MLB Pushes International Signing Period Start Back To Jan. 15

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When it comes to baseball’s calendar, July 2 is now Jan. 15.

The start of the international signing period has been officially moved back by more than six months, MLB informed Baseball America on Monday. Instead of being eligible to sign on July 2, 2020, the top international players will now have to wait until Jan. 15, 2021 to sign professional contracts.

The move was expected ever since the March agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association gave MLB the right to shift the start international signing period from July 2 to as late as Jan. 15.

MLB’s reasons for delaying the start of the signing period are largely financial. The MLBPA agreed to allow teams to defer all but $100,000 of draft signing bonuses into 2021 and 2022, but international amateurs signing bonuses were not automatically deferred in that March agreement.

With MLB teams across baseball trying to save on cash flow, pushing the signing period to next January will keep teams issuing from multi-million dollar checks this summer, pushing those expenses into 2021 instead.

The players who are eligible to sign (anyone who turns 16 by Aug. 31 this year) will not change, even though the signing period will now extend to Dec. 15, 2021 at 5 pm ET. Technically no official decision has been made on future signing periods, but MLB expects to delay the start of the 2021-22 signing period until Jan. 15, 2022. Logically, extending the 2020-21 signing period through almost the entirety of the 2021 year will necessitate pushing back the start of the 2021-2022 signing period, which is set to begin on July 2, 2021.

The current 2019-20 international signing period, which was set to expire today, has been extended through Oct. 15, 2020 at 5 pm ET. However, teams are still not allowed to sign international players due to the current league-wide transactions freeze. After Oct. 15, there will be a closed period with no signings allowed until new signing period opens on Jan. 15, 2021.

More still has to be resolved. At the time of the March 26 MLB/MLBPA agreement, MLBPA officials indicated that for purposes of Rule 5 eligibility, a delayed start to the signing period would not push back the time international signees are first eligible for the Rule 5 draft or have to be added to the 40-man roster. (Players who sign before the Dominican Summer League season ends have that first season count toward Rule 5 eligibility, even though they do not play their first official games until the next season). MLB officials said that this issue has yet to be resolved.

Major League Baseball also has set the bonus pools for the upcoming signing period.


Oct. 15, 2020 (5 pm ET): 2019-2020 international signing period ends (previously June 15)

Oct. 15, 2020 (5 pm ET) – Jan. 15, 2021 (9 am ET): Closed period, no international signings permitted

Jan. 15, 2021 (5 pm ET)-Dec. 15, 2021: 2020-21 international signing period (previously July 2, 2020-June 15, 2021).

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