Monday, June 27, 2011

The Great 2011 Expansion Draft

By The Common Man and Bill

For the last couple weeks, the good people of the Internets have been bandying about some radical realignment scenarios, in the wake of the news that MLB was considering tinkering with its current alignment. In particular, the league seems keen on moving the Astros into the AL West and creating two 15 team leagues. While that's interesting, and incredibly flawed, we at The Platoon Advantage wonder if it's finally time to expand the league again.

New markets have become viable and old markets can be co-opted in the interest of competitive balance. The player pool continues to grow, as teams scour South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia for young talent. It would balance both leagues, and no one would have to switch from the NL to the AL. It would accentuate some preexisting rivalries, while creating new, geographically centered ones. And finally, it would be a way to inject some offense back into a league that has seen scoring drop precipitously. And, as Keith Law pointed out in a recent podcast, it would be an excellent way for baseball to raise some quick cash (to help bail out the Dodgers, for instance).

So that’s what we’re doing, with the help of 30 of our baseball-blogging friends and even the great Keith Law himself. As a thought exercise, to demonstrate the difficulties involved in building a team from the ground up, The Common Man and Bill are each taking control of a franchise, one in the New York City area (to mitigate some of the financial advantage enjoyed by the NYC teams) and Portland, Oregon, that will join the Major Leagues in 2012. TCM will control the New York franchise, and Bill controlling Portland. The leagues will maintain their integrity, with no clubs switching sides, and each league will be split into four four-team divisions. Here’s what the realignment that we propose looks like:

AL NortheastAL EastAL Great PlainsAL West
Baltimore OriolesCleveland IndiansChicago White SoxLos Angeles Angels
Boston Red SoxDetroit TigersKansas City RoyalsOakland A's
Brooklyn HipstersTampa Bay RaysMinnesota TwinsPortland Webfoots
New York YankeesToronto Blue JaysTexas RangersSeattle Mariners
NL EastNL SouthNL CentralNL West
New York MetsAtlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Philadelphia PhilliesCincinnati RedsColorado RockiesLos Angeles Dodgers
Pittsburgh PiratesFlorida MarlinsMilwaukee BrewersSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsHouston AstrosSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

We asked our friends in the SweetSpot Network, and a few special guests from outside of the network, to provide lists of protected players for the expansion draft for their favorite team. The rules, as laid out before the 1997 Expansion Draft, were as follows:
A) Players who were drafted in the last two amateur drafts (2010 and 2011) were not eligible to be selected in the Expansion draft. Also, players selected in the 2009 amateur draft who were under the age of 19 at the time they were selected are also exempt. Teams do not have to protect these players. These same rules apply to amateur free agents who signed in the same timeframe. Therefore, neither expansion club could pick Mike Trout from the Angels.

B) Any player who is going to be a free agent, obviously, will not need to be protected in this draft, since they will not be on their team’s roster at the time of the draft. Therefore, the Mets do not have to burn a spot on Jose Reyes, unless they happen to sign him to an extension before then.

C) Teams are required to submit a list of 15 eligible players who will be “protected” for the first round, meaning that neither expansion team can select them. The Marlins, for instance, protected Mike Stanton, recognizing that he was an incredible young talent with a low salary that any expansion team would pounce on.

D) The expansion teams are only allowed to select one player from any organization per round. For instance, if one club selected Adrian Beltre from the Texas Rangers, the Rangers couldn’t lose anyone else for the rest of that round.

E) After each expansion team has picked 15 players (which would mean that every MLB club has had one players selected), each club is allowed to protect three additional players for Round 2. At that point, the process repeats itself, with 15 more picks, and three more protected players, for Round 3. This continues until each expansion team has selected 35 players.

Here is a link to the list of players each club protected, but if you want to get more information on who each team protected why (or if you want to tell them what a wonderful/horrible job they did), you can click on one of these following links to go to the participating website:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxLos Angeles Angels
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansOakland A's
New York YankeesDetroit TigersSeattle Mariners
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsTexas Rangers
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota Twins
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Florida MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsHouston AstrosLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesMilwaukee BrewersSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsPittsburgh PiratesSan Francisco Giants
St. Louis Cardinals

 A huge thanks to all our friends for helping to make this a realistic exercise, and for doing such a great job on their lists. Especially the Cubs, who had to dig so deep to find anyone worth keeping.

And now, without further ado, let’s get on with the draft! Click here to check out Round 1! (Or if you've seen that already, jump straight to rounds 2 and 3, or if you just want to skip straight to where the great Keith Law picks our work apart, go here.) 

Update: And if you want to get a sense of what the teams might reasonably look like in 2012, check out the Brooklyn Hipsters here, and the Portland Webfoots here.


John said...

Great idea, but as an O's fan, I really hope the division alignment isn't ever happening!

TMO said...

While I agree that expansion should happen, putting a third team in the NY metro area is just asinine. Do you really think people who are/have been Mets/Yankees fans are just going to wake up one day and just start rooting for a new Brooklyn team? Also, where are these fans (and more importantly their money) coming from exactly?

Along w/Portland, San Antonio is where a new franchise should go. It has the same metro population as Portland and also works geographically speaking for realignment purposes.

Lastly, scoring has reverted back to 1980's (pre-steroids era) levels. I don't see why this is even an issue.

Bill said...

TMO: yes, I really think people who are and have been Mets/Yankees fans will wake up one day and start rooting for a new Brooklyn team. It happened when the Mets came to town, it's happened to Orioles fans in DC, etc. Not all or most of them, certainly, and probably not even most of them that happen to live in Brooklyn...but enough of them. And even those that aren't fans will come out to a game once in a while, much as I'm a Twins fan in Chicago who often goes to Cubs games. The Hipsters' tickets will be more affordable and more readily available, and the stadium will be a lot easier for a lot of the city and surrounding area to get to. Dyed-in-the-wool fans don't realize how easily convenience and price can trump loyalty for most other people.

There are just too many people and too much money in that city for only two teams. Eventually, the Hipsters will start to cut, just a little, into the Yankees' overwhelming financial advantage. And when they finally get good, it'll be a phenomenal intra-city rivalry.

San Antonio would be a good spot too, though. There's really no shortage of places to which MLB could profitably expand.

"Lastly, scoring has reverted back to 1980's (pre-steroids era) levels. I don't see why this is even an issue."

You don't see why what is an issue? What has this to do with anything?

Jere said...

If we're going to expand, let's please not go to 8 divisions x 4 teams/division. That's just asking for a sub-.500 team to make the playoffs. How about 4 divisions x 8 teams/division...

The Common Man said...

That's certainly a danger, Jere. That said, there are advantages to this system. With no more wild cards, the division races are much more exciting, given that there is no second chance for teams. Also, the sense of geographical rivalry is stronger.

It comes down to a matter of preference. The Common Man would rather that the regular season and divisional championships be given additional emphasis, rather than guaranteeing that the best teams make the postseason tournament.

After all, if we just want the best teams to win in the postseason, we should make all the schedules equal and simply give the trophy to the club with the best record. But the world didn't stop when the 2006 Cardinals won the World Series or the 2001 Mariners didn't get there. In fact those were incredibly exciting postseasons. So TCM is comfortable with this format.

kevin said...

I really enjoyed reading this expansion draft post. It must have been tedious and fun at the same time. After reading it, I had a "what if" question in my head: If, say, you had chosen to leave the current three-division format in place and you had also chosen to put a team in San Antonio instead of Portland, would it still be necessary to move the Astros ? My guess is no. Two expansion teams are balancing the leagues and a team in SA would give the Rangers a division opponent in their time zone. Would you agree or disagree ? Thanks.