One of the most interesting pieces of news to come out last weekend was that Major League Baseball wants a new framework on how to deal with international players. Instead of there being an open market where international players would sign with the highest bidder, a draft could be coming and coming very soon.
July 2 (now January 15) used to be like New Year’s, Christmas, and Thanksgiving all in one. It was a day where family fortunes were changed for the better as many young prospects created generational wealth. There are those, myself included, who thought that was a great thing to do.
But it was not without side effects.
Over the last several years, there were instances of corruption, steroid use, and teams verbally agreeing with players as young as 13-years-old. Still, even judging 16-year-olds and then trying to project them in terms of their physical structure and their playing capabilities takes a lot of skill.
If MLB gets its way, a draft is going to change everything.
Here are a few key elements of MLB‘s proposed deal according to Anthony Castrovince of MLB Pipeline:
• A 20-round Draft with more than 600 selections. No passing.
• Each slot in the Draft would also carry a guaranteed signing bonus amount
• Additionally, there would be no limit on the number of players who could sign, if they were not selected in the Draft.
• All told, between players who are selected and those who sign after they are not selected, between $13 million and $15 million of additional spending on international players is expected in this new system.
• The signing age would remain the same.
• All players would be subject to mandatory drug testing.
• Each team would be randomly assigned to a group of six clubs, and each group would then rotate through Draft order over a five-year period. Teams would have equal access to international talent over the life of the CBA.
• Draft picks could be traded between clubs.
• A signing deadline three weeks after the Draft.
• In an effort to grow the game, clubs would receive supplemental selections for drafting and signing players from non-traditional international baseball countries.
According to Castrovince, MLB would be willing to increase the pools for each club to increase the total dollars from what is currently being spent – close to 8% more.
All of this “proposed” information is going to take some time to process.
There are some things I immediately like. One, it puts an end to verbal agreements with 13-year-old kids. Two, a draft puts an end to some of the seediness the Cubs had a few years ago with Florencio Serrano and some hidden kickbacks to trainers and clubs. Three, in the big scheme of things there’s more total money as teams can sign players beyond the 20 round portion.
However, there is less total money for those at the top of the draft versus those top signees in free agency the past few years.
Another thing I wonder about is what do you do to a team that basically trades away all their draft picks beyond the 10th round. It’s possible. I would not be surprised to see teams just hand over picks once they’ve reached their quota or their own internal spending limit. Some teams are really invested in the Latin market and some teams are not. Some teams sign 50-60 players a year while others sign a handful. How is MLB going to enforce draft procedures if teams just are not that into using the international market to develop en masse.
One thing mentioned in Castrovince’s article that MLB was considering is turning the International Draft into a big event in a place like Miami. Instead, they should do it in Santo Domingo or Curacao, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela (when it’s stable), or rotate it between some major cities in the Caribbean.
Part of me is saddened by the possibility of an International Draft because of the cultural importance of signing day. Still, the positives of a draft might outweigh the negatives over time if MLB can turn this into a cultural event that focuses on how this event changes the fortunes of families.
MLB is still going to need to do a lot more work to get it right.