As extensively reported by Ben Badler at Baseball America, MLB has issued a series of new rules regarding the scouting of young international players. You can, and should, read Badler’s original report here, and his thoughts on why the new rules are a bad decision.
The gist of the change, as summed up by Badler:
[I]nternational players are not allowed to be at a team facility until they are 16 years old or until six months before they become eligible to sign, whichever comes first. That means most players who become eligible to sign on July 2, 2015 won’t be able to enter a team’s Dominican academy—a vital component for teams to be able to evaluate players—until Jan. 2, 2015. For players who turn 16 between September and December, they will be allowed to go to a team facility once they turn 16.
The impact here should be obvious. Typically, in Latin America, teams have players to their facilities much earlier than 16 so that they can evaluate and develop relationships over a long period of time. The Cubs, as you know, have the preeminent facility in the Dominican Republic, and the value of that facility just took a hit.
In part, perhaps, for that reason, and in part because of the Cubs’ increasing focus on Latin America, Dan Bernstein hears that the Cubs were very angry about the change:
— Dan Bernstein (@dan_bernstein) August 21, 2014
There’s a story behind that story that I hope we someday get. What were the Cubs doing previously that would make them, in particular, feel targeted by this rule change? Most teams that work hard in the DR play the game of having to follow and scouting younger and younger players. Were the Cubs doing it more than other teams? Were they using their facility in some way to gain an advantage over other teams with respect to younger players, specifically?
In any case, it’s a rule change that probably disproportionately hurts the Cubs, though it is not a death knell to their efforts in Latin America. It’s possible now that teams who want an edge will simply have to invest more in scouts in the DR, which is something that the Cubs’ organizational philosophy would support.
As for the broader implications, we know that MLB has long wanted an international draft. The more rules they put in place like this, the closer we get to the possibility of a draft. Perhaps that will be one of the many issues on the table for the 2016 CBA.