Imagine a universe in which baseball has an ironclad, two-way reserve clause. A reserve claws, as it were. We’re not talking about the version that bound players to teams for decades before Marvin Miller and Curt Flood came along, when teams had all the power in deciding when or if a player ever had a chance to change teams. This version works both ways. Once you sign or are drafted by an organization, you are married. Forever.
In that universe, scouting and development become everything. They are essential areas now, but teams can overcome deficiencies there by opening up the vault during free agency or swinging a deft trade. But if teams aren’t allowed to make transactions, the only chance they would have to differentiate their baseball operations efforts would be in the work they put in before amateur players entered the professional ranks.
We all do this kind of fantasizing at one time or another, imagining what it would be like if your team hadn’t let a certain player go. If he finds stardom elsewhere, it stings. Legions of Red Sox fans probably scratched out prospective lineups for years that had Jeff Bagwell inserted into the No. 4 spot.
The fact is, relatively few players…