My favorite day of the season is finally upon us, and it could not come at a better time. No, it is not the doubleheader that intrigues or even seeing Marco Gonzales back with the big club. To steal a line from a football movie I watch way too much — “It’s Draft Day!”
Most years there would have been months of discussions on Twitter and posts about who might fall to the Cardinals at the end of the first round. There is no reason to go into great detail about all the factors that contributed to not having any picks yesterday which was technically the first day. Although my interest hasn’t peaked nearly as early as in the past few years, bringing new talent into a crowded St. Louis system only makes the competition that much greater.
For those curious on options heading into the Round #3, check out both this post as well as another great source. One key factor that simply can not be stated enough centers around money, as most things seem to these days in baseball. That’s not to say ‘for love of the game’ is dead and gone but try to temper your enthusiasm about snagging a top prospect this afternoon. The front office has a plan in place, and it will be fascinating to watch unfold over the next two days.
Basically, just about any player with a strong college commitment or any leverage should be all but ignored as the Cards can only afford sure things at this point. They are working with the smallest budget imaginable so any miss will handcuff them that much more. Yes, that would seem to limit the excitement a bit although I feel the opposite could end up being true three years from now. This will end up being a historic draft for so many reasons, however, with two story lines concerning the Birds on the Bat coming full circle.
The biggest reason to watch how scouting director Randy Flores navigates the deep waters today has zero to do with anything in this draft or the next. It is possible St. Louis finds another free agent worth getting this winter, but the smart money is on the monster class of 2018. That means next year a decent first round pick (and more pool money) could be possible with a return to budgeting for 2019. Why worry about something so far away?
As most of us have witnessed, the farm system can only take you so far with the trade market unpredictable at best. As even Mo alluded to the fact over the weekend with my UCB brethren, if you can’t produce em, better to buy em (my words). This year is a solid test run to see how a draft can be built on a budget while allocating money elsewhere. The Cardinals used up their international leverage as well for the next two years, so today is just step one of the 3-point plan. How different the team looks on August 1st as well as January 1st of next year will complete the cycle in the biggest game of chicken to be seen in any professional sport.
The three loyal readers still with me might be thinking this is about the Chicago team who flourished by tanking but in fact Houston has more similarities than previously discussed. Yes the Astros are run by a former St. Louis exec and turned it around by embracing the tank-system. They also were given the two extra picks by MLB to end the scandal so those comparisons in a few years are sure to be discussed. But none of that matters nearly as much as the fact that there will be a time in the near future when both playoff-hunting squads are fighting over the same free agent.
While any trade talk between the two clubs surely is minimal, I am curious how free agents will view both destinations in the next couple of seasons. Lance Lynn is a guy who Houston would love to have and might be available this winter so the first test could come sooner than expected. Grab your popcorn and beverage of choice and settle in for a long day in front of the computer or TV as draft day (plus a doubleheader) may never happen again!