Here's a riddle for you: when is a loss really a win? The overarching answer is "anytime it benefits you more than a win would have," but in the case of the Detroit Tigers, Monday's doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox was a blessing in disguise.
Let's back up. The current MLB free agent compensation system allows teams to extend players a qualifying offer, or a one-year contract for the upcoming season. That contract should be close to $15 million this upcoming offseason. If the player declines the qualifying offer -- and every single QO has been declined over the past three seasons -- then the team who is losing said player receives a compensation draft pick in the next year's MLB draft.
(Before you ask, no, the Tigers will not be getting a compensation pick for Joe Nathan.)
Where this affects the Tigers is in the signing of free agents. They have lost first round picks before for signing big names like Victor Martinez, Jose Valverde, and Prince Fielder in the past. All of those signings came under the old collective bargaining agreement, but the premise is the same. There's one tweak: teams who receive a top 10 draft pick do not forfeit that selection; it is considered "protected." Instead, those teams forfeit their second round pick, a selection usually in the 40-50 range overall.
Back to Monday's losses. While the Tigers are in last place in the American League Central and have the second-worst record in the AL, they were only just inside the "protected pick" barrier. If the season ended today, they would receive the No. 8 overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft thanks to a slew of absolutely horrible National League teams (looking at you, Philadelphia). They are a game "ahead" of the San Diego Padres, and three game clear of the No. 10 overall pick. For the time being, their top-10 pick is relatively stable.
Luckily for the White Sox, yesterday's wins did not cost them. But their position is far less secure than the Tigers' at this point. With a 72-78 record, the White Sox are tied with the Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks for the No. 10 overall pick. Another win or two and they could play themselves out of a protected draft pick, something they have taken advantage of in recent years.
This is why Monday's doubleheader wasn't so bad for Detroit, and, if anything, was probably the best possible outcome. Losing to the White Sox is never fun (especially if you're listening to their broadcasts), but if it gives the Tigers an advantage when trying to build their 2016 team -- not to mention a higher draft pick and more bonus pool money for the 2016 draft -- then I'm on board.
Just beat the damn Twins this weekend.