Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement on March 10, ending a lockout that has frozen the sport for more than four months. In order to reach this agreement, the two parties had to find common ground on a wide variety of issues, but there was one issue that both parties agreed to toss on the road and deal with at another time.
The league wanted to replace the existing international signing system with an international draft, suggesting it would be a way to improve a system that has its fair share of problems. MLBTR’s Steve Adams looked into numerous issues in March, relaying reports from numerous sources who had concerns, including players being rated before they even became teenagers and making verbal deals as young as 13 or 14 . Other concerns include steroid use among these youngsters as well as corruption among the “buscones” who often strike deals between teams and players.
Players have pushed back, however, with many pointing out that there are already rules against such behavior but little or no enforcement, and that MLB’s real motivation for wanting the draft is to stifle players’ earning power and their ability to choose their employer.
The league attempted to sweeten the prize pool by offering to get rid of the qualifying offer system in exchange, which negatively impacts the earning power of players who receive one. But that was not enough to make the union bite. In the end, both sides agreed to put this particular standoff on ice until July 25. If the two parties can agree on an international draft by then, the qualifying offer system will be eliminated. Otherwise, the existing international system of capped bonus pools will remain, as will QO.
Just over two weeks away from that deadline, the parties met today to discuss proposals. ESPN’s Jeff Passan was among reporters to relay word of the meeting, noting that the two sides are separated by significant gaps in their proposals. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale added that the union’s proposal involves a higher pool of money for drafted players and noted that players from Puerto Rico and Japan would be excluded from the draft. (An earlier report by Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times noted that the inclusion or exclusion of Japanese players was still under negotiation.) Hannah Keyser of Yahoo! Sports added that the two proposals had in common the same number of rounds and the same age limits.
ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez then broke down the main differences when it comes to numbers. MLB’s proposal is for a 20-round draft with hard slot values, meaning the player and team would have no ability to negotiate for a higher or lower amount. The total money pool for the draft would be $181 million, with undrafted players limited to a maximum bonus of $20,000 if they subsequently sign as free agents. The MLBPA counterprop is also 20 rounds, but has no cap on player bonuses, a $260 million pool and a $40,000 limit on undrafted players.
For reference, the current draft includes players from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Each team receives a bonus pool, with these pools varying in size depending on the picks the team has. Each pick comes with a slot value, although teams are free to sign players above or below these allocated slot prices, as long as the total price of those signings does not exceed their pool value. of bonuses. This is not a hard cap, as clubs are allowed to exceed their bonus pools, although there are escalating penalties depending on how far teams exceed their limit.
In this existing draft system, players have at least some leverage in negotiations with teams. If a player does not get a bonus to their liking, they can refuse to sign and play college ball instead, returning to the draft at a later date. It seems that players appreciate this part of agency, as they try to implement it for international players as well. The league, on the other hand, is more interested in keeping costs down, both through fixed slots and the smaller pool of total money available.
Whether or not the two sides can bridge these gaps and reach an agreement will have huge ramifications for many players, current and future. As The Athletic’s Evan Drellich points out, 28.2% of the 975 players on the opening day rosters were born overseas, with hundreds more in each club’s and other minor league systems. others join every year. Current young people who will one day follow in their footsteps may be challenged with the status quo or seek to navigate a new system that will be finalized in the coming weeks.
The deal, or lack thereof, will also have a big impact on current players. The qualifying offer system has been known for years to hamper the earning power of free agents, as it is tied to forfeiting draft picks. Most teams looking to sign a QO free agent will consider the loss of the draft pick part of the cost of acquisition and lower their financial offer accordingly. However, this only concerns about ten players each year. He was 14 this year, for example. While the union would surely like to get rid of the QO, the international draft affects so many more players that they probably won’t accept an unsatisfactory executive draft just to eliminate it.
More news will be forthcoming as the two sides will surely continue to negotiate over the coming weeks. Of course, it’s possible that the two sides will agree to another extension and push the deadline beyond July 25, but that would lead to complications. Players who are traded mid-season are not eligible to receive qualifying offers at the end of the season, meaning teams will likely want to know if the QO system is in place before deciding how to approach the deadline. August 2 exchange.