The Eric Gagne deal has been largely praised as it makes an already strong bullpen stronger and kept Gagne away from Detroit, Cleveland and New York. And while that's all well and good, the real genius of the Gagne deal is not what they'll get out of Gagne the last 3 months of the season, but what they'll get when Gagne signs with the Yankees to replace Mariano Rivera after the season (or signs with some other team).
Because Gagne is projected a Type A Free Agent in the offseason (Determining which ‘Type’ a free agent is based on a statistical system created by the Elias Sports Bureau that uses statistics based on a 2-year average for each of the positions. Salary Arbitration has to be offered to the player by the team before he signs elsewhere if they wish to receive compensation. Type A Players: Ranks in the upper 30% of his respective position group.), the Sox will "get a first rounder and a sandwich pick if the signing club picks in the second half of the draft order, or a sandwich pick and a second rounder if it picks on the first half (which is determined by reverse order of finish in the standings)." The benefit of this is twofold: 1. The Sox will likely sign a Type A Free Agent from another team in the offseason (perhaps A-Rod) and will thus lose their first round pick. Replacing this pick is necessary as they've done very well getting good-to-great value in the first 75 picks (see Bowden, Buchholz, Lester, Masterson, Pedroia, and hopefully Bard & Place); and 2. Of the guys the Sox gave up, only one was a former first round pick (Murphy was picked in the first while Gabbard was a 29th rounder and Beltre was a free agent signee), and he is a 25 year-old minor league veteran who projects as a 4th outfielder in the mold of a David Dellucci or Jason Michaels but with less power and nowhere to go in the Sox system. Now clearly it doesn't matter now where Gabbard was selected in the draft as he has proven himself capable of pitching in the bigs and Engel Beltre's upside is almost unlimited and may end up being the true gem of this deal (though, in the Sox defense, their ability to sign players like Beltre is unencumbered by draft compensation, so it doesn't really factor into what I'm talking about), but in terms of perceived draft value (meaning the value of the players at the time they were drafted), the Sox will get better value in the 2008 draft because of the signing of Eric Gagne than what they gave up to get him. In a strange way, their minor league system may have actually gotten deeper by giving up 3 players. That, sirs, is kind of impressive.