TORONTO — Major League Baseball is pushing for an international draft as a centerpiece of change in the next collective bargaining agreement with the players' association, according to sources familiar with the proposal.
The current agreement expires in December, and the two sides have been in negotiations.
Under the terms of MLB's initial concept, the new international draft system would start in March of 2018, with a 10-round draft held over two days. As the new structure evolved, with terms grandfathered into the process, the minimum age for draft-eligible players would be 18 years old by 2021.
Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes was not subject to an MLB draft. Rob Foldy/Getty Images
As part of baseball's proposal, MLB would operate facilities in the Dominican Republic, where international draft prospects would be invited to live to develop their skills and education before becoming eligible. This would also give MLB much greater control over a process which has often been viewed by baseball executives as a wild, wild West of player procurement.
Part of the rationale for change put forth by Major League Baseball is the concern over the corruption that has infected the current situation, with handlers for teenage players attempting to extract fees from teams — and sometimes succeeding — in return for delivering the talent. There is also concern that under the current rules, young teenagers are motivated to use performance-enhancing drugs in an attempt to draw a higher signing bonus, without any possibility of oversight or testing. The business of handlers smuggling players from Cuba and demanding recompense has also been an issue that MLB, players and teams have had to face.
Within the discussions, MLB is proposing the possibility of giving the players in the international draft signing bonuses comparable to what those players in the standard draft receive.
If the proposal is successfully negotiated, it's a change that would be embraced by a lot of small-market and mid-market teams, because there is a perception that even with revamped rules about international signings, the wealthiest teams — like the Cubs and Dodgers — have a significant advantage over their peers.