Two weeks after Major League Baseball suspended operations due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the league and the Players Association are nearing an agreement covering various logistical issues. Those issues include player compensation and service time calculations, as well as the 2020 edition of the amateur draft, which was scheduled to take place in June.
It appears that the draft will happen, but not in its traditional format or at its scheduled time. Rather, the draft is expected to be trimmed and moved back by about a month, according to ESPN's Kiley McDaniel. Additionally, signing bonuses would be deferred in chunks, and there would be a cap placed on the maximum signing bonus for any and all undrafted players.
Let's hit on what each of those changes entail.
Draft moved to July
No official date is known at this point, but the draft had originally been scheduled to take place from June 10 until June 12. If the month estimate is to be taken literally, then it could instead happen around mid-July, or when the All-Star Break was set to happen.
Presumably the draft will not be held at the Holland Center in Omaha, Nebraska, either. This was going to be the first time it was held in conjunction with the College World Series, but it seems more likely that MLB will be forced to change plans, and perhaps even throw things back to the days when the draft was by and large conducted as a conference call.
Reduced to 5-10 rounds
Again, the exact parameters are unclear at present, but it seems certain that the draft will not unfold in its typical 40-round marathon format. A move to 10 rounds, or even five, would change the dynamic on who gets selected. For example, players who might be viewed as hard to sign might go undrafted, as opposed to being picked in the latter rounds.
The Associated Press is reporting that the MLB players approved the shortened draft.
Altering the draft is, essentially, about saving money. With that in mind, it makes sense that incoming draftees will receive their signing bonuses in a deferred format that negates the need for teams to fork over millions upfront before a player has partaken in a professional game.
McDaniel suggested that could mean players receive 10 percent upfront, then 45 percent in each of the subsequent Julys. To illustrate how that would work, let's use last year's top pick, Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, as an example. When he signed in late July, he received an $8.10 million signing bonus. Had Rutschman reached the same deal under this altered agreement, he would've received $810,000 at the time, and then $3.65 million in July 2020 and 2021.
Caps on undrafted free-agent bonuses
One other aspect that shouldn't be overlooked is McDaniel's note that undrafted players could have their signing bonuses capped at or around $100,000. This would prevent teams with more financial might from raiding the larger-than-normal undrafted free-agent class. Of course, this mechanism also provides teams with additional leverage to wield against college seniors who are selected.