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MLB Draft 2011: Tampa Bay Rays, Loaded With Draft Picks, Licking Their Chops

Bill Chastain at MLB.com looks at the upcoming 2011 MLB Draft through the eyes of the Tampa Bay Rays, who have 12 of the first 89 picks and will pick 10 times before the Pirates will make their second selection of the draft.

Now, if you're a Pirates fan, you may read this and wonder, "Why would a team like the Rays, which won 96 games and came in first in the toughest division in baseball last year, have 10 picks before the Pirates, who lost 105 games, had two?"

There is, frankly, no good answer for that. There's a system of compensation in place in which teams receive draft picks whenever they offer arbitration to a departing free agent, and that free agent signs elsewhere. There's some logic to the system when you're talking about a player like Carl Crawford, who was drafted and developed into a star by the Rays. When a player like that signs with the Red Sox, the Rays should get something in return, and they did, picking up the No. 24 overall pick from the Red Sox and also grabbing the No. 41 overall pick.

However, the Rays' bounty of picks also includes the No. 52 overall pick, which they got when they lost Brad Hawpe, who was drafted and developed by the Rockies and had all of 39 career at bats with the Rays. It includes the No. 59 overall pick, which they got for losing Randy Choate, a mediocre reliever who pitched less than two full seasons in Tampa. They also picked up the No. 60 overall pick for the departure of Chad Qualls, who had 27 appearances and a 5.57 ERA in his illustrious Rays career.

This makes no sense. When truly bad teams - the kind who need the extra draft picks - have players like Choate, they have the option to trade them to contenders in July. And then, of course, the contenders pick up the draft picks for them. Why should a team like the Rays be compensated for losing someone like Choate or Qualls? These players were not developed by the Rays, nor is it likely that anyone in the Rays organization ever viewed them as anything more than complementary pieces.

The Pirates have the No. 1 overall pick, and that's great. But meanwhile, an already-stacked Rays team will get to gorge itself on all the live arms it wants in a draft that's loaded with pitching. That's stupid, and it's a policy Major League Baseball needs to change.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.