While it wasn’t completed in time for the new collective bargaining agreement in Major League Baseball, the league and the MLB Players Association agreed that further discussions around the development of international players – including a worldwide draft – would begin, no later than January 15 of 2012.
Today both sides announced the “International Talent Committee” that would negotiate to try and reach a deal. MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner and MLB Executive Vice President for Labor Relations and Human Resources Rob Manfred are co-chairs of the committee. Joining Weiner on the committee are MLBPA Director of Player Relations Tony Clark, MLBPA Senior Advisor Rick Shapiro and MLBPA Special Assistant Stan Javier, while Kim Ng of the Commissioner’s Office, Sandy Alderson of the New York Mets and Andrew Friedman of the Tampa Bay Rays join Manfred.
There’s several items that the sides look to discuss. Per MLB and the MLBPA in a statement, they are:
- If there is an international draft, whether international players should be part of a single worldwide draft (including players currently covered by the Rule 4 Draft) or a separate draft (or drafts).
- The appropriate age at which international amateur players should be signed to professional contracts.
- If there are to be multiple drafts, whether players from Puerto Rico should remain in the Rule 4 Draft or instead be part of an international draft.
- The development of appropriate country-by-country plans for playing and development opportunities for players prior to draft eligibility.
- The development of appropriate plans to provide undrafted or unsigned players (including players age 18 to 21) from Latin America with an opportunity to continue their development, including the creation of a new league or leagues, or the addition of centrally-operated Clubs in the Dominican Summer League (“DSL”).
- Whether and how regulations should be put in place regarding representation of international amateur players (e.g., “independent trainers” and agents).
- Improving the education and acculturation programs of Clubs at their international academies.
- What safeguards should be established in relation to any signing bonus payments made to international amateur players.
- The laws of the countries from which international players are signed and how those laws should affect the actions of the parties.
- What actions are necessary in order to achieve the negotiation of a revised agreement between MLB and the Mexican League that allows players greater choice of where to play and promotes a fair and open system of player movement.
- What actions are necessary in order to achieve the negotiation of revisions to the protocol agreements with the Korean Professional Baseball League, the Japanese Professional Baseball League, and the Taiwan R.O.C. League to accommodate a draft.
- How Cuban players should be treated under an amateur talent system in light of the legal and political factors that affect their signability.
Several of these address issues that have been a thorn in the league’s side. On the issue of “safeguards should be established in relation to any signing bonus payments made to international amateur players”, it addresses skimming of bonus money from young talent in the DR and Venezuela. “Buscones” or a type of street agent have independently developed players in which they have players agree to hand over 20% or more of a signing bonus. But, it goes further. The White Sox organization saw their senior director of player personnel David Wilder and others in the organization fired over skimming, while former Nationals GM was forced out of the organization when the FBI investigated him for skimming bonus money as far back as during his time as GM of the Reds. The Angels fired Clay Daniel who headed scouting in Latin America over scouts skimming signing bonuses.
In discussions with both Michael Weiner and Rob Manfred last year, just as labor negotiations for the CBA were beginning, the top representatives for the league and players both said they were in favor of an international draft, but that the execution of that process would be difficult. As these points from the league and MLBPA show, they were certainly telling the truth. Whether parts or all of this transpire is unknown. Nothing is to say that meeting may not make an international draft and supporting policy system happen, but the sides are clearly further along than in 2006 when the sides failed to reach an international draft agreement as part of that CBA. In that case, the committee never convened and the international draft topic withered on the vine until it was resurrected as part of the latest labor negotiations.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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