Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal reported earlier today that Major League Baseball and the Players Association are pushing hard to create a world wide draft before June 1st of this year.
This has been coming for the past few years. Baseball has talked about it for a while, but when they announced that starting in 2012 they were going to begin limiting the amount of money teams could spend internationally, with limits for entire teams under what teams had paid individual players the year before, the writing was on the wall that baseball was making the move toward a world wide draft.
Last season, all teams were capped with an international limit of $2.9M to sign players on the international market (under the age of 23). The plan for this year is that depending on your record last year, your cap will be staggered and some teams will have roughly $1.3M to sign players for the entire international signing season.
ESPN.com’s TJ Quinn wrote an article a year ago about the concern over the new rules in place on the international market. There are a lot of very good points from the article, but one that really is noteworthy to where we are today is this paragraph:
MLB eventually wants to establish a worldwide draft that would “hard slot” players, meaning a player’s signing bonus would be determined by where in the draft he’s selected. The MLBPA, which would prefer all players be free agents, accepted the new rules as a compromise, figuring it was a better option than an international draft. If MLB is ever able to successfully push for a draft through collective bargaining, the union wants to make sure there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, that the policy is adjusted country by country.
It seems that in the time span of a year, the players association has changed their tune. But more interesting to me is that MLB wants the system to be a “hard slot” system. On the surface, I don’t reject that plan. Heck, I would love to see that plan put in place in the June Amateur Rule 4 First Year Player Draft as well. But, it does leave me with a bunch of questions. What is the slot money looking like compared to how guys have been paid over the last five years? Is this move being made to “level the playing field” when it comes to talent acquisition or is it being made so the owners can save a million or two a year while hurting the players where that money can truly make a difference? Will the age limit for the international draft be moved to 18, or will the rules remain the same as the international signing period?
One last point from the previously mentioned ESPN.com article, one that I find incredibly interesting is this:
But another alternative Jacobo says trainers and players will consider is signing with Japanese clubs, which also have academies in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. For the average Dominican player facing equal offers, it might be better to go to the United States, but for the top-end prospects, a $5 million offer from a Japanese club could be more than enough to lure a player who can’t make more than $2.9 million in this hemisphere.
That is certainly interesting that it was brought up. We clearly haven’t seen it happen yet, but we have also only been in this model for one year at this point. If MLB again cuts into the bonus money available to these players, I think it is a real possibility that we could see top prospects head to Japan instead of signing with MLB teams and that would be a real shame. Japan has limits on the number of foreign players that are allowed to be on their rosters, so if this option ever is used, it will only be for the premiere level guys rather than a whole bunch of players. Still, losing out on talent is bad for the business of baseball.
What are your thoughts? Do you have any concerns?