Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association reached an agreement in late March that cut the draft from 40 rounds to as few as five, added significant deferments for signing bonuses and dramatically limited what teams can spend on undrafted players.
But the MLBPA has now rejected a proposal from MLB that would have made additional changes to the 2020 draft. The rejection was first reported by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of the Athletic late Thursday night.
MLB proposed this week that the draft would have been 10 rounds, but for rounds six through 10, teams would have been limited to spending half of the normal slot amounts. Such a proposal would have cut $14,789,000 from what teams could spend on picks in those rounds, an average savings of $492,000 per club. There would have been changes to how much could be spent on undrafted players as well.
The MLBPA rejected the proposal. For now, the number of rounds of the draft remains unclear. Multiple sources say they expect the draft will be held on June 10, the earliest date it can be held. MLB has the right to move it back as far as July 20 if desired.
See also: Draft Order and Draft Slots
MLB’s proposal makes it clear that there remains a significant push from MLB owners to try to find further cost savings in the draft, and if not, to limit the draft to five rounds.
Such limits are not as popular among many MLB baseball front offices and scouting departments, where there is still plenty of hope that there can be a 10-round draft, which would nearly double the amount of drafted players, adding an additional 150 picks to a draft that would only have 160 if limited to five rounds.
If the draft is limited to five rounds, multiple teams will be forced to have extremely small draft classes — the Yankees would have only three picks, while the Astros, Braves and Red Sox each would have four.
MLB’s proposal would have created two different draft systems. For the first five rounds, teams would have operated under the rules that have been used since 2012. Each pick carries a slot amount. As long as the team signs the player they pick at that slot, the slot allotment goes into a pool of money that the team is allowed to spend. Teams can be creative with how they spend their total allotment, as long as the sum of their bonus spending does not exceed their total allotment for their picks in the five rounds (teams can spend up to 4.9 percent above the allotment without incurring draft pick penalties).
Under MLB’s proposals, that would not have been the case for the sixth through 10th rounds. Those slots would have been hard capped. No team could spend more than the slot amount for any pick in the sixth round on and any savings would not be carried over to be spent on other picks.
Under MLB’s proposal the Tigers first pick in the sixth round would have been limited to a $160,550 signing bonus while the Astros final pick in the 10th round would have been capped at $71,250.
Additionally, the proposal would have limited each team to signing no more than five undrafted players at the maximum amount of $20,000. Every other undrafted signee would have been limited to $5,000.
MLB needs the MLBPA’s assent to make such changes. Without that approval, MLB can limit the draft to five rounds or expand it to 10, but if it goes to 10, it has to do so under the existing rules. Also, without the agreement of the MLBPA, the limits on the number of $20,000 undrafted free agent signings will also not go into place.
The $20,000 limit is already a massive cut, as in previous drafts teams could spend as much as $125,000 on an unlimited number of undrafted free agents.