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Should the MLB Draft Be More like the NBA Draft?

It is usually not until later in the year that the discussion surrounding baseball’s inequity bubbles in the minds of writers. We all know about the huge disparity between the payroll of the New York Yankees and the Florida Marlins, yet the Marlins were able to fight off Goliath in the 2003 World Series. That said, the teams that spend the most money have the best chance to win – which should not be a surprising revelation to anybody. The big spenders do not only dish out big dollars in Major League free agency, but also in the yearly MLB Rule 4 Draft. The issue is that many teams that do not have, or are unwilling to spend, big money to pay out the best players available in the draft, will end up selecting lesser talented/projectable players because they are seen as being more “signable”. Is there any way that the draft system could change?

Major League Baseball is very reluctant to change. That was evident when Armando Galarraga deserved a Perfect Game, but was robbed by a bad call made by the first-base umpire, which could have been corrected, had the MLB instituted a replay system. Even since that error, it seems as though instant replay is still far from certain to be implemented in America’s Past Time.

Along with a hesitance to change stemming on the owners/execs side is the fact that changes that they do wish to bring about are often disputed by the strong MLB Players Association. The MLBPA is not a pushover, whatsoever, and there may be factions within the MLBPA that are not interested in bringing about any changes at all to the MLB Rule 4 Draft. With signing bonuses likely to be at all time highs (we will not know the actual numbers until the August signing deadline), this is understandable.  There is no way that the MLBPA would be interested in a slotting system. But what about teams possibly having the right to trade picks?

The NBA and NFL allows its teams to trade picks prior to the teams actually submitting their picks.  The MLB stands alone in preventing that from occurring within its league, and actually continues to prevent teams from trading the players they select until 1 year after those players are drafted.  This forces a team like the Toronto Blue Jays to select a kid like Noah Syndergaard with the 6th pick in Comp Round A. I have been told that Syndergaard signed for $600,000, which is roughly $300,000 under slot. No one that I know projected the player to go that high, and Toronto probably figured they could get away spending much less on him than they would with another player that they would have rather taken at that position. A team like Toronto, with 10 picks in the first 4 rounds, could have traded some picks to a team that needed more picks, in return for an option to move up, not break the bank on multiple high picks, and get someone that they wanted a lot.

It may not dramatically affect negotiations between players selected and the teams that select them. After all, a lot of the signability concerns are hammered out prior to a player hearing his name called on the conference call (or now on MLB Network on Day 1). However, perhaps a system that allows for trades will create signing bonus round charts that look more consistent – where the best players are taken at the top and paid by the teams that really want them.

I’m not even sure where I stand on the whole idea, but I think it would be an interesting experiment.

This article originally appeared on The Sports Agent Blog


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