There Will Not Be an International Draft Until 2017 (At Least)

The articles I cited earlier today reference the Yankees' fear that an international draft will be instituted soon, and that it's driving their current desire to sign everyone. 


The Yankees are apparently willing to take the financial plunge because of fears baseball will soon institute an international draft similar to its amateur domestic draft, an area in which the Yankees have not fared well in recent years. … "I don't see it happening next year," the source said.


Clubs are unsure how close MLB is to instituting a international draft, something the CBA allows MLB to do when it sees fit

I haven't been particularly clear on this issue, but the bolded portion specifically didn’t sound right, so I broke out my copy of the current CBA.


Provisions for the Institution of an International Draft

Starting in 2013:

If it believes that the conditions listed … above  have been achieved by June 1, 2012, the Office of the Commissioner may give notice that it intends to commence operation of a draft (or drafts) covering international amateur players for the 2013 season and subsequent seasons. Written notice of such intent must be provided to the MLBPA by no later than June 15, 2012…

Starting in 2014:

If a draft (or drafts) covering international amateur players does not commence in the 2013 season … the Office of the Commissioner may provide notice to the MLBPA that it intends to commence operation of a draft (or drafts) covering international amateur players for the 2014 season and subsequent seasons. Written notice of such intent must be provided to the MLBPA by no later than June 1, 2013…

Neither of those things happened, of course.

There are no provisions for the insitution of a draft starting in 2015 or 2016. Thus, unless the draft is instituted in an agreement outside of the CBA, the earliest possible date for an international draft is 2017. The current CBA covers the 2016 season, so any CBA-based agreement would not take effect until the 2017-2018 signing period.

In short, the Yankees will face the current penalties for the next two years, as opposed to any draft pick losses.


Anti-Draft Momentum

It is possible, I suppose, that a draft could be instituted from outside the confines of the CBA. However, both clauses for institution in the current CBA gave the players' association veto power:

The MLBPA may veto the commencement of a draft (or drafts) covering international amateur players for the 2014 season and subsequent seasons by providing written notice of its objection to the Office of the Commissioner…

MLBPA was sensible enough to negotiate an out clause from the impending draft, meaning there is at least some resistance among the players. It's safe to say that any international draft instituted from outside the confines CBA is going to require the approval of MLBPA.

In general, MLBPA cares little about young players. And while they managed to include a veto, they stopped well short of preventing overspending penalties from continuing to escalate close to the levels that would be in place had a draft been instituted. So it is a possible that their opposition to a draft will merely be a bargaining chip in the next round of negotiations. Union head Michael Weiner, after MLB failed to submit a proposal last June:

At this time, the players are not prepared to accept an international draft. The MLBPA will continue to discuss with players and the Commissioner’s Office the many issues facing its international members.

However, there may be some hope for the next negotiating sessions.  In the runup to last year's deadline, Ben Badler reported that Latin American major leaguers signed a petition opposing the institution of an international draft in the spring of 2012. 

..last year, Amauris Nina, Nelson Montes de Oca and Astin Jacobo from the International Prospect League in the Dominican Republic and Jose Montero of Venezuela traveled around Florida and Arizona to meet with Latin American players on 40-man rosters and asked them to sign a petition stating their opposition to an international draft.

This wasn’t a veto; none was necessary since the commish’s office hadn’t provided formal notice regarding the commencement of a draft, but it does sound like it could force MLBPA into more than token resistance on the subject. Latin Americans make up a huge portion of the player pool, and I have the feeling that Puerto Rican players might have particularly strong thoughts on the subject.

In general, it’s probably bad for one’s conscience to stand behind the buscones. The problem, as I see it, is that no other real opposition group exists. MLBPA is controlled by members who either will get big free agent deals after their club control runs out, or believe they will. And the CBA rewards free agents really well, much better than draftees. Of course, a few sharp owners looking for a competitive edge would help the opposition immensely. Perhaps the recent rise in true free agent contracts will be persuasive, but I doubt it. If you happen to have Tom Ricketts's ear, by all means give it a shot.

For the record: yes, I think that the absence of all drafts would help teams trying to rebuild. I’m not unbiased here, but I think the moral grounds are pretty sound. And while I doubt that the American draft is going away any time soon, pushing back an international draft is a good place to start.


Changes in International Pool Rules

Last year, teams were allowed to sign up to six players for $50,000 or less without that money counting against their pool limits, and an unlimited number of players at up to $7500. Per the CBA, that exception no longer applies. Starting this year, only bonuses of less than $10,000 will be exempt. Way to save a few million dollars, MLB! We can’t have a few extra multi-thousandaires cavorting about in the Dominican, now can we? 

For reference, here is a complete list of international free agent penalties present in the CBA. I've included the penalties that would have applied had a draft been instituted, as well. As is evident from the chart, the increased spending pool penalties mirror the penalties that would have been in place had a draft been instituted.  

  Spending Pools Draft Penalties
  2013-2014 2014-2015 Any Season
Excess Tax '14-15 max Tax '15-16 max '16-17 max Tax y+1 pick loss y+2
0-5% 75% - 100% - - 75% - -
5-10% 75% $500,000 100% $500,000 - 75% - -
10-15% 100% $500,000 100% $300,000 - 100% 1st, 2nd -
>15% 100% $250,000 100% $300,000 $300,000 100% 1st 1st


Recommended Reading:


Ben Badler on the international draft

Dan Rosenheck and Adam Jonas on Puerto Rico and the International Draft