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Striking gold with compensation picks

In the past week, I’ve been writing at Baseballin’ on a Budget about the A’s recent history with compensation picks lost or gained through free agency. The A’s added players such as Huston Street, Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton with draft picks that weren’t originally their own. I thought it would be interesting to see what other steals have been found with “free” draft picks. (Note: I only looked at first-round and sandwich picks that a team got for losing a player).

After the 1984 season, the Padres signed former Cubs pitcher Tim Stoddard to a three-year, $1.9 million contract. Stoddard threw 105 innings for the Padres in a season and a half, going 2-9 with an ERA+ of 85. He had one more good season in 1987 with the Yankees. The Cubs selected Rafael Palmeiro with the Padres' pick the following June; Palmeiro didn’t blossom until he was traded to the Rangers, but the Cubs made the right decision not signing Stoddard and found a gem late in the first round. Later, the Orioles would draft Brian Roberts with a sandwich pick after the Rangers signed Palmeiro for his second tour of duty in Arlington.

After the 1990 season, the Giants signed Bud Black from Toronto to a four-year, $10 million contract. Black had ups and downs the previous five years, but was coming off a good year. For San Francisco’s trouble, Black was worth 1.0 WAR over the four years. With the pick, the Blue Jays took Shawn Green; Green, along with Carlos Delgado, anchored Toronto’s lineup for a four–year stretch from 1996 to 1999, before being traded to the Dodgers.

Kansas City shortstop Kurt Stillwell signed with the Padres after the 1991 season; he played only 193 games the next two seasons, posting an OPS+ of 61. For the low, low price of $3.5 million over the two years, Stillwell posted minus-3.3 WAR (yeah, that’s negative). Adding insult to wallet-injury, the Royals took Johnny Damon with their sandwich pick.

Other tales include Toronto drafting Chris Carpenter (for aging but still-effective Tom Henke), Minnesota drafting Torii Hunter (for John Smiley), and the Mets drafting David Wright with a sandwich pick after letting Mike Hampton sign one of the worst contracts in baseball history with the Rockies.

Two teams in particular had drafts that could have been classified as great hauls with just compensatory picks. The Braves took Adam Wainwright in 2000 with Arizona’s first-round pick for letting Russ Springer go and later added Kelly Johnson with a sandwich pick for “losing” Jose Hernandez.

But the kings, as they are wont to do lately, are the Boston Red Sox. After 2004, the Red Sox played shortstop roulette, signing Edgar Renteria from St. Louis (losing their own first-round pick that became Colby Rasmus) and letting Orlando Cabrera go to Anaheim (picking up a first). The Red Sox also lost Derek Lowe to the Dodgers and Pedro Martinez to the Mets, giving them two firsts and three sandwich picks. With the picks for Cabrera, the Red Sox drafted Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie; with the picks for Lowe, they drafted Craig Hansen and Michael Bowden, and with the pick for Martinez, the Red Sox took Clay Buchholz. That’s a pretty good haul for any team, much less one that had just won the World Series.

Almost all of these teams did well letting their free agent sign elsewhere, which is the same conclusion that I came to looking at just the A’s. That some of the compensatory picks pan out is just a bonus.

One more interesting note: In 1983, the Mets drafted Calvin Schiraldi with their sandwich pick, setting him on a course in which he would play a vital role in their 1986 World Series win. Traded to Boston in 1985 in an eight-player deal, Schiraldi blew a save in Game 6, the famous “it gets through Buckner” game, and lost Game 7, giving up three runs in the seventh after entering with the game tied.

Dan Hennessey writes Baseballin' on a Budget, a blog about the Oakland Athletics. Follow him on Twitter @DanHennessey31.