Selig Calls International Draft 'Inevitable'

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MLB pushed through significant changes to its draft in the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, and commissioner Bud Selig says the changes aren't done.

While discussing the state of the game in an interview with Baseball America on Tuesday, Selig indicated that making international players subject to a draft process—whether that means folding them into the current draft structure or creating a separate international draft—is in the sport's future.

When asked if a worldwide draft is inevitable, Selig said, "It is inevitable. I would like to see it. We have made some significant progress to that end. When we went to the draft in 1965, it was to create a more level playing field. We've done that, and the same thing will have to happen internationally."

The motivation behind the first draft was also to control spending, and baseball has sought to do the same internationally as bonuses have steadily increased in recent years. Similar to the rules now governing the domestic draft, baseball's new labor agreement includes rules limiting how much a team can spend each year on international players, with stiff penalties in place for teams that exceed their spending cap.

The CBA also outlines the potential for a worldwide draft. Last November, MLB sent clubs a nine-page document explaining the changes to the rules governing international signings in the new CBA. One club official joked that the new rules were so complicated, everyone would prefer an international draft.
Selig didn't offer a timeline for when a change would occur or details on how it would be implemented.

"We'll watch the situation carefully and make the right decision," he said. "I can't say [when a draft would be put in place]. We want to see how [the process] works out."

Still Work To Do

Less than two months after Selig helped negotiate a new CBA that will assure baseball at least five more years of labor peace, he accepted a two-year contract extension that will keep him in the commissioner's office through at least the 2014 season.

While saying he found major league owners' passionate courting too much to turn down, the 77-year-old Selig also made clear that he's spurning retirement because he has more to accomplish. He took over de facto leadership of baseball when Fay Vincent stepped down as commissioner in 1992, and was first named as permanent commissioner in 1998.

"We have work to do," Selig told reporters after accepting the contract extension in January in Phoenix. "We have some great challenges, but I'll say it again, this sport has never been this popular and this sport is headed for big, big things."

One of his biggest goals appears to be the implementation of a worldwide draft. It was a drum Selig beat in the months leading up to the CBA renewal, and a focus of MLB's negotiations. While the official CBA document still hasn't been finalized, a memo released after the labor agreement was reached spelled out the process to create an international draft.

"No later than December 15, 2011," the memo read, "the parties shall form an International Talent Committee to discuss the development and acquisition of international players, including the potential inclusion of international amateur players in a draft, and to examine the rules and procedures pursuant to which international professional players sign contracts with Clubs."

That committee had its first meeting in January.

Another motivation for MLB to create an international draft is to clamp down on age and identity fraud, performance-enhancing drug use and bonus skimming primarily in Latin America.

Selig said he believes MLB has made significant progress in cleaning up such corruption, beginning when he sent current Mets general manager Sandy Alderson to the Dominican Republic to investigate fraud in 2010 before hiring him as a consultant to reform the league's Dominican office. Alderson spent less than a year on the job but created a blueprint for reform, which included education efforts at academies and coordination between the Dominican Republic government and MLB investigators.

"We've done a lot," Selig said. "I sent Sandy Alderson down there, who has done a remarkable job. We beefed up [our enforcement] with more internal people. People are impressed with what we have done. We made a lot of progress and will have to be very thorough. We have dealt with the problem and are continuing to do more."

Despite those efforts, corruption continues to exist in baseball hotbeds like the Dominican Republic. And when combined with other logistical issues, many front-office officials have said they neither want an international draft nor are confident that MLB has the ability to pull it off.

The Dominican Republic, Venezuela and the other Latin American countries all have their own issues with laws, player registration and investigations that would need to be worked out. Then there are agreements with Asian baseball governing bodies that would have to be worked out, including Japan, Korea and Taiwan, all of which have their own professional leagues.

Some major league club officials think an international draft will penalize teams that work hard in Latin America and have invested more resources into scouting the region. However, many teams, trainers and agents have seen the writing on the wall the last couple of years that an international draft was behind MLB's efforts to reform Latin America, even if MLB didn't always explicitly frame it that way.

Selig's full interview with Baseball America will be part of BA's Major League Preview coverage.

Contributing: Ben Badler, Jim Callis.