TOWER GROVE • After years as the poster boy for the St. Louis Cardinals' revamped and replenished minor-league system, outfielder Colby Rasmus may offer the club more in his absence than he did in their uniform.
Rasmus was the centerpiece of the deal that landed three players who contributed heavily to the Cardinals' 2011 World Series run -- starter Edwin Jackson, lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and reliever Octavio Dotel. Jackson's deal with the Washington Nationals on Thursday means two of those key additions have left town via free agency, but they have not left the Cardinals empty-handed. Jackson and Dotel will net the Cardinals two additional picks in the coming draft, and that means Rasmus will, effectively, turn into Rzepczynski and two high picks.
Be sure to thank Edgar Renteria.
Baseball's system of compensatory picks can be confusing and unrewarding, just as it can sometimes offer a team a bounty of picks and (dare to dream) prospects in exchange for lost free agents. The Tampa Bay Rays recently raked in a bevy of picks as a result of some players who helped the team to an American League pennant leaving via free agency. The Cardinals, fresh from a title and suddenly down some free agents, are poised to have the same windfall of picks.
As discussed in this morning's Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are now in position to get five of the first 58 picks in the draft. Pending other signings, here is how the Cardinals sit for the draft:
19. from LA Angels for Albert Pujols.
23. assigned pick
36. compensation for Pujols.
52. compensation for Octavio Dotel.
58. compensation for Jackson.
That 58th pick is not certain. It could slip a few notches. Jim Callis, a draft guru at Baseball America, explained to me this morning that Derrek Lee and/or Raul Ibanez could influence where the Cardinals pick. Depending on the deals they get as free agents, the Cardinals could drop one or two spots. Still, at worst, the Cardinals are set to have five of the top 60 picks for new scouting director Dan Kantrovitz to use in his first draft in the position. In 2011, the Rays had 10 extra picks as a result of departing free agents, and all came before the end of the second round.
Two of those compensation picks come as a result of trading Rasmus, who, himself, was a Cardinal because of a compensation pick.
Between the 2004 World Series and opening day 2005, Renteria signed as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox. Because the Cardinals had offered him arbitration, they retained the rights to draft-pick compensation. The Cardinals received two picks in return for Renteria, including the 28th overall pick directly from the Red Sox. They used that pick to draft Rasmus.
He was expected to be the Cardinals top compensation-pick selection since ... well, see ...
It's a good question.
The Cardinals' list of compensation picks before 2005 isn't particularly robust. Often that's because they haven't had a compensation pick. Sometimes it's because they didn't land a quality prospect with it. Back in 1999, the Cardinals received two draft picks as a result of Delino DeShields signing with Baltimore. They used both on outfielders that would influence later championship contenders. The first supplmental pick, 46th overall, was used on Chris Duncan, and the second allowed the Cardinals to take Ben Johnson. Johnson was later traded to San Diego for Carlos Hernandez, which would be a footnote in Cardinals history except for the fact that the Padres had brought up two names of interest to the Cardinals: Johnson and some guy named Pujols.
Allen Watson, the 21st overall pick in 1991, was a compensation pick that came as a result of Ken Dayley leaving. KMOX's Ron Jacober will happily tell you about the stack of Watson rookie cards he had in prepation for the pitcher's stardom.
Didn't work out.
It could be argued that the last comp-pick player who had a lasting impact for the Cardinals came in 1988, when Jack Clark's departure rewarded the Cardinals the 30th overall pick and they used it on Brian Jordan. Two years earlier, the 55th overall pick went to the Cardinals as compensation for Ivan de Jesus and they selected Todd Zeile.
In recent years, the Cardinals' success with comp picks has improved with each passing year, though Rasmus was the team's best chance at getting an impact player with a comp pick. During Jeff Luhnow's tenure in charge of the draft, here are the comp picks (and how the Cardinals got each one), with italics used to identify players still in the system:
OF Colby Rasmus, 28th overall, for Renteria
RHP Mark McCormick, 43rd overall, for Renteria
RHP Tyler Herron, 46th overall, for Mike Matheny
RHP Josh Wilson, 70th overall, for Matheny
RHP Chris Perez, 42nd overall, for Matt Morris
LHP Brad Furnish, 54th overall, for Morris
1B Mark Hamilton, 32nd overall, for Abe Nunez
RHP Clayton Mortensen, 36th overall, for Jeff Suppan
RHP David Kopp, 71st overall, for Suppan
RHP Lance Lynn, 39th overall, for Troy Percival
RHP Seth Blair, 46th overall, for Mark DeRosa
RHP Tyrell Jenkins, 50th overall, for Joel Pineiro
The trend you see is how the Cardinals have turned comp picks into more comp picks. Perez, a comp pick, was traded to Cleveland for DeRosa, whose departure resulted in a comp pick that is now Blair, a highly touted pick who struggled mightily with consistency in his first pro season. Rasmus is no different. A comp pick himself, Rasmus came to the Cardinals because Renteria left, and now Rasmus' departure means the Cardinals have two more comp picks to take his place.
In digging into the past drafts, it appears that Rasmus had the potential to be the first impact comp-pick position player since Jordan.
The Cardinals will have four chances in June to find the next one.