The concept of an international draft has become a big one in the collective bargaining talks between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, with the league reportedly trying to get a global entry system in place, in exchange for eliminating draft pick compensation for free agency.
The idea of a worldwide draft has some merit in that it’s wrong to have different standards for how players get into major league organizations based on where they were born. Unfortunately, the proposed solution to that discrepancy is assigning the rights of international players to teams without giving them any say in the matter, rather than letting American kids be free agents in a sport where draft position means less than any other and the real name of the game is scouting and development.
Even more unfortunate is that an international draft isn’t something that’s wanted internationally. San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr., who was born in the Dominican Republic, said such a move would “kill baseball in [the] D.R.”.
That seems a little far-fetched, doesn’t it? Putting in a draft will take away the opportunity for kids to get a big bonus that can be their ticket to a better life, and as a result those kids will move away from baseball in a baseball-crazed country?
Well, the baseball draft came to America in 1965, and while there a lot of other reasons contributing to the national pastime’s decline, a lot of young athletes have wound up deciding to do something else.
The Dominican might not have a cornucopia of other sports to choose from now, but that’s now, when baseball is dominant. With an international draft, what need would teams have to run their academies in the country? Would MLB create a centralized academy for teenagers, as it would no longer make sense for teams to put resources toward developing talent that has a low chance of winding up in their organization? What happens when youth baseball there declines from having that lesser investment? How does this do anything to limit exploitation of players, who still will be trying to get scouts’ eyes on them to be drafted, but won’t be able to bring in as much money on a signing bonus?
It would help if there was some reform to the draft, which in addition to limiting the market for young American talent, is ludicrously tilted in teams’ favor when it comes to negotiating. Not only do teams have exclusive rights to sign the players that they draft, but as we saw last year with Kumar Rocker and the Mets, if a player doesn’t sign, the team gets a compensatory draft pick in the same spot the next year, and the player goes back into the draft.
That makes at least some sense when it comes to high schoolers or college juniors, who can make the decision to stay in school rather than sign a pro contract. But if you get drafted by a major league team, and go a whole year without collecting a paycheck from a major league team when you should’ve been able to, you ought to be able to get free agency rather than having to go through the whole experience again.
The beneficiaries of an international draft would be teams saving money on their international operations, teams saving money on their bonuses for international players, and teams that don’t invest as much globally now being able to get young, cheap talent from all over the world with no groundwork.
It’s also a fairly easy chip for the players, because it involves players who aren’t in the union, and many who never will be. Presumably, there also would be more money available for the players, but if you think that teams are going to put their savings from international prospecting into their major league payrolls, rather than into a new yacht for the team owner, you haven’t been following the rest of the labor negotiations. The only way that money will get into players’ hands is through collective bargaining that requires it.
Otherwise, this is just another idea from MLB that sounds good, but doesn’t pass the smell test, and continues to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of fans everywhere.