MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Turner finds himself snagged in red tape after Myers deal

Prospect is caught between Padres and Nats due to Incaviglia Rule

Turner finds himself snagged in red tape after Myers deal

Trea Turner is one of the top prospects in baseball.

His career, however, is in limbo.

Turner was the Padres' first-round Draft pick last June, the 13th player taken overall, and he was a hit in his pro debut. The shortstop out of North Carolina State hit .323 and stole 23 bases in 27 attempts in 69 games -- the final 46 at full-season Class A Fort Wayne. Then, he went 14-for-35 (.400) in the Arizona Fall League.

Right now, he's still with the Padres -- technically, but not really.

In the 11-player, three-team trade that routed outfielder Wil Myers from Tampa Bay to San Diego on Friday, the Padres sent a player to be named to the Nationals as a final piece to the deal. The P.T.B.N., however, is no secret. He's named Trea Turner.

Turner, however, is caught up in the red tape of the so-called Pete Incaviglia Rule, instituted 29 years ago this fall, which forbids a team from trading a drafted player until one year after he signs his first professional contract.

Supporters of efforts to overturn that rule and allow teams to trade Draft choices feel the Turner situation could be the key to finally winning their battle.

What's the big deal? Turner technically belongs to the Padres, so he will go to Spring Training with the Padres, in Peoria, Ariz., not with the Nationals in Viera, Fla. He will also open the Minor League season with the Padres, and would finally be able to officially join the Nationals on June 13 -- the anniversary of when he signed a contract that provided him an over-slot signing bonus of $2.9 million.

Being careful not to refer to Turner by name, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo did say he and Padres counterpart A.J. Preller have discussed how to handle Turner until he can become a part of the Nationals. Rizzo indicated there is a list of players the Nationals can consider if Turner is injured.

Blame it on Incaviglia and agent Bucky Woy.

Incaviglia, coming off of a record-setting season at Oklahoma State, was the first-round Draft choice of the Montreal Expos in 1985 -- the eighth player selected overall. He refused to sign unless he was not only given a big league contract, but also allowed to come to the big leagues.

After Incaviglia missed the 1985 season, Woy received permission from then Commissioner Peter Ueberroth to see if he could find a team that would agree to Incaviglia's demand, and work out a trade with the Expos. The Rangers were willing and able.

So on Nov. 2, 1985, the Expos "signed" Incaviglia to a contract that included what at the time was a sizable $150,000 bonus, plus a guaranteed Major League minimum salary of $60,000 for 1986. Moments later, Incaviglia was dealt to the Rangers for shortstop Jimmy Anderson and right-handed pitcher Bob Sebra.

Incaviglia made good on his opportunity. He had such a strong spring with the Rangers in 1986 -- including hitting a line drive that knocked a hole in the fence at the Rangers' spring home in Pompano Beach, Fla. -- that he hit cleanup for the Rangers on Opening Day. He hit 30 home runs that season, the first player in Rangers history to reach that plateau. He hit 20 or more homers in each of his five seasons with Texas. Over the next seven seasons, he spent time with the Tigers, Astros, Phillies, Orioles and Yankees, finishing his career with 206 home runs.

Ever since then, teams have sought out ways to skirt the rule -- including in 1997 when the Mets "loaned" right-handed pitcher Andy Zwirchit to the Braves, who assigned him to High-A Durham. It was announced in June of that season that the Braves had "accepted" Zwirchit as the player to be named in the trade that sent Paul Byrd to the Mets for Greg McMichael.

Zwirchit, however, wasn't a prime prospect like Turner, and no attention was paid to what happened. He was a 22nd round Draft choice in 1996. After his one season in the Braves organization, he was released and spent the rest of his career pitching in the independent leagues.

But baseball is filled with tales of how teams skirted rules.

Just ask Gorman Thomas.

After spending the 1975 and '76 seasons in the big leagues with the Brewers, Thomas spent 1977 with the Brewers' Triple-A team at Spokane. Milwaukee also had younger players it wanted to protect in that year's Rule 5 Draft.

The Brewers, however, didn't want to lose Thomas' power potential. To get around exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft, they sent him to the Rangers on Oct. 25, 1977, as the player to be named for an earlier trade of catcher Ed Kirkpatrick from Texas to Milwaukee.

The Rangers had a spot on their 40-man roster, so they could protect Thomas from the Draft. Then, on Feb. 8, 1978, Texas sent Thomas back to the Brewers for "cash considerations."

Thomas would go on to become a key part of the 1982 team that made the only World Series appearance in Brewers franchise history. He hit 175 home runs for the Brewers during the five-year span from 1978-82 -- including pacing the American League in home runs in 1979 (45) and tying for the Major League lead in 1982 (39).

The Nationals can only hope the Trea Turner saga has such a happy ending.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Write 'em Cowboy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.