Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Trading Advisory: Time to make the draft more interesting

Things that can be traded/swapped:

Baseball Cards
Rare Coins
Candy (think Halloween when you got all that candy corn that you hated and had to trade it to the weird kid that loved it)
Spit (sorry, I had to)
Animal Furs
Carbon Allotments
Sea Shells
Wives (see "Wife Swap")
Almost anything else in this world

Things that can't be traded:

MLB Rule 4 Draft Picks

The reason usually given for this is that the draft is built to enable the weakest teams to rebuild. Give weak teams top picks, and they'll reload with top talent.

Yet in past drafts signability issues inhibited some teams from acquiring the best available talent at their slotted pick (see Ricky Porcello, J.D. Drew, Buster Posey, etc, etc. etc.). Cash-strapped teams instead picked slightly less talented kids deemed more signable.

Instead of harming low budget teams, the ability to trade picks might actually benefit them. They could trade down slightly, still get the caliber of player they would've otherwise have drafted, and also receive some sort of compensation in return.

For example, let's say Pittsburgh has the first pick in the 2011 draft, and suddenly Superman decides to play baseball. Yet Superman is demanding a $30 million signing bonus--otherwise he'll just continue to wear his ugly, too-snug blue suit, and continue to hit criminals instead of homeruns. Well, Pittsburgh can't afford this bonus. In the current system, they might simply skip Superman and instead take Johnny HS Shortstop, who will sign for 1/10th of Superman's asking price. Superman will fall in the draft to a team that can afford his asking price.

With the ability to trade picks, Superman will still fall to a team that has more money. But in order to obtain him, they will have to trade up in the draft. Pittsburgh will be able to negotiate with other teams and take the best offer. They might still end up with Johnny HS Shortstop, but they'll also be compensated one or more already established prospects.

This is a more free-market system, and so some will fear its usage. It allows for less control, but I believe it would work very well.

The trading of picks would also make the draft much more interesting, and the draft needs a serious shot of RedBull right now (as does Bud Selig). More options and more possibilities equates with more speculation. The draft becomes a chess match, and drama ensues.

There's been some talk of doing this very thing. (Darren Heitner's piece, and comments from Michael Weiner of the MLBPA.) In fact it will probably be discussed in the negotiations for the next CBA, along with another suggestion: a strict slotting system.

I understand the merits of a slotting system, and in the past I have brought up the idea of using it, but only if the savings were then distributed to minor league players. Any money taken away from draftees should be shifted to the pockets of starving minor leaguers.

The likelihood of this re-distribution is low though. Instead, the savings would not be passed on to minor leaguers, but would instead go to the overall budget of teams. Minor leaguers would remain poor (see my Baseball America piece on minor league salaries here.)

Lost in all of this is the fact that the MLBPA will be negotiating with owners on this and a host of other issues. Many decisions will have a direct influence on minor league players, and these players will have not a single sole representing their interests. Instead they'll just get swept to the side like Friday night garbage, gladly accepting the shillings that they're given, worrying not about collective bargaining agreements, but instead about curveballs and lifelong quests.

6 comments: said...

Good stuff. I really enjoyed the article about minor league players' salaries. Time to revolt!! I remember seeing you pitch up in Norwich.

Darren Heitner said...

The only way Minor Leaguers make more money is if somehow the MLBPA was able to incorporate them into the Collective Bargaining Agreement. You are right - there is no way that Minor Leaguers end up benefiting from a slotting system.

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