A quick look at MLB’s biggest stars — Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Juan Soto to name a few — and you’ll see why baseball’s international market is an important resource for teams.
Now over three months into the lockout between MLB and the MLBPA, the topic of how to improve the process of signing international stars from countries outside the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico has risen to the forefront of collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations.
MLB owners proposed the idea of an International Draft to the MLBPA in the latest talks Saturday, per MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince. Under the current system, Latin American players ages 12-14 have been making verbal agreements with MLB clubs, even though they are not eligible to sign until they are 16.
Such a process has increased the pressure to be a standout from a young age and has contributed to the use of performing-enhancing drugs. It’s been as evident as ever in the Dominican Republic, where the Amaurys Nina Baseball Academy has kids as young as 12 years old prepping for MLB scouts, rather than focusing on school.
“I have [kids training at that young age] not because I want to have it, but because the system made me have it,” Nina said. “You see kids [informally agreeing to contracts] at 13 years old, when they should be in school.”
The current system, enacted in 2012, places limits on how much teams can spend on the international market each year, with a tax on any overages. A hard cap was put into place during the 2017-21 CBA, but didn’t prevent the verbal agreements from happening.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and the owners believe an International Draft is the only feasible option to solve these issues.
“The International Draft would have more fairly allocated talent among the clubs,” Manfred said. “And reduced abuses in some international markets.”
Under the new proposal, the 20-round International Draft would see each slot carry it’s own guaranteed signing bonus amount. The first overall pick would be worth $5.25 million. As Castrovince writes, the signing age and countries from which international players could sign would remain the same.
In all, the 600 players selected would receive a total of $172.5 million. That’s an uptick on the $163.9 million for the top 600 bonuses given to players during the 2019-20 signing period.
A rather interesting wrinkle is that unlike the MLB Draft in July, the order would not be decided based on a team’s finish to the previous regular-season. The 30 teams would be divided randomly into groups of six, with each group of six rotated through the draft order over a five-year period.
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