- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2009

POINT/COUNTERPOINT

Each week, Nationals beat writers Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling debate an issue in major league baseball. This week’s question: Should teams be allowed to trade draft picks?

Ben Goessling: There has been a lot of talk about changing this rule, a move that would put baseball in line with basketball and football. And frankly, I think it could help a team like the Nationals.

Yes, it would create a situation in which the teams that can pay players (the Yankees and Red Sox) trade with the teams that are scared off because of signability issues. But if those teams pass on players anyway, isn’t it accomplishing the same thing? They might as well get something for their trouble.

The reason there’s such a state of parity is because small-market teams have been able to turn their star players into a handful of prospects. Trading draft picks might create another avenue to do that.



Mark Zuckerman: I tend to take the opposite view. I think allowing draft picks to be traded actually hurts small-market teams and gives the big-market clubs another advantage.

Say a team like the Yankees decides it really, really wants Stephen Strasburg. So they offer the Nationals a handful of players and extra draft picks so they can swoop in and pay the No. 1 pick $50 million to pitch in their rotation this September. The best way for low-payroll teams to compete with their richer counterparts is through good scouting and development. This plan would prevent them from being able to do that.

BG: I agree with your point about scouting and development. My concern is when these stratospheric demands scare off teams and send players dropping to high-payroll clubs anyway.

If the Yankees want a guy like that, at least a trade doesn’t allow them to get him by sheer dint of having more money. They would have to give up a good package of players, which can do more to help than one pitcher anyway.

There was an interesting story on SI.com about this last week; it basically argued that by not being able to trade the No. 1 pick, the Nationals can’t consider all the options to maximize that asset. This would at least give them a chance to see whether something out there might be more valuable to them than Strasburg.

MZ: But isn’t a guy like Strasburg - a dominant starting pitcher who can make an immediate impact - exactly what the Nationals need? Why encourage them to trade the pick because they’re scared by the sticker price?

Baseball needs more parity, and trading draft picks seems like another ploy that will widen the gap between the rich and the poor. And by the way, the first team executive I heard touting this theory was Jim Bowden. Are you sure you want to align yourself with him?

BG: Shoot. You win.

MLB POWER POLL

Rank, team Record Comment

1. DODGERS 26-13 Haven’t missed Manny too much… yet.

2. BLUE JAYS 26-14 Looking more and more like they’re in this for real.

3. RED SOX 22-16 Hard to think they can win the division with Papi on the bench.

4. BREWERS 23-14 Hoffman (nine saves, 0.00 ERA) has been brilliant.

5. RANGERS 23-14 They may finally have the pitching to complement the lineup.

6. CUBS 21-15 Lee, Bradley and Soto need to get cranking soon.

7. METS 21-16 They don’t need leaders; they need starting pitchers.

8. CARDINALS 21-16 Pujols and Ludwick have combined for 21 of their 40 homers.

9. PHILLIES 20-16 They were a .500 team until they got to Nationals Park.

10. TIGERS 20-16 Averaged more than 11 runs in their sweep of Oakland.

* Records through Sunday

AWARD WATCH

Looking at the front-runners for baseball’s season awards. This week: AL Cy Young

Zack Greinke, Royals

This is a tough call. Toronto’s Roy Halladay may be the best pitcher in baseball and is on pace to win 28 games. But Greinke has been the story of the young season. He did not allow an earned run in his first 43 innings. He joined Walter Johnson and Fernando Valenzuela as the only pitchers to open a season 6-0 with an ERA of 0.40 or lower. Greinke has been phenomenal.

Others to watch: Halladay; Mark Buehrle, White Sox; Erik Bedard, Mariners

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