I saw an interesting post on the MLB Trade Rumors’ site Monday afternoon. In a nutshell, teams could sign a guy to whom a qualifying offer has already been made (ie-Adam LaRoche), and then trade him. As we already know, a team that signs such a player would forfeit their first non-protected draft choice. In the scenario put forth in the article, they use the Cleveland Indians (who have already forfeited their second round pick for Nick Swisher). If Cleveland went after the likes of Adam LaRoche, they would forfeit a third round pick to the Washington Nationals.
Let me state for the record that I’m the king of loopholes. Granted I’m not the one who found this loophole, however you can plainly see what I’m suggesting. If Dan Duquette could make a handshake agreement with another franchise and Adam LaRoche whereby they would sign LaRoche and the Orioles would trade for him, suddenly the O’s don’t have to give up their first round draft pick that Duquette seems to be guarding so tightly. Cleveland would be an ideal partner because their next qualifying pick is a third rounder and thus in theory it wouldn’t cost the Orioles too much in theory. But it could be any team really…in fact it might be preferable to find a National League partner just in case Duquette got double-crossed in a sense and that team decided at the last minute to keep LaRoche for themselves.
The issue is that in effect the Orioles would be trading an extra player (in effect) even if it’s a one-for-one swap. LaRoche, being a gold glover is going to cost the Orioles a pretty decent player as it is. (And hypothetically speaking if you run with the Cleveland example it would probably cost them some pitching…another commodity that Duquette is hesitant to trade away.) However that team would also have to be compensated for sacrificing a draft pick. In the case of Cleveland being a potential partner, you could probably get away with trading a player (for LaRoche) and a prospect (for the third round pick). That’s just my opinion, but a would-be third round pick is hardly worth a big league player here and now.
My point in the LaRoche sweepstakes has always been that while I agree with Dan Duquette in that the Orioles should stockpile talent via the draft, I’m not sure that the 24th pick in the draft is going to net them the type of talent that they’ve been drafting such as Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, et al. So whether or not that type of draft pick is worth protecting in lieu of a gold glove first baseman that would provide a middle-of-the-order hitter is a matter of opinion. LaRoche has indicated that he’d prefer to return to Washington, however he also wants a three-year deal (which Washington doesn’t seem to want to give him). I haven’t heard Dan Duquette or anyone in the Orioles’ front office saying that they wouldn’t be willing to offer three years, so the sticking point appears to be that draft pick…
…and the above-mentioned loophole would give the Orioles a way to keep it. There are probably people reading this who are squirming in their chairs given that it does come across as a bit underhanded. My argument would be that it’s not underhanded if it’s technically not against the rules…which it isn’t. One way or the other the Orioles would have to give something up to get LaRoche; either players today, or draft picks. I suppose that the real loser in the loophole scenario would be the Washington Nationals, who would only be getting a third round compensatory pick (assuming the Cleveland scenario) as opposed to a first rounder. However keep in mind that whatever Dan Duquette does is done with the best interests of the Baltimore Orioles in mind, not any other franchise. All of this said, if this scenario actually happened I would expect the Nationals to complain from the highest mountaintop, and eventually see this loophole closed in some manner.