Baseball’s Most Expensive Draft Bust

Draft picks are going to bust far more often than not in this game — even highly-touted first rounders. The further away you get from the top of the first round, though, the more the bust potential increases. Few first rounders have busted as hard as Andrew Brackman, not just in terms of his failure to contribute to the team that drafted him, but also in terms of how much he cost.

The 30th overall pick in 2007, the Yankees rewarded Brackman with a four-year contract — of which at least $4.55 million of that was guaranteed. His $3.35 million signing bonus was spread out over five years, thanks to MLB’s provision for two-sport athletes (the 6-foot-10 right-hander also played basketball at NC State, but he wasn’t much of an NBA prospect). Various escalators could have pushed the total value of the deal to $13 million, which would have been the richest in draft history (Stephen Strasburg‘s deal has since surpassed Brackman’s).

The money wasn’t entirely undeserved. Baseball America (subscription required) ranked him as the seventh-best prospect in the draft about two weeks before the actual event — two spots ahead of Jason Heyward and seven spots ahead of Madison Bumgarner. The reason he slid all the way down to No. 30 was his elbow. The Yankees knew Brackman needed Tommy John surgery when they drafted him, but they still paid him handsomely and hoped patience during his rehab would reward the team in the future. It never did.

Brackman had a disastrous 2009 (4.66 FIP in 106.2 Low-A innings) after missing 2008 following his elbow surgery, but he showed encouraging signs in 2010 (3.24 FIP in 140.2 innings split between High-A and Double-A). The Yankees called him up to the big leagues that September, but he didn’t pitch. And then the wheels completely came off this season (54 walks, 41 strikeouts and a 5.86 FIP in 59.1 Triple-A innings), but he eventually settled into a relief role and showed some improvement (4.48 FIP in 36.2 IP). That earned him another September call-up, which resulted in four baserunners (three walks and one hit) and zero whiffs in 2.1 IP.

The Yankees cut the cord yesterday. The team declined a club option that would have paid Brackman $1 million in MLB and $500,000 in the minors next season, Keith Law reported. A clause in the contract stipulated that the team must release him if it declined the option, which is exactly what New York did. According to Pete Caldera, of The Bergen Record, the Yankees paid Brackman nearly $11 million during his four-plus years in the organization, and all what did the team get? Thirteen big-league batters faced and seven outs.

To put Brackman’s contract into perspective: he has made more money than David Price, who went first in the same draft and has pulled in approximately $9 million during his career (while producing 10.4 more WAR).

Of course, money is no object for the Yankees. After all, this is the same team that spent $12 million on three unusable left-handed pitchers in 2011 (Kei Igawa, Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano), so $11 million spread over four years for a first-round pick is little more than a rounding error. You’re not going to hit the jackpot without buying a lottery ticket, and Brackman was the Yankees’ lottery ticket four years ago. Someone might still give him a chance, given his relative youth (he’ll be 26 in December), and first round pedigree. But given his career earnings and lack of production, there has been no more expensive draft bust in baseball history.




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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.


65 Responses to “Baseball’s Most Expensive Draft Bust”

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  1. AndyS says:

    Is there any word on if the Yankees try to re-sign him to a lower salary deal?

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    • Tom says:

      You think the Yankees would risk a former 1st round pick with 6 years of control left over $500,000?

      This was a 40 man roster move because they have given up on him.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Agree that it’s not about the money, but that doesn’t mean they have given up on him. If they feel that he’s not worth a 40-man spot, but still has a future, they can sign him to an incentive-laden minor league deal.

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      • Steve says:

        They can, but he’s also a Boras client. I’m guessing he’ll be elsewhere.

        As a side note, this is one instance where Boras’ insistence on a major league contract did not help his client in the long run. Brackman would have had a much better chance at hitting the escalators in his contract in 2013-2014 if the Yankees weren’t forced to keep him on the 40 man roster. But that’s another discussion.

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      • TB says:

        Youre making the assumption that a different agent would have gotten him that money, and those escalators.

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  2. Hurtlocker says:

    Good article, but really this guy is the rule, not the exception. If you look at the history of the MLB draft, a small percentage of players picked in the first round even make it to the majors, let alone become regulars or stars. It always looks like an even greater bust when there is a lot of cash involved. Remember Brien Taylor in 1991? (the #1 pick by the Yankees)

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  3. Ray says:

    How much did Drew Henson earn, I feel like he had to be close.

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    • Steve says:

      A lot, but Henson walked away from a ton of money to play football. That was one of the many coincidences that brought A-Rod to the Yankees in 2004.

      Aaron Boone ruined his knee playing basketball, and the Yankees were able to void his $5M contract. Drew Henson forfeited I believe (my memory might be off) about $12M by going to the Cowboys. And the deal with the Red Sox fell through.

      The rest was history, which depending on who you ask, was a string of very good or very bad luck for the Yankees…..

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  4. Sad but true story for the Yankees. The baby “B’s” have lost a member. Great piece.

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  5. mko says:

    “After all, this is the same team that spent $12 million on three unusable left-handed pitchers in 2011 (Kei Igawa, Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano)”

    Not really their fault…

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    • joser says:

      The implication wasn’t that it was their fault, it was that $11M is peanuts to the Y$.

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    • Jonathan says:

      One could argue that Marte was an unexpected waste, but how can you argue that Igawa and Feliciano weren’t entirely their fault?

      Feliciano pitched 86, 88 and 92 innings in the years leading up to signing with the Yankees. Everyone knew his arm was probably going to fall off. I think Cashman was the only person in the world not expecting him to run into health problems. Signing him in the first place was a risky proposition, giving him multiple years was just stupid.

      Igawa, I don’t remember anyone thinking that was anything but a terrible idea and a knee-jerk reaction to missing out on Matsuzaka. He was projected to have a ceiling of back end starter or reliever. Sure, he fell well below even those low expectations, but the fact Cashman flushed so much money on someone no one expected to perform particularly well in the MLB was just mind-boggling.

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      • Steve says:

        Yeah, I didn’t understand what the comment meant that those guys weren’t their fault.

        I disagree that everyone knew Feliciano’s arm would fall off though. Aren’t there 2 ways of looking at those innings totals? The first is that he is due for an injury b/c of the innings. But the other way is that he has a “rubber arm” and can pitch a lot of innings.

        Again, not letting them off the hook, but I don’t think “everyone” was calling his injury before it happened.

        Igawa was a clear mistake. Every GM has blemishes on his resume, and Igawa is on the Yankees.

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  6. Dekker says:

    If the Yankees didn’t retain him for a half mill, then his arm is shot. Some team will still sign him though.

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    • Jonathan says:

      “If the Yankees didn’t retain him for a half mill, then his arm is shot. Some team will still sign him though.”

      Did you copy and paste that from an article about Aceves last offseason or was this custom made?

      Given, this move is a lot less of a head scratcher, Brackman’s peripherals are awful and he looks more like Andrew Miller than Aceves, but let’s not pretend that the Yankees haven’t given up on a guy too quickly before.

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    • RobM says:

      I think there’s a signifcant piece of information that’s missing from these stories on Brackman that relates to the real reason he was cut.

      Boras’ contract stipulated the Brackman has to be on the Yankees 40-man roster from day one, and that he has to be on the Yankees MLB 25-man roster for the 2013 season. The Yankees are now looking at another year of development for Brackman where he’s once again holding down a valuable 40-man slot that can be used for another player who can help the team in 2012, and worse, if they follow that path, they’re making a committment that Brackman will be on their MLB roster in 2013 as one of their five starters, or a member of their bullpen. No way they can make that committment for someone still in development.

      What option does that leave them? Cut him or trade him. They can’t trade him since all the obligations go with the trade, which means the Yankees were backed into a corner.

      One can argue that it wasn’t so much the money that was the mistake, especially considering how highly he was regarded. The mistake was the mandated schedule to be on both the 40-man and 25-man rosters. Those requirements didn’t help the Yankees, and from a development point of view really didn’t help Brackman.

      Some team will certainly sign him now that those requirements are thrown out with his contract. Who knows, it might even be the Yankees who bring him back now that he (and Brackman) no longer have to have his development dictated by a contract.

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  7. Steve says:

    How is it possible that the Yankees paid Brackman $11M?

    Looking at Cot’s, I’d say they paid him about $5M. The $4.5M that was guaranteed, which covered 2007-2010, and the $400K they paid him in 2011 for being in the minors.

    Doesn’t really change the tenor of the article, he was still a bust, but the relative difference between $5M and $11M is gigantic.

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    • Tom B says:

      4 years/$4.55M (2007-10), plus club options through 2013

      signed Major League contract 8/15/07
      $3.35M signing bonus (paid over 6 years)
      options and escalators may increase value to $13M
      if option is not exercised, club must release Brackman
      exercise of 2011 option triggers $1M bonus
      NY Yankees exercised 2011 option 10/27/10 (2011 salary of $1M in majors, $0.4M in minors)

      $4.55m salary + $3.35m signing bonus + $1m 2011 option bonus = $8.9m

      No idea where he got $11m from.

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      • Tom B says:

        P.S. Mr. Axisa… maybe this is why you shouldn’t use Twitter as a source. :)

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      • Steve says:

        But I think the $4.55M INCLUDES the $3.55M signing bonus.

        The odd thing is, when I googled for information, the article from 2007 that popped up called “The Brackman Contract” was written by Mike!!

        Not criticizing Mike, who I think does great work, I am just genuinely confused what the real number is.

        I suspect at $5M, Brackman is just a run-of-the-mill draft bust. Something that happens every year.

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      • BW says:

        The signing bonus is part of the overall guarantee. Brackman made the following salaries (approximate):

        2007 – $380k
        2008 – $450k
        2009 – $300k
        2010 – $325k
        2011 – $475k + $1M option exercise bonus
        signing bonus of $3.35M

        Total haul – $6.28M

        The fallacy of the $13M overall number is that if he did max it out, he would have been arbitration eligible before the end of the contract. The contract included no way to opt out and submit to arbitration, meaning he likely would be getting paid below market rates for arbitration. Other draft contracts could have been “worth” more overall if they had also surrendered potential arbitration rights.

        In this case, Brackman obviously made out with $6M+ for doing very little.

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  8. NBarnes says:

    No discussion of Brackman is complete without a link to John SIckels’ immortal assessment of him in a Yankees prospect list.

    —-

    6) Andrew “The Scranton Horror” Brackman, RHP, Grade B-: 7.26 ERA with 58/69 K/BB in 76 innings for Scranton, 71 hits allowed. He is hounded by abominable, eldritch control problems, like insane flute music pulsating with a mind-bending disharmony of universal, ultimate chaos. Those who ruminate overmuch on the chthonic mysteries of Andrew Brackman’s career put their sanity at risk, as their mental boundaries melt under the hideous assault of such an unspeakable waste of talent and money. Ia! Shub-Niggurath! Ia! Ia! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Walks!

    —-

    http://www.minorleagueball.com/2011/8/5/2345700/new-york-yankees-2011-top-20-pre-season-prospects-in-review

    +18 Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Sandy Kazmir says:

    Ha, I thought that said baseball’s most expensive drug addict. I was all set to start looking for good Josh Hamilton pics, but good thing I caught it in time.

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  10. Barkey Walker says:

    “The further away you get from the top of the first round, though, the more the bust potential increases.” I’d expect bust potential to max out near the middle or end of the fist round. This is where you get someone exactly like Brackman: someone with lots of potential but an injury that might mean they never see any time in the majors. They also have to expect loads of money and will not sign unless there is lots of guaranteed money.

    Get someone with less business smarts or with a lower perceived ceiling and the bust risk isn’t that large–you have to get up high to fall a long distance.

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  11. Bernie says:

    All you supporters of Cash-Man can add another disaster; remember when he was going to “save” our farm system. At the end of 6 YEARS he put on ML roster Chamberlain, Hughes, and Robertson, each one a disaster except Robertson… and he’s a reliever. I’ve been sayng this for yearts that Brian knows little or nothing about pitching. Sad part is that he’s rehired….

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    • Tom B says:

      and didn’t trade away Gardner, Cano, the B’s, Montero/Romine/Sanchez… the upper levels of the minor league system are teeming with pitchers.

      What exactly did you think you were proving with your post?

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    • Steve says:

      The Yankees have one of the best farm systems in baseball. 6 years ago it was one of the worst. You have no idea what you are talking about.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        Do they? Prospects are, essentially, all hype. If they’re all hype and don’t peform, no, it’s not a good farm system. Yankee prospects seem to be consistently overrated simply because they’re the Yankees. Boston’s farm is overrated too.

        Look at the Rays, great farm system, consistently calling up guys who produce. In the last 6 years (and I realize it takes about 5 to really see what a GM does with a farm), what has he really done?

        It’s probably too early to say one way or another. However, it’s all a mute point, the Yankees farm system is virtually any pre-free agent player in the world.

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      • Steve says:

        I’m not sure what you are getting at. Yes, of course, prospects are all “hype”. But why are we grading the Yankees on a different scale than we grade other teams? I am simply saying that when the people who evaluate prospects for a living grade out the farm systems, using the same criteria for each team, the Yankees come out towards the top. By the same criteria, 6 years ago, they were near the bottom.

        The Rays would be one of the teams ranked ahead of the Yankees. No one was claiming the Yankees have a better system than the Rays, Royals, Rangers, etc.

        I agree that SOME yankee prospects are overrated, that’s the nature of the beast in NY, but on the other hand, we’ve seen several Yankee prospects who were actually underrated and HAVE come up and produced. Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, David Robertson, Robinson Cano, etc. Jesus Montero sure looks like he’s going to hit.

        Brackman was always a lottery ticket, I don’t think the fact that he flamed out says much about the Yankees system either way. They had the last pick in the first round when they took him. That’s not traditionally a spot where you land a sure-thing. Especially since I don’t believe they spent anywhere close to the $11M the article claims they did.

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      • Jonathan says:

        In fairness, the subject of this article was generally regarded as about their sixth best prospect. Cashman’s done a lot for their system, but a lot of the reputation of their current crop is based upon Montero and the Killer B’s, one of whom just washed out of the organization. So once Montero comes up full time (Presumably this season), their ranking will likely drop dramatically when taking the loss of Brackman, Montero’s expected full-time callup and a by and large average 2011 draft into account.

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      • jim says:

        yeah, what has that douche friedman done, other than win 2 AL east titles and 1 AL wild card in the space of 4 years, competing with ridiculously talented and money-possessing new york and boston teams?

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    • bonestock94 says:

      Most pitching prospects fail, deal with it.

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  12. LB says:

    Boras client? Don’t count him out. Boras clients tend to perform according to Scottie’s master plan of world domination. Look at them, as an aggregate, you see that Boras is the market maker.

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  13. Aaron says:

    I love all of the “armchair” GMs that are out there… I would hate for it to happen, but for Cahsman;s sake, I hope he leaves someday and goes to the Diamondbacks or Pirates or a team similar in stature.. and then people will be able to see just how crafty he is.

    People remember Igawa and Brackman.. but forget about Garcia and Colon…

    I would love to see what Cash could do without a limitless budget.. I bet he would be spectacular.

    Keep in mind, the failures are not all his.. he didn’t want Soriano this year.. he has to take orders form higher ups too…

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      Yea it’d be great to have a GM that with 200 million dollars had to dumpster dive for Garcia and Colon instead of having quality players there….lucky him he has the resource to mask most mistakes.

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      • bonestock94 says:

        As opposed to what other options last year, some fictitious trade you made up?

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      • TB says:

        Colon wasnt anything special. So youre left with Garcia and Sabathia. Wow. As opposed to Burnett, Pavano, Wright, Ponson, Igawa. If he didnt have so many misses, he wouldnt have had to find Garcia and Colon last year.

        If the Steinbrenners didnt love him, he’d be running the Cubs right now.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        “as opposed to what ficticious option”? Iunno, having a better rotation BEFORE the season even starts. You should never be in the position to have to dumpster dive. Either always have enough ML guys or have farm guys ready. The yankees have the resources. Having to dumpster dive for SP if you’re the Yankees is the equivalent of a millionaire having to work a second job because he miscalculated his car payments and owes more than he thought he did. It’s dumb and embarrassing.

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      • Tom B says:

        Yeah, losing for a few years straight and getting good draft picks is a much better plan, right Antonio “clueless rays fan” bananas?

        When the Rays do something impressive… like win… let us know. Until then, the way the Yankees do things is infinitely more effective.

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  14. uradope says:

    theeeee jankkkeeees lose…..hahahahahahahahah

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  15. Antonio Bananas says:

    Looking at hard numbers, this looks awful, but it’s the Yankees. When I read this article it’d be like if someone read Wal Marts liabilities. You’d go “50 BILLION IN ACCOUNTS PAYABLE!!!!” then you’d go “o yea, it’s wal mart….

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  16. TecJug says:

    This kid’s future is in Pittsburgh.

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  17. Tomas says:

    About Cashman. Please take into account those player which came through the yankee system but was used in trades. Jackson, kennedy, clipper, Ohlendorf, tabata and half the pittsbugh team, and so on!.

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  18. wally says:

    Love to heart about the brilliance of the Rays, a team so bad for so long that it had cracks at all the best talent in the draft for a decade. Doesn’t take a genius when you have the first pick and David Price is sitting there.

    The truth is that the Yankees spend money because Bud Selig and MLB have basically given them no other choice. How else do you get good players when you draft AT THE BOTTOM OF EVERY SINGLE ROUND EVERY SINGLE YEAR? Selig’s efforts t handcuff the big market teams is an obsession and it is counter-productive. By placing big market teams at a disadvantage in the draft he has forced them into spending ever more on free agents (of course, they could choose not to and simply sin k into mediocrity. But big market teams have big market costs so that is not always an option.

    It’ll never happen but elimination of the draft might be just the thing to LOWER salaries and rrevive baseball.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      That’s a really dumb assumption. This isn’t like the NFL. Good players come in at all rounds. “no other choice” that’s BS. You’re also forgetting that for a while (and still today) teams pass on some draft choices because they think their signing bonuses will be too high and so they pass to teams like the Yankees or Red Sox.

      Eliminating the draft is a horrible idea and no, it would NOT lower salaries and revive baseball.

      Instead talented young players would only go to good teams and since you have 1 seller (player for his talents) and multiple buyers (teams bidding on young stud X), the price of each of these players go up. Then because young kids are making more, the vets demand more etc etc.

      I have an idea, how about a hard cap and minimum and more equal revenue sharing and broadcast rights negotiated by the league instead of team by team. That would mean that MORE teams are visible nationally instead of just the East.

      The “uncertainty of outcome” hypothesis suggests that with more competitive balance comes more interest. More interest means more revenue. so whatever money rich teams like the Yankees may lose in increased revenue sharing, because the league itself is more successful and there is more money in more games (home and away) it could possible make up for it.

      Take an economics class.

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      • wally says:

        This is even more simple minded nonsense than your earlier posts. Good players come in all rounds– but much less frequently in every successive round. Indeed, the rate os success fall sharply after the first half of the first round.

        Leaving successful teams no other option but the signing of mullti-million dollar free agent contracts is the major cause of rampant salry inflation — a far bigger factor an opem amateir draft could ever be. Nobody would spend $100-150 million on a 17 year old, not even Bryce Harper. So what salary pressure there would be would be concentrated on amateurs– and far less onerous to team budgets. And this way teams could actually improve by spending on an open draft. Even the worst teams under the current system must wait years before their preferred drafting position bears fruit.
        Having actually published on the economics of baseball I can only chuckle at your profound mastery of ignorant assumption and platitude.

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    • Bryan says:

      I read David Falk’s book, The Bald Truth, which had interesting insights into the NBA draft and the salary slots that were introduced in the 1990s. Young unproven players were getting huge contracts, which drove salaries up in general. It involved a lot of financial risk for teams so eventually hard slots were introduced – naturally to agents like David Falk’s chagrin.

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    • RobM says:

      Wally, you’re correct in that much of Tampa’s drafting success was built on having a consistently bottom-ranked MLB team year in and year out for such a long period that they had access to top talent. The last time the Yankees could draft toward the top of the draft they picked some guy named Derek Jeter. Wasn’t exactly rocket science since Jeter was regarded as one of the top handful of prospects in the country.

      In order for Tampa to remain successful, they are going to have to do what the Yankees have done, which is basically build a farm system on later draft picks. Their recent pick of Matt Moore is certainly a positive, but the system falls off quite a bit after Moore, reflecting Tampa’s inability to at least initially adapt to drafting higher up and not have access to top talent.. The last three drafts been quite spotty, headlined in a negative way by 2010 first-round picks like Justin O’Conner and Josh Sale. These guys need to be the lifeblood of the Rays, whose farm system can no longer be considered a pipeline for superstar talent, which will be a significant issue for the Rays in the coming years.

      Beyond Antonio’s fanboyishness, which unfortunately is becoming a bit more common here on Fangraphs, I hope the Rays have more passionate fans like him. They’re going to need it. Attendance sucks and the Rays have failed so far in securing a new and better located facitlity. If they don’t, they will one day no longer be the Tampa Rays, but some other city’s team, and that day maybe coming sooner rather than later. That’ll be a shame.

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    • The Nicker says:

      “The truth is that the Yankees spend money because Bud Selig and MLB have basically given them no other choice. How else do you get good players when you draft AT THE BOTTOM OF EVERY SINGLE ROUND EVERY SINGLE YEAR? Selig’s efforts t handcuff the big market teams is an obsession and it is counter-productive.”

      Wait a minute, Selig’s efforts to “handcuff” good teams are making them draft at the bottom of the first round every year. Hahahahaha. The Yanks have made the playoffs every year, where do you expect them to draft.

      Y’know, it’s a shame David Stern constantly handcuffs the Spurs by making them draft in the bottom of the first round every year. What a conspiracy to make the good teams draft after the bad teams.

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  19. JMN19 says:

    I think of Matt Bush when I think high priced – high pick bust.

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  20. Tanned Tom says:

    Very hard to judge Cashman accurately, he took over a World Series champion team, with a core of players to kill for, the ability to out-spend every competitor, and was successful. I think many could have had reasonable success in that situation.
    But I don’t feel he’s a top judge of talent. Traded for Knoblauch, traded Wells for Clemens, traded for Abreu, signed A.J. Burnett, traded Karstens and Ohlendorf for Nady and Marte, parted with Ian Kennedy instead of Phil Hughes in the Granderson deal, signed Nick Johnson instead of Johnny Damon, traded for Javier Vazquez instead of Kevin Lowe, etc. This is a pretty gloomy record.

    But the most damaging note is one another poster touched on: he’s been GM for over 10 years and with a $200 mil payroll had a rotation of Sabathia and scrubs last year. He was seriously bailed out by Nova’s emergence (though he almost screwed that up by sending him down in July) and both Garcia and Colon exceeding expectations. With $200 mil + every year can’t he do better than hope to get lucky?
    Let’s see what happens this year, if he thinks Sabathia, Nova, Garcia, Burnett, Hughes is an acceptable rotation then he’s nuts. Hughes sucks as a starter, Burnett needs to be traded (I know), and Garcia is back of the rotation shark bait.
    The prescription: dump Burnett for a minor leaguer (ala the Lowe trade), move Hughes to the pen (and trade Soriano), make Garcia the 4th starter, add a #2 caliber starter (Buehrle). Rotation of:
    Sabathia
    Buerhle
    Nova
    Garcia
    Noesi/ Warren, whomever
    is not too bad, and will give you 3 above average pitchers for the playoffs.

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  21. Henry says:

    Very simple. A numbers game. Yankees have not given up on Brackman. They may get him back in the end. I think he will pitch in the majors at some point.

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