The Original Full Round Mock Draft Site

Feb. 07, 2011 - Steve Garrity

MLB Draft Trading Ideas

While the 2011 MLB draft is thought to be one of the deepest drafts in years, there isn't a prospect on the level of both right handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg (2009) or outfielder Bryce Harper (2010); each of whom went number one overall in their respective classes and received record or near record breaking deals. In both cases, the Washington Nationals were lucky enough to hold the first pick. Although it is unlikely they would have passed on either player, the opportunity to select both did not come without a hefty price. Strasburg, probably the most hyped draft prospect in history, received a record $15.1 million dollar contract. The very next year, Bryce Harper came along equally as hyped and became the first junior college player to be selected first overall and received a contract worth $9.9 million.

The Washington Nationals fortunately had the money to spend and were able to turn a new corner in their franchise's history. However, what if they were still the Expos, stuck in limbo and owned by Major League Baseball? What if they were the Chicago White Sox, New York Mets, or other such teams that like to stick to slot recommendation and go the cheaper route? Would they have passed over both prospects?

The draft is in place to help second tier clubs like the Nationals build their teams by selecting young and cheap talent. In recent years though, the draft has seemed to backfire. Bonuses have been on a steady rise, and agents have pushed teams to the limit, even holding clients out until the following year’s draft. Top tier talents have been sliding down in the draft due to teams’ fears of their bonus demands, and wealthier clubs generally snap them up. Two examples of this are with Matt Weiters who was taken by the Orioles fifth overall in 2007 ($6 million dollar bonus), and Buster Posey who was also taken fifth overall while receiving the largest up front bonus at the time, $6.2 million dollars. Both were arguably the number one prospects in their classes. What would have happened though if teams were given the chance to trade their picks?

In order to help get the draft back to its original intent, which is to help teams, not hold them hostage, the owners have been discussing some changes for the newest CBA. The changes that are being discussed include:

  • Allowing for trading of draft picks
  • Creating a concrete slotting system

Below we discuss how both could possibly affect the draft moving forward.

Trading Draft Picks

Each of the five other Major sports leagues that covers, allows the trading of picks in their respective drafts. Baseball is the only one that does not. Right off the bat it would add much more excitement and intrigue to what is the draft with the least amount of mainstream media coverage. However, baseball is also the longest draft with 50 rounds taking place.

Due to the enormous length of the draft, teams put together their draft boards in advance hoping to plow through as quickly as possible. However, if teams were now allowed to trade their picks, how might that affect the draft's ability to finish in a timely manner. The question would be, would teams be allowed to trade their picks during the draft, or would they only be allowed to trade them before the draft. If the answer is during the draft, this gives the player and agent more ammunition in negotiations since they'll have more options. For instance, if they are selected by a team that usually does not pay top dollar, why not force a trade to the Red Sox or Yankees or any other team that would be willing to pay premium dollar.

Baseball owners have been saying that they would like to get in line with the other major leagues and the trading of picks would certainly lead it in that direction. Yet there are still plenty of other questions to answer if they wanted to go through with it. Would trades only be allowed up until a certain round? Trading picks could get out of control in a 50 round draft. Would teams be allowed to include current roster players in these trades to add more value? The Rays have 12 of the first 89 picks this year, seemingly making them the team best suited to move in the draft if the changes were put in place this year. Would they be better off trying to move up in the draft or trade for a handful of prospects? If teams and officials fear that trading picks will lead to players forcing trades, the next point on the table could be the possible answer to putting everyone's fears to rest.

A Potential Slotting System

According to some schools of thought, the National Basketball Association has the best draft system in place. Teams are allowed to trade their picks, draft a player and trade them right after, and use current roster players in trades for more picks and/or more players. However the one fear teams do not have to have is a player forcing a trade because they are drafted by a team that is not willing to pay as much as another team, like the Dallas Mavericks. This is because the NBA has arguably the greatest draft tool around, the slotting system. At whichever point a player is drafted, there is already a set price for his services. Even if that player is drafted and then traded off, he is still only guaranteed that amount of money. The slotting system is in place to enable that second tier team to select top tier talent and bring them back home. That is the reason why drafts were put in place to begin with.

The baseball draft has moved away from all of this. The draft was put in place so the wealthier teams wouldn't always be able to get the top young free agents and monopolize the game. However the aforementioned problem still persists to an extent. A concrete slotting system would change all that and make the game much more efficient. Teams would not have to pass over a top tier talent in favor of reaching for a cheaper player. If a slotting system was in place, it would make the idea of trading picks much more manageable, while creating a more exciting and impactful draft for the teams and the fans.