LAKE WORTH, Fla.—When it comes to the international market, it’s hard to tell whether the scouts or the trainers are angrier with Major League Baseball.
MLB has its Dominican national showcase scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, but scouts aren’t sure whether they might show up to find an empty field. In response to news last week that MLB is pushing for an international draft and other major reforms in the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement, the trainers who develop and represent the players have said their players won’t be going to the event in protest.
International scouts might be even more furious with the commissioner’s office lately. A common thread that unites many international scouts and the trainers who develop Latin American amateur players is their frustration and anger toward MLB’s international rules and its general treatment toward the people who sign and develop international players. That’s why several international scouts were glad to hear the trainers and players were planning to protest MLB’s Dominican showcase.
“I support them,” one international director said. “This is their livelihood. We know it’s not a protest against us. So I tip my hat to those guys. They have to take their stance at some point. I just wish MLB would listen to them, listen to us or just get a clue about what they’re doing.”
Some scouts expressed disappointment at the protest, since the MLB Dominican national showcase is a big event and they had already made travel plans, but even those scouts said they understood and respected the stance the trainers and players are taking.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” said another international scout. “I like it. In a market where there’s a lot of competition and tension, I like that they have a unified front. They’re being a part of history, something that hasn’t been done before. We might look back and say, ‘Remember back in 2016 when the trainers bonded together and stood up for the rights of the players?’ This might be history being made.”
On Monday morning, a group of around a dozen trainers met with MLB officials in the Dominican Republic. MLB’s contingent included vice president of baseball operations Kim Ng, vice president and special counsel Jorge Perez-Diaz, manager of international talent development Joel Araujo and director of Dominican operations Rafael Perez.
MLB confirmed that they want to implement an international draft, raise the signing age and have their own academies, as ESPN’s Buster Olney reported last week. MLB officials said they couldn’t provide any more specifics about the draft proposal and said that the negotiations being done went beyond their level of involvement.
MLB decided it will still hold the showcase, while the trainers said their players still won’t be participating in protest, though it’s possible that some players might still show up.
Protest Against MLB, Not Scouts
The protest is only for events run by MLB. Trainers are still showing players to scouts who visit their fields, sending them to team academies (once they turn 16 and are allowed to be there) and putting them in games through various trainer-organized leagues. Their frustration is with MLB, not with the scouts.
While the MLB Dominican national showcase is beneficial for players and teams, the protest isn’t likely to hurt players who don’t attend. The Dominican prospects invited to the MLB showcase are mostly high-profile players who don’t lack exposure. The Dominican Republic is saturated with scouts and every team has an academy there that effectively serves as its Latin American headquarters.
The Dominican Republic has leagues like the International Prospect League, Dominican Prospect League, JDB Baseball, Latin Amateur League and other programs where trainers pool their players together so scouts can see them in games. Five to 10 years ago that wasn’t the case, but today there is no lack of platforms for Dominican players to be seen. The DPL is even in south Florida right now on a four-day tournament that has drawn scouts from nearly every team, so most of those players weren’t even planning to attend the MLB showcase anyway. While the protest has angered MLB because it’s their showcase, it’s just two days where scouts won’t be seeing those players who were invited to the event.
And many of those scouts share the trainers’ frustration with MLB. Their jobs are different, but the scouts have more in common with the trainers than they do with the decision-makers in the commissioner’s office. The scouts and the trainers are the ones who work on the ground with players in Latin America every day, not the people sitting down at the CBA negotiating table. MLB is right that the international signing system needs reform, but they are the ones who created the system. Yet both international scouts and the trainers shake their heads that MLB wants to dictate their future without including them in the discussion about how to improve the system.
“I’m kind of numb to it,” said a third international scout. “At some point, dysfunction just becomes what you expect.”