MLB, MLBPA Can’t Agree on International Draft: Why It Matters

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Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) were unable to agree on a framework for an international draft today after failing to meet their self-imposed deadline.

The MLBPA announced its decision to reject the MLB’s last bid before the midnight EDT deadline for an agreement set forth in the March 10 lockdown agreement. Since MLB announced that this would be their final offer, the matter is now closed.

“Each of our proposals focused on protecting against the scenario all players fear most — the erosion of our game on the world stage, with international players becoming the latest victim of baseball’s prioritization of efficiency over fundamental fairness,” the union said in a statements. “The league’s responses fell far short of what players might consider a fair deal.”

So the obvious question is: Why would the average baseball fan care?

Why should baseball fans care?

The inability to reach an agreement means baseball will maintain a system of qualifying free agent offers through at least 2026.

Under this system, a team may make a qualifying post-World Series offer to a free agent who has been with the team since opening day. The contract offered is a one-year contract for the average of the top 125 deals by average annual value. The previous year’s value was 18.4 million US dollars.

If a player declines a qualifying offer and signs elsewhere, the team they are signing with will lose an amateur draft pick or two and reduce their international signing bonus pool allocation.

Players have criticized this system, arguing that their free agent market was decreasing because some teams were unwilling to sign them and forego this type of compensation.

The salary of the one-year contract is not the main concern, but players have argued that these offers are made to delay their free reign and limit their market, forcing them to play for a team that cannot or is unlikely to sign them not become a long-term business at the value they hope for.

MLB players don’t have their first free agency until they reach six years of MLB service, which is later than any other major sport. This means that players can only negotiate their first contract after six years of their professional career.

Many players feel that this only encourages the MLB franchises’ excessive control over players. They also believe that manipulating their free agency and delaying their ability to sign a long-term contract by another year will have a major impact on long-term financial stability if the player gets injured or has a bad year.

While this didn’t impact top free agents like Trea Turner and Aaron Judge, who will be free agents next year, the tier just below was hardest hit. For example, Craig Kimbrel delayed signing in 2019 until June when the draft pick allowance was no longer associated with him.

How does an international draft relate to this?

Although the players were not averse to an international draft, they had agreed that the removal of the qualifying bid would be part of the deal in order to settle on an international draft.

An amateur draft was introduced in 1965 for residents of the United States and Canada, and expanded in 1990 to residents of US territories such as Puerto Rico. MLB has pushed for a similar international amateur draft, saying part of its rationale is to combat illegal agreements before players are eligible of age — either 16 or 15 if the player turns 16 later in the signing period. That was something the athleteKen Rosenthal and Maria Torres reported in a lengthy story in January.

However, the MLBPA rejected the idea that a draft would solve these problems. As MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said, “These challenges are largely related to those who are truncating the checks. In other words, it takes individuals who engage in the corruption that we see for that corruption to take place. What I have said, and what this organization has said, is that what we are seeing internationally is less a question of the system and more a question of the people. Whether there is a draft or not, there remain issues that need to be addressed.”

The Athletic’s Evan Drellich added: “Even if an international draft would effectively reduce one problem, there are many questions about how a draft would address other issues. International amateurs often pay a large percentage of their signing bonuses to trainers and other handlers. It remains unclear how a draft would have kept more money in players’ pockets, aside from the overall increase in the pool of money available to international amateurs.”

For the time being, international interested parties can still sign with any team. While all teams receive competitive amounts of money to sign international prospects, some organizations choose to use that money on trades rather than spend it. As a result, the international free agent market isn’t always fair, and big teams still had an advantage.

However, just because an agreement has not been reached now does not mean that it will never be the case.

“There is no doubt that the dialogue can continue,” Clark said. “And the fascinating thing is that when there is no agreement on an international bill, during the negotiations we made a proposal that did not include an international bill focused on fighting corruption. …Up to this point there wasn’t that much interest in this conversation, it was just design, design, design without much focus on the other things that could otherwise be done. But in case we don’t find common ground, we’re willing to have a conversation about how to address those things.”

For more MLB reports like this international draft article, visit amNY Sports

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