I just saw news that Anquan Boldin got traded by the Arizona Cardinals to the Baltimore Ravens, and — as I guessed before clicking the storylink — he went for a few mid-round draft picks.
It never ceases to amaze me, this phenomenon in football of trading Pro Bowl-caliber players for squat. I don’t know what gets me more, how little the Cardinals received for Boldin, a perennial 80-reception, 1000-yard receiver or the fact that a team like my 49ers probably could have gotten involved but didn’t. Boldin would have been worth a first or second-round pick, or both from San Francisco, a team that needs a star receiver until Michael Crabtree fully matures. It would have been like getting a Lexus at a police auction had the Niners scored Boldin. At the very least, it would have compensated somewhat for their own past ill-fated trades of Charles Haley and Terrell Owens.
The NFL Draft has become this annual monster where seven rounds of picks are given far greater importance than they should command. I would venture half the players never make a dent in the league, minimum, and a sixth round pick has just as much chance of succeeding as a top choice. For every Tom Brady, there is a Ryan Leaf. Or an Akili Smith. Or a Tim Couch. Or a JaMarcus Russell. And determining who will make it and who won’t is a crapshoot. So again, I don’t get the idea of surrendering an established player for a few lottery tickets, even if it’s true Boldin wanted out of Arizona.
Basketball has its own over-hyped draft and while I certainly admit that I love each sport’s annual selection event, look forward to it and study the mock drafts ahead of time, the big day in hoops occasionally inspires its own share of dumb trades. I am reminded of when the Bulls jettisoned Elton Brand for a not-yet-ready-for-the-pros Tyson Chandler. Chandler eventually developed, but it took something like six years, and by that time, he’d been sent to New Orleans in another ill-conceived move by the Bulls’ brass.
I am thankful that no one ever gets traded for draft picks in baseball, because I don’t think anyone really cares about the baseball draft; I think most people recognize that the primary function of the MLB Draft is to stock the minor leagues. Think about it, when’s the last time anything along the following lines was uttered: The Brewers traded Prince Fielder to the Yankees today for 1st and 3rd round picks in the 2011 MLB Draft, though Milwaukee reserved the right to swap picks with the Yankees pending the outcome of their regular season. Such sentences seemingly do not exist in the baseball lexicon, common as they are in football and basketball.
About the only way draft-related trades occur in baseball is that teams are recompensed with picks after they lose players to free agency. I like that, it seems equitable and helps small-market teams. And I prefer baseball’s trade system to basketball, where because of convoluted salary cap rules, teams rejoice anytime they manage to shed unwanted contracts. In baseball, those players just go to the Giants or Orioles.