Brewers Nab a Competitive Balance Lottery Spot


Just after 11:30 AM in New York City yesterday, Major League Baseball held it’s first-ever Competitive Balance Lottery.

The Milwaukee Brewers, being one of the smallest market teams in the sport, came away with an additional second-round pick for 2013.

This is new territory for everyone, obviously. Adding additional picks for the auspices of Competitive Balance is an intriguing step towards closing the talent gap between the big money teams and the perenially down franchises, but it remains to be seen how much effect this new system will have – we may not see the true results of the new picks for five years. What is all this about, and how does it effect Milwaukee going forward?

It’s best to begin with the basics: the Competitive Balance Lottery is designed to give the ten lowest revenue teams and the ten smallest media market teams extra draft picks in the first two rounds of the amateur draft. These picks get chosen after the supplemental picks of each rounds – the supplemental picks are, for clarification, the picks teams receive in exchange for losing a top-tier player to free agency.

Basically, this system move up potential draft picks, allowing “less competitive” teams (in terms of revenue earned and media audience) to nab high-second round picks at the end of the first – in order to flow more talent through their systems. This is how it’s supposed to work in theory, but there is one additional aspect that makes it even more exciting:

The picks can be traded.

This has never happened in the history of Major League Baseball. The CBL picks can be used the winning teams in order to sweeten trade deals, but they have to use said picks in deals during the regular season only and they are one-time use only by the team that won them. That means, if Milwaukee trades away the fifth pick in the second round of the CBL to the Marlins, the Marlins cannot turn around and use that pick in another deal – they have to use it in the draft. The picks can also not be used in the Winter Meetings, but they can be used in deals when the new season begins up until draft time.

This changes the landscape dramatically. Every team values draft picks differently, depending on their payroll or where their farm system sits in relation to the rest of the league. But for the teams involved in the lottery, the chance to give a pick in the draft is invaluable in terms of getting that extra piece of the puzzle to put your team in the race. If a team wants to do a player-for-prospects trade, you can give up the draft pick and save a player or two in your farm system – you are essentially giving a team a prospect you never had. Keeping the pick, likewise, benefits a team who is content to rebuild for the future, but either way dangling future promise in front of a team who needs to ditch salary or wants to move someone can be very enticing and might put some teams over the edge on deals.

In the first-ever announcement of the lottery, thirteen teams were allotted a chance to grab a pick due to the overlap in low-revenue numbers and market size. The teams were the Brewers, Reds, Cardinals, Pirates, Padres, Diamondbacks and Rockies in the NL; the Rays, Orioles, Athletics, and Indians from the AL. Here’s how the lottery wound up:









  1. Padres
  2. Indians
  3. Rockies
  4. Athletics
  5. Brewers
  6. Tigers

The Tigers, it should be noted, were only eligible for picks in the second round – there was no indication of why on any of the information available, but it wouldn’t be Major League Baseball rules if they weren’t a little bit confusing.

So, Milwaukee now has an extra edge – albeit slight – in the trade deadline and the draft next season. Will they deal it, or will they use it? Will the CBL actually help a small-market team like Milwaukee gain an edge on the New Yorks and Los Angeleses of the world? Only time will truly tell how it will play out, but if nothing else it’s an exciting new frontier for Major League Baseball.