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emperor seligThe most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement dramatically changed the way international free agents are signed. Specifically, and in short, teams can no longer spend freely on such players, and are instead capped – if they go over that cap, penalties are imposed. But that may not be enough for the powers that be, who are pushing for an international draft, which could be agreed upon as soon as this year, per Eric Fischer of Sports Business Journal.

Commissioner Bud Selig has long wanted an international draft in baseball because of its impact on parity and reliability, and the CBA changes were seen by most as a stepping stone in that direction. From there, MLB and the MLBPA got together earlier this year and agreed to make a decision on an international draft by June 1, and, if they didn’t agree on a draft by that date, additional spending restrictions would kick in (the details of which are not entirely clear, but presumably the Cubs would still get their full international pool, since it’s set to be the second highest in baseball behind the Astros). In other words, all sides might be (artificially) incentivized to get an agreement in place this year for a draft that would, presumably, start in 2014.

The purpose of an international draft, aside from the parity and reliability that Selig seeks, is that it keeps costs down for MLB teams. If a player can negotiate with only the team that drafted him – as opposed to all teams – his leverage shrinks, and, in turn, his price tag. The owners, by way of MLB, are apparently so serious about wanting an international draft that they’re willing to make shocking concessions to the Players Association to make it happen, including less service time required for arbitration and a higher Major League minimum salary, reports Buster Olney. To my mind, that seems a little backwards: don’t teams spend more money on big league players than on international amateurs? Wouldn’t earlier arbitration and increased minimums cost more than an international draft would save?

Further, I’d argue that the new spending restrictions in the CBA have already effectively accomplished the goal of reining in spending (as Ben Badler argued on last week’s episode of the BN Podcast), and a draft is an unnecessary complication.

From the Cubs’ perspective, I wonder whether a draft would do harm to their increased efforts in Latin America. Increased scouting and the top-of-the-line facility in the Dominican Republic would still help in a draft system (easier to find diamonds in the rough, more reliable picks, better chance at signing the guys drafted, better chance to sign draft picks for a good price), but not as much as in a non-draft system. In a non-draft system, the Cubs can seek out, persuade, and sign any player they want in Latin America. A draft obviously limits the Cubs only to the players they’re actually able to draft – and, presuming the Cubs don’t always draft high, they’ll never even have a shot at some of the best prospects they might otherwise have been able to pull in.

In general, I’m not crazy about the idea of an international draft for the same reasons I wasn’t crazy about the dramatic spending restrictions imposed in the stateside draft: (1) the Cubs are poised to be one of the biggest spenders on the amateur side long-term, and I’d rather they were able to do so unfettered; and (2) driving down the price of amateurs, in the long-terms, could cause elite athletes to focus on other sports in their youth (more immediately, it could push two-sport athletes to pick the other sport, though that is less of a concern internationally because of the age the players are typically signed).

The details of an international draft are all still in flux, including whether the international draft would be a part of the Rule 4 Draft (United States and Canada), or whether it would be an entirely separate draft. Would the draft include Asian players? Cuban players? Would there be age restrictions? Are 16-year-olds drafted internationally, even though they can’t be drafted quite that young in the States? Is a 24-year-old amateur from Venezuela who hasn’t played professionally subject to the draft? Will there be a tiered spending pool, similar to what there is in the stateside draft? I could go on.

This is a hugely important story not only to the Cubs, but to baseball as a whole, and we’ll have to follow along as these questions are answered.

  • hansman1982

    The only way to get NFL-style parity in MLB is the only way they will never try to get NFL-style parity in MLB. Salary cap.

    Although, I would argue there is a decent level of parity that already exists. In the past 10 years, there have been 7 different franchises as World Series champions. The repeats include St. Louis, San Fran and Boston.

    I would argue that a franchises success has as much to do about it’s ownership group as it does their home city size.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Chicago, being the 3rd largest television market, must really have a sucky ownership then. ;)

      • hansman1982

        For a very long time.

        Anyone who greenlit the “College of Coaches” deserves to have their pinky toe stubbed no less than 10 times a day for the rest of their life.

        • Patrick W.

          In Cubs Hell, there is no Satan, just a College of Demons.

        • college_of_coaches

          My ears are burning.

          • Spriggs

            Haha! I was wondering if you’d see this.

    • http://401klogic.net Westbound Willie

      The Dominican academy now seems like a wasted project. The cubs could actually have guys at their academy, teach and coach them and have them drafted by another organization.

  • cubchymyst

    I agree with Brett that at international draft makes no sense from a financial standpoint if they are going to raise the major league minimum and allow earlier arbitration. It seems like the owners are looking at removing all leverage from the international players. It is not like they have the option of returning to college.

    Also baseball already has one of the highest levels of parity of the big professional sports (baseball, football and basketball). Past 20 years; MLB- 11 different champions, NFL – 13 different champions, NBA- 8 different champions. The past 30 years; MLB – 19 different champions, NFL – 15 different champions, NBA – 9 different champions.

  • Crockett

    This is just another example of Bud Selig (and the owners?) ruining baseball. The draft changes/international cap were bad enough. An international draft will be a nightmare.

    Look at the quality of Puerto Rico players before/since they were required to participate in the draft. Keith Law wrote an article about this a while back, the essence of which stated that an international draft will drive more young players away from the game because it establishes a few enormous obstacles to actually earning money from baseball.

  • itzscott

    Wouldn’t you know it…..

    Just when the Cubs decide to do things the right way through development and spending heavily to secure the best talent, MLB changes direction and slams the door in their faces both stateside and now internationally.

    Can this franchise EVER catch a break????

    • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com db kyle

      MLB has been telegraphing their intent to move in this area for years. Cubs can’t claim to be surprised, and wouldn’t.

  • Die hard

    International draft is a form of collusion not seen since Curt Flood played … Other countries need to wake up and prevent this by starting international league to compete and force merger 10 yrs later

    • DarthHater

      Why is an international draft any more collusive than the existing amateur draft?

      • TWC

        Because reasons.

        • DarthHater

          Oh, okay. Thanks.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        It actually might be simply because MLB has exemption from the general federal laws that forbid this sort of practice. However, MLB now wades into dealing with national laws from other counties, as well as international law. I have no ideas what laws exist regarding these issues (and there almost certainly are different laws in some of the different countries), but I would be surprised if this is kosher everywhere.

        To an extent, MLB might be blundering into a fight it did not mean to start: but, hey, isn’t that the American way?

        • Crockett

          This is absolutely true. If I was the Dominican and Venezuela and the Netherlands…I would absolutely pass a law right now protecting their amateurs. Selig is SUCH a lunatic.

          I just do not grasp how giving major concessions to the union is financially less damaging than having an open market on “international” players…which basically means players from Latin nations.

          Talk about f*cking over the area of the greatest amount of growth in the game. Well thought out…Bud.

        • jt

          I guess other countries could prevent their citizens from traveling to the U.S. But I’m pretty sure that unless their is some kind of treaty the contract law from other countries has no effect within the borders of the U.S.
          Of course The Jays are not in the U.S. but MLB would have the option of cutting ties with them if Canada decided to go a different route.

          • Crockett

            Obviously lawyers would know more, but because it is a draft and not an individually negotiated contract, wouldn’t nations be able to protect their citizens from unilateral assignation of wage?

            • jt

              If I take a job in a Chinese factory for $0.15 an hour the U.S. min wage will not protect me. U.S. courts don’t have jurisdiction there and their courts don’t have a say here.
              That is the purpose of treaties.
              I guess they could withhold a visa of something.

        • Can’t think of a cool name

          Does the NHL have a international draft?

          • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com db kyle

            Yes.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Shocking though it is for me to admit it, Die hard might very well have a point. I suspect that some other governments will take a strong exception to this arrangement.

  • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com db kyle

    Although the international draft does noticeably detract from the usefulness of the Dominican Academy, I’m intrigued by the concessions being made to the Player’s Association.

    Pushing up arbitration eligibility would hurt small-market teams, who depend on pre-arb cheap players to help them put together competitive teams. Now, we’ve had a lot of changes in recent years that have really helped small-market teams to the point where they don’t have near the payroll constraints that they used to, but anything that might help stem that tide a little bit is good for the Cubs.

  • King Jeff

    I have another question about this process. If a player enters the draft and is not drafted, do they then become free agents for any team to sign? Or do they go back into the draft pool? I know the system isn’t complete yet, but setting a uniform standard on a system that’s been anything but doesn’t seem like an easy venture, especially considering the amount of political red tape that this is going to involve.

    This whole thing leads me to believe that scouting is going to become even more important now, and spending more money on those scouts, along with having a lot more of them, is going to be how large market teams take advantage of this.

  • cubsin

    Brett, your website kept forcing MS Explorer 9 to close, but I wasn’t having any trouble with any other website I visited. I had to come in using Google Chrome to view your website and let you know about the problem.

    • Brian

      Same with IE8, keep getting tab recovery. Seems like a lot of new stuff is being loaded with each’s day entry into BN.

      • Can’t think of a cool name

        I don’t think its this site. It happens to me with Forbes.com

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I suspect that it’s a broken script from an ad network (used by BN and Forbes, among others). Only some folks see it, and only sometimes (and it seems to break only on IE). Which is why it’s really hard to track down. Usually these things are fixed at the network level within a day or two.

          • JB88

            For what it’s worth, I’ve been having this problem with your site off-and-on for the last week.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks. I don’t suppose you have any more info on what was actually happening? I don’t have Explorer, so I can’t replicate the issue. Did it warn you before shutting down, and if so, do you recall what it said?

      • Brian

        A lot of what I am seeing, seems to be media stuff trying to download constantly.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          There sure shouldn’t be any of that – like, stuff downloading on your computer, or you mean downloading for display in the browser (which there will always be)? Assuming it’s the latter, that shouldn’t have anything to do with IE shutting down. That would be a broken script, which I would need some help identifying, since I can’t duplicate the issue on my end (I don’t have IE).

          • Dale’s Ear

            The problem is Internet explorer, the common joke I see is that Internet Explorer is the most used web browser to download other web browsers. Chrome is okay but firefox has always been my personal favorite

          • Brian

            This is what constantly pops up on the lower task bar, This is pretty close- downloadpicturehttp://collective-media.net/log….with other stuff here. Many times this shows up in the recent pages, where I cannot go back a page, with the back button, because it is full.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              That is hugely helpful. Thank you (and sorry), Brian. In the interim, it may help you to clear your cache and cookies.

              • Brian

                No worries, some day’s it is worse than others. This morning I had 4 tab recoveries and then this afternoon have had no issues.

  • Deez

    Shouldn’t be an International Draft, it should be “one” Draft, all players included. Owners will always win because even though they can’t horde or outbid each other for good international players, they don’t loose out if the guy’s a BUST.

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