The Major League Baseball draft differs from all other sports in that there are nearly 1,500 players involved—this year it will be closer to 1,400 given the rules implemented by the new collective bargaining agreement—and teams aren’t allowed to trade any of their picks prior to the actual draft.
In all other major sports, organizations have the ability to negotiate trades that involve their prospective draft picks. But it isn’t until we gauge the lingering effects of such trades in other sports that we realize the impact that such a policy could have on MLB franchises.
The No. 1 pick in the NBA’s 2011 draft, Kyrie Irving, would have normally been the Los Angeles Clippers’ selection had it not been for a trade with Cleveland in late-February. The trade moved Baron Davis and the team’s future No. 1 overall draft pick in exchange for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. The transaction ultimately led to the Cavs' selection of Irving with the first pick in the draft.
In late March, prior to the NFL draft, the Washington Redskins conducted a trade with the St. Louis Rams to gain a more favorable draft position with the hope of ultimately landing the player at the top of their list: Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin, III. Possessing the sixth overall pick in the draft, the Redskins traded their pick to the Rams, as well as two more future first-round picks and a second-round pick. In return, the Redskins received the Rams' No. 2 overall draft pick and, with that, a chance at landing their future franchise superstar.
So, what if Major League Baseball permitted teams to trade their draft picks?
Well, similar to one of the underlying principals of the new collective bargaining agreement that aims to level the playing field in terms of paying for draft picks, such trades would also allow teams to field a more competitive team at the big-league level without having to at times completely deplete their farm system.
For example, in the context of the trade prior to the 2011 season that sent slugger Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for a slew of highly-touted prospects, the Red Sox could have offered multiple high-round picks in the upcoming 2011 draft rather than trade the farm—literally. Instead of saying goodbye to prospects Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly and Reymond Feuntes, the Red Sox could have instead traded their No. 19 and No. 26 overall picks, and possibly only one of the aforementioned prospects, for Gonzalez.
In turn, both teams would still have achieved their respective goal, with the Red Sox adding a veteran All-Star bat and the Padres continuing to build towards the future.
Just as small-market and non-competing teams do every year when they move their biggest chip for a host of top-notch prospects at the trade deadline, trading draft picks would only further an organization’s ability to stockpile prospects. And it would technically give them greater control over adding the players that best address their needs.
It would also allow teams without top prospects, like the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox, for example, to add big-league-ready players without completely sacrificing their future. So, instead of the Phillies trading two of their finest prospects in Jared Cosart and Jonathan Singleton for Hunter Pence last season, they could have instead traded multiple future draft picks and therefore retained considerable talent on the farm.
And while it is an extremely popular and exciting event for many individuals, the MLB draft lacks the prestige and hype of both the NBA and NFL draft.
But why? Is it because there are simply too many rounds of players involved to keep fans interested? Or is it due to the overall lack of attention paid to high school and collegiate baseball relative to other sports?
In reality, there’s a myriad of issues that make the MLB draft the least captivating and covered in all of sports. However, if teams were allowed to barter with future draft picks, I can’t help but believe that it would make the draft a bigger event and give all tiers of fans something extra to be excited about.