Major League Baseball has decided to shorten its amateur draft to five rounds, ESPN's Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel reported Friday.
The decision comes after weeks of discussion between MLB and the MLBPA during the leagues coronavirus shutdown. The union hadpreviously agreedto the possibility of a draft as short as five rounds, but was pushing for a 10-round draft during talks. MLBs draft usually consists of 40 rounds, but the owners wanted to trim that number in order to limit spending during the coronavirus shutdown.
In total, 160 players drafted with compensation rounds still included. The combined value of the signing bonus pool for those picks is $235,906,800. The amount of signing bonus pool money eliminated is $29,578,100. That the league went to these lengths to save less than $1 million per team isnt sitting well with a lot of people.
The league reportedly made its decision after the union rejected a proposal earlier in the week.
The players had maintained hope for a longer draft, which would allow more players to gain entry and start getting paid. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Ken Drelich reported that some teams were on board with a longer draft, since they were more interested in adding low cost talent than saving money. However, the support wasn't strong enough to gain approval.
As for the hundreds of others who would have been drafted but wont be in 2020, they will have a decision to make.
ESPN reports that players who go undrafted will be eligible to sign with any team for a maximum of $20,000.
This could take the shape of a post NFL draft, with legitimate high school and college prospects being courted by all 30 teams at a price lower than their projected draft position.
The key is the money. How many of those prospects will be content being paid less than what they could have potentially earned 10 or 15 rounds into the draft? And how many teams will sit on the money saved? That will determine whether theres a signing frenzy in the hours immediately following the draft.
Thats another interesting question.
Given the affordable price, the first thought is that traditionally low-spending teams, such as the Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates, can finally compete for and sign a large crop of amateur players.
Unlike the other major sports, the draft is not the only way MLB teams can acquire amateur talent. The intentional signing period, for example, is often dominated by the big spenders, like the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. The Marlins and Pirates cant keep up there, but could fare better under these circumstances.
While that possibility exists, the players will ultimately dictate which teams theyre drawn to. That could be determined based on opportunity, sentiment, geography or any other number of factors.
As many astute fans are pointing out, it could also result in concerning incentives and promises being dangled in front of young players. The league will have to closely monitor how this process plays out, because some teams will no-doubt be determined to sign players they otherwise would not have an opportunity to sign.
For players with remaining college eligibility, this might be the preferred option in 2020. Particularly for returning seniors. They could use that one extra year to boost value and hope the circumstances improve. Though theres no guarantee that will happen.
For incoming high school players, the decision could be more difficult. They have a three-year wait and might prefer to start their professional career now, rather than risking injury or devaluing their stock in college.
We already knew this MLB draft would be unlike any other weve experienced before. Now we know just how far-ranging those differences will be.
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