The NFL Draft featured nine draft-day trades in the first round this year. That means inherent debates such as whether the Pittsburgh Steelers made the right decision to trade up to No. 10 for Michigan linebacker Devin Bush.
The MLB Draft doesn’t have that kind of movement, or excitement. Maybe it’s time for baseball to look into allowing draft-day trades as a way to re-energize the draft process, and bring more attention to it.
Count Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels in favor of it.
“It might be a can of worms, but I’d be all in favor of opening it,” Daniels said during a pre-draft news conference on Thursday at Globe Life Park.
“I guess there’s some concern over you get the John Elway, Eli Manning-type situations where if you can trade a pick, there’s some leverage that an agent or the player may have. But I think, all in all, when you give club options to build teams and create strategies the way they want to build a team, generally speaking, it’s something I’d be in favor of.”
As Daniels said, there are several reasons why MLB has been hesitant to go down this route.
You could get a scenario such as Elway or Manning using their top-tier draft status to dictate which team they end up on. You could see low-revenue teams arguably being taken advantage of (how much would the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers have given to be in position to draft Bryce Harper?).
Plus, we’re talking about a draft that has 40 rounds and more than 1,200 players selected compared to an NFL Draft that has approximately 255 in a given year.
Or an NBA Draft that has only 60 players selected.
Not to mention baseball players don’t reach the big leagues for several years after they’re drafted compared to football and basketball players making an immediate impact.
So an argument could be made draft-day trades simply don’t fit the baseball model. But, as Daniels and several would argue, any concerns could be viewed as a benefit to the sport.
Football is not worse off because of the Elway or Manning debacles on trade day. Instead, that’s part of the game’s lore.
If a low-revenue team feels it’s best suited to trade away a top 5 pick to stockpile more picks, or add more pieces, that’s fine. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it won’t.
The Washington Nationals had the top pick in baseball’s draft two of three years, selecting Stephen Strasburg in 2009 and Harper in 2011, and each developed into All-Stars. But that didn’t translate into a World Series title for the organization.
Meanwhile, a low-revenue team such as the Kansas City Royals won it all in 2015.
In other words, it’s a crapshoot. There are going to be busts. There are going to be hidden gems. It’s part of sports.
MLB has dipped its toe into the trading waters already, allowing teams to trade competitive balance picks (supplemental picks after the first and second rounds). Maybe it’s time to allow every pick to be on the trade market.
Daniels is in favor of it, but doesn’t know if it’ll change anytime soon. After all, no sport is more resistant to change than baseball.
“I don’t know, honestly,” Daniels said. “These are all topics that come up time and again, but where it stands on the priority list of all the things that the industry would want to consider, I don’t know.”