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International Draft (Probably) Coming To MLB

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Is an international draft inevitable?

It’s that time again. There are only two teams left in the race now, and as we draw closer to the offseason, more focus is turning to the league’s biggest item on the docket for this winter: The CBA

The current collective bargaining agreement between the league and the MLBPA expires on December 1, 2016, at which point the two parties agree to operate under the current CBA until a new one is reached or go into a lockout. 

Although a lockout doesn’t seem imminent, there is one component of the upcoming agreement that’s causing some ripples: The idea of an international draft. 

As it stands now, only players in the United States or Canada are eligible for the MLB Draft. International players are signed in a separate process. They are eligible to be signed from the ages of 16-22, as long as they’ve played fewer than five years in an MLB-recognized professional league, and teams are restricted to a certain amount of money they can devote to international signings. That amount is dependent on a given team’s record the previous year. 

Image titleGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

However, that restriction favors big market teams, as the only penalty for spending over your allotted amount is a fine — which some teams (like the Boston Red Sox) can afford to pay, while others can’t. 

With this in mind (and because there are so few regulations regarding international signings), it makes sense that the league would want to implement an international draft that would allow them to have more control over the process. 

Per Buster Olney, tentative plans for the proposed draft include:

  • A 10-round draft held over two days starting in March 2018

  • By 2021, the minimum age of draft-eligible prospects will be 18 (instead of the current arrangement, in which 16- and 17-year-olds are eligible to be signed)

  • MLB will open facilities in the Dominican Republic, where potential prospects could live and train

From a league standpoint, the proposed international draft is much preferable to the free-for-all that exists currently. Not only do big market teams hold an advantage over the rest of the field, the potential of corruption is extremely high. Additionally, prospects are at risk for using PEDs, as there’s plenty of incentive to do so.

Having a draft and gaining some control over these factors would be beneficial for the league overall, and most teams are likely to be in favor of it as well. Teams who do have the money to spend on international signings (like the aforementioned Red Sox or the Los Angeles Dodgers) may not be fans of the idea of an international draft, but the fact is that it would level the playing field. 

The MLBPA is also likely to accept some form of an international draft, even if the two parties initially run into issues with the first proposal. If nothing else, the MLBPA could use their acceptance of the international draft as a bargaining chip in other negotiations regarding the CBA.

Where the real problem may be is with the international free agents themselves, as seen in the tweet above. Signing as a free agent under the current system is far more lucrative than it would be to sign as a draft prospect. There’s also something to be said for foreign leagues wanting to keep their own local talent rather than having their top young players drafted before they can produce for them. Of course, if MLB does implement an international draft, it doesn’t seem likely that any other leagues have the ability to prevent them from doing so.

It’s looking like an international draft is right around the corner, and it’s about time. There’s no reason that international signings should be the unregulated process it currently is, and this CBA is the perfect opportunity to rectify the matter. 

The terms of the CBA are no doubt still being hammered out — but you can be sure that an international draft will be factor heavily in the negotiations. 

Edited by Emily Berman, Coleman Gray.

SQuiz
The current collective bargaining agreement between the league and MLBPA expires after this season. When did the current CBA go into effect?
Created 10/27/16
  1. 2009
  2. 2010
  3. 2011
  4. 2012

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