The Tigers recently signed their 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Crawford. There isn’t much that is remarkable about it: he was ranked 17th according to one agency, 24th according to another, and went with the 20th pick. He signed for almost exactly slot value. He’s a college pitcher, drafted by a team that loves to pick college pitchers. The only noteworthy thing is that Crawford was a first-round pick for the Detroit Tigers, who haven’t had a first-rounder in a while.
Fans tend to get upset about prospects given up in trades, particularly at the time of the trade. A lot of prospects don’t pan out (like Francisco Martinez and Chance Ruffin) and a lot of those that do pan out don’t really star (like Cameron Maybin). A GM is only going to hear it from fans for decades on those extraordinarily rare occasions when a prospect turns out to be every bit as good as his most optimistic boosters thought (like John Smoltz). But… knowing that there is still a sort of optimistic bias that makes fans prone to condemn this sort of action. “Give up Nick Castellanos? Just to get (for example) Jonathan Papelbon? Are you crazy?”. I’m not railing against this kind of thinking, really, but I do want to point out that for the most part it doesn’t seem to apply to the additional costs (in terms of draft pick compensation) that go along with free agents.
Nick Castellanos was – effectively – the Tigers first-rounder in 2010. He fell out of the first round due to bonus demands, and the Tigers picked him up late but paid him first round money. They didn’t – and couldn’t – actually pick Castellanos in the first round because they coughed up that pick to the Astros when they signed Jose Valverde, who was a type-A free agent. It’s difficult to say who the Tigers would have drafted with that pick, had they not “drafted” Valverde instead. I suppose it’s possible that they would have just taken Castellanos, but history has shown that they could have had somebody else and just let Castellanos fall into their laps later. History has also shown that Dombrowski likes to draft pitching and he at least liked to pick guys late with talent well above their slot and pay whatever it took to get them. To say that what the Tigers gave up to get Valverde was roughly equivalent to Nick Castellanos has some logic to it – but I doubt they would have actually taken him in the first round, they would have been more likely (I’d think) to take the pitcher that the Astros ultimately did: Mike Foltynewicz.
Well… I happened upon an article for the Houston Chronicle not long ago about Mr. Foltynewicz – looks like he’s shaping up into a pretty darn good prospect. You can see what Baseball America thinks here: they have him listed as the #5 prospect in that organization, with the best fastball. The Astro’s have a good and (particularly) deep farm system, so their #5 could well be the Tigers #1 – or at least #2. Foltynewicz is currently at AA with a 2.57 ERA, recording more than a strikeout an inning. I’d say that if Mike Foltynewicz was currently pitching in Erie, Tigers fans would get plenty upset at the idea of trading him to the Astros for closer Jose Veras just like they would get plenty upset at the idea of trading Nick Castellanos. And I would understand. The thing is – the Tigers, for all intents and purposes, did just that three years ago and nobody seemed to care.