As you have likely noticed, the July 2 signing period has started, and more and more teams are opening up their respective checkbook in hopes of acquiring the next international superstar. Several players have already received bonuses in the seven-figure range and the big prize Eddy Julio Martinez is still on the market.
One of the proposed ways to keep said bonuses down is the creation of an International Draft. Mentioning an International Draft in a baseball discussion is akin to asking if something qualifies as a sandwich on Twitter. Both sides are likely to end up unhappy, a little angry, and definitely hungry. For their part, fans seems to be fairly torn as to whether or not the creation of such an event is necessary, unethical or a combination of both.
In order to dig into the discussion points, I decided to ask three front-office members who are close to the situation whether or not they believe an International Draft will be coming to baseball, and – more importantly – whether or not they believe it should.
AL Front-Office Member (1)
Will there be? “I think at some point it’s going to happen. I have no idea when it’ll happen, but I think at some point it’s going to come to fruition. These bonuses are getting pretty insane, and the amount of teams who flat out can’t even touch the big names in the July 2 signing period because of the cash involved is driving a lot of teams crazy. That along with the fact that teams are actually having to give up competent prospects to acquire the funds to sign these players makes me think it’s an inevitability.”
Should there be? “The moralist in me says no; it’s pretty unfair that the draft exists in any shape or form, so obviously I’m not a fan of adding another variation. The competitive balance portion of my brain says that it has to happen though. There are just too many clubs that get left out of this process. Yes, we see lots of guys that don’t get big bonuses come up and become quality players, but I still feel a draft is probably the fairest thing for teams, even if it isn’t for players.”
AL Front-Office Member (2)
Will there be? “Sooner or later, yes, and I think we’re getting close. The first step was putting the international slots in place, though that clearly hasn’t done much to deter teams from spending massive amounts of cash. These kids are just getting so much money now, and they’re making an impact on rosters much, much sooner than they used to. This used to be so much more of a crapshoot, and yes, I know people don’t like us using that word, but scouting has gotten so much better, and I think teams are getting frustrated that they have so little chance of adding these kids.”
Should there be? “Absolutely. I understand why it frustrates the player’s handlers to even think about a draft, but this process is becoming more and more corrupt. I think adding a draft brings more parity to the situation and also helps to eliminate some of the shady business that takes. Is it fair for the kids? Of course not, but this system isn’t exactly great for them, either. I’d much rather have something that allows them to work with major league clubs as soon as possible, and a draft does that.”
NL Front-Office Member
Will there be? “I don’t think there will be, at least not anytime soon. I think there are just too many things to work out and there’s too much dissension for me to believe it’s going to come before the end of the decade. The only reason I think there’s a chance is because of what the Yankees did last year and the Dodgers this year; they completely disregarded the bonus figures and I don’t think that sits well with some of the higher-ups and the teams who don’t have the funds to come close. Still, I think we’re a long way away from seeing a draft put into place, if ever.”
Should there be? “I go back and forth, but at the end of the day I say no. The only reason I think yes is to create more parity, but really if your scouts do their job, they should be able to find enough diamonds in the rough to make up for the fact that you can’t sign the Miguel Sanos or Dermis Garcias. I understand it from the ‘keeping the bonuses’ down perspective, but when those are the only reasons I can think of, that probably isn’t good enough to change the process.”
Conclusion: So two yeses, one sort of no on whether or not there will be, and two hard yeses and one sort of no on whether or not there should be. It could be just me, but I found this to be surprising, particularly in the “should” section. To be completely forthright, all three interviewed are employed by teams that would be considered mid-market – not one has a payroll that currently ranks inside the top ten – so we aren’t talking about the Rockefellers of baseball, but we’re not talking about the bottom-feeders, either.
And while I certainly respect all three of the opinions above, if it were up to me, there’s no way I would allow the creation of an International Draft, particularly if Major League Baseball is going to use a system similar to the one they created for the Rule 4 draft in 2012. It simply gives too much power to the teams, and it takes away the one thing the international free agents have as an advantage over Rule 4 prospects: leverage. My opinion doesn’t have much credence though, and based on the answers given from the front-office members above and some other people I’ve talked to who are closely associated to the process, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if there was some form of the draft created quickly – maybe even as soon as the next collective bargaining session.
Thank you for reading
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Look at what lucias fox did this year.
Lots to work out, may not happen in next years, but the sport needs to be working towards that.
Combine draft and IFA budgets into one amount and for every dollar a team spends over that amount this year, it'll be deducted from the following year's budget.
Perhaps have an exclusion on Major League deals for players defecting from Cuba or coming over from Asia. If the contract automatically puts the player on the 40 man roster, the first year of salary should count towards the total instead of the bonus.
I'm sure I'll have disagreement on this, but I'd like the debate.
A big reason that international signing bonuses have increased is because teams are limited by how much they can spend in the draft.