The MLB draft can be changed for the better.
The Major League Baseball draft wrapped up yesterday. It was a marathon three-day event containing 40 rounds. Unfortunately for MLB, this draft is the least intriguing of all the major American sports leagues. The baseball draft is boring, but is still an essential part in building and maintaining a strong Major League team. Below are some ideas to add relevance to Major League Baseball’s draft.
Allow Teams To Trade Picks
So much of the interest in the NFL and NBA drafts is because people are constantly talking about who is trying to move up or move down. Baseball needs to allow teams the opportunity to move around and scheme. The lack of buzz leads to a lack of interest in the draft. Allowing pick trading could generate more fan interest.
Baseball is the only major American sports entity which does not allow all picks to be traded. In the current system, only competitive balance picks are allowed to be traded. Competitive balance picks take place after the first and second round of the draft. But if teams can trade competitive balance picks, why can’t they trade all picks?
The reasons why draft picks aren’t allowed to be traded are antiquated. Draft pick trading was outlawed because there was a concern that small market teams would trade draft picks as a way to avoid spending money.
In the modern MLB trading draft picks for cash is a death sentence. Strong farm systems are key to building, maintaining and adding to a Major League roster. A team that would trade first round picks annually for cash would be a constant last place team.
Another positive to trading draft picks would be that it could reinvigorate the trade market. Teams covet prospects and parting with them is not an easy decision to make. Trading picks for proven talent could be a more palatable alternative and allow teams to keep their own top prospects, which is what most teams tend to do.
One possible problem with this suggestion is that the compensation system would have to be modified. Currently, teams forfeit first round picks if they sign players who have been tendered qualifying offers in the off-season. If a team trades its first round pick at the trade deadline, would it be unable to sign a free agent who has been tendered a qualifying offer? The Players Association would not be pleased if that was the case. Reforming player draft pick compensation would also have to occur if MLB allows trading draft picks. As a result, trading draft picks is not likely to happen until the next round of collective bargaining in 2017.
Move The Draft Back To A Later Date
Currently the draft takes place in early June, competing directly with the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals. It should be moved back to after the College Baseball World Series has been televised on ESPN. Part of the lack of interest in the MLB draft is that the average fan has no idea who his or her favorite has just selected. Moving the draft after the College World Series should help give the best college players, many of whom are high draft picks, more exposure.
Ideally the draft would take place on Jul. 1, but that may not be the best as it could be overshadowed by NBA Free Agency. Perhaps the best time would be the day after the MLB All-Star Game. By that time, NBA free agency has calmed down, the NFL hasn’t started yet, the NHL is also out of season and there are no baseball games. It’s a time slot MLB could own as there aren’t any other competing sporting events.
Have Players Come To The First And Second Round
Under the current setup only a handful of players attend the first night of the draft, covering the first two rounds of the draft, held at MLB Network just outside of New York. It’s underwhelming when the commissioner announces a first round selection and then just walks away.
MLB should choose a larger venue for the draft and invite potential first and second round picks and their families to attend. It adds to the draft that fans get to hear from the player taken in the first round.
Shorten The Draft
40 rounds is far too many rounds. Many of the players drafted in the final five rounds of the draft are nepotism picks. This year the Phillies drafted the relatives of Mickey Morandini, Tom McCarthy, Dave Brundage and Ruben Amaro, all of whom work for the Phillies organization. In addition, the Astros picked the sons of Craig Biggio and Roger Clemens. The White Sox picked owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s grandson. It’s very clear that teams don’t need 40 rounds to fill their minor league rosters. Make the draft 15-20 rounds and then allow teams a bonus pool for undrafted free agents.
Overall, the MLB draft will never be able to be an event like the NBA or NFL draft. The players drafted often don’t even make it to the Major Leagues and after the first five rounds, national scouting pundits don’t even know who the players being drafted are. While this is an unfortunate reality for MLB, that doesn’t mean it can’t try to create more intrigue around the draft.
Edited by Emily Berman.
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