The Texas Rangers trade for ace left-hander Cliff Lee is expected to make the Rangers a team to fear this 2010 postseason.

Yes, the Rangers will win the AL West, even with the Los Angeles Angels obtaining Dan Haren in a recent trade.

In that trade for Lee, the Seattle Mariners received major league first baseman Justin Smoak and three highly-rated minor leaguers including durable 21-year-old, Double A right-handed starting pitcher Blake Beavan.  

There is one major difference in each teams trade for another ace pitcher: the Rangers are going to lose Lee to free agency while the Angels are able to keep Haren for another tow (or three) seasons.

And that poses a unique question. Should teams trade their wanted stars in the final years of their contracts or keep them and obtain draft picks?

Most of the times yes, and there are many reasons why.

With draft picks, teams do not yet know how recently drafted players will adjust to the wooden bats as hitters, or how pitchers will fact an entire lineup of solid hitters.

For example, Billy Rowell was a “can’t miss” left-handed high school power hitter from New Jersey. After being selected ninth overall by the Baltimore Orioles in 2006, it is safe to say Rowell “can miss,” and it is usually the breaking pitches thrown his way.

Rowell is in his THIRD full season of High A ball, and will strike out about 150 times this year. The Orioles swung and missed, too, as Tim Lincecum was the next selection in that draft by the San Francisco Giants.

Think the O’s would make that trade straight up now? They might even throw in their first round pick in 2009 for another shot at Mike Leake, drafted four picks later.

I broke down the drafts of 2002-2005 into three sections: Top 10 picks, picks from 11-20 and picks from 21-30.

Of the 50 selections in that (Denard) time Span, there were 39 players who made the majors thus far from being selected in the top 10 of those seasons. In the 11-20 group, 309 players also have made it to the major leagues. The bottom third (21-30) contributed only 29 major leaguers thus far.

I also counted those players who were “impact” guys. Those players who I felt were bona fide stars, or were productive major league starters. The top 10’s produced 19 impact players, the second group of ten selections produced 14 impact guys, while the final ten selections in each round produced 11 impact guys.

The further down the ladder in selections within the first round, the less likely a team will draft someone who will make and impact on their major league roster.

The draft is a crap shoot, and puts even more emphasis on the amateur scouts which roam the countryside.

Lets “for example” a situation where the Mariners kept Lee. Maybe Jack Z thinks this 2011 draft is very deep and wants the draft picks. So the season ends and Lee files for free agency.

As is probable, the Yankees then sign Lee to a multi-year contract and the Mariners get the draft picks. What kind of player will they get? Well, the Yankees are definitely making the playoffs, and have a good chance to get to (and win) the World Series.

The Mariners would then have the Yankees first round pick near the end of the round plus one of the last supplemental picks. Picks 28-30 do not produce as major leaguers as Top 10 picks produce.

It is easier to produce major league stars when you pick in the upper levels of the draft. Just ask Jack Z. He had two top ten picks as draft guru for the Milwaukee Brewers and he picked Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. Much easier when you have so many better players amongst to choose.

For example, when Braun was selected fifth overall in 2005, the Brewers still could have skipped him and taken Troy Tulowitzki two picks later. Or the Brew Crew could have selected Andrew McCutchen, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza or Colby Rasmus and received good value, too.

Another factor in determining whether to keep of trade your potential free agent is to analyze where his potential free agent might land. It rarely happens, but if a top 15 draft position team signs your free agent, you do not get their first round pick. They are immune to the compensation rules, and they relinquish their second round pick instead.

Another indication of not getting value for the draft picks is when a team signs two Type A free agents. The higher ranked free agent’s former team gets the first round pick and the lower ranked Type A free agent gets the signing teams second round selection.

This happened in the 2009 draft after the New York Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. All three were Type A free agents but Burnett was ranked third behind highest ranked Type A Teixeira and second ranked Type A Sabathia.

The Angels received the Yankees first round selection (No. 25 overall), the Brewers received the Yankees second round selection (No. 73 overall) and the Blue Jays received the Yankees third round pick (No. 104 overall).

Combined with the supplemental pick, that 104th selection in any draft is not adequate compensation for losing that type A free agent. Especially when you could have traded him for a package of prospects you already know how they can play.

When a team has a highly rated player coveted by many teams willing to pay up for his services, the best action to take is trade, trade, trade .

Get as many players as you can, but key in on impact players . When in doubt, quality is much better than quantity.  

The Mariners did just that and reaped a huge gain from the Rangers, better than they could have hoped for from the two draft picks as compensation.


Read more MLB news on