Saturday, February 09, 2008

Upcoming Winter Brass League: New Challenges

by Daniel Valois

The upcoming Winter Brass will present a new face this year : teams will only be able to protect three amateur players and international recruits are off-limits.

The new rules will have a significant effect on the Montreal Sunsets’ roster building philosophy. In the past, Montreal has relied heavily on the draft - and not so much on trades and free agency – to build a team that has now gone on to four consecutive Division championships and 100+ win seasons. Players taken in the draft include core membrers of the Sunsets 2007-8 edition such as Travis Hafner, Carlos Zambrano, Johan Santana (sorry, Mark), Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Gonzalez, Hong-Chi Kuo, Bobby Crosby, Jhonny Peralta, Chris Coste, and David DeJesus, Mike Pelfrey having just been sent to Dayton in the John Smoltz trade (I’m not going to mention the flops, though, like first rounders Miguel Olivo, Nate Cornejo, and Ryan Wagner).

On the international front, the Sunsets were able to snag frontline starter Daisuke Matsuzaka in the 9th round of the 2006 draft (hey, you have to be lucky, too), who figures to anchor the pitching staff for years to come at a very low price, something that will now not be possible under the new rules. For the moment, past drafts will keep adding to the roster: Matsuzaka, Justin Upton, and Joakim Soria will be carded next year, and David Price, and probable MLB first overall pick Pedro Alvarez should be very soon.

Oh, I’m not complaining. I voted for the rule changes myself, thinking that they would be good for the league overall, both now and in the longer term. For one thing, the changes will make the annual draft much more interesting in terms of the quality and number of carded and non-carded players available, making the rebuilding process much easier for a lot of teams, while at the same time enabling more teams to compete for the league’s higher honors in a shorter time frame.

But Montreal management will have to keep its head up and find new ways of doing things if it wants to continue to be successful. The Sunsets play in a division with three other very solid and knowledgeable owners, including two – John Storer and Lenny Luchtefeld – who have won many division, Silver League, and Brass League championships in the recent past. But the team will eventually be dethroned no matter, probably sooner than later. When that happens, I’ll be rooting for the Iron Division team to take it al!.

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