Will Blue Jays’ first-round pick be protected?

Many observers would say that the precise win-loss record of the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays doesn’t matter all that much. Yet it’s possible that one or two games could determine whether the Blue Jays have a protected first-round draft pick in 2014.

The teams that finish with the bottom 10 records in MLB get to keep their first-round selections in 2014, regardless of which free agents they sign this coming off-season. This provides the league’s worst teams with the flexibility to sign top free agents without losing first-round picks.

However, teams that finish with one of the top 20 records in the sport must surrender their 2014 first-round selections if they sign certain free agents.

The Blue Jays, 64-76 with 22 games remaining, are now tied with the New York Mets for the 20th-best record in baseball. This means the Blue Jays are presently on track to be a bit too successful to have a protected first-round selection in 2014, as Dirk Hayhurst explained on Baseball Central Wednesday.

Only a handful of free agents will be tied to draft pick compensation, since most players are not considered worthy of a qualifying offer in the $14 million range. Teams must surrender top draft picks to sign free agents who decline qualifying offers.

However, most players do not obtain qualifying offers and can be signed by any team regardless of where it finished in the standings.

While most teams lose a first-round pick for signing a free agent linked to draft pick compensation, teams with a bottom-10 record would lose a second-round pick and keep their first-rounder.

If the season had ended after Wednesday’s games, the Blue Jays would have missed out on having a protected draft pick by mere percentage points.

The Blue Jays are relatively close in the standings to the San Diego Padres (62-77), the San Francisco Giants (62-77), the Seattle Mariners (63-76), the New York Mets (63-75), Philadelphia Phillies (63-77), Colorado Rockies (66-75) and Los Angeles Angels (64-74).

Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo are among the prospective free agents who may be linked to draft pick compensation this off-season.

Regardless of what happens in free agency, the Blue Jays will also select 11th overall. They did not reach an agreement with first-round selection Phil Bickford this year, which entitles them to a compensatory selection in 2014.

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