USATSI_8831833_154511044_lowresSports Illustrated gave the Rays a D+ for their off-season moves. That was before the Rays traded Jake McGee for Corey Dickerson and a prospect on Thursday, but it is unlikely that one move would move the needle very much.

Well, it sounds like the Rays want to make another move for a good bat, but a rule designed to protect the Rays is actually keeping them from signing a big-name free agent.

The player is free agent shortstop Ian Desmond and the rule is the idiotic compensation system used by Major League Baseball.

All signs point to the Rays being interest in Desmond and Desmond has indicated he wants to play for the Rays, according to Marc Topkin.

That Desmond has indicated he would like to play for the Rays, that he is from Sarasota, that he is represented by the same agency as Rays manager Kevin Cash (Sports One Athlete Management) and that he is close friends with Rays OF Steven Souza Jr. are all factors.

But there is a problem, on top of giving Desmond a big contract (he turned down a 1-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals), the Rays would have to give up their first-round draft pick, No. 13 overall.

The other issue for the Rays is that they would have to forfeit their first-round pick in the coming draft, the No. 13 overall pick. Given how important the draft is to the Rays, and that some in the industry value those mid-first round picks well in excess of $10-million, it could be that is the bigger hurdle.

According to the compensation system, if a team has a player becoming a free agent, they can offer that player a qualifying offer 1-year contract. If the player wants more years or more money, they can turn down the offer. When that player signs with a new team, that team must then give their highest draft pick that is not in the top 10 to the player’s old team.

The rule is designed to protect teams who cannot afford to keep their best players (they get something in return for losing a good player), but instead it hurts mid-level free agents like Desmond and it hurts low-payroll teams who put a premium on draft picks.

Only teams that can afford to give up draft picks are going after the top free agents. And the lower-level free agents are not getting qualifying offers, so teams don’t have to give up a draft pick to sign them. But if teams like the Rays want to get better, they have to sign mid-level free agents like Desmond. But instead, they can’t because not only do they have to give up a draft pick, but the Rays have one of the most valuable draft picks that is not protected.

And there is an argument to be made that they should just do it, give up the pick. But keep in mind that Desmond is likely coming to the Rays one a 1-year deal so that he can re-try free agency next winter and get the big contract he is looking for. Is it worth giving up seven potential years of a top-15 player in the draft for one year of Ian Desmond? Probably not. Desmond is not winning the Rays a World Series.

So instead, the Rays have to sit idly by as an impact player who would make the team better sits around without a team.

Oh yay! *head hits desk*

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10 Comments

  1. Ken says:

    Cork, if Desmond won't win us a World Series next year then why should we sign him? The Karns trade brought us Miller who we coveted according to Silverman. He's younger, cheaper and has as much upside as Desmond. Desmond smells like Luke Scott to me. We could use the 7-8 million we'd spend on him to sign KK or other young players. Our success rate in signing mid level free agents has been miserable. Let the kids play, see what they have.

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    • Greg says:

      Our lack of success in signing free agents is matched by poor drafting. You're right, though, we need to hold onto the pick. Let's hope we put it to good use. By the way, I think a one-year deal for Desmond will still have to be close to the $15.8M he turned down. I'd be surprised if he took that low a figure but at this point, you may be right! It's a very interesting situation to watch. I wonder what the value in dollars is for the Rays pick? It may be worth giving up if we could get Desmond for that price (even for one year). Think I'd rather have the pick, but it's an interesting decision.

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  2. OriginalTom says:

    How would you improve the system Cork?

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  3. Rob says:

    In this case I think the system is protecting the Rays in unintended ways - that is, preventing them from pissing away $16m. Not that Desmond wouldn't add value or that I wouldn't want him on the team, but history has shown that the Rays can get more value out of 2-3 less expensive players than they would get from one very expensive player.

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  4. Mike says:

    If they kept Cabrera they would have solved the problem and still had the pick. If they do this and sign Desmond they just look stupid.

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  5. Skateman says:

    Sports Illustrated should stick to what they do best (ladies swimsuits). Silverman has done a superb job putting together a significantly improved line-up that will do a much better job against right handed pitching (Miller, Dickerson, Conger, and Morrison are all above average hitters against righties with pop). This was our Achilles heal last season. And we gave up what? Karns and McGee? I'll make those trades all day every day. Pearce was also a terrific, low cost signing of a guy who brings some pop to the line-up.

    Finally, Desmond won't add much to the team. A platoon split of Beckham and Miller at short has the potential to be just as good if not better. Spend the money on another relief pitcher and/or another power bat like Alvarez.

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  6. Greg says:

    Love the Dickerson trade and the Pearce signing. Hope they are healthy (and stays that way). Wonder if they have a way to move Des or Loney to make. I'd really like to see Pearce at 1B and Dickerson in LF most nights.

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    • FortMyersDave says:

      I agree Greg; all signs point to the rays shopping Loney and or Desmond J where they can get some young talent that is under control for several years. Jennings might draw the most interest as he is a desirable player to other teams as he is under contract control for the next 2 years himself if memory serves me right; this should make his trade stock quite a bit higher than Loney's and right now the Rays do have a log jam in the oF position...

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  7. Lloyd says:

    If the Rays wanted to sign Despondent to a one year, $16 million deal, wouldn't they get a first round draft pick from the team that signs him the following year? It's not so much losing a pick as it is trading for one the following year, isn't it?

    I imagine Loney's unmovable contract is a greater obstacle to signing Desmond. In any case, I don't think the draft pick is a greater concern than the cash, just a convenient public excuse not to spend money on a guy who would otherwise like to play here.

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  8. Political_Man says:

    This kind of thing is always going to happen. The best way to fix the small market teams would be for large market clubs to share TV money and that's never going to happen. MLB will twist itself into a pretzel with rules before ever doing that.

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