconsequential, as the Giants will have gained picks much higher in the draft, thus with a better chance of getting quality players.

So perhaps its high time to give Sabean his due.  The Giants are not allergic to the draft.  Sometimes when a team says they're trying to ‘win now', they are actually allocating all their available resources to it, and that's all there is to it.  Debate the value of such a strategy, sure, but it's time to admit that it was a strategy, even if it was flawed.

Oh, by the way, the pick the Giants gave up for Tucker?  At #29 overall in 2004, the Royals took Matt Campbell, a pitcher from South Carolina.  He had an 8.44 ERA in his pro debut in 2004, and posted a 1-5 record with a 4.66 ERA in 2005.  He missed 2006 with a shoulder injury.  Did the Giants really miss out on much?

Keep up with all the Free Agent Signings, and what compensation they earn, with the Free Agent Compensation Chart.

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