MLBPA rejects MLB’s proposal for international draft, leaving qualified bid system in place

Major League Baseball Players Association officially rejected MLB’s latest proposal for an international draft on Monday, the deadline for both sides to reach agreement on a long-standing issue with significant ripple effects. The absence of a draft means that the eligible bid regime and international signature period will remain the same.

The two sides exchanged a total of four proposals this month, including two last weekend, and have been consistently far apart on how much money will be guaranteed to future international amateur players.

The gap did not approach $69 million.

MLB made what was presented as a final bid on Sunday, during which it increased the amount of money that will go to the 600 players selected in the inaugural 2024 draft to $191 million, an increase of $10 million. However, the MLBPA had previously submitted a $260 million proposal, believing that the critical discrepancy between the international draft and the domestic draft remained too great under the MLB plan. The MLBPA, also unhappy with several other elements of the MLB proposal, sent the final offer to the players’ leadership on Sunday and the group rejected it without a response, according to union officials. No official vote was taken.

At the end of a lengthy statement, the MLBPA wrote: “In essence, each of our proposals has focused on protecting against the scenario that all players fear most — the erosion of our game on the global stage, with international players becoming the last victim in prioritizing baseball for efficiency over the Basic fairness. The league’s response has been well below anything the players can consider a fair deal.”

“MLB has worked to reach an agreement with the MLBPA to reform the international amateur system in ways that will address long-standing challenges and benefit future players,” a league spokesperson wrote in a statement. “We are disappointed that the MLBPA chose the status quo over the transition to an international draft that would guarantee future international players greater signing bonuses and better educational opportunities, while promoting transparency to better address the root causes of corruption in the current system.”

Talks over an international draft nearly spoiled negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, which came amid a prolonged owner-imposed shutdown that lasted until March 10. In an effort to spur the union, MLB tied the adoption of an international draft to removal. From the qualifying bid system – where teams forfeit draft picks as compensation for signing some mid-to-higher free agents each season, a mechanism that naturally suppresses the market for these players.

Most of the players in Latin America, who favor the free market system, and worry about how the livelihoods of those tasked with developing young players in their home countries will be affected, have been stubborn against any international project. The MLBPA and MLB finally agreed to a table during the CBA negotiations, setting a deadline for Monday.

MLB’s bid from March – one it says has been on the table since July 2021 – called for a 20-round, fixed-slot draft that would secure $181 million for the top 600 internationals, with up to $20,000 to spend on unlimited Unoccupied free agents. The MLBPA submitted its first counterproposal on July 8, the first time the federation has formally approved any version of an international draft. It sought at least $260 million for 600 picks, with slots working as a minimum, and up to $40,000 to spend on uncredited players.

When the July 15 counter-proposal didn’t move a single dollar, the MLBPA did the same, keeping its figure at $260 million during a face-to-face meeting Saturday in New York. A day later, MLB submitted its final bid in the hope that it would be submitted to lead the player to a vote. It never got that far – and the union stresses that money is only part of the problem.

The MLBPA had earlier proposed compliance officials who would oversee the spread of early deals; “International Player Development and Human Rights Foundation” that requires the MLB to commit $10 million annually, most of which is directed at providing amateur players with opportunities to train and explore; and mechanisms that would increase bonus pooling obligations if the number of international signatures fell below certain thresholds. He basically ignored those requests, an MLB union official said.

However, the association believes it has addressed other concerns regarding proposals that the union deemed discriminatory in nature, mostly by rescinding the suspension of positive drug tests and making the initial physical draft optional. MLB has been consistent in its belief that it has been going to great lengths to implement the appropriate resources in other countries. If an international draft is implemented, the MLB hopes to host fairs and other scouting events in four regions of the Dominican Republic and several other regions of Venezuela, as well as Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, Curaçao, Aruba and other parts of Europe during its 2023 calendar year.

Amateur players from the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico are currently subject to the Domestic Draft – officially called Draft Rule 4 – which takes place each summer. The international draft will include amateur players from other countries, all of whom are currently eligible to sign during the international signing period that begins near the start of each year. Asian players are eligible if they are under the age of 25 and have played under six years in the professional league of their country; The same requirement applies to Cubans, who must also prove residency in another country.

The deadline brought together two issues that the two sides had been fighting over for decades. The MLBPA’s efforts to eliminate the date of the 1981 strike qualified bid system. The MLB, meanwhile, has spent the past twenty years trying to persuade the MLBPA to agree to an international draft. MLB’s desire to set an international draft has only increased in recent years, amidst the escalating corruption in the international market, most notably in baseball hotspots in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Teams, which are able to display their pre-assigned player groups, have agreed to early deals with players as young as 13, three years before they are officially qualified to sign, sources familiar with the dynamics have told ESPN in recent months. Coaches, who pay up to half of players’ signing bonuses, often supply players with performance-enhancing drugs since the age of 12, according to players, coaches and scouts with extensive knowledge of the situation.

It is not uncommon for teams to either cut or remove bonuses entirely just weeks before the day of the official signing. And the players, who are banned from working with other teams after making verbal agreements, do not have the leverage to fight them.

MLB’s proposal would have secured the top 600 internationals as much as $33 million more than the total amount committed during last year’s international signing period, believing it was too generous. The MLBPA was quick to point out how much is being spent on the local draft, which, according to union projections, will see teams commit more than $300 million in 2024.

The question now is what can be done outside the draft to combat corruption through the existing international market, which allows teams to sign any amateur player but restricts spending through designated pools. The League was adamant that a fixed draft was the only way to eliminate early deals and eliminate corruption within a system that, from the League’s viewpoint, was inherently catalytic. The MLBPA asserts that corruption will be reduced if MLB is more aggressive in identifying and punishing teams that make early deals.

Both sides said, at least, on Monday that they were willing to continue talking about ways to improve the system without a draft.

More than 28% of the players on this year’s Opening Day rosters were born outside the continental United States, according to an MLB release in early April. It totaled 275 players from 21 different countries and regions, tied with 2018 for the highest total in history.

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