MLB is facing a number of impending changes this offseason, as the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (from 2012) expires, and a new one is put in place.
Although no one has yet expected/predicted any sort of significant disagreement or stoppage issue, MLB has certainly done its best to prepare us for a number of high-profile changes.
For example, one of the less-frequently/hotly discussed, but long expected changes – an international draft, for players outside the United States – has picked up considerable steam in the recent days, as MLB has clearly made a push for this to happen. And while your first instinct might be something along the lines of, “Yeah … so what?”, I’ll have you know that the International Draft actually comes with a fair bit of controversy.
But before we get into that, let’s run through the details.
According to Buster Olney at ESPN, “Major League Baseball is pushing for an international draft as a centerpiece of change in the next collective bargaining agreement with the players’ association.” In short, the deal would feature a new international draft beginning in March of 2018, with a 10-round concept, some grandfathered-in rules (from the current arrangement), and a draft-eligible age limit of 18 years old, implemented by 2021.
MLB suggests that such a system will help put an end to the corruption running rampant in the current set-up, where young ball players are taken advantage of by handlers attempting to take fees and percentages of their overall future earnings. In addition, MLB hopes to cut out the motivation for performance enhancing drugs for larger signing bonuses (through the use of drug testing before the draft), and eliminate the dangerous game of player smuggling (from countries like Cuba) and handler recompense.
Sounds good, right? Well, in many ways it is/would be, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without issues.
First and foremost, while MLB claims that they can still provide “the players in the international draft signing bonuses comparable to what those players in the standard draft receive,” that hardly seems to be realistic. Do you think, for example, that someone like Kris Bryant would have received just a $6 million signing bonus had all 30 teams had a crack at offering their best contract? Of course not. That’s because the draft limits a player’s market to, essentially, one team per year. The same would happen if MLB instituted an international draft.
Obviously, for a big market team like the Cubs, that would be a blow to an existing competitive advantage, but that’s not why I’m noting the opposition. Stan Croussett puts it best on Twitter:
Doing this would hurt a lot of families in Latin countries. Don't do it, MLB. https://t.co/6BBkeOMBCe
— Stan (@Crewsett) October 17, 2016
As he rightly points out, a change to the international draft would take a lot of money out of the hands of young prospects, coaches, and their families. Croussett (who happens to be from the Dominican Republic) goes as far as to suggest that “Dominican kids play baseball because it’s a way out of poverty,” not just because it’s something fun to do or way to get rich, and adding that MLB might not fully understand the severity of this potential change.
I can’t pretend to understand the full ramifications of instituting a draft or leaving things the way they are, but there sure seems to be a great deal more to this than simply making things easier for MLB, its teams, and its owners. For more on the trouble with an international draft when it comes to Latin American countries, see a full write-up from Ben Badler at Baseball America.
So, MLB will continue to push for the draft and, frankly, they’re likely to get it if they really want it. The Players Association might be the biggest obstacle (being that they are on the other side of the negotiating table), but they’ve shown a reluctance to advocate for professional players who are already in the Minor Leagues in the past, so sticking their neck out for unsigned, teenage amateurs in other countries is not likely to happen.
I know it may sound like I have a clear horse in this race, but I assure you I do not. I just want to make sure that every angle is examined before any decision is made. Many kids’ lives depend on this new deal and I would hate for them and their families to suffer in exchange for marginal benefits to MLB teams.