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Free agent compensation rule cost Brewers shot at Mike Trout

Feb 4, 2011, 1:27 AM EDT

The Milwaukee Brewers could have had Mike Trout, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

As you probably knew, Trout, an outfielder in the Los Angeles Angels minor league system, is widely regarded as a rising star. He was all anyone was talking about at the Futures Game in Anaheim last July and has a line of .344/.426/.489 with 69 steals in two minor league seasons. This winter he was rated the best prospect in baseball by both ESPN.com’s Keith Law and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo.

The Angels selected Trout with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2009 draft. What you might not have known is that the No. 25 pick originally belonged to the New York Yankees. That pick was awarded to the Brewers as compensation when the Yankees signed free agent pitcher CC Sabathia, who the Brewers had acquired in a mid-season deal with the Cleveland Indians.

This is where the plot thickens

The Brewers never got to use that draft pick, however.

Later that off-season, the Yankees signed free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira, who had played for the Angels. Because Teixeira was a higher-ranked Class A free agent – the only one rated above Sabathia that winter – the Angels inherited New York’s first-round pick and the Brewers were bumped back to fill the Yankees’ second-round slot, the 73rd pick overall.

“(The compensation rules) hurt us that particular year,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told Haudricourt. “The only player we could lose that (first-round) pick on was Teixeira, and the Yankees signed him. We thought that was an unfair part of the system.”

Understandably so. Dropping 48 spots in the draft because the Yankees decided to sign the top two free agents instead of just one is pretty brutal.

The Brewers used the No. 73 pick in that draft to take another high school outfielder, Maxwell Walla of Albuquerque, N.M. While it’s early to say Walla’s .223/.335/.364 line makes him a bust, the difference between he and Trout has to make Brewers fans cringe.

Of course there is no way of knowing if the Brewers would have used the No. 25 pick on Trout. “Whether he would have been the pick, I can’t say for sure, but there’s a good possibility,” Melvin told Haudricourt. “I know Trout was on the board for us.”

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  1. Panda Claus - Feb 4, 2011 at 7:33 AM

    This is a compelling back-story, and one of the many reasons I love baseball and what surrounds it.

    Before we make too much about how that Teixeira signing costs the Brewers 48 positions in the draft, we need to realize 24 other picks were made before the Angels picked up Trout.

    Even the Angels passed on Trout once, since they selected Randal Grichuk with the 24th pick right before Trout was chosen. Adding to the irony is that even without owning the 25th pick, the Brewers might have still gotten Trout with their own 26th choice if the Angels had passed on Trout one more time.

  2. proudlycanadian - Feb 4, 2011 at 8:32 AM

    Regarding the compensation system, it was the Jays who really got screwed. They lost Type A free agent A. J. Burnett to the Yankees that year and ended up with New York’s third round pick. It doesn’t matter that Burnett has not played like a Type A player, the Jays should have received a first round pick, but had to settle for a third round pick.

  3. BC - Feb 4, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    Why don’t they scrap the whole system and give compensatory picks plus have the team signing the free agent forfeit their pick? Type A’s, end of first round pick awarded, signing team forfeits their first rounder. Type B’s, end of second round pick awarded, signing team forfeits their second rounder. Etc…
    Just seems more equitable.

    • Panda Claus - Feb 4, 2011 at 10:12 AM

      I think the current system is basically OK. Teams in the “buy” mode essentially get a volume discount by only giving up later picks (2nd, 3rd, etc.) for multiple Type A’s.

      One change worth considering is to give up your first-round pick to the team who’s losing the first Type A that you sign, a 2nd rounder to the next Type A signed and so on. What I like about that is that teams being forced to give up their picks actually would have some say into where those picks are lost to. Could make a difference especially if you poach players from your own division.

  4. quintjs - Feb 4, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    The change I would have made to the system would be to keep in the same, but in this situation the Brewers and Jays would have either gotten the Yankees second round pick or third round pick, or they could forfeit that pick back to the Yankees and select any player from the Yankees farm system, rookie or below.

    So it actually has a real cost to signing many type A players. Of course you have to clear up type A status for middle relievers thing because in this situation no type A reliever would ever get signed.

  5. brianc6234 - Feb 4, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    You really should tell the whole story on this. The Angels had the 24th pick for losing K-Rod to the Mets and the 25th pick for losing Teixeira to the Yankees. The Angels most likely would have taken Mike Trout with the 24th pick. The main reason they took Randal Grichuk and then Mike Trout was it might get Trout to sign for less. And he did. People can cry all they want about if Sabathia or Teixeira is the better player. That won’t fix anything. If the rules were fair no team would be able to sign more than one type A player a winter. The rules are all a mess.

    As for Mike Trout, 23 other teams blew it on him. Some people say now they’d even take him ahead of Strasburg. The Angels had several early draft picks so they could take a chance on Trout early in the draft.

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