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An international draft could be here sooner than you think. And it’s still a terrible idea.

Mar 18, 2013, 1:01 PM EDT


Eric Fisher of Sports Business Journal reports that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are negotiating to institute a worldwide draft as soon as June 1.  This in response to a provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that would impose additional restrictions on how much teams can spend on international signings.

And, as we have long maintained in these parts, an international draft is a bad idea, its actual motivations — often claimed to be a matter of competitive balance — have nothing to do with competitive balance at all and the entire MLBPA-MLB negotiation is being conducted without any input by or voice of those who will actually be affected by the draft.

International signings cost a fraction of what teams pay for free agents and, in most cases, what teams spend for bonuses in the Rule 4 draft as currently constructed. They even cost less than the baseball operations budgets of most teams. Meaning executives, coaches, scouts and coordinators’ salaries. International free agency, as currently constructed, does nothing to keep so-called poor or small market teams out of the game. To see so, one need only look at the two highest profile international signings: Aroldis Chapman and Yoenis Cespedes, who went to the Reds and A’s respectively.

This is simply about cutting a cost at the margins in a way that is easy and makes baseball teams feel good. And the MLBPA will acquiesce because some 16 year-old kid in the Dominican Republic is not in the union and, hey, if he gets a little less, thinks the 30 year-old union rep, maybe I’ll get a little more next winter.  Meanwhile, the incentives for teams looking for and developing talent on the international market are greatly diminished. Because, hey, why should the Dodgers invest money in young players when they might get signed by the Giants?

Drafts restrict the talent pool. It’s as simple as that. By imposing an international draft, baseball is saying it’s totally cool with that.  Which is nuts.

  1. 13arod - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    i know why they made this agrrement but i don’t know why they are only allowed a certain amount of money spent on guys from other places

  2. asimonetti88 - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    International draft hasn’t slowed the growth and development of international players in basketball.

    • Ben - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:17 PM

      Which is why the number of international draftees is imploding?

      • asimonetti88 - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:20 PM

        In basketball? I wouldn’t say so at all.

        Although they don’t parallel all that well I guess. In basketball there are plenty other professional leagues where players can make similar amounts of money to the US, so many international players are willing to stay at home because of that.

      • Ben - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:26 PM

        I’m not nearly as up on basketball, so I could be totally wrong, but it’s my impression that the number of international draftees over the last several years has been substantially lower than in earlier periods.

      • manchestermiracle - Mar 18, 2013 at 7:39 PM

        You’re right, Ben, but because of what asimonetti said. Using a draft pick on a player that doesn’t come to play for your team is a good way to waste a pick. You have the rights to the guy, but not his services. Many good players have opted to stay home and not come to the NBA.

    • randomdigits - Mar 19, 2013 at 7:23 PM

      Look what it did to Puerto Rico. (and no the fact they are doing well in the WBC doesn’t mean anything)

  3. Ben - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    Not only does it restrict the talent pool, but it’s a totally impracticable logistical nightmare. Can you imagine trying to coordinate a draft across that many countries? And would this draft extend to Japan too, or only the countries without enough infrastructure for MLB to strong-arm into this scheme?
    The draft and international signings are such an incredibly tiny part of the baseball economy that it’s hardly worth discussing. If you want to reign in spending, stop giving 10 year 250 million dollar contracts.

    Last part of this rant–all this goes to show that there’s a serious problem with the MLBPA. They control the entire system, but they have no vested interest in seeing that there’s any fair treatment of amateur, international free agents, or minor leaguers. They’re more than willing to see more MLB spending diverted towards pros, rather than maintaining a healthy baseball ecosystem. Pennywise, pound-foolish.

  4. js20011041 - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Of course it’s a terrible idea. Set aside the moral aspect of this in which incredibly wealthy men are conspiring to take future money away from largely impoverished young men, this is a bad move for the future of the sport. This is another short sighted move, like the implemetation of semi-hard slotting system in the draft, that is going to hurt baseball in the long run. Once there is a draft, what incentive will teams have to run baseball academies internationally? If you can’t develop and sign your own players, what incentive do you have to pour money into teaching many of these kids how to play baseball? At a time when more money is flowing into the sport than ever before, MLB is actively trying to hurt the longterm growth of the game. That’s what this move does. Whatever gain they get from the WBC, the implementation of a worldwide draft more than eliminates it. I’m a union guy, so it hurts me to say this, but the MLBPA has been actively fucking it’s current and future players since the last CBA.

    • paperlions - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:54 PM

      AH HAH! That’s it! MLB is tired of losing the WBC, what better way to eliminate competition from Latin American countries than by closing down the baseball academies that fund player development? Because that is exactly what teams will do. See, the WBC is evil.

      Joking aside, MLB has stated that they may step into the roll teams have taken on, with MLB itself running baseball academies to develop players. Now, whether or not they do that is anyone’s guess. Teams have a clear motive for investing in their academies….MLB won’t have one.

  5. davidpom50 - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    I started reading this article thinking that an international draft might be a good thing – maybe the bonuses would rise under a draft system, rather than the new limits imposed by the last CBA. After reading the whole thing, something has happened that might not have ever occurred on the internet before – I’ve let go of my probably-false assumptions and whole-heartedly changed my mind.

    • js20011041 - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:29 PM

      I think an important rule of thumb to remember is that, if it’s an idea being pushed by the owners, the goal is to increase their profits. Regardless of what they say about competitive balance or anything else, every move ever pushed by the owners, bei it the amature draft, salary cap/luxury tax, hard slotting system, or an international draft, there is never a baseball reason. It’s all about improving their bottom line.

      • manchestermiracle - Mar 18, 2013 at 7:44 PM

        Exactly. See story on Yankees suing Stub Hub.

  6. danglickman - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    It’s a good idea in theory, but as others have pointed out, in reality it would be a disaster, especially if MLB doesn’t do things like fund independent non-team-aligned academies in the DR or Venezuela (they only just recently started funding such academies in Puerto Rico to help make up for the damage the draft did there, and while early results seem promising, who the heck knows what the future might hold).

  7. pmcenroe - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    I totally understand that an international draft can have negative effects as you mentioned but (to play devil’s advocate) wont it also provide a few positives while streamlining the process? The buscones will continue to exist so talent will still be developed, but with more MLB involvement/oversight won’t more players be drafted(although with lower bonuses)? If you take the case of Miguel Sano from the Pelotero documentary, they made him jump through hoops after the fact to prove his age only to lower his bonus anyways. At least with an international draft more legitimate agents will get involved like Scott Boras(sorry I just threw up a little) and hopefully there will be less corruption such as there was with Pirates scout Rene Gayo and White Sox personnel director David Wilder

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 18, 2013 at 2:39 PM

      wont it also provide a few positives while streamlining the process

      There may be a few positives, like getting rid of the buscones*, but the negatives far outweigh the positives. Look at a country like PR, compared to the DR or Venezuela. Teams have all but abandoned PR because they can’t flex their financial muscle in that country anymore**. Teams would spend money developing baseball academies, and while the money was low, a $40K or $50K bonus to a teenager is a ton of money in some of these places. Now there’s incentive for a team to scout this talent, develop it, and see it drafted by another.

      *while the stories of them are abhorrent, many agents pull some awful stuff in the US
      **with the international signing restrictions, we’ve already seen teams cut back on their spending because of this.

      • pmcenroe - Mar 18, 2013 at 3:04 PM

        The article is behind a pay wall but would the Dominican’s, etc. be a part of the first-year player draft like the kids from Puerto Rico or are they talking about adding a separate international draft? If it’s separate I don’t think we can fairly compare the two as apples to apples but I agree if its only one draft we would see a repeat of what happened in PR.

        Assuming its a separate draft, I don’t think it will get rid of the buscones. Teams may stop running their own academies but bc there is no high school or college ball there someone has to facilitate games/development. So it seems natural for them to continue running business as usually and taking a cut of the signing bonuses. Plus if its a separate draft resulting in more players signing, I would assume we’d see buscones evolve into more legitimate businesses and run larger academies themselves.

  8. gbar22 - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    To be fair to basketball the NHL has an international draft and it works great there so why wouldn’t it work in baseball. The worse teams get the most valued prospects in the NHL and the same is done in the NBA. Isnt that the idea? Why should MLB be any different?

    • Kevin S. - Mar 18, 2013 at 2:29 PM

      Because both basketball and hockey have independent youth development apparatuses (apparati?) in countries around the world and don’t require the direct investment of North American professional teams to grow talent.

  9. albertmn - Mar 18, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    I would be in favor of the international draft, depending on how it plays out. But, I will admit that there is likely way more involved with this than I understand. The NBA or NHL would likely be the closest sports to mirror, as they have a large number of international players. International players are drafted in those sports and that seems to work fine. Of course, those sports have fewer rounds to the draft, so it might work somewhat differently, but I think there should be a way to make it work for everyone.

    In the past I always thought it was stupid that American players were stuck going through the draft, while foreign players could just go to the highest bidder and didn’t have to go through years of arbitration and wait for free agency. I am in favor of anything that levels that inequity. Why should US players get the shaft?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 18, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      In the past I always thought it was stupid that American players were stuck going through the draft, while foreign players could just go to the highest bidder and didn’t have to go through years of arbitration and wait for free agency. I am in favor of anything that levels that inequity. Why should US players get the shaft?

      I bet many people feel the exact same way. The question I want to pose is why do we want to force everyone to take the worse route (draft) and not the better one (FA)?

      • js20011041 - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:07 PM

        Exactly. People should be asking how we can make the system fairer to American kids, not how can we find a way to fuck over the international kids.

  10. nygiantstones - Mar 18, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Good to see the owners haven’t changed their mentality at all from the early 1900’s, they just found a group of people they can still impose it upon.

  11. shanabartels - Mar 18, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    We all know what happened to Puerto Rico after the MLB instituted the draft there. It’s really not an even playing field (pun sort of intended) when you compare the resources available to mainland American high school students as opposed to in Puerto Rico or anywhere else. According to articles I’ve read, high schools in PR generally don’t have their own baseball fields or baseball teams, so kids who want to participate in competitive baseball have to commute relatively long distances (and I would imagine their parents would have to cover considerable fees) just to have the experience that so many kids in the states take for granted. The New York Times quoted someone saying, “We can’t change our model to what they have in the United States. We don’t have enough space on the island for baseball fields for high schools. This island is full.”

    Now take a quick look via Google Earth or satellite view of your town. Seriously, just take five seconds and do it. When I look at my town in the suburbs of Central Jersey, it’s immediately obvious that there are a LOT of little baseball diamonds for the kids who grow up around here. There’s one at a park by my neighborhood. There’s one at another park nearby. There are baseball fields at my old middle school and high school and at some of the elementary schools in town. And this isn’t Orange County or some other hotbed that produces tons of draft-worthy kids — this is New Jersey, where if it weren’t for Mike Trout, all we’d have to brag about is, like, Jack Cust.

    To say the very least, an international draft is like comparing apples to oranges to strawberries to pineapples. Kids in Japan may have a vaguely comparable experience to American kids (I have no idea), but are we supposed to pretend that Dominican kids or Panamanian kids playing with a broomstick on a crappy empty lot using a milk carton as a glove are in any way given the same chances to succeed as American kids? That’s insane. Subjecting them to the same draft without the same infrastructure in place would make absolutely no sense.

    I recommend this article as a primer to anyone who hasn’t already read up on this subject.

  12. schlom - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    The cynic in me thinks that it’s possible that this is a way for baseball to “re-americanize” (for a lack of a better word) MLB as I think everyone agrees that instituting the draft on Puerto Rico had a disastrous effect on the talent coming from the island. It’s certainly logical to assume that the same thing will happen with a worldwide draft. However the problem with this view is that I don’t think anyone really thinks that baseball isn’t American enough – or do they?

    • js20011041 - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:09 PM

      You’re overcomplicating things. The owners don’t give two shits where the players come from. They just want them as cheap as possible.

  13. philsphilsphils - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    This is great news if you’re a phils fan. We have a terrific international scouting department but just don’t spend as much as others. With the Rule 4 slotting and now an ID that should take away a lot of advantages from the smaller markets.

    • Kevin S. - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:45 PM

      Yes, if there’s anything baseball needs it’s to crush what few advantages small-market teams have over large market teams too dumb to invest in amateur talent.

  14. philsphilsphils - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    This is great news if you’re a phils fan. We have a terrific international scouting department but just don’t spend as much as others. With the Rule 4 slotting and now an ID that should take away a lot of advantages from the smaller markets.

    • pauleee - Mar 18, 2013 at 5:42 PM

      We’d better get moving if we’re going to stay ahead of the weather.

      • manchestermiracle - Mar 18, 2013 at 7:50 PM

        How’re you doing this?

  15. hermie13 - Mar 18, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    Love this idea. While small market teams have signed some big name guys in recent years having a draft will help them out more.

  16. iamjimmyjack - Mar 19, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    Just let it be. I’m sick of unions.

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