Posted on October 23, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
When the current collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the Players Association expires on December 1, one amendment MLB would like to include on the next CBA is an international draft, so that international prospects can go through a similar process as domestic prospects. However, instituting an international draft may not be so easy, as the idea has already been met with opposition.
According to Baseball America, trainers who represent Latin American players are contemplating the idea of not bringing their players to an MLB showcase this week in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela in protest of a possible international draft. The top players in Latin America who will be available during the next international signing period are scheduled to work out in front of MLB executives and scouts at the showcase, making it a major event with regard to franchises acquiring amateur talent.
“No one will take their players to the event next week,” one prominent Dominican trainer told Baseball America. “There is a total boycott of all MLB events.”
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A boycott of this event would add a certain level of chaos to the international signing process, as MLB teams would be denied the chance to see a significant number of prospects. However, trainers who work with Latin American prospects have little other recourse with regard to protesting MLB’s desire to institute a draft for international prospects.
Under the current system, international players are able to sign with any team that shows interest in them. Each team has a signing pool based on their record the previous year, although teams can go over that signing pool if they are willing to pay a luxury tax. Few teams are deterred by having to pay the luxury tax, which means that it’s not unusual for signing bonuses given to international players to be far above those given to domestic prospects who are selected in the MLB Draft.
Obviously, trainers in Latin American nations don’t want their players, most of whom are teenagers, to lose the opportunity to sign contracts with major league clubs that come with large signing bonuses. Trainers in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic have not made a decision on whether they will follow through with a boycott, but the fact that they’ve had conversations about it indicate that they are serious and that a boycott is a distinct possibility.
From MLB’s perspective, an international draft would create more structure when it comes to international players. Right now, the process can best be described as a free-for-all, whereas a draft would make it easier to control signing bonuses and distribute talent evenly amongst MLB teams. MLB also has a desire to run facilities in Latin America to better monitor players. Ultimately, MLB would like to institute a 10-round draft beginning in 2018, with the age minimum for international players increasing from 16 to 18 by 2021.
What will happen at this week’s showcase remains to be seen, but there’s little doubt that MLB is going to push for an international draft during CBA negotiations. Whether the trainers in Latin America choose to boycott the showcase or not, an international draft is a very real possibility and an issue to keep an eye on once the current CBA expires in December.