10:08pm: In a follow-up piece, Drellich and Rosenthal report a host of additional specifics on each side’s proposals to date. Among the most notable aspects under consideration: the union has proposed to extend the posting window for players coming from Asian professional leagues from the current 30 days to 45 days. Both sides are also proposing the creation of prospect leagues to operate in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela (contingent on U.S. government regulations in the latter nation). MLB’s proposed draft would begin in 2024, while the union has offered to start at some point later in 2023.
Under the MLBPA proposal, teams would be unable to sign players for below slot value but would have the discretion to go above slot. That addresses any concerns the union would’ve had about teams not spending at least their minimum bonus pool. The league’s hard-slotted proposal would prevent teams from going over the allotment, capping overall spending while eliminating the cutting of pre-draft deals.
The Athletic’s piece is worth a read for many more details for those interested in the subject.
9:05pm: Major League Baseball made its latest counterproposal to the Players Association as the sides negotiate the possibility of a draft for international amateurs, report Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic. It’s the league’s response to an offer put forth by the MLBPA last week. For the first time, the union showed a willingness to implement an international draft but only with certain conditions such as a higher bonus pool and the exemption of players from Japan.
The league’s proposal calls for a $181MM signing bonus pool for drafted players, according to the Athletic. That’s the same as the league’s previous offer, while Drellich and Rosenthal note the union has been seeking a $260MM pool. There is also a gap between the parties on the maximum signing bonus that would be available for undrafted players. The league is proposing a $20K cap, while the union’s proposal called for a $40K limit.
Additionally, Alden Gonzalez of ESPN reports there’s a discrepancy in slotting between the two sides. MLB is proposing fixed, hard-slotted bonuses for players depending on with which pick they’re selected. That’d differ from the domestic amateur draft, which features a set overall pool of money teams are freely allowed to spread around to draftees. The domestic draft comes with recommended slot values per pick, but teams can and do ignore those recommendations to pay certain players overslot while cutting below-slot deals with other selections. (Teams are permitted to exceed their bonus pool in the domestic draft, but doing so by more than 5% comes with future pick forfeitures no club has been willing to take on). The union, according to Gonzalez, is pushing for a similar soft-slotting system in the international draft.
Of course, the prospects involved are not perfectly analogous. International players would likely be draft-eligible at age-16, while domestic draft prospects must have graduated high school. Domestically, many high school prospects have the ability to play at a major college if they don’t sign with their drafting team. In contrast, most international amateurs won’t have that fallback.
Hard-slotting would keep teams from not offering to spend their entire allotment to take advantage of the players’ comparative lack of leverage, and it’d eliminate the possibility for teams to cut pre-draft deals with prospects. Yet it’d also reduce the ability to go over-slot for top players in the class. The league’s proposals during negotiations in March came with a $5.5125MM value for the first overall pick, for instance. The #1 pick in the 2022 domestic draft comes with an $8.842MM slot value, according to Jim Callis of MLB.com. Last year’s top selection, Henry Davis, signed for $6.5MM.
The union’s desired bonus pool would close the gap between the slot values of the selections between the international and domestic drafts. According to Gonzalez, MLB counters their proposed bonus pool would pay international players $23MM more collectively than what they received during the 2020-21 signing period, making it an economic improvement over the status quo. Of course, one of the trade-offs would be the forfeiture of players’ abilities to choose their first employer. If no draft is agreed upon, the existing system would remain in place. That features hard-capped bonus pools to limit overall team spending, but players are permitted to negotiate with all 30 clubs.
Gonzalez reports some movement the league made in more minor areas than the overall bonus allotment. The league has withdrawn its push for a mandatory one-year suspension for prospects who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs. MLB also proposed that any prospect who submitted a pre-draft physical would have to be offered the full slot value of their selection. Both sides are in agreement that a draft, if implemented, would last 20 rounds.
The parties have until July 25 to come to an agreement, with the draft likely to go into effect in 2024 if implemented. If a draft is agreed upon, the qualifying offer system would be removed, and teams would no longer have to forfeit selections for signing free agents.
Interestingly, there’ll also be a small change for the upcoming domestic draft. Bonuses for undrafted free agents have been capped at $20K in each of the past two seasons, but Kyle Glaser of Baseball America reports that’ll no longer be the case. Any expenditures north of $125K on a non-drafted player would count against a team’s pool limit, however. That’s a return to the pre-2020 setup.