We are just three days away from the CBA-imposed deadline for the players and the owners to agree on an International Draft. If they can work it out, then the new draft kicks in next year, and the Qualifying Offer system goes away. If they cannot work it out, everything stays status quo.
The expectation around the game has generally been that the sides would come to an agreement eventually. The current International Free Agent system is broken, and everyone agrees that something needs to be done. The assumption has long been that it would be a draft, and the new CBA offered the opportunity to make that happen, even if delayed.
But I’m not so sure the optimism on a deal is warranted.
Reading the latest from Alden Gonzalez at ESPN, you do not get the sense that a deal is remotely close. Consider these sections:
The league’s proposal, both back in March and in a new version this month, calls for a 20-round, hard-slot draft that would begin in 2024, guaranteeing $5.51 million for the No. 1 overall pick and $181 million for the top 600 international players. The MLBPA made its first counter on July 8, submitting a proposal that would guarantee $260 million to the top 600 international players and set the slots as minimums, with tax and draft-pick penalties for teams that exceed them by certain percentages. It was the first occurrence of the MLBPA agreeing to some form of an international draft, a monumental development in its own right. But the money divide was inescapable — and was further amplified when MLB’s counter a week later didn’t add a single dollar. The league believes its original offer is good enough ….
The league claims that the union dragged its feet on a proposal that has been on the table for 12 months. Union officials argue that they had turned down an international draft at every turn, while players maintain that a midseason deadline on such an important issue — while so many of them are preoccupied with a season — is unreasonable. The league counters that the deadline is necessary because team executives need to know the status of the qualifying-offer system ahead of the Aug. 2 trade deadline and believe the current offer, which would guarantee international players about $20 million more than last year’s signing period, is plenty generous. Union officials believe the gap between the international market and the domestic draft, which will see teams spend close to $300 million this year, is too wide. The league argues that it has to be, given that international players sign at younger ages and thus matriculate to the majors at a lower rate.
As we’ve discussed in relation to Willson Contreras, having this matter settled – one way or another – before the biggest rental trades go down seems imperative. But none of the article makes it sound like a deal is close, and I wonder if we’re going to see them punt again. If so, I would hope they agree to punt the discussion until the offseason, with the Qualifying Offer system staying in place (for purposes of team planning at the deadline).
For my part, there are a number of approaches to the international system that I think could make sense, but as long as the dollars and structure are fair to young players, I think a draft could work out just fine. We’ll see if it happens in the next few days, and then we’ll round up the fallout as it relates to the Trade Deadline. My read for today, though, is that a deal doesn’t seem very likely.