Finally, a solid reason to not allow the trading of draft picks
Trading draft picks would give agents more control over the process
Teams should be able to trade anyways because the whole draft is a crapshoot
One way of doing the draft that makes sense is a slotting system
So, someone finally offered a reason that makes sense to me about why major league teams are not allowed to trade draft choices. I've been looking and looking for that reason because, frankly, every one I had come across before was lame.
Reason 1: Owners are worried that if teams are allowed to trade draft choices that all the best young players will go to rich teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.
Reason 2: Owners are worried that small-market teams will go all Ted Stepien on us and start trading their draft choices like crazy so that they don't have to spend money on signing bonuses.
Reason 3: Owners have this nostalgic belief that the best young players should go to the worst teams.
These reasons all seem pretty dumb to me. Reason No. 1 is dumb because rich teams already have all the advantages in Japan, the Dominican, Venezuela, Panama and the like, and they're not getting all the best young players there. There's a reason for this, one that I'll get into in a minute.
Reason No. 2 is dumb because it assumes that small-market teams are being run by nimrods. Keep the sharp objects away from the small-market GMs!
Reason No. 3 is dumb because the draft doesn't work this way NOW.
Anyway, someone -- namely my friend Danny Knobler of CBS Sportsline -- gave me the most realistic reason why baseball will not allow teams to trade draft choices: They're scared to death that this will give Scott Boras and the other agents even MORE power over the draft.
Now, I actually get this. It doesn't seem possible for things to get much worse since basically Boras and others have been running the draft for years. I remember in 2007, when the Royals had the second pick in the draft. They KNEW -- and I say this based on conversations I had with numerous people in the organization -- that Rick Porcello was likely to be the best pitcher available. And then KNEW that Matt Wieters was likely to be the best player available to them. And they drafted a high school slugger named Mike Moustakas instead.
Why? Well, you know why. Wieters' agent is Scott Boras and it was made clear to the Royals (in the ways that such things are made clear) that they could not afford Wieters. Porcello's agent is Scott Boras and it was made clear to the Royals (in the ways such things are made clear) that they could not afford Porcello either.
But here's the kick ... Mike Moustakas' agent is ALSO Scott Boras. So somehow the Royals' takeaway from their conversations was that that they COULD afford Moustakas, and sure enough about 15 minutes before the deadline, they signed him. You following? Three players, all Scott Boras clients, and the Royals took the third-best one because that was the one they believed Scott Boras would allow them to sign. He's also the one not in the big leagues, the one who is in Class A ball, currently hitting .263. The Royals still have high hopes ... but that's the amateur draft, people. That's how messed up this thing is.
So, Danny suggests -- and I can see this -- that the big fear is that if teams are allowed to trade draft picks, suddenly Boras and his ilk become even more powerful. Suddenly they have yet another hammer. They can demand trades. They can bully small-market teams with even bigger demands. Yes, I can see why the owners are afraid ... these people are not exactly known for their self control. They're like the people who refuse to take the mini-bar key when they go to hotels because they know, just know, that at 2 a.m. they will not be able to stop themselves.
I don't know that there is a good answer to this problem. There is talk -- hell, there is always talk -- about a slotting system which would put a figure on the amount of money that each draft slot gets. Some people seem to think that the absurd money Stephen Strasburg will demand this year will force some serious negotiations about slotting -- Jayson Stark wrote an excellent column on the subject*, and in it he suggests that big-league ballplayers are getting tired of these kids getting huge signing bonuses. I have my doubts. I would agree that players probably are sick of unproven kids getting all this money, but I also don't think they're really prepared to do anything about it. What are they going to to do: Go to their union and demand that owners pay LESS MONEY for players? I don't think so. The players might be willing to give up slotting for a concession, maybe, but I'm not sure how that would work, and anyway I have this feeling that the agents are pretty powerful in the players' union. Agents will fight slotting to the death.
*As brilliant reader Matt points out, not everyone liked Jayson's column. I think Craig makes good points -- I wasn't crazy about Jayson's ranting about signing bonuses -- but I still thought the column, overall, was interesting and good.
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