No general manager enjoys trading highly-regarded prospects away. But until this year, GMs have been able to trade elite prospects for players on the brink of free agency with the expectation of obtaining two compensatory draft picks for the loss of the Major League player. It was unpleasant to trade top prospects away, but the draft picks helped replenish teams' minor league systems.
This year, the rules have changed, and teams can no longer obtain draft pick compensation for players acquired midseason. The change in rules, in effect for the first time under baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, creates a dilemma for baseball's GMs: is it worth trading a top prospect for a player nearing free agency when the possibility of obtaining draft pick compensation no longer exists?
It's not hard to see why some teams will refuse to trade top prospects for 'rental' players. In the view of many, the short-term gain wouldn't be substantial enough to overcome the loss of a player who could make an extended impact at the MLB level while earning a relatively modest salary.
But how else will a team obtain a star MLB player such as Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke? Surely second-rate prospects and salary relief won't be enough. And it wouldn't be the first time teams have traded elite prospects without the possibility of obtaining draft pick compensation. The Giants parted with Zack Wheeler last summer in the trade that sent Carlos Beltran to San Francisco (the Beltran-Wheeler swap isn't a perfect comparison, but it shows that some teams are willing to sacrifice top prospects for short-term upgrades).
So, if you were a general manager, would you go all-in despite the change in rules or hold onto your prospects?