First Pitch: MLB Still Has a Lot to Change With Draft Trading Rules

Earlier today, FanGraphs broke the news that MLB changed their rules, eliminating the loophole that allowed draft picks to be traded as a PTBNL. Previously teams couldn’t trade a draft pick until one year after he was signed. They could get around this by making him a PTBNL six months out from his signing date. The result was that he could be traded, but would have to stay with his former team until the deadline passed.

This created a problem almost every year where a player had been traded to one team, but was forced to continue his development in another system. The most recent example of this, and the trade that sparked the change, was with Trea Turner. The Nationals acquired Turner over the off-season back in December as a PTBNL. However, they won’t be able to add him until the middle of June. He will remain in the San Diego Padres’ organization, where he has been ever since the deal. The result is that Washington was able to trade for Turner, but he has to spend six months being developed by another organization, which makes no sense.

The rule change today made it so that draft picks could be traded after the end of the World Series in the year they were drafted, and couldn’t be dealt as a PTBNL prior to that date. This eliminated the loophole that allowed Turner to be traded months before he could join his new team.

Of course, this whole situation brings up a valid question: why are there restrictions on draft pick trades?

Over the last few years, MLB has made a few rule changes. This change is the most recent one, moving up the date to trade picks. You now only have to keep a drafted player in your system for about four months, which is hardly any time when you consider that two of those months feature no minor league action. The other big change was that MLB added Competitive Balance picks, and allowed the trading of those picks, but only once and only during the regular season.

It makes no sense that MLB allows some picks to be traded, but not all picks to be traded. Just like it doesn’t make sense that teams have to keep a player for a few months before they can deal them. Where are the advantages to this system? What is MLB preventing from happening by limiting which picks can be traded, and when players can be traded?

MLB is currently the only one of the four major sports that doesn’t allow draft pick trading. I can’t see why they still restrict this, outside of the usual “This is how we’ve always done it” reasoning. Hopefully they will continue loosening up the draft rules, and eventually get to a modern state like the rest of the leagues, where teams can do whatever they want with their draft picks, including trading them whenever they want.

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  • I gave thanks for the fact that McClatchifield could not trade draft picks.

    • Steve: Amen. The folks at MLB are very reactionary in their attempts to try to maintain the status quo of the amateur draft, while they have allowed the International Draft to become a farce.

      The Pirates are an example of how it could be done efficiently with Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco already in the majors, and Alen Hanson soon to be moved up. Total Bonus cost for all three combined – $325,000. I think the Yankees exceeded that number for every one (7?) of the Top 10 International Prospects they signed in 2014.

    • Now that’s funny right there! Sad part is it’s true.