CHICAGO • The Cardinals considered Cubs executive Theo Epstein’s comments and frustration over the bonus draft pick they received Wednesday a “compliment,” but also recognized that there was more to it than market size and revenue.
There was pure luck. In a draw conducted by Major League Baseball from eligible teams, the Cardinals received the third competitive-balance pick in next summer’s draft. The pick is expected to be somewhere between 35 and 40, and it will come after the first round. There were 13 teams eligible for the first round of competitive-balance picks, and each team’s chances of winning a pick are based on last year’s winning percentage. The National League champion Cardinals’ 97 wins last season gave them close to a 3 percent chance of getting an extra pick, an official said.
Increasingly under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, picks are prized and at this time of year an extra pick can have added power.
“I could talk all day about the Cardinals and how much we hold them in high regard,” Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operation, told reporters Wednesday in Chicago. “That’s a fantastic franchise. They have been for the better part of a century. They do extremely well from a baseball standpoint, and from a revenue standpoint. That’s probably the last organization in baseball that needs that kind of (an) annual gift.”
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, whose club opens a three-game series today at Wrigley Field, wrote in an email that the comment from Epstein was “a compliment to our organization.” He assured “there are no hard feelings.”
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Mozeliak has one more card to play, as early as this week.
By getting a pick in the competitive-balance round immediately after the first round, the Cardinals not only have access to a top-40 talent but also to the slot money assigned to that pick. Their draft bonus pool will be larger for 2015 as a result of winning this lottery, and that can allow them to overspend earlier or later, as they did with an extra pick this season. The competitive-balance pick can also be traded.
As the Cardinals search for a starting pitcher, they suddenly have an additional chip to play. The Cardinals’ competitive-balance pick is only a few spots down from the compensation picks, which teams receive for a free agent that has left. Teams cannot access those compensation picks if they trade a would-be free agent. The Cardinals can offer a pick just a few notches down.
The Cardinals received the 71st overall pick this summer as a competitive-balance pick, and they selected righty Andrew Morales from UC-Irvine.
The Cardinals are eligible for the competitive-balance pick because of their market size. Mostly due to their ability to draw more than 3.2 million fans, they do not qualify as one of the 10 smallest revenue teams.
The Marlins and Rockies received the picks ahead of the Cardinals.
Three teams in the National League Central received competitive-balance picks in Wednesday’s drawing. The Pirates, though eligible, did not. The only team in the division not eligible was the Cubs, who have a payroll smaller than the Cardinals but call the division’s largest market home.
“It will just make it that much sweeter when we get to a point where we can compete with them and, ultimately, we hope, prevail,” Epstein said. “Because (the pick) is not necessarily the type of thing that they need, given their performance on the field and off the field. They do a fantastic job. It doesn’t seem like something they need at this point.”
Minor-league outfielder Rowan Wick was moved to a full-season club, Low-A Peoria. Wick, 21, established a club record at State College (Pa.) with 14 homers and the 2012 draft pick homered in his first game with Peoria. … Charlie Tilson, the Cardinals’ second-round pick in 2011, advanced to Class AA Springfield this past week. Tilson, 21, hit .309 with eight triples and a .356 on-base percentage at High-A Palm Beach before the promotion.