International Draft & Cleaning Up the Early Signing Mess

So the possibility of an international draft has been debated for probably 10 years now. It has been the subject of past and present CBA negotiations. The latest proposal from the owners presented to the union 10 days ago again contained a proposal to implement such a draft.

When the owners pushed for a draft in the last round of negotiations with the players back in 2016, the end result instead was a hard cap involving the international signing bonus pools. According to a recent article in The Athletic, that has led to an even greater problem with regards to the early signing of Dominican players as well as the creation of other problems.

For those unaware, the MLB rule is a foreign player CANNOT be signed until they turn 16 (and can only start playing once they turn 17). It’s been known for a long time that clubs ignored the rule and MLB in turn simply winks at these violations. But The Athletic article (co-authored by Rob Manfred’s favorite writer Ken Rosenthal) outlines a system ever more corrupt and threatening to spiral out of control.

Some of the revelations in the article (none of which is necessarily new but shows an exacerbation of previous scummy practices that again violate MLB rules):

  • A scheme in which some trainers pay MLB team scouts under the table is more prevalent and widespread than in the past.

  • Since 2017 when the hard caps were actually implemented, the top Dominican players are now being signed by age 14 with some kids signed as early as age 12.

  • Given the age at which MLB teams are now signing players, the kids are now being recruited by buscones (Dominican trainers) at age 10 or 11 and go to play and live at the trainers’ academies at that age. Given the years and years they will stay at those academies, that’s why the buscones often pocket 50% of the signing bonus the player receives from his MLB team upon signing.

  • There’s a belief among many (both trainers and MLB team personnel) that MLB is looking the other way and not enforcing it’s own rules because they want everything so screwed up so that their proposal of an international draft looks like a reasonable solution to all parties including the union.

  • The union’s (not unreasonable) response to date: just enforce the fucking rules that already exist.

  • Other problems mentioned in the article: the use of PEDs by players trying to get signed particularly if they are approaching age 16, teams increasingly reneging on signing bonuses because they over-committed and would otherwise exceed the hard cap.

The accompanying article (which the tweet summarizes) contains specifics as to what MLB has proposed to the union as regards to the specifics of an international draft. The rotating draft order is a bit of a puzzle to me. I don’t oppose it but I’m not sure why they wouldn’t skew it toward teams with the worst records or low revenue clubs just like the current domestic draft does if the owners are truly concerned about competitive balance like they claim they are (see footnote). Overall I think the way they’ve structured it is not too bad at least based on what we know right now.

Footnote: there would be competitive balance picks though so there is at least a nod in the direction of helping weaker teams.

It’s an article so take it with a slight grain of salt as being too pro-ownership but it did have this to say…

When details about the Draft proposal became public in recent days – including the guarantee of more money in a system that would support the same number of signings – a wave of trainers from the various academies in the baseball hotbeds of Venezuela and the Dominican Republic voiced their support of the idea because of how frustrated they have become with the current environment.

This is big news IF a lot of the trainers have come on board with the draft idea. Could be a tipping point has finally been reached.

Didn’t somebody make the conjecture here that the teams were making shit crazy on the international scene in part so that the draft would make sense?

See the first post in this thread. The trainers were among the most skeptical about what MLB has done (or not done) in the past. If the article is true, the owners and MLB may have finally worn down the most intransigent (and hostile) group when it came to the idea of an international draft. So if the proposal gets approved you can argue the MLB strategy of making as big a fucking mess as possible to the detriment of a bunch of teenagers and their families worked.

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The can was kicked down the road (at least for a few months anyway)…

There was some discussion about this in the other thread but this is a more relevant one. More details have come out as reported by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich:

  • Deadline for agreement is July 25
  • Both sides have accepted a 20 round draft
  • First round (presumably televised) would be held either in Miami or the DR
  • MLBPA wants the draft to start in 2023 but MLB oddly pushing for 2024
  • Although there are differences in their proposals both sides agree that signees will receive additional monies to go towards education
  • Both sides are agreeable to what appears to be the equivalent to the MLB Draft League which would be set up in both the DR and Venezuela
  • MLBPA wants a foundation set up that MLB would pay $10MM in to each year. It’s hard to decipher exactly what the money would be used for.
  • MLB wants $20K for undrafted players who get signed while MLBPA says $40K
  • MLB wants a $181MM bonus pool to go towards the 600 drafted players each year in a hard slot system. MLBPA wants $260MM but that’s essentially a floor. Teams can pay more but would be subjected to tax and penalties. Teams going 20% over would pay a 75% tax. 20% to 30% over results in a 75% tax plus loss of next year’s 1st round pick. 30% to 40% over is a 100% tax plus loss of next year’s 1st and 2nd round picks. Over 40% is 100% tax plus loss of 1st round picks in the next 2 drafts.

The MLB teams already have agreements in place for their 2023 guys. That is the only reason I can think of why they would want to wait.


It sounds like they can reach an agreement. The structure is close, and they’ll both move on the money.

I assume MLB wants 2024 implementation so the teams can keep the deals they already have in place with ‘23 guys. Eliminating the under-the-table deals with these kids is the one true benefit of an international draft—I think MLBPA’s proposal here is worse in that respect, since their draft structure gives teams more wiggle room to continue the practice.

(Duman beat me to this point)

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That certainly crossed my mind as well and perhaps is in fact the reason. But on the other hand we also know that many deals for 2024 are also already in place so one way or another deals are going to get blown up.

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Barring a huge reversal, another international draft proposal dies and the mess continues…

Officially dead.

If anyone wants to get rich, go buy a lottery ticket and I’ll be happy to bet against you winning.

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