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Trading Shelby Miller – legal or not?

Summarizing a Twitter discussion about rules regarding trading of recently-drafted players.

Shelby Miller (Getty Images)During Wednesday afternoon’s four-hour snooze-a-thon that ended with the Arizona Diamondbacks stopping the St. Louis Cardinals’ eighth attempt to sweep a three-game series this season, the Twitterverse came alive with discussion about the possibility of the Cardinals trading 2009 first-round draft pick Shelby Miller.

Whether for Cliff Lee, Dan Haren or anyone else, a question was posed as to whether or not a drafted player could be dealt within his first year as a professional. (Trading picks prior to draft day remains against MLB rules.)

Previously, some had thought the restriction lasted until a year after draft day. Others, including me, recalled the “Pete Incaviglia Rule”, aka Rule 3(b)(7). Explained on and at, it basically states a team must wait until a year has passed after a player has signed before he can be traded.

That led to a tweet from Derrick Goold (Twitter @dgoold) of the Post-Dispatch questioning whether a player could be dealt as a “player to be named later” (PTBNL) before his initial year was up. This is especially relevant since Miller’s signing by the Cardinals was not announced until August 17, 2009. He is currently pitching for the Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League.

In his searching, Goold came to the conclusion such a trade could be allowed if the player was playing for the drafted organization until he was announced as the PTBNL and moved.

Regular reader CariocaCardinal (@cariocacardinal) found an example which proves that such a trade would be within the rules. It involves pitcher Jeremy Bonderman, now of the Detroit Tigers.

Here is Bonderman’s chronology:

  • June 5, 2001: Drafted in the first round, 26th overall, by the Oakland A’s.
  • August 22, 2001: Signed with the A’s but did not play that season.
  • April 2002: Began playing career in A-Advanced ball with Modesto.
  • July 5, 2002: Three-way, seven-player trade announced among the A’s, Detroit and the Yankees including Jeff Weaver, Carlos Pena, Ted Lilly and others. The seventh was a player to be named later to go from the A’s to the Tigers.
  • August 22, 2002: On his one year signing anniversary, Bonderman was announced as the PTBNL and moved to Detroit. He was assigned to A-Advanced Lakeland, where he made two appearances to close out the season.

One other small point. Players to be named later must be identified within six months of the trade date.

Conclusion: It appears there is nothing that would preclude the Cardinals from dealing Miller if they so choose. While that point is apparently not debatable, the wisdom of such a move clearly remains fodder for debate and discussion.

Others who participated in the Twitter discussion included @C70, @sporer and @MatthewHLeach.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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