The Nationals May Not Want LaRoche Back
As the ongoing LaRoche drama has stretched to infinity and beyond, this is starting to look like a case of the Nats hoping that there is someone out there who will offer LaRoche a three year deal. That isn't because the Nats wouldn't like to have LaRoche for 2013 or even 2014, but with Morse signed through this coming season, Anthony Rendon working his way through the minors, and Tyler Moore already in the majors the Nats have little to no need of Adam LaRoche. What the Nats do need is minor league talent, and the best way to add minor league talent is through the draft.
If the Nats do re-sign LaRoche they will certainly work to trade Morse, but the level of prospects they receive for him will be nowhere close to the talent Mike Rizzo and the Nats scouting department have acquired in the first round of the draft. Simply look at the Nats last two free agents that garnered compensation picks. With Mike Rizzo as the head of scouting and player development the Nats were able to turn the Alfonso Soriano compensation picks into Josh Smoker and Jordan Zimmermann, and while Smoker didn't amount to much Jordan Zimmermann's ability as the Nats third Ace more than makes up for that.
While there were reports of bickering between Stan Kasten and Mike Rizzo at the 2010 trade deadline, reports varied between Kasten wanting to keep Dunn and sign him to an extension and Rizzo wanting to trade him for either Edwin Jackson or Daniel Hudson. The Nats ultimately decided to do neither and let Dunn play out his contract and walk at the end of the year receiving Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin as the compensation picks. Since then Alex Meyer has been traded for Denard Span and Brian Goodwin is the Nats number two prospect. There is an argument to be made for letting a good scouting department work their magic in the draft.
That was of course under the old CBA rules which gave teams two compensation picks, one between the first and second round and the signing team’s first or second round pick with the first fifteen picks in the first round being protected. Now the signing team will still lose its first or second round pick, with only the top ten being protected. That pick though now simply disappears into the ether and the team losing the player garners a compensation pick between the first and second round.
It is always pointed out that only 10% of the players drafted even make it to the majors and trading a player for higher level prospects will yield a better return as it is easier to judge if those players will make it to the majors. The real flaw with applying that logic to the compensation picks is that under the old system they were in the first and second round and that 10% number includes all fifty rounds. Going back to 2005 there was a total of 48 players taken after the 15th pick of the first round through the 15th pick of the second round. Of those 48 players 25 of them made it to the majors. 52% of those players got to play at least one game as a major leaguer. That is a lot better than the 10% number that is always quoted and solid to good major league players like Jed Lowrie, Clay Bucholz, Matt Garza, and Colby Rasmus are included in that compensation pick area. Limiting this to only the compensation round 9 of 18 players made it to the majors or right at 50%.
Moving forward to the 2006 draft and 44 players were selected after the 15th pick of the first round through the 15th pick of the second round, and of those 24 of them signed. That is right around the same percentage at 54%, and those numbers include such solid major league players as Brett Anderson, Ian Kennedy, and Chris Perez. Once again changing this to the new CBA rules and 7 of 14 players selected in the compensation round have played in the majors. In 2007 there were 64 players selected in the compensation pick zone with 27 of them having reached the majors or 42%. That is the lowest percentage by far but this is also the closest draft to modern times. Change it to the new CBA rules and 58% reached the majors. The 2007 draft is also the draft with the most talent included in the old CBA compensation zone with such names as Giancarlo Stanton, Jordan Zimmermann, Freddy Freeman, Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, Rick Porcello, Ben Revere, Brett Cecil, and Sean Doolittle.
Any closer to modern times and there just aren't enough players that have worked their way through the system to make the data relevant, but in those three drafts between 40-50% of the players drafted after the 15th pick of the first round through the 15th pick of the second round made it to the majors, and there are some pretty impressive names on that list. Not all of them were compensation picks and many wouldn't have been under the new CBA rules, but this is a good way to show that better than 10% of draft picks make it to the majors when selected in a higher round. The chances of a prospect developing into a star is still low, but the compensation pick is just as good if not better than any prospects Morse could bring in a trade.
There is one more aspect to factor in when discussing draft picks and that is the new rules that give teams a budget for the first ten rounds. The more picks a team has in the first ten rounds the higher their budget is going to be. Even if the Nats use the compensation picks for a slot or under slot signing they could use that extra money to grab a better talent with their first round pick. The Nats are no stranger to paying over slot for draft picks as they have done it in every draft since Mike Rizzo has taken over as GM. With Mike Rizzo's track record in the draft and the ability of the Nats scouting department there is a good chance that the offer they currently have on the table for Adam LaRoche is just for show and the real goal is to get that draft pick.