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MLB willing to give up “significant concessions” to get a worldwide draft

Mar 19, 2013, 6:36 AM EDT

Buster Olney adds some info to the news we heard yesterday about the league and the union’s negotiations to institute an international draft:

I still don’t get this. Teams simply don’t spend that much on international free agent signings. They do spend a lot in arbitration and all teams have lots of players making the minimum or thereabouts. It doesn’t seem like giving away things like that make financial sense when compared to the relative small dollars given to guys on the international market.

Meanwhile, the players have, historically, liked to see more guys subject to the draft and have always been willing to negotiate away the rights of others like this. So why do they need big giveaways? I know why they’d want them, but MLB can’t think it has to give away that much, can it?

Can someone tell me what’s going on here? Why, apart from being anti-free agency, politically speaking, are the owners so focused on this? Why, apart from being pro-draft for others, politically speaking, are the players so into it too?

  1. Innocent Bystander - Mar 19, 2013 at 7:20 AM

    It’s the continued “let’s make everything fair” in our country. If American players have to go through the draft then everyone does. Think of it the opposite way…if the international draft is bad, why is the regular draft OK? You wouldn’t ditch it, would you? We would be back to the Cardinals of the Branch Rickey era.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:00 AM

      I would ditch the regular draft. Yes. Baseball did pretty well without it until the 1960s.

      • sportsland33 - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:11 AM

        Which was well before local TV dollars completely unleveled the playing field.

      • paperlions - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:16 AM

        I agree. The draft is completely unnecessary. MLB could cap annual spending on amateur talent they way they do now (allowing worse teams to spend more money, giving them the ability to sign better or more prospects), and just let teams sign who they want/can….at the same time this would allow players to choose which team (among those that are interested) they want to work for….just like every other profession in the world.

      • mianfr - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:21 AM

        Not really every profession… At the end of the day, they’re really working for Major League Baseball, just in their Seattle or Milwaukee offices, and sometimes they get transferred to the Los Angeles or Kansas City offices.

        This kind of thing happens pretty frequently among big businesses.

      • paperlions - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:23 AM

        Except in every other profession an employee can refuse a transfer and just find a job with another company. MLB is a cartel, not a company.

      • jm91rs - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:27 AM

        And they did pretty well before free agency. So lets ditch the draft and free agency. Whoever your team has now you’re stuck with.

        Stupid ideas. TV dollars have completely shifted this sport, and the draft allows teams without big budgets to win if they can scout well.

      • paperlions - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:31 AM

        Congrats on the first strawman of the day, and a nice one, too.

      • js20011041 - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:48 AM

        And large sums of those TV dollars get shifted to teams in smaller markets. There isn’t a team in baseball that isn’t profitable. Not one. These teams can afford to spend the money it takes to sign these players. Some of them just don’t want to.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Mar 19, 2013 at 9:06 AM

        Baseball did far better AFTER the introduction of the draft.

        You may still have a hardcore set of cellar dweller teams now, but it is nothing compared to the days when the top teams could pluck the top prospects at will. You think Stephen Strasburg would have gone to the Nat’s 5 years ago without a draft? And if the answer is no, why would baseball be better in that system?

  2. mrfloydpink - Mar 19, 2013 at 7:25 AM

    Perhaps you are giving the owners too much credit in terms of rational thought? I mean, any book about the Marvin Miller years (for example) shows that they generally don’t have a great grasp of economic principles. I can completely see the owners concluding that draft = lower costs for players, and not thinking it through.

    I mean, these are the same people who give their minor league players–their most valuable assets in terms of dollars per unit of production–dinky per diems, compelling them to subsist on fast food. Who on Earth does not see that providing them better quality food can only pay off in the long run?

  3. Chris Fiorentino - Mar 19, 2013 at 7:37 AM

    Just spitballing here, but maybe it’s as simple as this…

    The more guys who are in the available pool for the draft the more valuable draft picks become. The more valuable the draft picks become, the less likely owners are going to be to sign big free agents…i.e. Kyle Lohse. Imagine how much free agency may get stiffled for guys like Lohse and Bourne when International players are in the draft because those picks get even more valuable when you add in the best of the best from around the world.

    • js20011041 - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:37 AM

      I thought this was going to be a separate draft, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they at least attempt to combine both the amature draft and an international draft into one. That would save them some money, but like the slotting system in the amature draft, we’re talking about relatively small sums of money. Teams saved maybe, at most, a couple of million dollars each by going to the slotting system for the draft. I can’t imagine they’d save much more money by going to an international draft. That’s the idiocy in all of this. They’re saving less money annually than they spend on a single mediocre veteran player. The owners are not just greedy, they’re fucking stupid.

  4. philliesblow - Mar 19, 2013 at 7:44 AM

    Could instituting an international draft be the first step toward including Latin American and Asian based leagues in an extended MLB minor league system? Teams have paid some enormous posting fees for the right to sign players from Japanese teams. If the MLB teams held the players rights already through a draft, this could level the playing field for small market teams that can’t afford the posting fees.

  5. mypoohbear2013 - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:07 AM

    Maybe know the playing field will be a little bit more even. Instead of the Yankees, Dodgers, or Red Sox outbidding everybody for the best international talent

    • ThisIsBaseball - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:15 AM

      Except the Rangers signed Darvish, the Reds signed Chapman, and the Athletics signed Cespedes. Those are the last top international free agents I can think of.

      • sportsland33 - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:49 AM

        Feel free to Google Yasel Puig, Jorge Soler, Ryu Hyun Jin, etc..

    • jm91rs - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:30 AM

      And if any one of those guys didn’t pan out as well as they have, the teams would have been crippled. The Reds paying 30M for a pitcher from Cuba was completely unexpected, and if he weren’t selling jerseys and tickets and shutting the door on games, Reds ownership would be telling fans “sorry we can’t bring so and so in, we’re still making up for that bad Chapman signing”. Teams like the Yankees can afford it if a guy doesn’t pan out, small market teams either stay out of the bidding or take a big gamble that could cost them a year or two of competitiveness.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:44 AM

      Instead of the Yankees, Dodgers, or Red Sox outbidding everybody for the best international talent

      The last two “big” international free agent signings by the Yankees were Jose Contreras and Kei Igawa. One spent only 71.2IP of his 666.2 career IP in the majors, and the other was traded away two years after his signing. The last big FA signing by the Sox was a pitcher who can’t even make the ML roster of a team that finished 68-94 last year.

      The Dodgers big FA splash in international waters was Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yasiel Puig. Keith Law had this to say about the two of them:

      Based on this look, and a scout’s comment to me on Wednesday that Ryu was exactly the same guy in his previous outing, I don’t see more than a fringy fourth starter here. Lefties with 45 fastballs can succeed in the majors if they have outstanding command and control, which Ryu didn’t show, and if they’ve got a knockout breaking ball to neutralize lefties, which Ryu didn’t have in this outing. The changeup is legit, good enough that he’ll miss some bats, but I worry about him being homer-prone or even just too contact-prone on the other stuff, especially the fastball, especially once the league gets a few looks at his delivery.

      Yasiel Puig (Arizona) Is it because you think i’m 36? You know Cuba has a great medical system and health records are much more reliable than in the other Caribbean countries. You just hate admitting you’re wrong.

      Klaw (12:33 PM) No, that’s not it at all – in fact, I have specifically stated that I won’t consider unfounded age speculation, mine or my own, when ranking a player. It would be incredibly unfair to the player and to the readers. It’s because I don’t see a huge ceiling – I see an average regular, maybe an above-average one, but in an outfield corner, with a body that isn’t likely to mature well. Again, I’m wrong all the time. If I couldn’t admit that, I’d need a new line of work.

      So we’ve got one team that banished a pitcher to the minors after giving him a $32M contract, that same team traded it’s big international signing after two years to the White Sox, a pitcher who can’t make the roster of one of the worst teams in the AL, a “fringy” 4th starter and a corner OF whose body won’t mature well.

      Tell me again why you don’t want these teams bidding on these players? Especially when they didn’t win contracts for the good ones, like Darvish or Chapman for example?

      • escapingexile - Mar 19, 2013 at 10:01 AM

        Puig projects as an average outfielder? That’s laughable. Did he base that off of his winter ball performance? The guy is a monster. He’s dominated at every stop he has made so far… including spring training this year. This is after the kid took a year off from playing ball. I’d take an organization full of average prospects such as that.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 19, 2013 at 10:52 AM

        No, he based that off seeing him in March during Spring Training.

      • escapingexile - Mar 19, 2013 at 6:17 PM

        Yeah… Because that .489 average he is sporting is merely “average”.

  6. sportsland33 - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:10 AM

    Any data to back up your statement that teams spend more on minimum players and would lose more by giving up arbitration service time versus eliminating international spending? It sounds logical and correct, but there is no reason to believe it without actual numbers. If it is closer than you think then it makes sense for MLB to give up a little bit of money in order to control every little aspect of everything.

    • jwbiii - Mar 19, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      Here are the raw numbers.

      Year Avg Incr
      Pre 2 .496
      Pre 3 .497 0%
      Arb 1 1.7 242%
      Arb 2 2.7 59%
      Arb 3 3.9 44%
      Arb 4 5.0 28%

      The arbitration averages use a three year average and don’t count multi-year deals. The percentage increases have stayed stable over the last few years, within a few percentage points, as the minimum salary has increased. This means all of the arbitration average salaries have increased along with the minimum salary. So significantly raising the minimum salary significantly raises the entire arbitration salary structure. Also, you can see why teams wish to avoid Super 2 players: It saves them $4.5M.

  7. Charles Gates - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    Bonus slotting.

  8. paperlions - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    This seems like it would dramatically increase team spending. Now, you have to scout everywhere, don’t you? There are plenty of teams that don’t do any scouting in Asia, and there are teams that do almost none in Latin America, wouldn’t this require teams to spend more money just to assemble their draft boards? Plus, if teams spend a high pick on an international player, there is nothing to compel that player to sign a MLB contract when he can just stay home and play pro ball there for a few years….seems like these would be risky picks.

    • js20011041 - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:27 AM

      Wouldn’t this require some sort of agreement with other baseball leagues, such as those in Japan and Korea? I thought we couldn’t just poach players from those countries. Aside from that, I agree with Craig. I don’t see this as a major money saver. The majority of international signings have always gotten small amounts of money. Sure, this helps those teams that don’t want to have to spend on the big talent, but why on earth does MLB think its a good idea to placate those teams that don’t want to actually compete?

      • paperlions - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:28 AM

        Those are professional players. The draft is only for amateur players.

      • js20011041 - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:43 AM

        I understand that, but I can’t imagine those leagues would be too thrilled about us poaching their best amature talent. I can’t see MLB doing this without coming to some kind of a financial agreement with those leagues. Or they could limit an international draft to countries that don’t have proffessional baseball.

      • paperlions - Mar 19, 2013 at 9:47 AM

        MLB wouldn’t be….those players could be drafted in the draft from those leagues as well, and players would be free to choose which league they would enter. Which is already true. An 18 yr old Japanese kid can sign as a FA with a MLB team without playing in the NPB, once he enters into a contract with an NPB team, he cannot sign with an MLB team because of the agreement between the leagues….before that, he isn’t beholden to anyone.

  9. jm91rs - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    Doesn’t it seem unlikely that some of the big name foreigners (Chapman for example) would even be interested in being drafted and subject to the rules of minor leaguers? The guy left his family behind to make guaranteed millions. Even the best MLB draft deals aren’t near what the international free agents can get. Would it be worth leaving everyone you know behind for a lot less money?

    • sportsland33 - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:41 AM

      For a guy like Chapman, “a lot less money” would still be several million dollars to leave Cuba, so most likely yes, he would still do it. There would definitely be some trickle down effect though, where some lower tier players decide it isn’t worth it I would imagine.

    • paperlions - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:42 AM

      Again, the draft is only for amateur players. Players under professional contracts in other leagues would not be subject to the draft.

  10. fordman84 - Mar 19, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    My guess is the owners are tired of the posting process. Having to pony up millions just to sit down at a table?

    • paperlions - Mar 19, 2013 at 9:49 AM

      This would have no effect on the posting process because those are professional players under contract in the NPB. The draft is only for amateur players.

  11. Ben - Mar 19, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    This is so weird. It can’t be (entirely) about saving money at this point–reducing the amount of service time until arbitration might completely wipe out the money you’d save, especially if salaries keep accelerating.

  12. manchestermiracle - Mar 19, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    “I still don’t get this.” CC

    “…(W)hen you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” Sherlock Holmes

    There must be a reason for MLB to take this stance, something we just don’t see yet. It’s a business, you know they have their reasons. Perhaps this is a feint to take our attention away from something else. Perhaps not. I refuse to believe it is just poor judgment on its own, but then again I’ve lived through the 60s and more conspiracy theories than you can shake a stick at.

    • Cris E - Mar 19, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      I’m thinking they can pool resources and set up a smaller number of MLB academies for the kids that all teams share the fruits of. Instead of a handful of teams bidding for the buscones’ favor, the league has one place for youngsters to go, no questions about draft age or payoffs or PEDs. A homogenized stream of young talent coached to around the standard of American high school ball (plus fed and housed and educated) is a win for everyone.

      This is the converse of the situation where they kill free agency and they *don’t* set up academies, or too few. Then we get an even worse situation than Puerto Rico where the local schools weren’t able to support the number of teen ballplayers to sustain the game above age 16.

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