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Finally, a solid reason to not allow the trading of draft picks

So, someone finally offered a reason that makes sense to me about why major league teams are not allowed to trade draft choices. I've been looking and looking for that reason because, frankly, every one I had come across before was lame.

Reason 1: Owners are worried that if teams are allowed to trade draft choices that all the best young players will go to rich teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.

Reason 2: Owners are worried that small-market teams will go all Ted Stepien on us and start trading their draft choices like crazy so that they don't have to spend money on signing bonuses.

Reason 3: Owners have this nostalgic belief that the best young players should go to the worst teams.

These reasons all seem pretty dumb to me. Reason No. 1 is dumb because rich teams already have all the advantages in Japan, the Dominican, Venezuela, Panama and the like, and they're not getting all the best young players there. There's a reason for this, one that I'll get into in a minute.

Reason No. 2 is dumb because it assumes that small-market teams are being run by nimrods. Keep the sharp objects away from the small-market GMs!

Reason No. 3 is dumb because the draft doesn't work this way NOW.

Anyway, someone -- namely my friend Danny Knobler of CBS Sportsline -- gave me the most realistic reason why baseball will not allow teams to trade draft choices: They're scared to death that this will give Scott Boras and the other agents even MORE power over the draft.

Now, I actually get this. It doesn't seem possible for things to get much worse since basically Boras and others have been running the draft for years. I remember in 2007, when the Royals had the second pick in the draft. They KNEW -- and I say this based on conversations I had with numerous people in the organization -- that Rick Porcello was likely to be the best pitcher available. And then KNEW that Matt Wieters was likely to be the best player available to them. And they drafted a high school slugger named Mike Moustakas instead.

Why? Well, you know why. Wieters' agent is Scott Boras and it was made clear to the Royals (in the ways that such things are made clear) that they could not afford Wieters. Porcello's agent is Scott Boras and it was made clear to the Royals (in the ways such things are made clear) that they could not afford Porcello either.

But here's the kick ... Mike Moustakas' agent is ALSO Scott Boras. So somehow the Royals' takeaway from their conversations was that that they COULD afford Moustakas, and sure enough about 15 minutes before the deadline, they signed him. You following? Three players, all Scott Boras clients, and the Royals took the third-best one because that was the one they believed Scott Boras would allow them to sign. He's also the one not in the big leagues, the one who is in Class A ball, currently hitting .263. The Royals still have high hopes ... but that's the amateur draft, people. That's how messed up this thing is.

So, Danny suggests -- and I can see this -- that the big fear is that if teams are allowed to trade draft picks, suddenly Boras and his ilk become even more powerful. Suddenly they have yet another hammer. They can demand trades. They can bully small-market teams with even bigger demands. Yes, I can see why the owners are afraid ... these people are not exactly known for their self control. They're like the people who refuse to take the mini-bar key when they go to hotels because they know, just know, that at 2 a.m. they will not be able to stop themselves.

I don't know that there is a good answer to this problem. There is talk -- hell, there is always talk -- about a slotting system which would put a figure on the amount of money that each draft slot gets. Some people seem to think that the absurd money Stephen Strasburg will demand this year will force some serious negotiations about slotting -- Jayson Stark wrote an excellent column on the subject*, and in it he suggests that big-league ballplayers are getting tired of these kids getting huge signing bonuses. I have my doubts. I would agree that players probably are sick of unproven kids getting all this money, but I also don't think they're really prepared to do anything about it. What are they going to to do: Go to their union and demand that owners pay LESS MONEY for players? I don't think so. The players might be willing to give up slotting for a concession, maybe, but I'm not sure how that would work, and anyway I have this feeling that the agents are pretty powerful in the players' union. Agents will fight slotting to the death.

*As brilliant reader Matt points out, not everyone liked Jayson's column. I think Craig makes good points -- I wasn't crazy about Jayson's ranting about signing bonuses -- but I still thought the column, overall, was interesting and good.

Without slotting, I think Danny is right: Trades would probably give Boras and the other agents more opportunities to take control of the draft.

But I still think teams should be allowed to trade, and here's why: Because everyone forgets the most basic feature of baseball's amateur draft -- it's a bleepin' crapshoot. Take this year: Everyone's going on and on and on about Stephen Strasburg. He's the greatest prospect ever! He's a can't-miss! He throws 102 mile per hour! There has never been anything like him!

Well, maybe. You know, there have been other hyped pitchers before. There have been 13 pitchers selected with the No. 1 overall pick:

2007: David Price. Looks good, but so far he has won one big-league game as a starter. Let's wait and see.

2006: Luke Hochevar. Pitching in Omaha. Royals still have hope. His 0-2, 10.80 ERA this year doesn't add to that hope.

2002: Brian Bullington. He's 0-5 in his big-league career. Pitching in relief in Toronto now.

1997: Matt Anderson. Probably could throw 102 mph. Definitely could throw 100. Had 22 saves one year. Managed 256 innings in big leagues.

1996: Kris Benson. He had double digit wins five times in career. His record: 69-74.

1994: Paul Wilson. Won 11 games one year. Career record, 40-58.

1991: Brien Taylor. Scott Boras called him a once-in-a-generation talent. Got into a fistfight and never made it to the big leagues.

1989: Ben McDonald. Struck out 202 batters his junior year in college and was viewed as a can't-miss prospect. Won 78 games in the big leagues.

1988: Andy Benes. A good pitcher over a long career, he won 155 games in the big leagues, led the league in strikeouts one year, and was selected to one All-Star Game.

1984: Tim Belcher. Similar to Andy Benes, good pitcher, won 146 games in a lengthy big-league career, led the league in complete games and shutouts in 1989 while pitching in Los Angeles. Was also named Royals pitcher of the year in 1997 when he went 13-12 with a 5.02 ERA.

1982: Mike Moore. Pretty good pitcher who was occasionally better than that. Won 161 games in career despite career ERA+ of 95 -- that's the most wins for any player pitcher with a 95 ERA+ or worse.

1977: Floyd Bannister. Good pitcher. Would have been about as hyped as Stephen Strasburg if there was hype about the draft in 1976. He averaged 14 strikeouts per game his junior year at Arizona State, raced through the minors, and he led the league in strikeouts in 1982. He won 134 games in the big leagues, including 16 in 1983.

1973: David Clyde. Famously skipped the minor leagues and pitched just a few days out of high school. Could not have been more hyped -- considered by many to be the greatest high school pitcher ever. Went 18-33 in big leagues.

Well, that's it. That's every pitcher taken No. 1 overall in more than 40 years of selecting. How many stars are on that list? How many disappointments? Is there a single pitcher on that list who would have been worth a $50 million signing bonus or whatever it is that Boras is planning to demand for Strasburg. To be fair, there have been a few No. 2 picks -- Justin Verlander, Josh Beckett, J.R. Richard, Mark Mulder -- who have hit higher highs than anyone taken No. 1 overall. But that just adds to the whole point: It's a crapshoot. Roy Halladay was the 17th pick. Roger Clemens was the 19th pick. Greg Maddux was the 31st pick. Randy Johnson was the 36th pick. Dan Haren was the 72nd pick. Mark Buehrle was the 1,139th pick.

And this is why the option to trade picks would be good ... I'm not saying Washington SHOULD trade the Strasburg pick. I'm just saying trading him could work out for the best. Right now, Strasburg looks like a guy who will have a Roger Clemens meets Pedro Martinez type career. But he might not. He probably won't. His absolute trade value peak might -- MIGHT -- be right now.

And it's like that throughout the draft. When the Royals had the second overall pick in the draft in the 2005 draft, everyone was raving about Alex Gordon. Hell, I went to see him play at Nebraska and with my limited scouting talents he looked to me like a George Brett clone. I suspect just about every team in baseball would have taken Gordon No. 2 overall (behind Justin Upton) and the feeling was that he would be a big league All-Star by 24.

Well, he's 25 now, injured, and his career numbers in the big leagues are .250/.331/.417. That's not to say that Alex Gordon won't still be a good big league player ... he still has that opportunity. The point is his value was pretty high the day he was drafted. It might never be that high again. What if the Padres in 2004 had traded away the No. 1 overall pick for a batch of prospects. Would they have been worse off than they are now, having taken Matt Bush? Would the Royals have been better off getting prospects or Hochevar?

So, yes, I do think baseball should allow general managers the option of trading draft choices. It gives them more opportunities to improve their teams. Would there be bad trades? Sure. Maybe Arizona would have dealt the rights for Justin Upton to Boston or the Mets or something, and everyone would be screaming bloody murder.

But it's like Susan Sarandon says: Bad trades are a part of baseball -- who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas for God's sake. It's a long season and you got to trust it.

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