Mailbag: Trading draft picksBy
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.