Mailbag: Trading draft picks


What would have been the trade value of the top pick in the 2009 Draft? (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Bills asks: It seems that minor-league coverage has exploded into the main stream with blogs, streaming video, and MLB’s coverage of the draft. People, like you guys, follow minor league progression intensely and there seems to be a big market there. Will we see in the next few years draft pick trading, restricted to lets say first to third round with restrictions on trading compensation picks for failure to sign draftees to keep teams honest? The NBA and NFL both permit such trades and it adds a level of excitement to the event.

I think we’re going to see quite a few changes to the draft in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is due after the 2011 season. There has already been some talk about a worldwide draft, but as an outsider that seems like a logistical nightmare and not something that could be hashed out within a year. If it does get worked out and a global draft is in place for 2012 and beyond, the Yankees would be screwed. The core of their team and farm system over the last two decades has been the international free agent market, which would obviously vanish.

There has also been talk about instituting some kind of salary cap or hard slotting for rookies. Draft picks aren’t union members, so the player’s association can’t do much to stop the owners from putting this kind of system in place. In fact, the union might be for it since a hard slotting system would theoretically put more money in the big league players’ pockets. The Elias ranking and compensation draft pick system needs an overhaul as well, and we might see it go away all together. Anyway, the question is about trading picks, so let’s get to that.

I think that the ability to trade picks is something that will be discussed, and it could be tied to the compensation system. If adding picks through free agency is eliminated, they could allow teams to add picks through trades. It would have be regulated somehow, maybe by restricting it to the first three rounds like you suggested. If they didn’t regulate it, why wouldn’t a GM try to get a pick added in to any trade? Doesn’t even have to be a high pick either, just give me a 30th rounder or something. A smart team willing to spend money on the draft could turn that 30th rounder into something useful, and at worst they could use it to take a prospect to keep him away from another team.

I’m curious to see how draft picks will be valued in trades, because my feeling is that they wouldn’t be worth much in the grand scheme of things, not even the top overall pick. This isn’t the NFL or NBA or even NHL, where you get an immediate impact guy. As great as Stephen Strasburg is, it was still twelve months from the date of the draft to his major league debut. I can’t imagine a team would give up quality prospects for a draft pick, and if you’re trading the top pick that’s what you need to get back. Otherwise there’s no point in making the move. Maybe we’d see a lot of contenders moving picks at the deadline for missing pieces, say a third rounder for an extra bullpen arm or bench player. That gives a rebuilding team an extra pick, and the contender what it needs to go over the top (in theory). I’m guessing that deals involving top ten picks will be few and far between.

I’d be all for trading picks for selfish reasons, it would be fun to write about. And yeah, it would give non-contenders another way to rebuild while giving contenders more currency to trade. Could you imagine if the Yankees had been able to trade picks from say, 2000 through 2006? That would have been a disaster, the farm system would have been in even worse shape than it actual was. Anyway, I think that teams will be able to trade picks in the future, though it might not happen in the next CBA.

Categories : Draft, Mailbag
  • Colombo

    Would you have traded Montero for the chance to draft Strasburg?

    I would have to say yes x187978687056.

    • Tom Zig

      No, because they’d put him in the bullpen and be like “Oh well his stuff plays out better there”

      • Mike HC

        haha … Not only that, but he clearly might not be able to hold up as a starter, so why even try?

        • Tom Zig

          Tommy John Surgery? OFF TO THE BULLPEN FOR YOU!

          • Mike HC

            Ha, I’m laughing and crying at the same time.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        “Oh well his stuff plays out better there”

        But yet he’s still struggling even though it plays better there. Oh well it’s better to have a middle reliever than a starter. It’s not like this team is in dire need of starters.

        • The Big City of Dreams

          for not of*

          • JAG

            “Of” seems to work fine there…

            • The Big City of Dreams


    • Mike HC

      That would have surely been an interesting trade, but you have to consider that it would have also cost the Yanks a ton of money though as well. Strasburg got paid like he was already an all star.

  • T-Dubs

    Think any rule of trading draft picks would also include trading of recently drafted players?

    • Mike HC

      I would doubt it, but you never know. I don’t think any of the owners would want to be restricted from trading away prospects that are under team contract. The protection would probably only relate to the actual draft pick asset, and not the specific player drafted.

      If there is no slotting system, it would be interesting to see if teams would be able to trade their right to sign the player, rather than forcing the player to re enter the draft next year if they can’t agree to a deal, and giving the team another pick next year.

  • AndrewYF

    I actually would have preferred the Yankees traded draft picks from 2000-2006 (well, 2005). They didn’t draft many worthwhile guys in that time due to the faulty organizational philosophy to ignore the draft almost completely, and they could have won another championship if they had better currency in the trade market.

  • dennis

    the only way I see this benefiting the Yankees is if their is no hard slots. this way a top pick will demand a large bonus the small market team can’t afford him and is forced to trade the pick.

    • awy


      • awy

        please ignore that post. no idea how it ended up there.

  • HyShai

    The Yankees wouldn’t be totally screwed by international draft, it actually would give them a better chance for high end talent with 31st pick (in addition to cheaper signing costs).

    • OldYanksFan

      Well…. the ‘International’ 31st pick might be better then todays #31, but so would #1 – #30. It’s all relative, and the Yankees will still be scrapping the bottom of the barrel, even if the barrel is an overall better quality.

      My guess is these ideas, especially hard slotting, will all put put into play, to try to take away ‘financial advantage’. It will make Dynasties near impossible, and limit the length of dominant runs.

      We can only hope it happens gradually enough, that most of our long contracts will be done.

      Cashman is going to have start tapping the intergalactic market.

  • awy

    top picks are tremendously valuable because of the way pay is structured. FAs are vastly more expensive than young players under club control. even so called ‘replacement level’ cost controlled players are pretty valuable.

    • Mike HC

      Agreed. I would think a top 10 pick is pretty damn valuable, and would be even more valuable if they put a slotting system in place.

  • Mike HC

    The entire MLB draft needs to be scrapped and figured out from scratch. Like you said, it would be tough to figure it all out in one year, but talking about changes is at least the first step. Although adding international players would hurt the Yanks, it is step that really needs to be taken.

    The NBA regulates trading picks by not allowing teams to trade their first round draft pick in two consecutive years, or something like that. MLB can do something similar by maxing out the number of picks you can trade in one draft, or number of picks you can trade in a 2 or 3 year period, or a number of different things to make sure it does not get out of hand.

    I’m looking forward to some positive, entertaining changes to the MLB draft.

  • GermanYankee

    screw trading draft picks, that’s something I hate in the NFL and NBA. They should do a worldwide draft, the NHL can do it (NBA too?), so there has to be a way for MLB, too. Even if it hurts the Yankees, but that would make the draft even more interesting. Other things like draft pick compensation should be kind of the way it is now but they somehow have to fix that nobody wants to sign Type-A relievers.

    I’d like something like this:
    Type-A: supplemental picks for 1st and 2nd round, signing team doesn’t lose any draft pick
    Type-B: supplemental pick for 2nd round

    in one way the rich teams would benefit from not losing their draft picks but in another way there would be a worldwide draft that helps the small teams. In my mind that should work, not so sure if it would in real life.

    • Mike HC

      An international draft can clearly work in real life. It is just a matter if they want to actually do it. In the NBA, international players have to declare for the draft before they can enter the NBA. If they don’t get drafted, then they can sign with any team they want, just like American college players.

      • Tom Zig

        The thing is though international competition in basketball and hockey isn’t that far away from what we have in America. It’s easier to evaluate those players than, say a 16 year old (who might not even be 16) from the DR.

        • Mike HC

          True, but teams still have to evaluate the players when deciding how much to sign them for. So teams do figure it out to a certain extent.

          The 19 year old NBA draft restriction and 21 for NFL helps as well. I don’t see the MLB instituting an age limit which would definitely make it a bit tougher.

  • awy

    i’m completely baffled by the enthusiasm for any draft, let along an international draft. it’s just a cost control gimmick.

    • Mr. Sparkle

      I agree in being baffled. Even when I cared and paid attention to the NBA, I looked forward to the draft every year, but watching it was a colossal bore. The NFL is even worse. I prefer when it was done behind closed doors and you would just read about it the next day.

      • Mike HC

        I personally love the NBA and NFL drafts. And one of the best things about them are the draft day trades that not only involve picks but players already in the league as well. In my opinion of course.

    • Gonzo

      Absolutely. It’s just a way for owners to control cost and put more money in their pockets.

      On top of that, you may actually lose some talent with a hard slot or international draft.

  • Mr. Sparkle

    I completely agree that a “Worldwide Draft” would completely screw the Yankees, much like the institution of the original draft helped throw them into a tailspin for a long time. Until they could adjust that is.

    I happen to believe that if MLB feels a policy will hurt the Yankees, they will make it happen. So, I won’t be surprised when it comes around.

    • Jake LaMotta’s Left Hook

      But they need the Yankees to make money, so I disagree with you.

      • Mr. Sparkle

        I’d think the same thing, but they don’t act that way. I always suspected MLB of some bias against the Yankees. Then I read Bill Madden’s book on Steinbrenner and it was confirmed.

        In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if MLB abolished the Luxury Tax if the Yankees ever (somehow) dipped low enough in payroll to receive money.

        MLB does a lot of things that don’t make sense, so I don’t think logic plays into it too often. Even if a successful Yankee team is good for MLB profits, I think the hatred of the Yankees inherent in the hierarchy of MLB wins out over common sense.

    • Mike HC

      The Yanks would not be the only team to get hurt though. All the big market teams would suffer. If they do change the draft system, there is no way every change would hurt the big market teams. They would need to get something, or some sort of compromise.

      • Mike HC

        Maybe something like decreasing the revenue sharing amount so big market teams would have more money freed up to sign regular free agents.

      • Mr. Sparkle

        True, but given the Yankees inability to trade anymore (without giving up the crown jewels) and the occasional dry free agent market (such as this year’s), if you were to take away the open foreign market from the Yankees, it would severely hurt the Yankees.

        Other teams, like the Blue Jays, who are very dependent on the foreign market still have the ability to make trades since they (for some reason) aren’t held up by other teams the way the Yankees are. It would put a dent in those team’s building strategies to be sure, but they will still have alternative options where the Yankees would simply be dealt another serious blow to the way they’ve been forced to operate.

        • Mike HC

          It would be a big blow, no denying that. And anything they do get in return as compromise would probably pale in comparison to losing out on the ability to sign the best international players.

    • first name only male (formerly Mike R. – Retire 21

      It doesn’t just hurt the Yankee, it hurts international baseball. I am from Puerto Rico and when we were included in the draft it set baseball on the island back at least 20 years. Eliminating the draft would be healthier for baseball than an international draft would be.

    • Jerome S.

      I think that MLB just favors competitiveness. That, of course, would hurt the Yankees because they tend to be on top, while helping those on the bottom.

  • Jake LaMotta’s Left Hook

    I think one thing they should do to the draft is decrease the number of rounds. 50 is way too many in my opinion.

    • Mike Axisa

      Agree completely. 25-30 rounds is plenty, let the teams fill out their minor league rosters with undrafted free agents.

      • Tom Zig

        Aside from Mike Piazza, has anyone from say rounds 30 and beyond really made much of an impact in the majors?

      • CS Yankee

        I’m not so sure as it seems like quite a few of MLB draftees don’t get signed and head off to (or continue) college.

        Football & Basketball reduced their rounds in the past but they only need to outfit a single team, whereas (as you know) ML teams have to think about 5-6 teams.

        I’m sure the lower rounds (30-50) don’t ever project to the pros, however it gives a kid something to sell his parents…”I’ll finish college later, but the Yanks drafted me mom…I HAVE TO GO & LIVE MY DREAM”.

        • CS Yankee

          …left out;

          Mom: “No, you need to stay in school.”

          Kid: “You raised me not to be a draft dodger, I need to go”

      • Zack

        You know it’s too long when teams use draft picks on college football players, when they haven’t faced live pitching in 3-4 years.

  • Reggie C.

    It was touched upon slightly in the main post, but the thought of a worldwide draft + slotting system would almost certainly keep top money signees like Jesus Montero and Gary Sanchez away from the Yankees in most years.

    That said, Robinson Cano wasn’t a big money signee. International scouting would simply have to get better. We’d also likely have to think about raiding japan and korea’s best young talent.

    • YankeesJunkie

      I would assume they would included in the world wide draft and secondly the Nippon and MLB have an agreement (I think it is informal) not to raid the other’s talent. Honestly though, if it came down to not having a good team or pillaging Japan and Korea for good baseball players then I am all for raiding.

    • Mr. Sparkle

      There are already too many rules in place in Japan that prevent MLB from “raiding” their league of established professionals. I don’t know if it affects the amateur talent in Japan, but that just means another required level of scouting and more crap shoots in the draft. Drafting an unproven Japanese high schooler seems no different than drafting an unproven U.S. high schooler or college graduate.

    • Jerome S.

      You know what would be great/tragic? If the NBP or whatever it is became a new minor league.

      • JAG

        That would be the worst call-up ever. From Tokyo to New York and expected to play the next day?

  • YankeesJunkie

    There is also a couple other problems with the world wide draft. Knowing MLB they would probably have to expand the draft to 75-100 rounds. Secondly, will there be different qualifications for international draftees than Americans or will they be held to the same standard. Thirdly, ever since Puerto Rico has been put in the normal draft like Canada and the U.S. their talent pool of MLB talent coming up to the States has vanished. If that were to happen to the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, etc. the possibility of the same results would be devastating if the talent pool in those countries is diminished.

    • Reggie C.

      Do you have Any reason as to why the talent pool from Puerto Rico has taken a hit?

      I’ve noticed it too. Carlos Beltran might be the best PR’ican player in the majors. I can’t think of another. Delgado’s gone.

      • Mr. Sparkle

        Maybe they’re getting into other sports, like basketball?

      • YankeesJunkie

        For the Puerto Ricans there is less money to be gotten. A guy that might have gotten 3 million in the open market at 16 may be only getting 1/3 of that in the MLB draft. It is worse for players in the lower rounds where instead of getting 10-20K to sign in the open market they are only getting the league minimum 1K. With decrease money available to them they are leaving baseball and trying other sports in which they might hit it big. That is what heard and I agree with it because a country with such a talented pool of players to dissapear like that is absurd.

        • Accent Shallow

          If only we had a strong commissioner to invest some of that revenue sharing money in baseball development . . .

          Wait, we have Selig.

          Seriously, this is a good post and offers a nice counterpoint to what I posted below.

      • Accent Shallow

        The short version: prior to the draft being in Puerto Rico, teams dumped a lot of money into developing young players there, had academies, etc. After the draft was instituted, there’s no longer an incentive for the teams to do that.

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        How about Jorge Posada?

        • YankeesJunkie

          He is Puerto Rican, but he went to JUCO probably because he was not that great of player then. He was drafted in the 24th round.

        • Accent Shallow

          He’s 40.

          • Steve H

            He’s a man.

      • first name only male (formerly Mike R. – Retire 21)

        Being from PR I noticed several things.

        - After the status change young Puertorican athletes started playing Basketball, because the local professional league is MUCH stronger than local Baseball.

        - Teams started taking the funds they poured into scouting and development out of PR and into DR and South America.

        - Local amateur coaching is not very strong. Before the draft a prospect was discovered at 15 and started attending MLB academies, they signed at 16 and had A+ instruction. After the draft these player couldn’t sign until 18, essentially losing 3 years of development.

        - With less players being developed, there are less stars for kids to look up to and emulate. When I was growing up there was a crazy amount of MLB talent. Juan Gone, Pudge, Posada, Bernie, the Molina brothers, Carlos Delgado.

  • Jake LaMotta’s Left Hook

    The only way I see an international draft for the MLB is if more leagues are established better.

    In the NFL you have NCAA
    In the NBA you have NCAA and well established Euro Leagues
    In the NHL you have the CHL, USHL, KHL and several well established Euro Leagues
    In the MLB you have NCAA, high school, and a bunch of lesser leagues around the world.

    For Baseball, there are too many lesser leagues where the talent level is far below some other leagues, due to the fact that Baseball is a much harder sport to progress to higher levels in. You would have to limit it to the highest leagues in Asia, Europe, South America and their minor league systems to find the best talent.

    • Gonzo

      I know nothing about Hockey, but in the NBA and NFL, the lesser leagues are revenue generators so they can offer more than the NCAA Baseball teams.

  • bottom line

    I say scrap the entire draft.

    The whole concept of rewarding the worst teams year after year leads to all sorts of perverse and unintended results.

    In fact, it can be argued that the worst-picks-first draft premise is a major root of the hyper salary inflation of the last few decades. One reason teams like New York have spent so much on free agents is that they can’t acquire premium young talent. In forcing good teams to pick down around 25-30, MLB virtually assures that they have little chance of replenishing their talent base through the draft. A team that wins and wants to continue to win has no choice but to chase free agents.

    I’m not against the idea of say Round One going in inverse order — with the worst picking first etc. But that’s enough. Then choose some sort of lottery system for the subsequent rounds. That way the worst teams have an advantage but it’s not totally impossible for the better teams to improve.

    Further penalizing winning teams by bringing international players under the umbrella of the draft would only worsen the problem, creating fewer avenues for good teams to stay good and putting more upwards pressure on free agent salaries.

  • YankeesJunkie

    Think of the crapshoot if the MLB decided to scrap the draft all together and force all potential MLB prospects to play in independent minor league teams for a year before being signed.

  • Andrew

    i would not want the yankees trading draft picks. look at how many first rounders dont perform and look at how many low picks do perform. like it was mentioned in the article, baseball is different then hockey, football and basketball. 99% of the time draft picks do not help the team immediately. i dont care what happens in regard to trading picks but i really wouldnt want the yankees trading picks unless there was a surefire 1st round talent aka strasburg. Although it would be fun to read about.

    • YankeesJunkie

      Can’t win the lottery unless you pay it. While obviously nothing is a sure thing in the baseball draft I would rather have the talent and hope that the Yankees can develop them into a good MLB player.

    • Zack

      look at how many first rounders dont perform and look at how many low picks do perform

      Except how many of those later picks are actual first round talent that just slipped because of signability?

      • JAG

        And what percentage of talent from those lower rounds actually performs? It’s all well and good to point out that Albert Pujols was a 10+ rounder and Mike Piazza was 3rd to last in the draft, but are they not the exception rather than the rule?

  • Sal

    From the PR: Alexis Rios,David DeJesus,Joel Piñeiro, Javier Vazquez, Mike Aviles,Ramon Castro,Roberto Andino, Pedro Feliciano, the Molina Bros, Pudge Rodriguez, J.C. Romero, Ramon Vazquez,Ramon Vazquez,Geovany Soto

    • Accent Shallow

      This is an interesting mix of good players and “who?” Also, Mike Aviles may be Puerto Rican, but he was born and educated here.

      • Jake LaMotta’s Left Hook

        None of them are “who?” to me, except are there really two Ramon Vazquezes?

        • Accent Shallow

          Robert Andino is definitely a “who?”. 440 PA over 6 seasons? Career OPS+ of 56? He’s a scrub, even if he was supposed to be the next A-Rod.

    • first name only male (formerly Mike R. – Retire 21)

      One small thing, and I swear I don’t mean to be an A-hole, but it should just be PR without the “the”.

  • plank

    I wish the draft was gone altogether. The purpose of the draft is to keep money out of players’ hands and keep it in the pockets of the owners. A byproduct of the draft is that it tends to unevenly distribute talent to the weaker teams and that is how it is marketed to the public.

  • Jess

    What’s funny is that a number of small and mid market teams have actually been heavily investing in international players the past few years. The Jays, Marlins, Reds, Twins, and even Pirates spend money. The Pirates beat us for a 16 year old Mexican pitcher for $2.6 million. The Yankees don’t spend as much in the world market as you think.

    So a World Draft would only end up hurting these teams.

  • Chuck

    I can’t totally agree with this article. Yes, some of the Yankees’ international signings have produced star players such as Alfonso Soriano and Robinson Cano but a big core of our homegrown talent has come from the draft. Besides, many other teams such as the Boston red sox and Los Angeles dodgers have tapped into the international market, too. I believe trading draft picks and compensation for free agency cannot co-exist together, it can only be one or the other.