Feb 9, 2022 - Sports

Why MLB could add an international draft

The flag of the Dominican Republic flies over a baseball field.

A baseball fan flies a Dominican Republic flag. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

MLB is considering adding an international draft to the next CBA in hopes of fixing a system that has spiraled out of control.

Why it matters: Big league rosters are littered with Latin American players, but the path to the pros for prospects from the region is fraught with corruption.

State of play: International amateurs would benefit from the sort of draft through which Americans and Canadians already enter the league, as it would introduce much-needed transparency.

  • Besides Americans, Dominicans are the most represented nationality in MLB, comprising 10% of 2021 Opening Day roster spots. Venezuelans were second at 7%, while Cubans comprised 2%.
  • Countless kids with big league dreams watched Colombia beat the Dominican Republic in last week's Caribbean Series. This offseason's negotiations could determine the path they may one day take.

How it works: Under the current system, prospects begin working with trainers — who earn a portion of their future bonuses — as young as age 10, hoping to catch the eye of a big league scout.

  • Verbal commitments then effectively take that player off the market until he reaches eligibility at age 16, at which point the expectation is he'll sign for what he was promised (say, $1 million).
  • The issue is that scouts often promise more money than they can spend, so when it comes time to sign, many players are told their bonuses have been slashed, if not gone entirely.
  • Under-the-table payments are another problem, as trainers from different regions essentially sell players to each other with scouts as middlemen. "It's a mafia," one trainer told The Athletic.
  • This cottage industry has been a long-simmering problem, but it worsened in 2017 when a cap was placed on how much each team could spend annually on international signings.

The bottom line: Bad blood between MLB and the MLBPA is the lockout's biggest headline, but the implications of the new CBA are more far-reaching than that.

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