Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have reached an agreement on the framework of a delayed and shortened 2020 amateur draft, ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel reports (Twitter thread). The notable changes would include pushing the draft back from early June to sometime in July, cutting the event to anywhere from five to ten rounds and partially deferring the payment of signing bonuses into the 2022 season.
Obviously, lopping off 75 percent of the rounds would lead to a vast number of undrafted amateurs — high school, junior college and four-year university students alike. McDaniel notes that there’s been discussion of a maximum bonus for undrafted players, though the $10,000 figure that’s been floated would likely bring about a dramatic uptick in the number of prep prospects opting to attend college and in the number of college juniors returning for a senior season.
The ramifications of such changes are numerous. The 2021 draft class would be immeasurably deeper, and the influx of high-quality college freshmen will in some ways flood college programs — perhaps leading to an increase of players selected out of the Division-II ranks of the NCAA. Many college seniors only sign for $10K as it is, so the financial component of those limited bonuses might not have a substantial impact, but it’ll nevertheless be atypical to see those players effectively create a secondary pool of free agents. As for high school prospects and college juniors who’d typically sign after the 10th round — those players regularly receive $100K bonuses, so the proposed $10K limit would have a far greater impact on their decisions.
Changes to the draft have seemed inevitable for some time now. The event was moved to Omaha in hopes that it would coincide with the College World Series, but the COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out the College World Series and the college and high school baseball seasons across North America. Prospects who command six- and seven-figure bonuses won’t played in front of scouts in months by the time the draft rolls around, and owners have expressed hesitance about paying out the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of combined signing bonuses at a time when the revenue streams of their respective clubs have effectively dried up.
The draft is one of many, many elements being negotiated between the league and the union, with other key points of interest including player salaries, service time, a delayed/altered schedule and the likely expansion of rosters as teams hopefully resume play at some point later this year. Of course, MLB and the MLBPA are also discussing the manner in which they’d be forced to proceed in the event that the 2020 season has to be canceled entirely. The two sides have been exchanging proposals for weeks, and all indications have been that they’re working toward an agreement but still hammering out the specifics of the arrangement.