Report: MLB cartel aims to screw over international amateur free agents

Photo credit: John Minchillo/AP Images

Photo credit: John Minchillo/AP Images

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, MLB wants to make life even harder on international amateur free agents by implementing an international draft in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).


Olney reports that the league wants a 10-round draft over two days that would decide where any international amateur who is 18 years of age or older is allowed to play in the majors. MLB’s current CBA expires in December, and the international draft would reportedly go into effect in 2018 if it is approved by the league and the union during negotiations for the next CBA.

This is just the latest step MLB has taken to try and prevent international amateurs from enjoying the benefits of a free market. International amateurs are currently free to sign with any team they want, but MLB has already artificially depressed their value by implementing a complicated bonus pool system that puts a cap on the amount of money each team is able to spend on international amateur free agents. An international draft would reinforce those earning restrictions while denying young players from outside the U.S. the right to choose which team they want to play for.

MLB’s reasoning for doing this is specious (via ESPN):

Part of the rationale for change put forth by Major League Baseball is the concern over the corruption that has infected the current situation, with handlers for teenage players attempting to extract fees from teams — and sometimes succeeding — in return for delivering the talent. There is also concern that under the current rules, young teenagers are motivated to use performance-enhancing drugs in an attempt to draw a higher signing bonus, without any possibility of oversight or testing. The business of handlers smuggling players from Cuba and demanding recompense has also been an issue that MLB, players and teams have had to face.

If MLB is really concerned about the physical and financial well-being of these players – as opposed to the financial well-being of teams who want to pay as little as possible for top talent – implementing a system that would only further limit their choices and earning potential is an odd way to go about expressing it.

The worst part is that nobody who actually represents the interest of the players who will be adversely affected by an international draft will be involved in its creation or implementation. Amateur players both inside and outside the U.S. are not part of the players’ union, and so the union has no compelling reason to consider their wants and needs while negotiating with the league. Players’ unions across professional sports, meanwhile, have never hesitated to stick a shiv in amateur players in order to secure more concessions for themselves, which is how we ended up with professional sports leagues that are built on a foundation of artificially underpaid young players. Now the league has its sights set on young international players, and there’s no reason to believe the union will do anything to prevent them from being pulled into the grift.

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