I didn’t see this last week in the FanGraphs community section (h/t to BN’er jptopdog), but there’s an interesting read on how a team like the Cubs could utilize the punishments for overspending in the draft and signing qualified free agents to their advantage.
Short version? The Cubs spend a gajillion dollars on the draft in 2015, obliterating their draft pool, and incurring the most severe penalty – loss of first round pick in 2016 and 2017.
Why do it? If the Cubs are good this year and next year, those first round picks were likely to be lower first rounders, and thus less valuable. Plus, if the Cubs sign a qualified free agent next offseason, they were going to lose that pick anyway(!), and then would instead lose a late second rounder (which is worth so much less). If the Cubs sign another qualified free agent the next offseason, they’d once again see the benefit of a reduced “cost” for that free agent, and would once again not really feel the sting of losing the first round pick they were going to lose anyway.
To put it another way, there’s a fair chance – with no draft strategy change at all – that the Cubs are going to lose their first rounder in 2016 by signing a qualified free agent after this season. And, because a draft in which you don’t pick until the late second round with a tiny draft pool (on which you cannot overspend) is going to have a serious talent deficit anyway, you might be better able to make that up with a blowout draft in 2015.
It’s an interesting theory, but would take some serious balls and confidence to attempt and execute.
The potential flaws I see: (1) you’re not guaranteed to get a blowout of talent in the first draft, even if you pick and spend with impunity (some kids might not sign, the best overslot talent might not get to your various picks, and even over slot talent that slips is not always the same as a true first or second round talent); (2) the Cubs could wind up sucking in 2015 (or 2016), getting a protected pick, and then losing that pick because they overspent in the draft; (3) you’re not guaranteed of signing a qualified free agent, even if you try, which would the reduce the overall value of this strategy; and (4) it can be tricky to accommodate – in terms of developmentally-appropriate playing time – a ton of talent all in one year, and then very little the next two years.
Absent a particular talent pool in the 2015 draft, where the Cubs knew they could successfully draft and sign boatloads of talent in a year unlike any other in the draft, I don’t think the risks are worth the upside in this strategy. It’s a lot of fun to discuss, though, and I appreciate the effort put into trying to work an angle.