Negotiations to end the current owner-implemented lockout and forge a new collective bargaining agreement will hinge on a number of issues. One of the less commonly explored issues is the league's desire to implement an international draft.
The current Rule 4 draft -- also known variously as the MLB Draft and the amateur draft -- covers just those players from the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. An international draft would cover the vast remainder of aspiring professional baseball players across the world. Included in that pool is the Dominican Republic, which on a per-capita basis is the richest source of baseball talent in the world by a wide margin. That's another way of saying that no country will be as affected by an international draft as the Dominican Republic will.
That brings us to D.R. native and San Diego Padres superstar Fernando Tatis Jr., who had some harsh criticisms of the possibility of an international draft. Tatis spoke with Dominican news outlet El Caribe and said an international draft "is going to kill what baseball is in the Caribbean."
Fernando Tatis Jr.: "The International Draft is going to kill baseball in DR. It's going to affect us a lot, because there will be many young people who used to give them the opportunity to get a bonus and with the draft it will not be the same ”, per @ElCaribeRD. pic.twitter.com/KpUm6KEazb— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) March 9, 2022
Even more prominent than Tatis among those objecting to an international draft is Red Sox legend David Ortiz, who was recently elected to the Hall of Fame:
In a voice message sent to a group chat that has been widely shared in Dominican baseball circles, David Ortiz, perhaps the most influential baseball voice in the country, came out strongly against the international draft, according to a copy of the message obtained by ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 9, 2022
Ortiz: “The system in the Dominican is not ready to have a draft next year. The Dominican is not the U.S. You can’t snap a finger and everything lines up to operate the right way. We’ve got a new president who’s trying to improve things. We need to do this slowly.”— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 9, 2022
It remains to be seen whether an international draft emerges from the current CBA negotiations (follow live updates of the talks here), but the Players Association has in the past proved willing to barter away the rights of the non-union members -- i.e., draftees -- as part of the collective bargaining process. Given the strong international presence within the MLBPA, objections such as Tatis' are no doubt being registered. It remains to be seen whether those objections make a difference in the outcome.
MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince reported recently that MLB envisions a 20-round draft of players who are at least 16 years of age. The draft would span 20 rounds and have hard bonus slots for each draft position. The top overall pick, for instance, would receive a signing bonus of $5.25 million. Newsday's Tim Healey says MLB would not start an international draft until 2024.
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.