MLB players’ union rejects international draft proposal

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — The players’ association rejected what Major League Baseball called its final offer for an international draft, a move that will keep direct draft-pick compensation in place for free agents and likely limit the market for some older players.

The union announced its decision about eight hours before Monday’s midnight EDT deadline for an agreement, timing specified in the March 10 lockout settlement.

“Each of our proposals was focused on protecting against the scenario that all players fear the most – the erosion of our game on the world stage, with international players becoming the latest victim in baseball’s prioritization of efficiency over fundamental fairness,” the union said in a statement. “The league’s responses fell well short of anything players could consider a fair deal.”

The decision keeps in place until December 2026 a system of qualifying offers for free agents that began in 2012. A club can make a qualifying offer following the World Series to a free agent who has been with the team since opening day, a one-year contract for the average of the top 125 deals by average annual value. Last year’s figure was $18.4 million.

If a player rejects a qualifying offer and signs elsewhere, the signing team is subject to a loss of one or two amateur draft picks and a reduction in international signing bonus pool allotment.

Some older players have found their market lessened because of the compensation. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel delayed signing in 2019 until June, after the draft pick compensation no longer was attached.

Among the older players eligible for free agency after this season are Anthony Rizzo, J.D. Martinez, Chris Sale and Charlie Morton.

Top players have found robust markets. This year’s group is headed by Aaron Judge, Jacob deGrom and Trea Turner .

“We are disappointed the MLBPA chose the status quo over transitioning to an international draft that would have guaranteed future international players larger signing bonuses and better educational opportunities, while enhancing transparency to best address the root causes of corruption in the current system,” MLB said in a statement.

An amateur draft was established for residents of the United States and Canada in 1965 and extended to residents of U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico in 1990. MLB has pushed for a similar international amateur draft, saying part of its rationale was to combat illicit agreements made before players are age eligible – either 16 or 15 if the player turns 16 later in the signing period.

MLB proposed last July 28 that a 2024 international draft include spending of $181 million for the top 600 players and $190 million in total, up from $166 million in the 2021 signing period.

Players waited until early this July to make a counteroffer. They proposed a draft be allocated $260 million for the 2024 signing period, with teams having to guarantee slot values while having the flexibility to exceed them within bonus pools.

MLB increased its offer Saturday to $191 million for 2024 and said it was a final proposal. MLB dropped mandatory drug testing with penalties for positive tests and also changed its proposed medical combine from mandatory to optional. Management also offered to guarantee a minimum of $5,000 in educational money, a figure rising to $10,000 if the player passes a General Educational Development Test.

The union said MLB’s offer was not sufficient.

“Our draft proposals – unprecedented in MLBPA history – sought to establish minimum guarantees in player signings, roster spots, infrastructure investments, playing opportunities, scouting opportunities, as well as enforcement measures to combat corruption,” the union said. “We also made proposals to compensate international signees more fairly and in line with other amateurs, and to ensure that all prospects have access to an educational and player development safety net.”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.