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Trading picks is just about the only way baseball can make the draft more interesting

The good news is that it's almost certainly coming soon.

Norm Hall/Getty Images

The MLB draft will always be 500 times less popular than the NFL Draft. You know this. Baseball knows this. Everyone knows this. Baseball’s draft is 40 rounds. The players are mostly unknown. About five players from the entire draft will play for their new team. About two of those will be regulars if the team does extraordinarily well. It’s the first three parts of a 43-part miniseries, where those first three installments are nothing but hours and hours of credits, and the final 40 parts won’t start filming for two or three years.

Oh, and the most important part: The MLB Rule 4 draft is incredibly dull. It’s absolutely impossible to suck the casual fan into it. By the third day of the draft, it's just a broadcast of names and numbers. The third installment of the miniseries is set in a dystopian sci-fi world.

"BRRRZZT the Angels draft Maximilian Jarbinks, #48475, Louisville. BRRRDZZT"’

"Maximilian is with the Angels now. His number was called by the great machine. We will miss him."

At the same time, the draft is serious business. No, it really is! It’s not the Internet-ironic kind of serious business. The Royals won the 2015 World Series because they thought Alex Gordon would help them more than Jeff Clement. The Giants won the 2014 World Series because the Rockies thought a college closer would help them more than Madison Bumgarner. So fans want to pay attention to it. They know that it’s the outline for baseball’s script over the next decade.

This is the eternal struggle. The draft is boring. The draft is everything. Just because the fate of the world is occasionally discussed on C-SPAN, that doesn't mean you want to watch it.

The best way to improve the draft, though, is right there. It’s close, too. It’s coming, maybe as soon as 2017. As someone told Jayson Stark in 2015 ...

"I don’t know anybody who’s not in favor of that at this point," says one AL executive. "I really don’t. I think it’s going to happen."

The CBA is expiring after this season, which means we’ll get tweaks and changes. Which also means there’s a great chance that teams will be able to trade draft picks soon.

Now here’s how to make a draft more interesting.

Let’s use the Giants for this example to make it easy on me. They didn’t have a first-round pick this year. The casual-to-serious fan checks in, sees they don't have a first-rounder, and checks out. Only the rabid fans care about second-round picks. You've already lost 90 percent of your possible audience.

Now imagine a headline like this:

Giants ‘willing to deal Andrew Susac’ for first-round pick

Whoa! I know that dude! He’s had some poor injury luck, but he was a part of the team’s immediate future just last year. He could be a starting catcher, maybe. Do the Giants want to deal their depth like that, just to rebuild the farm? What if Buster Posey gets hurt again?

Giants interested in college closer Zack Burdi, willing to deal ‘top prospects’ for him

Wait, wait, wait, didn’t we already make fun of overrating college closers earlier in this article? At the same time, what if a team could trade one prospect for a chance at a cost-controllable arm like Burdi instead of a dozen prospects for one very expensive Andrew Miller? What are the pros or cons of that? Is it a silly idea, or is it silly as a danged fox? How much do you trust your team to make that kind of evaluation?

Let’s talk about it. Let’s chat online about it. Let’s get mad online about it. Because while I don't know what Zack Burdi’s fastball looks like (or, at least, I didn't), I sure know who the Giants’ top prospects are. I know what Andrew Susac’s game looks like, what kind of player he can be. And I certainly know what the Giants’ bullpen is like, too.

Just like that, you have the casual-to-serious fan back into it. And that’s just for a team looking to trade into the back of the first round. What about a team looking to trade the first overall pick? What about those drafts where you have a Bryce Harper-type talent? Would the team selecting first consider a deal for the second overall pick and two of their trade partner’s top prospects?

That’s nine hypothetical questions so far. Which is the point. Trading draft picks leads to speculation. Speculation leads to interest. More interest in the draft makes for, well, more interest in the draft. It’s its own reward.

The arguments against have grown stale, too. Baseball was worried that teams would dump picks to save money, which would be a bad look. Except that teams have figured out that the system is rigged against young players, which means that the draft is a great way to save money, even after accounting for the flops. You can pry the A’s chance at another Sonny Gray from their gray, peanut-shelling hands.

Even better is that we have something of a trial run for trading picks. The Marlins have dealt a bunch of their competitive-balance picks. Nobody cared. It was their right to do it, and they exercised that right. They figured the trade in the hand was worth the No. 43 pick in the bush, and they saved a little money in the process. Fair enough. Other teams like the Braves, though, are absorbing money just to get more picks. And relaxing the rules on waiting periods for trading picks allowed the Diamondbacks to deal No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, which is almost the same as trading a first-rounder.

The other argument against was that agents like Scott Boras would use possible trades as leverage to allow the Bryce Harper-type talents to pick and choose their new teams. Considering that baseball already substantially limits the bonuses for each team, preventing mega contracts, that seems less likely now. But if trading picks gives amateur players more control over where they want to spend their next decade, that’s a feature, not a bug.

Baseball can survive without an interesting draft. My evidence is, oh, the last 50 years or so. But there’s a way to make it more interesting, and it’s coming. While baseball will never compete with the NFL Draft, it already has a huge advantage over the sport when it comes to trade rumors and hot stove interest. Trading draft picks would play to the sport’s strength. It would basically be a second trade deadline, added on for free.

And it would be fun. So, so, so much fun. Put whatever safeguards you need to prevent true Charlie Finley-type debacles (maybe by not allowing trades of first-round picks in consecutive years), but give us more rumors. GIVE US MORE RUMORS. Better yet, give us what-ifs and legendary trades that we’ll still talk about in 50 years.

"I can't believe the Dodgers only had to give up their 7th-overall pick in the 2006 Draft for Greg Maddux *and* Aramis Ramirez. What a steal!"

- Smart, misguided person in 2006

See, here’s how baseball can add to its lore. Baseball does lore better than anyone. Give baseball some more chances at its lore, please.

I'm pretty sure baseball will get that chance. Hopefully, we’ll have about a hundred more hot takes about the draft at this time next year. It’s about danged time.