When the Cleveland Guardians won the 2024 MLB draft lottery, visions of sugar plums and top prospects began dancing in all of our heads.
The thought of selecting another top prospect next summer helps distract from the frustration of the Guardians not doing much yet this offseason, or the fact that the team's TV situation remains very much in flux with Bally Sports, the bane of just about everyone's existence.
But you might also be thinking about the Guardians just simply trading that top draft pick for, say, more draft picks or controllable young major-league players. It's a great idea in theory, but let's look at the logistics.
Can You Trade Draft Picks in MLB?
Simply put, no. Major League Baseball teams cannot trade draft picks to each other. Though it's incredibly common in the NBA and NFL, baseball doesn't allow the practice - unless it's a Competitive Balance round pick, of course.
But if we're talking about a regular old draft pick, sorry, it can't be done. So yes, the Guardians will absolutely be selecting someone with that #1 overall pick in 2024.
But why can't MLB teams trade their draft picks? Part of it comes down to the structure of the game itself. Unlike football and basketball, fans might not see draft picks - not even top ones - at the major-league level for at least 2-5 years, depending on whether the player is a high school or college player. The development path in baseball is long and winding, and without a salary cap, the draft is the only way many teams can compete with the likes of, say, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are spending the GDP of a small country this offseason.
More importantly, though, Major League Baseball wants to avoid teams trying to get out of paying top draft picks their signing bonuses. Slot values for MLB picks continue to rise, and in 2023, the slot value for the top overall pick in the draft was set at $9.7 million, with Pittsburgh paying Paul Skenes a signing bonus of $9.2 million last year (the first time a player ever signed for more than $9 million in the draft).
Plenty of big spenders would be more than happy to drop that kind of money on a player who might never even make the majors. And while there is a groundswell of support for reversing this rule in the game, it's doubtful it gets changed anytime soon. There's just no way certain MLB teams will act appropriately with this rule in play. The dynamics of baseball are just different, and the game is truly better this way.