Eric Fisher of Sports Business Journal reports that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are negotiating to institute a worldwide draft as soon as June 1. This in response to a provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that would impose additional restrictions on how much teams can spend on international signings.
And, as we have long maintained in these parts, an international draft is a bad idea, its actual motivations — often claimed to be a matter of competitive balance — have nothing to do with competitive balance at all and the entire MLBPA-MLB negotiation is being conducted without any input by or voice of those who will actually be affected by the draft.
International signings cost a fraction of what teams pay for free agents and, in most cases, what teams spend for bonuses in the Rule 4 draft as currently constructed. They even cost less than the baseball operations budgets of most teams. Meaning executives, coaches, scouts and coordinators’ salaries. International free agency, as currently constructed, does nothing to keep so-called poor or small market teams out of the game. To see so, one need only look at the two highest profile international signings: Aroldis Chapman and Yoenis Cespedes, who went to the Reds and A’s respectively.
This is simply about cutting a cost at the margins in a way that is easy and makes baseball teams feel good. And the MLBPA will acquiesce because some 16 year-old kid in the Dominican Republic is not in the union and, hey, if he gets a little less, thinks the 30 year-old union rep, maybe I’ll get a little more next winter. Meanwhile, the incentives for teams looking for and developing talent on the international market are greatly diminished. Because, hey, why should the Dodgers invest money in young players when they might get signed by the Giants?
Drafts restrict the talent pool. It’s as simple as that. By imposing an international draft, baseball is saying it’s totally cool with that. Which is nuts.