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Why is this draft pick so important to Red Sox?

12.28.12 at 12:36 pm ET
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The Red Sox might value their second-round draft pick too much to take a run at free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche. (AP)

So, just how important is this pick the Red Sox are clutching so tightly?

It has been referenced numerous times that besides the years and money, one of the biggest reasons for the Red Sox shying away from some of the more notable free agents is a hesitancy to surrender their second-round draft pick.

In case you weren’t up to speed …

Heading into the free agent period, there were nine players extended qualifying offers, which would have guaranteed them each a one-year, $13.3 million deal for 2013. All nine turned down that chance. By offering the qualifying offer, each of the players’ 2012 teams were assured draft pick compensation if their player signed with another team. For the signing team, it would also mean it would be forced to surrender a first-round draft pick, unless the organization possessed a pick in the draft’s top 10 selections, allowing the team to give up a second-round pick. That would be the case with the Red Sox, who own the draft’s No. 7 overall pick in ’13.

Thus far, Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton, and Nick Swisher are the members of the group who have signed with other teams, costing the signing team a draft choice. David Ortiz and Hiroki Kuroda chose to sign with their ’12 teams.

That leaves Michael Bourn, Kyle Lohse, Rafael Soriano and Adam LaRoche as the aforementioned free agents who have yet to sign. Of particular interest to the Red Sox may be LaRoche, who could be a fall-back if Mike Napoli’s situation isn’t resolved. The Red Sox have shied away from LaRoche in part to his desire for a three-year deal. But perhaps just as problematic is the draft pick it would cost to sign the first baseman.

For the here-and-the-now crowd, the importance of holding onto the draft pick is hard to grasp. But there are some slap-in-the-face reminders about how necessary compensation draft picks can be for a team:

- The last time the Red Sox signed a big-time free agent — Carl Crawford after the 2010 season — they were forced to surrender the 24th pick in the 2011 draft to Tampa Bay. That pick turned out to be top pitching prospect Taylor Guerrieri, who is believed to be on track to join the long list of Rays’ top-of-the-rotation stable of young pitchers.

- The draft pick surrendered by the Yankees when they signed Mark Teixeira (24th overall in 2009) turned out to be Mike Trout.

- While the Red Sox missed out on Guerrieri, that same draft they hauled in pitchers Matt Barnes and Henry Owens due to the compensation as a result of Victor Martinez signing with the Tigers, and catcher Blake Swihart and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. with the picks siphoned from Adrian Beltre joining the Rangers.

- Other examples of prospects reeled in by the Red Sox via free agent compensation are infielder Kolbrin Vitek and pitchers Brandon Workman and Anthony Ranaudo, who were both taken as a result of the Sox parting ways with Billy Wagner and Jason Bay after the ’09 season. Clay Buchholz (Pedro Martinez) and Jacoby Ellsbury (Orlando Cabrera) are also both results of draft pick compensation.

But, it should be noted, this isn’t a first-round pick. It isn’t yet determined — because of the number of picks handed out to teams — exactly where the Red Sox will be selecting, so let’s take a guess — No. 44.

Using this pick as the (hardly carved in stone) jumping off point, here are some reminders about the No. 44 pick:

2012: Travis Jankowski. A speedy outfielder was taken out of Stony Brook University by the Padres. Still too early to evaluate.
2011: Michel Fulmer. Taken out of high school by the Mets (as compensation for Pedro Felciano), this pitcher spent last season in Single A.
2010: Nick Castellanos. The Tigers took this third baseman out of high school after receiving compensation for Brandon Lyon. He totaled a 1.014 OPS in Single A before being moved up to Double-A midway through last season.
2009: Tanner Scheppers. Made his major league debut for the Rangers last season, appearing in 39 games as a reliever. He was compensation for Milton Bradley.
2008: Jeremy Bleich. A pitcher out of Stanford, he is reinventing himself as a lefty reliever after labrum surgery.
2007: Neil Ramirez. Having been picked out of high school by the Rangers, he turned in a 7.66 ERA in Triple-A last season.
2006: Caleb Clay. The Nationals signed Clay to a minor league contract in November after spending ’12 as a reliever for Double-A Portland.

The best success story out of the 44th slot is Reds’ superstar Joey Votto (2002), with Chris Bosio and Jon Lieber serving as runner-ups. Since 1980, 15 of the No. 44 picks have made it to the major leagues.

The Sox’ pick could very well land somewhere other than No. 44, but identifying the spot allows for at least somewhat of a sample size. There is also the years of financial control the team would have over the player if it did hit on the right pick, allowing roster flexibility for years to come. And, as commenter ‘Josh’ points out: “It isn’t just the pick, though. It is also the roughly $1.2 million (last year’s slot) in draft pool dollars. That is basically the difference between the No. 7 and the No. pick.”

For the right free agent, the draft pick conversation becomes a bit murkier. For an addition that is viewed as something more of a complementary addition, it makes the case for holding onto the pick a whole lot easier to digest.

Should the Red Sox be willing to surrender their second-round pick for Adam LaRoche?

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