With the deadline for agreeing on an international draft just 10 days away, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association remain far apart when it comes to the amount of money amateur players would be guaranteed.
The league submitted a counter-proposal to the union on Friday that allocated the top 600 international players in a first draft of $181 million in guaranteed spending for 2024, the same amount proposed in March and about $80 million -dollar difference from what the MLBPA filed last week, sources told ESPN.
The league also remains adamant that a 20-round international draft must include hard slots – meaning teams must pay the stipulated amount for each selection – in order to eliminate the early deals that have plagued the international for the last half decade market were widespread . The union, which wants to allocate at least $260 million to the top 600 international players, refutes the premise and wants to give teams the flexibility to go above or below set slot values while taxing those who do by certain percentages exceed.
The league also remained firm at a $20,000 maximum for undrafted free agents. The union is asking for $40,000.
The two sides face a July 25 deadline to agree on some form of international draft, which MLB has sought for most of the past two decades. In exchange, MLB has offered to scrap the qualifying offer system that restricts the market for a handful of mid- to major-league free agents each offseason. If both sides cannot agree, the international market and the system of qualifying offers will remain the status quo.
The union believes international players should be guaranteed significantly more money to better align with the national draft, which will see teams spend nearly $300 million on amateur players from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico this year . The league denies that its current proposal guarantees international amateur players $23 million more than teams spent on them during the 2020-21 signing period, adding that players progressing through the national draft should be paid more, because they get signed at older ages and thus have a higher likelihood of entering the big leagues.
Both sides can negotiate an extension of their July 25 deadline, but that’s unlikely as teams need to know if the qualifying offer system will remain in place before the August 2 trading deadline.
Under the current qualification system, teams can offer a pending free agent a one-year contract worth the average salary of the top 125 MLB players at the start of free agency. If that player declines and signs elsewhere, the original team receives a compensatory draft pick from the signing team.
MLB’s counter-proposal made moves toward the union regarding drug testing and the release of medical information for draft-eligible players, which the union said were stricter than those in draft Rule 4 and were therefore discriminatory in nature. MLB initially proposed a one-year suspension for those who either tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs or refused to be tested before the international draft, but have since lifted the penalties. It also borrowed from draft Rule 4 by proposing that international players subject to a physical pre-draft would be guaranteed their full slot value (under draft Rule 4, those players would be guaranteed 75% of their slot ).
MLB also believes it has been aggressive in providing resources overseas, both by beefing up educational programs and proposing a variety of tryouts, leagues, showcases and combinations that would allow amateur players to be seen by scouts will. But a senior union source, speaking broadly, believes it still falls short when it comes to rooting out corruption and promoting baseball in underrepresented countries.
Although the details of the two proposals are unknown, it is clear that money is the central issue as it was over the course of a 99-day owner-imposed lockout that almost torpedoed the 2022 season.