When the Cubs played the White Sox last week, the aftermath reminded me of something I've mentioned before. Since it kind of plays, and is a rule-change nobody else will talk about, I'll do it here. And, yes, it revolves around the draft.
The White Sox catching position has been a work in progress since A.J. Pierzynski left town. Tyler Flowers (2013 OPS .603) is the starter, though mainly for defensive reasons. "Pitchers like throwing to him," said a Sox fan I work with. (Hey, Tim has a 'source'.) His backup last year was Josh Phegley, who hit worse than Flowers, and encouraged the team to bring in a Rule 5 guy (Adrian Nieto, OPS .817 in 2013 at High-A) from Washington. As Phegley has been returned to the minors, it appears Nieto is the back-up.
Partway through the game between the Chicago teams, Flowers left with an injury that likely frightened White Sox fans. While Flowers isn't a ferocious hitter, he is 'the guy'. And his backup hasn't played a game in Double-A or higher. As it turns out, Flowers injury isn't severe, and he'll be ready for the opener. He might already be back in action. However....
What if his injury were of the 'out for a month' variety?
In 2012, the Cubs got caught pants-down for catchers when a few injuries struck. On a minor cash deal, Koyie Hill came in to "stabilize" things. That, however, was mid-season. Minor-league players had already hit the affiliates. In this instance, the Sox could have been lurching toward opening day without a catcher. No American League team would likely be interested in giving Chicago a one-week advantage of a new catcher getting used to his new pitching staff. But yet, for a one-month rental, nobody really wants to part with a real prospect.
The standard is usually a hand-shake deal. A team parts with a veteran they have little use for (see Hill), a small cash transaction is made (probably $1,000 or less), and the season continues. And the standard "you owe me one" is issued. However, with camp still going, the rosters aren't set. A different option ought to be available to reward well-put-together rosters, and the GMs that put them together. Better than a hand-shake deal.
While I was writing this, Ken Rosenthal tweeted of a trade where Detroit sent utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi to Baltimore for 37-year old Alex Gonzalez. Perhaps a bit of Detroit panic, but nobody would ever send a valid big league utility guy for a catching rental. How then could another option be found?
Draft picks between Rounds 11 and 19 should be available for trade.
The Cubs are flush with usable back-up catchers. Eli Whiteside and John Baker could be perfectly able to run a pitching staff for a month. They wouldn't hit much, but probably better than Nieto, and they would call a game better than Phegley. How, then, could a trade like this be executed?
My hunch is that Baker is valued slightly more highly than Whiteside, but I might have it backward. If the Sox had needed a catcher really bad, and the rules permitted the avenue, GM Rick Hahn (who has done really well so far largely) could have called Epstein about the injury. Epstein could have offered (for instance) either catcher for a 14th-round selection, or chosen which one the Sox get for a 18th-round pick.
Neither team gets put out too horribly, a catcher gets a few weeks in the majors due to wise roster management, and the team has a catcher despite the bad timing of the injury. It sounds win-win. Alas, it isn't allowed.
Would a team want another teenth-round pick? Why not? What they're looking at is adding another Friday night starter from a mid-level school, or another bat a round earlier for their short season squads. Neither would likely make a dent in the majors, but for dealing Whiteside or Baker, it seems to trump a $1,000 payout. However, if a team still wanted to roll that way, they certainly could.
My guess is the league doesn't want to employ someone to track who is drafting in which round. Too hard to think 'out-of-the-box' like that, and employ a 'computer program' in June. Or something. I love the idea. A prospect-nik told me nobody would want to make those kinds of trades. I think they beat the "PTBNL who turns to an undisclosed amount of cash (without anyone being told)" one by a big distance.
You know that pitcher you really like at the fourth spot in June's draft. He likely got pounded this week. The goal is not to find the hot guy today-today, but the guy who will best represent your team in three or four years. (Which is my idea of a short-term timeline anyway. Which is why I like this stuff.)
Carlos Rodon's presumed slide continued in a 10-0 loss at Maryland. He gave up eight runs (all unearned) in under five innings, walking four and fanning eight. Trea Turner went hitless. My problem with Rodon is that he seems to despise pitching inside. If he could learn to do that in the minors, he could be a top end pitcher.
Tyler Beede recorded eight outs in a 17-2 loss against Mississippi State. Beede walked five and allowed five earned runs (11 total). Beede's control/command are the questions. The traffic light just turned yellow.
Jeff Hoffman of East Carolina pitched 'well', allowing only three runs over seven innings against Charlotte. However, he only fanned two in his start. He walked two, hit a guy, and surrendered six hits.
The winners this weekend? Probably the high school kids Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek. I'm not sure what they did, but they probably didn't get pounded.
Kolek, Aiken, and the White Sox for not needing to scrounge up a catcher in late March.