MLB Discussing How An International Draft Would Work

Major League Baseball has had preliminary discussions about an international draft, with one recent internal framework including a 15-round draft and the possibility of implementing it in 2020 or 2021, before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement ends after the 2021 season.

That’s still a ways from happening.

The international draft concept is in the early dialogue phase at the commissioner’s office, with those discussions including prominent Latin American trainers in MLB’s Trainer Partnership Program to gather their input. There’s still a significant distance for the concept to progress to the owners, the commissioner, and ultimately the MLB Players’ Association. The MLBPA would have to sign off on a draft—a contentious point of friction in the previous CBA negotiations—and MLB has not presented a proposal to the union yet.

So while the mechanics of a potential international draft are subject to change, with a range of options for where it could go, highlights from one recent framework discussed include:

  • The draft would be 15 rounds
  • Each pick would have a hard slot
  • Teams could trade picks
  • Nondrafted players could sign for up to $50,000
  • The signing age would remain 16 and cover the same countries currently under the international system

Under one plan MLB discussed last week, the international draft would be 15 rounds. That’s an increase from a previous idea MLB discussed last month that would have been a six-round draft, so the exact number of rounds would probably be flexible.

Each of those 450 picks in a 15-round draft would have hard slots. Both the aggregate spending numbers and the specific slot values are still to be determined, and those amounts are crucial to the system. But under the hard-slotting system MLB is considering, if a player is drafted at No. 10 overall and the slot value for that pick is $2 million, the player would receive $2 million.

Nondrafted players could sign for up to $50,000, though what that exact number would be is probably also flexible. The 450th highest bonus for an international signing last year was $50,000, so the amount might depend on the number of rounds in the draft. Under the current international free agent system, signings of up to $10,000 are exempt from a team’s bonus pool.

During the last CBA negotiation, MLB excluded the trainers who represent Latin American players from the process. MLB’s approach led to protests against MLB showcases and galvanized players on 40-man rosters to speak out against an international draft, nearly derailing the entire CBA.

This time, MLB is working through the draft concept with trainers in the league’s Trainer Partnership Program to solicit their feedback to incorporate into a new signing system. While trainers were largely opposed to an international draft before, many of them now are more receptive to the idea, with bonus pools already hard capped since 2017 and the extreme acceleration of early commitments that many trainers and scouts want to see slow down.

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