Brewers' Draft hopes take hit
Sheets' surgery, Yankees' signings impact compensation
MILWAUKEE -- So much for the silver lining associated with the departure of the Brewers' best two pitchers.Entering the offseason, club officials faced the very real possibility that CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets, co-aces who helped deliver Milwaukee to its first postseason in 26 years, would be pitching elsewhere in 2009. But attached to that sobering reality was the silver lining: Both pitchers were "Type A" free agents who would net the Brewers four extra picks in next year's First-Year Player Draft, perhaps all four before the start of the second round. Now, because of Sheets' lingering elbow injury and the New York Yankees' offseason spending spree, it appears the Brewers will get nothing for Sheets and only a supplemental first-round pick, plus New York's second-rounder, for Sabathia. The Brewers stand to save millions in signing bonuses, but their opportunity to stockpile top-tier talent for the future is greatly diminished. The Sabathia trade last July, which cost the Brewers four top prospects, showed the value of keeping a strong stable of young players. "We didn't see this coming, so in that sense there is some disappointment," said new Brewers scouting director Bruce Seid, who was promoted from within the organization in November. "But the fact is that we still have six of the first 102 picks, and my scouts and myself are going to be diligent to make every selection count." Understanding the Brewers' disappointment requires a primer on Draft-pick compensation. Free agents are assigned point values and letter classifications based on a system developed nearly three decades ago by the Elias Sports Bureau that considers players' performance over the prior two seasons. Sabathia and Sheets both qualified as "Type A" free agents, and such players come at an extra price. Their new team must forfeit a first- or second-round Draft pick to the player's former team as compensation, based on the new team's selection in the upcoming First-Year Player Draft. Generally, if the player's new team finished in the top half of the standings in the previous season and thus selects in the bottom half of the first round of the Draft, that selection goes to the player's former club. If the new team selects in the top half of the first round, its first-round selection is protected but it must instead forfeit a second-round pick. Teams that lose top-tier free agencts also get a "sandwich pick" between the first- and second rounds of the draft for each Type-A player who departs. There's a catch. In order to qualify for Draft compensation, a Type A player must first be offered arbitration by his former team and decline that offer in order to reach the free-agent market. The Brewers extended such offers to both Sabathia and Sheets, and both players declined.
Had Sheets' deal gone through with Texas, the Brewers would have received a "sandwich pick" between the first and second rounds of the Draft, plus Texas' second-round pick. The Rangers have the 14th overall selection and would not have been forced to forfeit that pick."We're not going to use anything as a crutch," Seid said. "You move on with what you have."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.