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As we wait to see whether MLB and the players will come together to play a shortened 2020 season, why is this the right time to hold a mock expansion draft here at MLBTR?  Well, lots of reasons!

A mock expansion draft serves an interesting thought exercise.  If each MLB team were allowed to protect only 15 players, who would be left exposed?  Thousands of MLBTR readers have participated in polls over the last few weeks in an attempt to answer that question for each of the 30 teams.  Click here to see who’s available in the draft – and be sure to check out both the “By Team” and “By Player” tabs in this Google Sheet.  Who would be your top picks?  Let us know in the comments.

The current MLB transaction freeze presents a unique opportunity, as team rosters have remained stable to allow us to spend weeks creating protected lists.  The unprecedented transaction freeze and lack of games and also means we have less to write about here at MLBTR, and the mock expansion draft helps fill the void.

Also, consider the possibility that MLB might actually be driven to expansion within the next several years as a result of revenue lost to the coronavirus.  Mike Axisa of CBS Sports wrote about this recently, noting that the Rockies and Marlins were born in part as a way for the existing 28 teams to raise cash, speculating that MLB could charge expansion teams a billion dollar entry fee or more per each new team.

MLB’s last expansion draft took place in 1997, with the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays.  Those were simpler times, both in terms of player evaluation and fan interest in the hot stove.  Consider this nugget from Pedro Gomez of The Arizona Republic back in ’97“The biggest cheer in the [Diamondbacks draft war] room came after Tampa Bay selected outfielder Bobby Abreu with its third selection. There were slaps on the back and high-fives passed out. ’Our first break,’ one of them said.”  The Diamondbacks’ front office actually high-fived because the Devil Rays took Abreu, allowing catcher Jorge Fabregas to get to them.  Not so fast with accolades for Tampa Bay, though – they had an agreement in place to immediately trade Abreu to the Phillies for Kevin Stocker.

If an expansion draft were to happen in 2020, it’s easy to imagine a big live event put on by MLB.  MLB Network would broadcast the picks and sites like MLBTR and many others would be obsessively covering the lead-up, rumors, and actual event.  Back in ’97?  “The Rays’ brain trust began the day with a 7 a.m. breakfast with the 70 or so Tampa Bay fans who traveled to the draft,” wrote Marc Topkin and John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times.  More people will follow along live with MLBTR’s mock expansion draft this week than followed along with the last real one!  Noted the Tampa Bay Times writers, “Unlike the NFL draft, which sparks wild cheers and boos from the fans’ gallery, there was little reaction to the lesser-known picks by the 75 supporters from both teams.” 

So get ready: my Portland Lumberjacks will compete with Connor Byrne’s Las Vegas Vipers to put together the best 38-man roster.  The live event will take place here at MLBTR on Thursday, June 4th, at 1pm central time.  We’re not messing around here.  In 1997, Topkin and Romano noted, “The Rays were so serious about keeping their plans under wraps they hired 24-hour security to guard the team’s War Room the past week and had the area searched for electronic bugs each morning.”  Rest assured, I’m taking our expansion draft just as seriously, and I have indeed bugged Connor’s home.  In the coming days, Connor and I will be poring over the list of 438 available players and crafting our strategies.  We invite you to do the same!

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