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Draft picks versus prospects in trades

A thread over at Sickels' site rates Bill Smith's winter with less homer tendencies than our own thread on the topic.

One aspect of both threads is the debate between trading Santana now for prospects versus hanging onto him for a year and getting draft compensation. USSMariner has an interesting take on this debate relative to Ichiro's pending free agency last year. In it, he shows that history has not been kind to teams who traded players at the deadline for prospects. Teams that waited for draft compensation did better by a pretty wide margin.

Dave has a point. The history suggests that teams do get better value from draft picks than deadline deals. Curiously, he did not take offseason deals, such as the Knoblauch or Pierzinsi trades, into account in his analysis. Had he done so, it swings the percentages closer to acquiring prospects. But still, historically, it is better to wait for draft picks.

Using that as a backdrop, it is remarkable that the Twins have gotten better value with prospects than draft picks almost every time. I would argue that they should have hung onto Castillo for a draft pick. But otherwise, the Twins have bucked the trend and done better than draft compensation. That says a lot about their scouting. They have done better than just about every team in the MLB, save for perhaps Cleveland, at scouting minor league talent for acquisition.

Following is an incomplete list of such trades:

Roberto Kelly/Joe Mays
Dave Hollins/David Ortiz
Chuck Knoblauch/Eric Milton, Cristian Guzman, Brian Buchanon
Rick Aguilera/Kyle Lohse
Hector Corasco/Lew Ford
Brian Buchanon/Jason Bartlett
AJ Pierzinski/Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano
JC ROmero/Alexi Casilla
Juan Castro/Brandon Roberts
Kyle Lohse/Zach Ward
Luis Castillo/Dustin Martin, Drew Butera
Ramon Ortiz/Matt Macri
Johan Santana/Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, Kevin Mulvey, Phil Humber

Almost every time, the Twins got a regular contributor or more in trade. Often, the guys they traded needed to be dealt sooner rather than later. This suggests that the Twins do a much better job than the rest of baseball at making sure they don't just get warm bodies in exchange, but they get prospects who will help the team down the road.

The point is, for those skeptics who think the Twins didn't get much for Santana, consider their track record. Perhaps these guys aren't rated as highly as we would like. But I trust that the experts running the scouting department for the Twins know what they're doing. They have earned the benefit of the doubt through years of better success than almost all of baseball.

BTW, the Twins have quietly reorganized the scouting department by region. All scouts will have responsibilities for scouting all levels by region, including advanced scouting, minor league scouting and scouting for the draft.

Part of the restructuring includes hiring several new regional scouting directors with a combined 200 years of scouting experience, and adding 10 scouts overall to the payroll. This should make the Twins scouting even better. I'll have more details on the new scouting system in a diary later in the week when I get a better source.