The Major League Baseball Players Association rejected MLB’s final proposal for an International Draft on Monday, thereby maintaining the qualifying offer system for free agency.
MLB had sought the creation of an International Draft as a means of addressing corruption, a culture of early deals with young players who are not yet eligible to sign, and the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the international amateur market. The rejection of the International Draft concludes the bargaining period related to the 2022-2026 Collective Bargaining Agreement.
When MLB and the MLBPA ratified a new CBA in March, the two parties had agreed to a window of time -- a window that expired on Monday -- during which the International Draft concept could be negotiated further. Because the players had sought the abolishment of the qualifying offer system, it was agreed that the two issues would be tied together. In rejecting the International Draft, the players accepted the continuation of the qualifying offer, and club executives can proceed during the Trade Deadline period with an understanding that the status quo Draft pick compensation system for free agents will remain in place in the offseason.
“MLB worked to reach an agreement with the MLBPA to reform the international amateur system in ways that would address longstanding challenges and benefit future players,” an MLB spokesperson said. “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’s proposal had called for a 20-round, 600-selection draft to begin in 2024, with guaranteed slot values totaling $191 million – an increase of $24 million over the current international spending limits. The $6 million top slot and $5.4 million second slot were both higher than any international player signed for during the life of the last CBA, and 98% of draft slots were higher than the bonuses paid in the current system.
Teams could have also combined for another $9 million in spending on undrafted players. All drafted players would have been guaranteed at least $5,000 in scholarship money, with an increase to $10,000 for players who complete a GED before their playing careers conclude.
With the International Draft rejected, the current international signing system, with a non-guaranteed bonus pool of $167 million, remains in place.
“Players made clear from the outset that any International Draft must meaningfully improve the status quo for those players and not unfairly discriminate between those players and domestic entrants,” the MLBPA said in a statement. “To this end, the Players Association made a series of proposals aimed at protecting and advancing the rights of international amateurs. 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. 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.”
Under the qualifying offer system that remains in place, clubs wishing to receive compensatory Draft picks for the loss of a free agent can make a one-year offer for the mean salary of MLB's 125 highest-paid players to their impending free agents prior to the onset of free agency, so long as the player has never received a qualifying offer previously and was with the club for the duration of the previous season. Clubs that sign a qualifying free agent who rejected the offer will continue to forfeit Draft picks and international pool space.
Additionally, clubs with payrolls above the Competitive Balance Tax threshold will continue to face stiffer penalties than other clubs when signing free agents who rejected the qualifying offer.
The International Draft picks component of the Prospect Promotion Incentive (PPI) program also goes away as a result of the MLBPA’s decision. Had an International Draft been instituted, clubs had the potential to receive extra International Draft selections if top prospects rostered on Opening Day went on to finish second or third in the Rookie of the Year voting or fourth or fifth in the MVP or Cy Young voting. With no International Draft, only one domestic Draft award -- given to teams whose promoted prospect won the Rookie of the Year or finished top three in the Cy Young or MVP voting -- remains, thereby decreasing the incentive for teams to put top prospects on Opening Day rosters. In 2022, 10 top-100 prospects (including Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez) were promoted to the Opening Day roster, the most since 1995.