Do you trade upcoming free agents or do you let them walk?

When you talk about free agency there are some fans that believe that you should trade the player and take what you can get in return before the player leaves and there are those that believe you should let the free agent walk and take your compensation or supplemental pick and you will come out ahead. Who is right? I guess it comes down to how much of a risk taker you are, do you take the players that are offered in a deal or do you think you are better off drafting a player and hope that you can sign him and that he developes into the player you think he can be. The money comes in to play too when you consider the signing bonus and the costs that you will incur in developing that player over the years. What about the time? How long will it take to develop that player before he can help the team.

But now the rules are changing, teams can no longer obtain draft pick compensation for any players acquired midseason. The other part of the change to keep in mind is that teams that keep their players now obtain one compensatory draft pick for losing a top free agent, whereas they previously obtained two selections. If a team loses a player who turned down a qualifying offer to sign elsewhere, the player’s original team will obtain a single compensatory selection between the first and second rounds of the draft (the qualifying offers, which are based on the average salary of baseball’s 125 best-paid players, are expected to be worth $12.5MM or so in 2013). Meanwhile, the team that signs the free agent will lose a first round selection (though the top ten picks are protected). However, that lost first round pick no longer goes to the player’s former team. Instead, the pick disappears and the first round becomes condensed.

Over the years the Twins have traded players that were about to become free agents and they have lost a number of players to free agency for a variety of reasons. Let’s take a look at the Minnesota Twins round 1 supplemental picks over the years.

Travis Harrison (Twins-1s-2011) – Supplemental pick for loss of free agent infielder Orlando Hudson.  Harrison is currently playing 3B at Elizabethton.

Hudson Boyd (Twins-1s-2011) – Supplemental pick for loss of free agent pitcher Jesse Crain. Boyd is currently pitching in Elizabethton.

Matt Bashore (Twins-1s-2009) – Supplemental pick for loss of free agent pitcher Dennys Reyes. Bashore was in the Twins organization for 3 years pitching in only 13 games (sat out all of 2010 with injury) before the Twins released him this past spring. Now in Yankee organization pitching in “A” ball.

Carlos Gutierrez (Twins-1-2008) – Pick from the Angels as compensation for free agent outfielder Torii Hunter. Gutierrez is currently pitching in Rochester.

Shooter Hunt (Twins-1s-2008) – Supplemental Pick for loss of free agent outfielder Torii Hunter. Hunt was a minor league rule 5 pick by the Cardinals from the Twins after the 2011 season but no longer appears to be in their organization.

Hank Sanchez (Twins-1s-2005) – Supplemental pick for loss of free agent 3B Corey Koskie. Never got above “A” ball for the Twins and he was released after the 2009 season.

Glen Perkins (Twins-1-2004) – Pick from Mariners as compensation for free agent pitcher Eddie Guardado. Perkins has pitched for the Twins since 2006 and is currently the teams  closer.

Kyle Waldrop (Twins-1-2004) – Pick from Cubs as compensation for free agent pitcher LaTroy Hawkins. Waldrop has been with the Twins off and on in 2011-2012 pitching in a total of 11 games.

Matt Fox (Twins-1s-2004) – Supplemental pick for loss of free agent pitcher Eddie Guardado. Fox pitched in 1 game for the Twins in 2010 before being claimed by the Red Sox via waivers later in 2010. Currently pitching in “AA” ball for the Mariners organization.

Jay Rainville (Twins-1s-2004) – Supplemental pick for loss of free agent pitcher LaTroy Hawkins. Was in the Twins minor league system for 5 season getting as high as “AA” before the Twins let him go. Out of baseball.

Aaron Heilman (Twins-1s-2000) – Supplemental Pick for loss of free agent pitcher Mike Trombley. The Twins could not sign Heilman. The Mets picked Heilman in 2001 and he pitched in the big leagues from 2003-2011, now in “AAA” in the Rangers organization.

Matt LeCroy (Twins-1s-1997) – Supplemental pick for failure to sign 1996 No. 1 choice 1B Travis Lee. Played for the Twins from 2000-2005 and again in 2007. Played for Washington in 2006. Now a manager in the Nationals minor league system

Travis Miller (Twins-1s-1994) – Supplemental pick for failure to sign 1993 No. 1 choice  catcher Jason Varitek. Pitched for the Twins from 1996-2002.

Torii Hunter (Twins-1-1993) – Pick from Reds as compensation for free agent pitcher John Smiley. Played for the Twins from 1997-2007 before becoming a FA himself and signing with the Angels where he still plays today.

Marc Barcelo (Twins-1s-1993) – Supplemental pick for loss of free agent pitcher John Smiley. LHP Barcelo pitched in the Twins system between 1993-1997 reaching “AAA” but never got a call to the big leagues.

Kelcey Mucker (Twins-1s-1993) – Supplemental pick for loss of free agent SS Greg Gagne. Mucker played in the Twins system from 1993-1999 but never got above “AA” ball.

Scott Stahoviak (Twins-1s-1991) – Supplemental pick for loss of free agent 3B Gary Gaetti. Played in 344 games in a Twins uniform at 1B/3B in 1993 and 1995-1998.

Midre Cummings (Twins-1s-1990) – Supplemental pick for loss of free agent closer Jeff Reardon. Cummings was traded to the Pirates along with Denny Neagle for pitcher John Smiley in March of 1992. Cummings played in the big leagues from 1993-2001 and 2004-2005 but only played in 100 or more games during one season and that was split between two teams. Played briefly for the Twins between 1999-2000.

You can make a pretty solid argument by looking at the 18 supplemental picks between 1990-2011 that there is just one star in the bunch, Torii Hunter. Glen Perkins, Travis Miller and Aaron Heilman (who the Twins were unable to sign) were serviceable big league pitchers. A number of the players on this list never put on a big league uniform.

Bottom line? It is kind of a damned if you do and damned if you don’t. There is no good answer here and every situation is different. Just another one of those things that makes baseball the interesting game that it is.

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