Well, maybe that is a little harsh, but the point remains the same: Orlando Hudson is not worth a first round pick. This is the reason Hudson, a highly valuable middle infielder, took until the first week of Spring Training to finally sign a Major League deal.
We have seen over the course of the last year or so that team's are becoming more hesitant to trade expiring contracts of players expected to highly rated by Elias. That is, if the Elias board rates a player as a Type A free agent, and the player is offered and rejects arbitration, the team losing him will receive compensation in the form of a draft pick.
There is a lot that goes into this, but that isn't the point here. What is the point is that the system now appears to be potentially broken, or at least in need of serious restructuring. The reason behind this is that a player such as Hudson should not take this long to sign.
However, when a player like Hudson costs the amount of money he does, as well as a pretty darn good prospect, teams begin to stay away. Not only does a team signing Hudson have to be certain that he is worth the dollar value over an in-house option, but they also have to consider the long term affects of losing a top 60 pick.
It is this prospective value which led the Colorado Rockies to stand pat with Brian Fuentes at last year's trade deadline. A player, whom could have been the difference between the Philadelphia Phillies winning the World Series and not making the playoffs altogether had the Mets pulled the trigger and acquired him.
This inherent value is also causing Major League Baseball to re-evaluate their rules regarding the signing of free agents. That is, under the current rules, free agents are not eligible to be traded prior to June 15th of the year they sign their free agent contract. However, this rule may be changed in order to facilitate a sign-and-trade for Juan Cruz (rumored to be heading to the Minnesota Twins via the Arizona Diamondbacks).
Consider a trade the Twins and Diamondbacks may be able to come to terms on, say Cruz for Anthony Swarzak. Some may argue this is too high of a price, others may argue it is not enough, but consider the alternatives. For the Diamondbacks, it is either Swarzak or nothing; for the Twins, it is either Swarzak or their 23rd overall pick.
However, this is where we currently stand in this market. Teams are beginning to recognize that a free agent is being paid predominantly for what he has done in the past, with only a minor consideration of what he will do in the future. Slowly the long term potential is taking precedence over short-term gains. We are in a market where the highly effective Bobby Abreu signed for $5 million on a one-year deal.
But we are also in a market where full-time designated hitter Raul Ibanez signed for three years at $10M a year-to play in the field nonetheless.
Maybe baseball isn't getting smarter after all?