The Major League Baseball Players Association rejected the MLB’s “final” proposal for an international draft on Monday, meaning the current qualifying bid system would remain in place.
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.
Latin American players, who largely 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 draft. The MLBPA and MLB finally agreed to a table during the CBA negotiations, setting a deadline for Monday. Failure to reach an agreement that would preserve the status quo.
The union announced its decision eight hours before the midnight EST deadline for a deal, the timing set in the March 10 shutdown settlement. The MLBPA has not officially voted on the concept of an international draft; Two union sources told ESPN that they presented the proposal to union leaders on Sunday and agreed not to accept it without opposition.
“The players have made it clear from the start that any international project must significantly improve the current situation for these players and not discriminate unfairly between these players and local expats,” the MLBPA said in a statement announcing its decision.
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.
“Each of our proposals focused at their core on protecting against the scenario that all players fear most — the erosion of our game on the global stage, with international players becoming the latest casualty in baseball’s prioritizing efficiency over basic fairness,” the MLBPA statement read. “The league’s response was far below anything players could think of for a fair deal.”
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 made what was billed as its final offer, moving the total guarantees to $191 million in hopes of being offered to lead the player to a vote.
“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,” the MLB said in a statement on Monday. “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.”
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 MLB and MLBPA had previously disagreed about many other aspects of an international draft, including the amount of money that would be guaranteed to players for education and the start date of the first batch (the MLBPA wanted the inaugural draft to take place in September 2023, while the MLB proposed two windows in 2024, in early and then fall). Recently, the MLBPA was angry that the MLB did not agree to a proposal that would increase bonus pools if the number of international signatures decreased during a given year, among other aspects.
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.
The MLB’s desire to set an international draft has increased in recent years, amid rising corruption in the international market, most notably in baseball hotspots such as 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.