Saturday, June 12, 2004

The MLB Draft

I am by no means an expert, but it seems to me that the MLB Draft is in desperate need of a change. There is a lot to be said on this subject (the draft is ridiculously clandestine, for instance), but I have only one main question for the purposes of this post: Why are teams in the MLB not allowed to trade their draft picks?

It seems like a necessity to me. Why, you ask (If you actually didn't ask, then I will just pretend that you did)? Because of a simple phenomenon that I will call the Eli Manning effect. The name is not that important; we could just as easily call it the Mark Prior, Stephen Drew, Jered Weaver, or Michael Vick effect. Sometimes, for whatever reason, the most coveted player on the draft board does not fit in with the team that has the first overall pick. What happens, for instance, when your farm system desperately needs talent at a position the best player does not play? Or what happens when the best player refuses to sign with your team? What happens when you can't afford to sign the best player in the draft (read: He is a Scott Boras client and your team is not the Yankees)? Well, if you play in the NFL, NBA, or virtually any other sports league that I know has a draft, you trade your pick. This allows you to be compensated for trading down and increase the probability that your team's needs will be met. My bet is that it would also increase the excitement surrounding the draft, creating more fan interest (more revenue). However, in the MLB this is against the rules.

In this year's MLB Draft, the San Diego Padres were forced to take an enormous step down and draft Matt Bush with their first overall pick simply because they could not afford to sign either Jered Weaver or Stephen Drew. In fact, many teams couldn't afford them, that is why Weaver slipped to the 12th overall pick and Drew fell to the 15th overall slot, despite being arguably the best players in the draft class. So, if a draft is supposed to give a slight advantage to those teams that have done poorly in the previous season, why were the Padres not allowed to trade their first overall pick to Anaheim or Arizona for a bit of compensation? This is yet another entry in the long list of things that baseball needs to learn from the NFL.

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