Unlike the NBA, NFL, and NHL, Major League Baseball (MLB) has a unique stance on trading draft picks. Since the inception of the MLB's first draft in 1965, the league has prohibited teams from trading standard draft picks. This rule was established to prevent cash-strapped teams, particularly those from small markets, from selling their top draft picks to large-market teams for quick income.
The Exception: Competitive Balance Picks
While standard draft picks are off-limits for trading, there is one exception: competitive balance picks. These are the only tradeable draft picks in the MLB. However, even these come with restrictions. They cannot be traded for cash, and they can only be traded once, preventing them from bouncing from team to team in a series of deals.
The Impact on Small Market Teams
The prohibition of trading draft picks has been a point of contention, especially for small-market or low-revenue teams. Critics argue that if these teams can't afford to pay a player with the value they command at a certain slot value, they're forced to draft someone else instead of trading the pick for capital or players from other teams.
The Pete Incaviglia Rule
In 1985, the MLB expanded the rule to include players taken in the MLB draft, forbidding transactions akin to NBA's sign-and-trade deals. This rule, named after Pete Incaviglia, forbids teams from trading a player until they have been under contract with the franchise for a year.
The Case for Allowing Draft Pick Trades
Despite the current rules, some argue that it's time for the MLB to allow teams to trade their draft picks. They believe that this could provide an NBA-like jolt to the league, making it more exciting and dynamic. Proponents argue that everything else in baseball is tradeable, including MLB players, prospects, bonus pool money, managers, and front office employees. So why not draft picks?