Leading up to the 1997 Major League Baseball expansion draft, league officials from the National and American Leagues met with the Office of the Commissioner to develop a set of rules by which teams could protect players on their 40-man roster and conversely, what players would be made available for selection by the two expansion teams. By the end of the draft both the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays would have a roster to begin play in 1998.
1997 Major League Baseball Expansion Draft Procedures
Players Eligible to be Drafted:
All Players in an organization are eligible to be drafted, except those with no prior major league experience who have less than three years service if signed at age 19 or older or have less than four years of service if signed at age 18 or younger.
From the eligible list, major league teams may protect 15 players prior to the draft. Ten/five players (players with ten years of major league service, five consecutive with the same team) and players with no-trade clauses in their contracts for the 1998 season must be on the protected list unless they waive those rights.
Rules of the Expansion Draft:
- The Expansion Draft will last three rounds.
- A coin flip will determine which team selects first round. The winner of the coin flip may choose select the first and fourth picks or second and third picks in the first round. After the first four picks, the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays will alternate picks for the remainder of the draft.
- Starting with the fourth pick in the first round, the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays will alternate turns, each selecting one player. A total of 28 players will be selected in the first round, one from each team. At the completion of the round, each expansion team will have 14 players.
- Prior to the second round, each major league team will be able to protect an additional three players. The second round will proceed in the same manner as the first, with each major league team losing an additional player. At the conclusion of the round, the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays will each have 28 players.
- Prior to the third, each team will be able to protect an additional three players.
- During the third, seven American League and seven National League teams will lose one player each, giving the Diamondback and Devil Rays a total of 35 players at the conclusion of the third round.