When the topic of “Andrew Friedman’s worst move” comes up, most fans go straight to Pat Burrell. But in the end, that free agent signing may pale in comparison to the decision to draft Tim Beckham over Buster Posey at the top of the 2008 draft.

Posey made his big league debut last September, playing 7 games for the Giants. This year, he rejoined the Giants at the end of May and hasn’t looked back. In 73 games,  Posey is hitting .342 with 9 home runs and a .386 OBP. He would be leading the NL in hitting by a wide margin if he qualified (Joey Votto currently leads with a .323 avg. Posey is about 90 plate appearances short of qualifying).

Meanwhile, Beckham is still in single-A, hitting .255. He has improved his ability to get on base, raising his OBP to .346. But he still hasn’t shown that he can be a big league shortstop, committing 24 errors this year after 43 a year ago.

Even the Rays sound like they have already given up hope that Beckham will ever be a great player. Back in June, Mitch Lukevics (Rays Director of Minor League Operations) described Beckham as having “all the physical skills to be a Major League player” but that Beckham is going to have to “stay after it.”

So where did the Rays go wrong? Drafting at the top of the MLB draft is much more complicated than just taking best player available. While the Rays always say they will take the best player available, regardless of position, they have never admitted exactly how much signability plays in their decision-making process.

Just two days before the 2008 draft, we heard that the Rays had narrowed their choice down to Beckham and Posey. According to Baseball America, Friedman preferred Posey, while the scouting department preferred Beckham.

Late on June 4, the night before the draft, it was reported that the Rays would indeed take Beckham with the top pick. And in the end, it wasn’t about talent. It may have been about money.

Baseball Prospectus reported that the Rays balked at Posey after his camp indicated they were going to seek a $12 million signing bonus. That would have more than doubled the previous record for a draft pick. The irony of picking Beckham over Posey is that in the end, the Rays gave Beckham a $6.15 million signing bonus, while Posey ended up signing for just $6.2 million.

Meanwhile, the Rays have a shortstop, Reid Brignac, that figures to be a solid big league contributor for the next 5 years. And at catcher, the Rays best hope is John Jaso, who does get on base at good clip, but is not a threat with the bat and might be a liability behind the plate.

Posey did have a head start, coming out of college, while Beckham was a high school draftee. But with the Rays once again contending in the always tough AL East, it is easy to imagine that Posey would be a significant contributor to the Rays title hopes, while Beckham may not even be the flavor of the month down in the Bus Leagues.

Was drafting Beckham Friedman’s biggest mistake? No, but letting the scouting department talk him out of drafting Posey may have been.

 
 

40 Comments

  1. sunrisejeff says:

    Agree 100% Although I’m not ready to write off Beck considering how young he is there is no doubt Posey was the better option for us.

  2. Sarah says:

    Damn, did you have to remind us that they could have drafted Posey? I had forgotten. And catcher is an area where they are kind of weak (I do love many thing about Jaso, but the Rays could definitely get stronger at that position).

    And then there was the bust of the 2009 draft as well. Good thing they got a few prospects for Kazmir!

    • Sarah says:

      Oh, and one other thing — doesn’t Buster Posey have one of the best baseball names you’ve heard in a while? The guy had to become a major leaguer with a name like that.

  3. Peter says:

    When I think biggest mistake – I will always first think Josh Hamilton. I was hoping for Posey to be picked in 08 – but I know that teams never like to draft for need… so I wasn’t surprised.

    • Cork Gaines says:

      That’s definitely another big one. I know a lot of people give the Rays a pass on that one because who could have guessed Hamilton could jump from single-A to the big leagues after 4 years away.

      But the flip-side is, what would it have cost the Rays to protect Hamilton on the 40-man roster? Some middle reliever nobody wanted? The Rays like to horde players. But that time it cost them.

    • Letting Josh Hamilton go was like the Red Sox trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees. The only difference was that the Sox got something for him. The Rays were robbed, raped and left for dead. We would have won the World Series in 08, 09 and this year with Josh in right field and in the clean up spot.

      • John says:

        Josh Hamilton is not Babe Ruth…

      • brian h says:

        I knew Babe ruth, i played with babe ruth, you sir are no babe ruth.

        • Alex says:

          People need to drop the Hamilton thing. Yes, in a vacuum, the move was absolutely stupid. We ended up dropping Travis Harper (I think) a few days later from the 40 man anyway. But, in reality, Hamilton had way to many bad influences in the TB area and he may have very well been dead or out of baseball. He needed the fresh start.

          As for the draft, I hated this move when they made it. I had that feeling that Beckham would be an error machine and not even stay at shortstop. Plus how could you not like Posey. He played 7-8(?) positions in 1 game.

  4. Amy says:

    I’m not 100% sure but I believe Posey and his “wonderful” agent Scott Boras wanted more money than David Price sign for. The Rays front office probably didn’t want to go for it with that much of a price tag and probably some other reasons. It does break hearts to see how well he is doing, but the front office usually has a reason for everything and we always don’t what it is whether as fans we like it or not.

    • Sarah says:

      Cork mentioned that, but also noted that he ended up signing for about the same $$ as Beckham. I don’t think teams should be scared off by Scott Boras. They should go for the prospects that are most likely to help them.

    • Stephanie says:

      I would think most (all?) teams have a reason for everything they do. We can still have a lot of respect for Friedman and his staff while at the same time acknowledging their mistakes.

  5. Don says:

    The BIGGEST MISTAKE the Rays and Friedman EVER made was Josh Hamilton by FAR!
    Posey is a kid who could go bust tomorrow….Hamilton is the BEST pure hitter in baseball today…how could your ever consider comparing them…on who would have been the best for the Rays to keep/draft..
    With Hamilton in RF the last three years (counting 2010)
    the Rays would have at least three AL titles and maybe a world series ring!
    Evertime I watch Hamilton play I get sick thinking of him gone for $25,000…If you needed the $ that bad Andrew you could have ask me…I would have made you a loan!

  6. Steevn says:

    Posey was a no-brainer, regardless of money. He played at FSU so he would have sold some tickets too. Friedman has been like 99/100 but this one really hurts.

    • I am as a big of a Nole fan as any other alumnus, but how many fans came out to see Paul Sorrento or Paul Wilson just because they were Seminoles? And Wilson was a number 1 pick and probably the best pitcher in FSU history.

  7. Gus says:

    Didn’t Friedman approve the $30M Kazmir killer contract? That was his greatest mistake, that he made up for with the S-Rod trade. But for this franchise to sign any pitcher to that kind of long-term money with whatever issues Kaz had (still has?), that was crazy nutty in retrospect.

    • JP says:

      They had to give Kazmir that contract just to show the young pitchers in the system that if they work hard, it will pay off. They had no intent on keeping that contract for the duration of it unless Kaz found his slider again. Compared to what pitchers make today, if Kaz was anywhere near what we all thought he was going to be, he would still be a bargain.

      • Gus says:

        Andy is darn lucky the Angels bailed him out after Kazmir had put together 6 weeks of pretty good starts. That contract would have been an albatross around the neck of this franchise for its last 3 years.

        This franchise cannot commit money like that to starting pitchers. Until the budget is north of $70M, no starter can make more than $7-8M and no contract can go out more than 2 years. To do otherwise is asking for big trouble.

  8. Amy says:

    Very vaild points @Sarah and @Stephanie and like I said I wasn’t 100% sure about the money thing. I believe that looking back and asking what could have been isn’t the best thing that goes for Posey, Hamilton, Kazmir, and so on.

  9. Gatorbuc15 says:

    I understand that Beckham hasn’t done very well up to this point, but I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel on him just yet. He’s still got good potential, a lot of skill, and he’s still young. So, it might just be me, but I’m not ready to give up on the guy just yet.

  10. Joe D. says:

    Lets at least give Beckham a third full season in the minors so that he’s closer to the same amount to baseball experience as Posey, it looks really bad now, but Beckham is the guy with the higher ceiling coming out of the draft, and in that process of thinking, at the, time the Rays made the decision they always make.

    As far as Hamilton, he was a scum bag, he forced the Rays to make the decision they did, blame Hamilton, not Friedman.

    • Sarah says:

      In fairness to Friedman, who could have predicted that at last Hamilton would stay clean and relatively injury free? They’d given him several chances, if I recall — it wasn’t as though he were a promising player with one tough year — he had about 5 years lost to injury and addiction.

  11. robert says:

    BJ Upton sticks out. Not sure where he was drafted but I’m tired of all that potential this and potential that. Hints of greatness followed by long stretches of not much.

    • Joe D. says:

      You’re right, I was at the draft this on ’08 (Orlando), and I actually talked to a couple of scouts, while I was there, and they both told me that Beckham was the best player in the draft, and one said that he’s comparable to BJ Upton (remember June ’08, not that far removed from Upton’s good ’07 season) but would stay at SS, the other compared him to Barry Larkin. Let’s not forget the kid’s what 19 – 20 years old, and is.still expected to develop power.

    • Andy says:

      Two things

      1. Friedman didn’t draft BJ Upton.
      2. If you want to talk about busts in that draft, perhaps you’d prefer the Devil Rays have drafted Bryan Bullington, Christopher Gruler, Adam Loewen, Scott Moore, or Drew Myer? You want to talk ‘potential this, potential that’, then don’t ignore all of the guys who haven’t smelled Upton’s level of success. Granted he’s no Fielder/Grienke, but when you consider how many first rounders never see The Show, drafting Upton has to be considered a success.

    • Alex says:

      Chuck LaMar’s calling. He wants to know why your giving Friedman credit for his picks. Did you even happen to realize that BJ got drafted in something like 04, and Friedman got here in 07

  12. RZachary says:

    Maybe the only reason that Posey signed for a little more than Beckham was because he didn’t get drafted until the 5th pick. There obviosly must have been something there about signing concerns since three other teams also passed on him.

    What if they drafted him and he pulled a JD Drew and doesn’t sign. Would that then be Friedman’s biggest mistake?

    I also wouldn’t be so quick to write Beckham off yet. He is still 3 years younger than Posey and has plenty of time to grow as a player.

    • Dustin says:

      I particularly agree with your last point. Beckham’s almost three years younger than Posey. Let’s give it at least that long before we decide which was the better pick.

  13. John S says:

    Well I am glad this is up because it truly does show that Andrew is not the master GM that people are playing him up to be..

    He was blessed with an unbelievable farm system because we were soo bad for so many years that we had drafted top notch talent that he was not a part of…

    Posey is already a top-5 catcher in the entire MLB and has not played a full season. Could you imagine him on this team? Dear God! The Rays went the cheap route and that is that… Sad that Boras manipulated the game like that.. But they can…

    Hamilton is the biggest mistake but as someone said Hamilton would NOT have produced like he did if he was still here… All the Demons that he was facing were over here… Going to Cincy and getting out was Step 1… With all the bad influences here, he was going to struggle to fight the demons..

    • Andy says:

      Players that Friedman has drafted that were not part of that ‘unbelievable’ farm system: David Price, Evan Longoria.

      Players Friedman has acquired via trade: Bartlett, Joyce, Garza, Soriano, Balfour, Wheeler, Rodriguez, Aybar, Zobrist.

      Players that Friedman signed as free agents: Pena,Benoit

      Current Players that were holdovers, and the Round they were drafted in:
      Upton (1st)
      Brignac (2nd)
      Crawford (2nd)
      Davis (3rd)
      Hellickson (4th)
      Shields (16th)
      Sonnanstine (13th)
      Jaso (12th)

      So with the exception of Upton, every other team in MLB could have had any of these guys and chose not to. They were thus not products of high draft picks due to futility, but examples of player development done correctly.

      Friedman has made mistakes, but he is an awesome GM overall. The idea that the Rays are good now because of so many top picks is a myth.

    • Alex says:

      Master GM? Are you serious? No GM gets every move right. Friedman and Co have gotten so many moves right that the few wrong ones stick out. No GM gets every move right. But considering budget and the team we had when they got here he’s top 5 if not the best GM along with Hunsicker(sp?)

  14. Brett says:

    Not drafting Posey is not only Andrew’s biggest mistake, but the biggest mistake this franchise has ever made! I watched Posey, first hand, in every game he played in Tallahassee and I knew then that he was very very special. His work ethic is relentless and even if Becks may have been thought to have higher potential in ’08, Posey has shown far greater desire to succeed and has launched through Tim’s, so called, higher ceiling. Watching Posey nightly on the highlight reel is very bitter-sweet for me as it brings me great joy to see a Nole succeed, but hurts me so dearly to know that he could have played for both my favorite teams. While we got ANOTHER guy who may or may not realize his potential, the Giants may have picked up a guy who will be the face of thier franchise for years to come.

  15. Joe D. says:

    I remember Posey being not only a signability question mark, but also because off some of the stunts FSU did with him playing all positions, it raised the question of if he was really a catcher, or if his future was else where on the diamond.

    The other name that’s forgotten here is Pedro Alvarez, Price’s teammate at Vanderbilt, a third baseman w/ the Pirates, some thought he was the best player in the draft, but did the Rays shy away from the best player in the draft because they just signed a long term deal with Evan Longoria, remember the Rays say they draft the best player available…

    • RZachary says:

      It’s funny you bring up Alvarez, because that’s the guy I was hoping to get. Granted, I had never seen Beckham play and only saw a very small handful of ABs from Alvarez, but the scouting reports of his power had me excited.

  16. David says:

    I don’t fault Rays so much for Wonderboy as who could have known he would finally get his act together. The Rays not picking Posey was a decision they had complete control over and had plenty of time to scout him. They dropped the ball on this one in a big way.

  17. David says:

    I don’t fault Rays so much for Wonderboy as who could have known he would finally get his act together. The Rays not picking Posey was a decision they had complete control over and had plenty of time to scout him. They dropped the ball on this one in a big way. Posey just might be that good. If he remains at catcher with that big bat remains to be seen.

  18. Jon B. says:

    It’s a mistake in the sense that he failed to get the best player available to him at his draft slot. At the same time, think of the reverse: Imagine he had overruled his scouting department–whose very job it is to evaluate (draft) talent–and made his own pick that turned out wrong. We’d see no end of articles that he’s not letting his baseball people do the jobs they’re hired for and how bad he hamstrung the team with his ego.

    The bottom line is, scouting is hard. Player evaluation is hard. Running an organization is hard. And a lot of times, the decisions that arise from all of those things are hard–and wrong. It’s a part of the game, just like looking at those decisions with the benefit of hindsight is. Let’s just not get swept up in such evaluations. They’re fun from an academic standpoint but that’s about it.

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