Major League Baseball’s owners have long desired an international draft, and a new report suggests they might soon get their wish. According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, MLB officials held a meeting on Tuesday with club personnel and informed them of their desires to institute a 20-round draft as soon as 2020 — with 2021 targeted as a fallback, since the league would first have to reach an agreement with the players union.
Here’s more, courtesy of Badler, the foremost expert on international dealings:
Based on what MLB told team personnel yesterday, the most recent draft concept would be 20 rounds, with teams allowed to trade picks. Every pick would have a hard slot value, so if a team drafts a player and the slot value is $1 million, that player would sign for $1 million. Picks in the top three rounds would be protected for clubs, so if a team drafted a player in one of those rounds who didn’t sign, it would potentially receive compensation in the following year’s draft.
There are a slew of issues with the international market (as laid out here, also by Badler). But part of the motivation for the owners is to further suppress the negotiating power of international amateurs. They’ve succeeded in recent Collective Bargaining Agreements in installing bonus pools and other mechanisms designed to keep costs as low as possible. Hard-slotting would, obviously, be a step in that direction — though it’s too early to know how far MLB would go.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Badler’s report is how MLB would determine the draft order. Rather than assign picks based on record, MLB is experimenting with rotating by division — the American League East would have the top five picks one year, the National League East the next, and so on until the six-year cycle is complete. It’s a concept similar to ones proposed in other sports to combat rampant tanking — and may hint that MLB is at least contemplating ways to improve competitive balance across the league.
Score that as a plus, even if the international draft could be a negative on the whole for the players involved.