Home News It’s time to fix MLB’s ridiculous draft rule, allow teams to trade picks

It’s time to fix MLB’s ridiculous draft rule, allow teams to trade picks

by admin

SEATTLE — The Mariners have the 29th and 30th picks in the draft Sunday night.

By rule, they cannot trade the 29th.

By rule, they can trade the 30th. 

So, we have a starting point to discuss a stupid rule. 

Major League Baseball has never permitted the trading of standard draft picks, and Seattle’s 29th overall selection completes the standard first round.

Compensation picks between the first and second rounds, and second and third rounds can be traded.

Seattle has the first pick in the compensation phase after the first round. 

Really, think how flat-out dumb this is — made dumber by the fact that MLB in 2021 moved the draft from early June to be part of the All-Star Game events as a way to juice interest in the process.

Yet the one item that would significantly increase interest — being able to trade draft picks — remains verboten. 

MLB does not allow teams to trade standard draft picks.
Getty Images

MLB is always going to run up against two huge problems: 

  1. Even with the college game becoming more popular than ever, it still does not approach college basketball and, especially, college football. Plus, high school kids are eligible for MLB’s draft, too. 
  2. Even if the amateurs were more popular, unlike their contemporaries in the NBA and NFL, they are not going directly to compete for the big team.

They are generally going to the lowest rungs in the minors, far from the everyday view of fans and perhaps years away from the majors. 

Without the potential for immediate impact, MLB’s draft is not as compelling to the average fan. Even the more popular NBA and NFL drafts gain interest by allowing the trading of picks. 

The Mariners have the 29th and 30th picks in the draft Sunday Night. Rules allow them to trade the 30th, but not the 29th.
The Mariners have the 29th and 30th picks in the upcoming draft.
Getty Images

But say in the 48 hours before the draft, you saw a social media post from my colleague Jon Heyman that the Rangers were willing to build a package with the fourth-overall pick or the Reds were prepared to trade the seventh-overall pick to try to land White Sox starter Dylan Cease.

Would that get you to watch? I’m sure it would entice a lot of fans of the Rangers, Reds and White Sox. 

The Reds, for example, have built a strong system and, because they have not made a playoff appearance in a 162-game season since 2013, could be motivated users of a draft pick to jump the Aug. 1 trade deadline. Would you watch to find out? 

A rebuilding team that loves two players who are expected to go in the first round might see this as the time to trade a veteran to get the second-overall pick.

Pete Alonso will compete in the Home Run Derby again.
Pete Alonso was a second-round pick by the Mets.

And don’t pooh-pooh even the use of, say, second- and third-round picks. Going into the weekend, the draft that produced the most 2023 major leaguers was the one in 2016, with 118.

Of those, 22 were first-rounders.

But 15 were second-rounders — including Pete Alonso and Bo Bichette.

Thirteen were third-rounders — including Austin Hays, Jesus Luzardo, Dustin May and Zac Gallen. Would the Yankees or Mets deal a couple of future second-round picks as a way to get a supplementary bat now? 

“[Dealing picks] would add interest in the sport, which would be good,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “I do support the idea of trading picks.” 

Young’s voice should matter.

Not only is he the GM of a team with the fourth-overall pick, but also, from May 2018 until he joined the Rangers in December 2020, Young was an influential part of MLB’s main office. 

And it is MLB which is the roadblock. The Players Association has long favored making all draft picks tradeable.

Texas Rangers general manager Chris Young
Texas Rangers general manager Chris Young said trading picks could add interest to the spot.

But MLB has said it will only do that if there was a hard-slotted system (each pick is given an assigned value from which teams cannot deviate).

MLB has said if regular-phase picks could be traded, it would make the system easier to manipulate by an agent or teams, and the league wants to make sure players go in order of talent and not for other reasons. 

But that is just blather about gaining more cost certainty.

The Pirates have the first-overall pick Sunday, and there was growing buzz that they would not take one of the consensus top two — LSU teammates Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes — for financial reasons, including to deploy larger portions of their pool allotment for later rounds.

Thus, there already is strategy that could keep the best players from going in order of talent. 

So why don’t we add a strategy that might be even more alluring to fans?

What if the Pirates could see just how crazy teams are about Crews or Skenes and use that as a trade chip to get desirable, young controllable players either close to or already in the majors?

Or what if the Twins were willing to flip the fifth-overall pick and a prospect or two for No. 1 overall?

Again, what front office doesn’t want more avenues to improve, except for the incompetent ones who already cannot execute well on the current rules? 

Dylan Crews is one of the top draft prospects this year.
Dylan Crews is one of the top draft prospects this year.
NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The Yankees, for example, have not had a top-12 pick since they selected Derek Jeter sixth overall in 1992.

What might they offer to have access to the kind of draft-eligible talent they never get to consider?

The Dodgers, similarly, haven’t drafted higher than 15th since 2006. 

Would you tune in to watch the draft if you heard one or the other was working to get into the top five?

That — in case MLB misses the point — would be great for the sport.

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