There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye-to-eye. They'll be discussing their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.
We here at MLBPipeline.com can't help ourselves. We can't stop talking about the First-Year Player Draft.
In last week's Perspectives, Jim Callis and I picked which teams we felt had the best 2013 Draft haul. This week, we're looking at the Draft itself. Simply put, it's our favorite time of year. If anyone were to come up to Jim or I and tell us it's our Super Bowl, or our [insert favorite holiday here], we wouldn't argue.
That doesn't mean we don't think there are things that can be done to improve the Draft. And that's our topic for the week -- the one thing we would do to change the Draft.
It's come a long way as an event, no doubt, with more coverage of Draft prospects around the Internet than ever before, more people paying attention to who's going to go where and, of course, the expansive TV coverage that is still in its nascent stages. (The Draft was an Internet-only happening prior to 2007). But we want it to be the best event possible, one that interests the most people and, more importantly, allows teams to build successful farm systems.
That's what Jim is arguing for this week: A return to a Draft system that allows teams to spend whatever they want, as he feels that's the best way to level the playing field for all organizations. Me? I'd like to add something that not only would allow teams to be more creative and flexible in how they build their teams, but would also add more interest and intrigue to the event as a whole. I believe teams should have the ability to openly trade Draft picks.
This isn't as huge a leap as it may have seemed a few years ago. The recent rules changes to the Draft, which added the Competitive Balance Lottery, also allowed teams to trade those lottery picks. And teams haven't hesitated. The first Competitive Balance Lottery took place in 2012, and it took just five days for there to be a trade involving those picks, with the Tigers and Marlins exchanging their picks in the Anibal Sanchez deal. It allowed the Tigers to move up from pick No. 73 to No. 39 in a deal that would have otherwise just been about players. It also increased their allotted pool for the 2013 Draft's top 10 rounds, another bonus.
The Marlins also got the Pirates' Competitive Balance Round A pick in the 2013 Draft in the Gaby Sanchez deal, and there's already been two deals involving '14 picks. When the Orioles got Bud Norris from the Astros at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last July, they gave Houston their Round A pick, which currently is pick No. 35. The D-backs received the Padres' Round B pick (No. 70) in the Ian Kennedy deal, giving them back-to-back Competitive Balance Round B picks.
This may not sound overly exciting to anyone but hard core Draft fans or front office staffs, but I see it as Major League Baseball dipping their toes in the pick-trading waters. Now it's time to go all-in with a huge cannon ball.
As someone who tries to project the first round of the Draft, I've seen interest in what's going to happen on Draft day increase over time. Imagine what would happen if, at any time during the Draft, we could see the commissioner stride the podium and say, "The Philadelphia Phillies have traded the seventh overall pick of the 2014 Draft to the ..."
That of course, is just an example, but you get the point. Having Draft-day trades would add exponentially to the intrigue of the event. (So would not having any games the night of the Draft, but I could only pick one topic.) I firmly believe there would be a lot more eyes glued to TVs if trades were opened up.
Beyond that, it would be a way for teams to use the Draft in different ways to build what they think will be a winning team. I know there's some concern that teams would potentially punt their picks to save money, or at the very least, not use the Draft for its intended purpose. There could be some safeguards, at least initially, to protect against that, if it would ease the transition.
Perhaps teams selecting in the top 10 shouldn't be allowed to deal their picks. Or there can be limits placed on the number of picks or Draft pool money that can be traded in a given year.
Personally, I'm not in favor of those limitations. I firmly believe the Draft is the best way to build an organization (along with international scouting and player development, of course). If a team wants to shed all of its picks and try to get better in the short-term, it's the organization's own long-term funeral. This is where Jim's change and my change intersect: Teams should be allowed to do with the Draft how they see fit.
General managers in this game are smart and get the importance of the Draft, so I think they've provide their own internal safeguards. I don't see the free-for-all some fear ever actually happening.
I already love the Draft. But it's missing a team moving up in the Draft to get an amateur it really wants; a team packaging picks with prospects or other players to get a big leaguer it thinks can help immediately; rumors and intrigue swirling around on Draft Day. All of these would help make the First-Year Player Draft a can't-miss event.