During the ongoing negotiations to forge a new collective bargaining agreement and bring an end to the owner-implemented lockout, MLB has prioritized the establishment of an international draft. It's not certain such a draft will happen, but the specifics of the league's preferred structure to such a draft have emerged.
MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince reports on the details of how the league and team owners envision an international draft. To wit:
- International players – i.e., those outside of the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico – would be eligible for the draft starting at age 16.
- The draft would span 20 rounds.
- Each draft slot would have an assigned signing bonus figure. The top overall pick would receive a signing bonus of $5.25 million.
- The deadline to sign would be three weeks after the completion of the draft.
- Teams could sign an unlimited number of undrafted international prospects.
- Teams would be permitted to trade international draft picks.
- Teams could earn additional picks by drafting and signing players from countries outside the typical international pipeline.
As for how the draft order will be determined each year, it's hardly conventional. Castrovince writes:
Each club would be randomly assigned to a group of six clubs, and each group would then rotate through Draft order over a five-year period. So the Draft order would not be tied to team record. Rather, clubs would have equal access to international talent over the life of the CBA.
Castrovince also adds that MLB arrived at this proposed structure by consulting with "clubs, trainers, former players and government officials."
In the past teams signed international prospects as free agents and could do so largely without restrictions. Then, as part of the 2012-16 CBA, teams were given an international bonus pool that functioned as a soft cap. Since that didn't really tamp down on spending, MLB adopted a hard cap for international spending in the 2017-21 CBA, with total bonus pools in the $4 million to $6 million range each year.
Part of MLB's rationale for proposing an international draft is to cut down on abuses within the system. However, as our own Mike Axisa wrote, that can be accomplished by enforcing the current rules rather than implementing a draft, which is likely just a means to reduce costs for teams.