No one truly believes the Los Angeles Dodgers have an unlimited budget, but with a Major League payroll exceeding $270 million, Los Angeles continues to invest in its club in a number of innovative ways. The most recent example is the team’s trade with Baltimore, wherein the Dodgers parted ways with catcher Chris O’Brien and reliever Ben Rowen in exchange for catcher Brian Ward, reliever Ryan Webb and a draft pick.
Rowen, who was signed to a minor-league deal by the Dodgers after being released by the Texas Rangers, pitched just two games in Spring Training for the big club before being reassigned to minor league camp. O’Brien, the team’s 18th-rounder in 2011, was slated for something of a homecoming; the Oklahoma native was assigned to the Tulsa Drillers to begin the year. Neither player fit into the team’s immediate plans.
Webb, who was recently designated for assignment by Baltimore, has pitched in 317 major league games and posted a 3.83 ERA last year with the Orioles in 49.1 innings. Ward, a Santa Monica native, who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009, is known for his defense, having thrown out 39% of attempted basestealers in the minor leagues.
While Webb may be called upon to help the bullpen, Ward likely won’t reach the big leagues anytime soon, so why did the Dodgers make the trade?
Simple: they got the 74th overall pick in the upcoming draft. The Dodgers last had the No. 74 pick in 2005, when they used it on prep right-hander Josh Wall. The most notable No. 74 picks are Graig Nettles and David Cone, each producing over 60 bWAR.
In the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, MLB and the union addressed something that’s been discussed for some time: the idea of trading draft picks. Instead of opening the flood gates and simply making all picks tradable, the two sides decided that creating special compensatory picks for teams in small markets, known as “competitive balance picks,” would be a good starting point for the experiment. So far, so good.
So, why did the Orioles include the pick in the trade? Because the Dodgers are picking up the $2.75 million Webb is owed this year. And this is where the Dodgers are able to throw their weight around. Whether it’s absorbing Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to land Adrian Gonzalez or paying a few million for a draft pick or international signing money, the Dodgers are using their expansive resources to improve their organization from top to bottom.
Now, most draft picks don’t yield any tangible production at the Major League level, so that’s why you want as many as possible. Think of them as lottery tickets: you’ll miss most of the time, but it only takes one guy to hit to make all that money back and then some. The Dodgers now own five of the top 101 picks in the draft, further increasing their odds of landing another productive major leaguer. And all it cost them was 1 percent of their payroll.
Dodgers 2015 Spring Training – Carl Crawford