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The Braves are looking to buy a draft pick. What if the Orioles decide to sell one?

The Orioles have shown they don't really care about the competitive balance draft picks in the past, and this year the Braves are reportedly actively looking to trade for them. Is there a match? Should there be?

As an inferior sport's draft kicked off on Thursday night, with wild trades affecting draft picks years into the future, a baseball draft rumor snuck out into the ether as well. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that the woeful Braves are looking to buy a draft pick in exchange for some team's bad contract.

This is of interest, sort of, in the realm of people paying attention to the Orioles if only because the Orioles pulled off a lamentable caper last season where they effectively sold off one of their draft picks. That was last year, when they made a trade with the Dodgers that sent Ryan Webb to Los Angeles. Within a week of being acquired by the Dodgers, Webb was released, so the Dodgers got a pick (#74 overall) for the price of Webb's 2015 salary - $2.7 million.

Most baseball draft picks cannot be traded. This is not some inferior sport. However, recently, MLB introduced what they call competitive balance picks, which are parceled out to teams at some kind of disadvantage due to their market size, or at least that's the theory. A few go at the end of the first round and a few go at the end of the second. These picks can be traded.

The O's and their history of discarding the pick

The Orioles have been awarded one of these picks in each of the four years they have existed. They have only actually used the selection once, in 2013, when they picked Josh Hart at #37 overall. The O's traded their 2014 balance pick to Houston in the Bud Norris trade, which the Astros used to select outfielder Derek Fisher, currently the #9 Astros prospect.

Then there was the 2015 pick, which they gave to the Dodgers to get Webb's modest contract off their hands. The Dodgers used that selection to take righty Josh Sborz. In a funny little twist, both Fisher and Sborz were University of Virginia products. They now hold the #76 overall pick for the upcoming June draft.

So the pattern here is that the Orioles don't really give a crap about these picks. While it's true that the chances of getting a future star or even any kind of useful roleplayer are small in the 70+ range, the picks also come with slot money that can be reallocated to go overslot and get better players.

The Orioles made a mistake in selling off the pick last year. If they did so again this year, they'd be making another mistake. Even though they have other picks remaining at 27, 54, and 69, the extra slot money and the chance to take a lottery ticket should outweigh most other considerations. They need to keep the pick.

But it's not about what I think they should do. It's about what the Orioles under Dan Duquette tend to do. If they were going to repeat their past error of treating these picks too cavalierly, selling off this year's #76 pick to the Braves seems like just the sort of thing they might do.

Before getting into who might have a contract the O's would want to rid themselves of having to pay, it's worth pointing out that they've already pinched pennies once this season, when they released Miguel Gonzalez rather than pay his full salary; this saved them about $3.5 million. Dumping a pick to save a couple million more would be discouraging.

Still, if it was going to happen, who do the O's have that might fit the bill here?

Brian Matusz

2016 salary: $3.9 million

I don't actually think the O's will trade Matusz if only because they like him more than most of us in the blogging realm do. But if things got to where they were going to dump somebody, he might be a good fit. He struggled in his minor league rehab outings and he has struggled in his first two MLB outings this year, so pulling the plug seems less outrageous at this moment.

What's interesting about Matusz is the way his salary lines up with the precedent. If the going rate for a competitive balance B pick is Webb's $2.7 million, Matusz's contract could fit. If the O's make this trade a month or so from now, with the season about a third of the way over, they'd owe Matusz about $2.6 million more.

Pedro Alvarez

2016 salary: $5.75 million (incentives to $7 million)

It's been a disappointing April, to say the least, for Alvarez, but then again, he's always been a slow starter in his career, for whatever reason. When do you decide if a slow start is actually the new normal?

If the Orioles did decide they'd had enough of Alvarez after giving him his chances, he seems like a decent hypothetical candidate to dump. Other than his being Ryan Flaherty's college roommate, there's not much of a sentimental attachment there.

Again assuming roughly a pre-draft trade (early June), the O's would have about $3.8 million left owed to Alvarez. Much as Alvarez hasn't lived up to expectations yet, this would be a bad deal, even if he keeps not living up to expectations. The Orioles farm system is bad. Baseball teams can always get more money. They can't easily get more draft picks.

Matt Wieters

2016 salary: $15.8 million

I don't actually see a way the Orioles would dump Wieters in a trade like this. That seems like it would be one of those clubhouse and fanbase grenades the team just wouldn't want to lob. Players like him and don't care about his current .610 OPS or that he has yet to catch consecutive days. Even if those things persist another month, can you imagine them trading him? As a qualifying offer player, they can't trade him before June 1 anyway.

If the O's somehow were to trade Wieters in early June, before the draft, and if the Braves ate the whole salary, that would be a savings of about $10.6 million. That's real money. Of course, even if Wieters struggles and only plays half the games while nominally being a starting catcher, he might still be a better option than whoever's in Triple-A right now.

But about the money: Would you give up the #76 pick for the Orioles to save over $10 million? Perhaps it depends on what they'd do with the $10 million. This is getting into the range where it's interesting to think about, conceptually, even though I know it would never happen in the particular case where Wieters is the player.


The temptation's there for me to close out with Yovani Gallardo, who may well have the only truly bad contract on the Orioles right now, depending on how his shoulder shakes out.

Whether or not the Braves would take on this deal for the pick, for the O's to make it, they've had to be admitting failure in signing him in the first place, only two months after doing so. Plus, they'd be selling off a second draft choice when they already gave one up in order to sign Gallardo. Not only would that be bad, it would also look bad, which might be even worse. So to me, that's not much of a possibility - even less of one than Wieters.

Hopefully all of this is academic and the O's won't seriously consider any of it. They need to make picks in order to get real talent into the farm system. That's all there is to it. Their track record means that we can't entirely rule it out, especially knowing that there's at least one team actively seeking to buy a pick, any pick.

If the O's were going to trade the pick, would you consider it a good deal to be rid of any of these players?