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Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed to a deal on the shortened 2020 season Thursday evening, according to both Jeff Passan with ESPN and Ken Rosenthal with The Athletic.
As part of the deal, there were also new details about the state of the 2020 draft, with MLB gaining the right to shorten the 2020 draft to five rounds, though that could be “increased at MLB’s discretion” per Rosenthal. MLB has yet to decide on a date for the draft, but Rosenthal writes it will not be later than July.
Passan also reports international signing day, typically July 2, could be delayed as late as January 2021.
While the amateur draft and the international market remain the cheapest sources for big league teams to acquire talent, owners are hesitant to spend the typical amount for draft bonuses due to lost revenues from the novel coronavirus outbreak that has delayed the season.
In 2019, teams spent $316,563,984 on signing bonuses. Of that sum, $237,345,700 was paid to players selected among the top five rounds, or about 75 percent of the total bonuses.
The 2020 class is among the deeper draft classes in recent years. With a significantly shorter draft, colleges will now face a roster crunch as they face more would-be draftees returning to school and additional eligibility for certain players. The NCAA is still determining how an additional year of eligibility will be enacted. The Division I council will vote on that issue on March 30.
On top of that, teams and agents expect fewer high school players to sign this year, with fewer opportunities and less money to go around.
“What is MLB trying to do?” asked one agent. “Get as many athletes into the game as possible? What’s going to happen when you have five rounds? Kids are going to play basketball.
“For amateurs to just always be the sacrificial lamb in the draft or international draft. Like, guys, it’s one thing after another over the last decade on this, to overcompensate.”