Kevin Towers had certainly made easier decisions in his life.
Which tie to wear, which restaurant to eat lunch in and which route to take to get to work were all simple choices compared to the one he faced in June 2004. As general manager of the San Diego Padres, Towers made many decisions that could alter the franchise, but this was perhaps the biggest.
The Padres had a disastrous 2003, finishing 37 games back in the National League West. They had been given the first overall pick in the 2004 Draft and had the chance to draft the best amateur player available. It was the perfect opportunity, but it would come with a drawback.
That pick would come with a huge monetary cost. For rebuilding teams, signability should not be an issue.
The top talents in the draft were widely considered to be Stephen Drew, Jared Weaver and Jeff Niemann. If drafted, each would demand very large signing bonuses, and the Padres were not particularly fond of the idea of giving out a large sum of money to a player who hadn't played on a professional field in his life.
They were stuck with the first pick, though, and couldn't get away from the choice looming before them: Bite the bullet and draft the "top" talent, or draft an "inferior" player at a lower cost.
I put both "top" and "inferior" in quotation marks simply because the draft is a complete shot in the dark. You can never really tell whether or not a player will blossom into everything they are hyped to be. Just look at Ben McDonald.
Were the trading of draft picks allowed the Padres could have unloaded that first overall selection and received several key pieces in return. Instead, the drafted shortstop Matt Bush, who was released from the Blue Jays in April of this year for violating their substance abuse policy.
Even though he wasn't considered among the elite of the 2004 Draft, Bush was given the largest signing bonus the Padres had ever given. He never reached the majors.
The main and collective argument against the trading of draft picks in baseball is that it would harm the "little guys." That is, the small-market teams would be forced to succomb to the mighty spending power of the Yankees or Red Sox.
This simply isn't true.
In order to get their hands on the top picks of the draft, teams would be forced to pay a hefty price. As Craig Calcaterra of Shysterball said: "If the Yankees of the world trade big stuff to pick the Stephen Strasburgs of the world enough times, they're going to experience diminishing returns."
Which will, in turn, decrease the number of picks the "big spenders" trade for simply because even they can't afford to monopolize a pure crap-shoot.
Allowing picks to be traded would help small market teams that are at a disadvantage because of a lack of a salary cap. One small way to help equalize the two very diverse groups would be to allow the trading of draft picks, especially/only in the first round.
It would give first overall pick holders like Towers a more effective option, and much more sleep at night.