Major League Baseball announced today that it, the MLBPA and the 30 teams have ratified a two-year player transfer agreement with the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB). It’s similar to the agreements MLB has recently entered with professional leagues in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and FCB Cuba.
Under the new agreement all Mexican League players who are under contract will become eligible to sign with any Major League club the off-season after the player qualifies as a “Foreign Professional” under MLB’s collective bargaining agreement (i.e., when the player is at least 25 years old and has six or more years of professional baseball experience abroad). Mexican League players who are released before that time can sign in the U.S. as well. Major League teams that sign a player from a Mexican club will owe that club a one-time release fee of 15% of the total guaranteed value of the MLB contract or 35% of the signing bonus if it’s a minor league deal.
Rob Manfred’s comment on the deal:
“Major League Baseball is pleased to further solidify its longstanding relationship with the LMB with this agreement. Mexico is an important market for our game, as demonstrated by our three series in Monterrey in the months ahead. We look forward to the opportunities to develop more Major League players and baseball fans in the country.”
“Mexican players past and present have looked forward to a time when there would be a fair and transparent path to pursue their dreams of playing Major League Baseball. This agreement provides for that.”
The bit about “fair and transparent” is not a minor point here, as there is a sordid history between LMB and Major League Baseball when it comes to players switching leagues.
In the past, LMB teams have charged exorbitant fees to allow players to leave Mexico, often as high as 75%. By way of example, Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias signed with the Diablos Rojos of LMB when he was 15. He later signed a deal with the Dodgers that had a $1 million signing bonus attached, and almost all of it went to the Rojos in order to get them to allow him to join the Dodgers. It’s not an uncommon story. Indeed, there have been charges that Mexican teams sign 15-year-old players for the specific purpose of later flipping them to the big leagues for a hefty sum. There have also been charges of fraud corruption separate and apart from the, frankly, corrupt tactics inherent in such high rates.
It got so bad that last year Major League Baseball cut all ties with LMB, banning teams from signing players from the confederation. This deal, obviously, suggests that the sides worked out their differences.