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New free agent compensation rules benefit Tigers in more ways than one

After three seasons without a first round draft pick, the Tigers stand to have two top 40 picks in next June's draft.

Former Tiger draftee Mark Appel projects to be the first oveall selectin in next June's amateur draft
Former Tiger draftee Mark Appel projects to be the first oveall selectin in next June's amateur draft
Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

The Detroit Tigers haven't made a first round draft selection in any of the past three seasons' amateur player drafts. In 2012, the Tigers didn’t make a selection until the 91st pick. In 2011, the Tigers didn’t have a pick until 75 players had been taken off the board ahead of their first selection. In 2010, the Tigers had no first round selection but made their last top 50 selections when they chose Nick Castellanos with the 44th selection, and Chance Ruffin with the 48th.

The Tigers voluntarily gave up their first round selections in each of the past three seasons, when they signed Jose Valverde, Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder to free agent contracts. Next June, things will be a bit different for Detroit. Unless the Tigers sign one of eight free agents who have received a "qualifying offer" from their current team, they will have two selections among the first 37 and will draft no lower than 21st with their first selection.

Under the rules of the new and improved collective bargaining agreement, just nine free agent major league baseball players have been extended qualifying offers this off season. Following is that list.

Michael Bourn, OF, Braves
Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers
Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, Yankees
Nick Swisher, OF, Yankees
Rafael Soriano, RHP, Yankees
B J Upton, OF, Rays
Kyle Lohse, RHP, Cardinals
Adam LaRoche, 1B/ OF, Nationals
David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox (signed two year extension with Boston)

One of the nine players, David Ortiz, has already been signed to an extension by his own club. That means just eight teams, at most, would give up their first round draft selection, and their former teams would be given a compensation pick after the first round. Those picks would be slotted at what now are in the late first round.

The June, 2012 amateur player draft featured a supplemental first round consisting of 29 compensation picks, and another four first round picks went from one team to another as compensation for a free agent signing. The 2011 draft had 27 compensation picks in the supplemental round and another four in the first round switched teams as compensation. Almost a full round of selections that were slotted between the first and second rounds under the old rules will be wiped out under the new rules, and no draft selections will go from one team to another.

For the Tigers, the new compensation scheme benefits them in a few different ways. First, most of the free agent players that the Tigers are likely to pursue this off season will not require giving up a draft choice to sign them. That list includes players such as Torii Hunter, Angel Pagan, Melky Cabrera, and Cody Ross. Only signing a Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher, or Rafael Soriano type would cost the Tigers their top pick.

Second, the Tigers did not have any free agent players on whom they would likely have risked an offer of arbitration, much less a "qualifying offer" of a $ 13.3 million salary. They would not have benefited from a continuance of the old compensation scheme.

Third, the Tigers received a "competitive balance lottery" selection which was No. 73 overall, but they swapped that pick for Miami’s No. 37 selection in the trade that brought Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to Detroit, sending Jacob Turner to Miami. Previously, draft picks could not be traded, but these new picks can be, and the Tigers are the only MLB team to move up in the draft in such a trade so far.

Every selection made after the first round will effectively be slotted almost a full round higher than in previous seasons, since almost a full round of compensation picks have been wiped off the board under the new compensation rules. For every team that gains a compensation selection, there is another team that loses their highest selection, so the total number of selections does not change, except for those six picks between rounds, and the Tigers have one of those picks.

Detroit's number 21 selection could also move up on the board. For each of those eight remaining players who received qualifying offers that signs with a club holding the 11th through the 20th selections, the Tigers move up a notch as those clubs would lose their first selection and the compensation pick would be awarded after Detroit’s selection. The first ten selections are protected and can not be awarded as compensation.

As an example, let’s say that the Los Angeles Dodgers sign Kyle Lohse, and the Philadelphia Phillies sign BJ Upton as free agents. The Dodgers and Phillies would lose their first round selections. The Cardinals and Rays would each receive a supplemental first round selection at the end of the regular first round, and the Tigers would move up two slots to No. 19.

In another twist, three of the nine players who were extended qualifying offers played for the New York Yankees in 2012. Under the old rules, New York could have signed several top (Type A) free agents and had to surrender only their own first round selection while they got to keep the compensation picks that they got for players that left via free agency. Not any more. The thought of the Yankees having three extra picks in the late first round might be troubling, but they stand to lose those extra picks unless they break their free agent spending habits.

In the "Oh, what might have been" department, the first selection overall next June is projected to be Mark Appel, a power right handed pitcher from Stanford. Appel was selected by the Pirates with the No. 8 overall choice last June, but did not sign, so the Pirates receive an extra selection at No. 9 this year. The Tigers actually selected Appel in the 15th round of the 2009 draft, the 450th pick overall. Needless to say, he didn’t sign with Detroit.