clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

MLB Changes Draft Rules, Fixes Trea Turner Loophole*

*Except for Trea Turner.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have agreed to a change in the rules regarding when newly-drafted players can be traded. Previously, players could not be traded for a full year after they signed their first professional contract. Now, players are eligible to be traded the day after the World Series in the calendar year in which they were drafted. Additionally, no player can be named as a player to be named later unless they were eligible to be traded when the deal was finalized.

This rule change came about because of the December 19, 2014 deal that sent Wil Myers to the Padres in a three-way deal with the Rays and the Nationals. Included in that deal was a "player to be named later" that San Diego was to send Washington. Almost immediately, it was reported in several places that the PTBNL was shortstop Trea Turner, who the Padres had taken with their first-round pick the previous June. Under the rule that drafted players cannot be traded for one full year after signing, Turner was not eligible to be traded until June 13, 2015. But since a PTBNL does not have to be announced for six months, the trade was barely within the window where Turner could be included, as long as the Nationals were willing to wait the full six months to receive Turner.

This put the Padres and Turner in an awkward position. He remained property of the Padres, went to spring training with San Diego and is playing for their Double-A affiliate in San Antonio. But there is a conflict-of-interest here, as the Padres have no incentive to develop a player who is going to the Nationals in June, or even keep him healthy. Under this new rule, Turner would have gone straight to the Nats, the organization that has a long-term interest in his future.

By moving the date that players can be dealt forward but by banning them from being included as a PTBNL in that time, MLB has not changed the effective date that players can actually be traded, but it eliminates the chances of a player having to play for a team that has already decided he's not a part of their future.

The rule that players cannot be traded for a year after they signed is informally known as the "Pete Incaviglia Rule," after the 1980s slugger who was drafted by Montreal but refused to sign with the Expos. Unable or unwilling to meet Incaviglia's contract demands, the Expos were left no choice but to trade Incaviglia to the Rangers or lose him for nothing. Putting this rule in place was designed by MLB to prevent newly-drafted players from dictating which team they play for by refusing to sign a contract unless the player was traded to the team of their choice.

This new rule will no doubt become known as the "Trea Turner Rule," just as the old rule was named after Pete Incaviglia. But while this rule change takes effect immediately and will prevent any other player from getting trapped in the limbo that Turner is, the rule is not retroactive. So until June 13, Trea Turner will remain the property of the San Diego Padres.

Turner himself is doing just fine in the Padres organization. He's playing shortstop and hitting .291/.367/.443 for San Antonio with two home runs and five steals in 21 games. No one has alleged that the Padres have mistreated Turner in any way. But the potential for abuse created by this conflict of interest is there, so MLB chose to act now rather than risk potential problems in the future.