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MLB’s desire for an international draft is the latest sticking point

As the owners and players get closer on negotiations, things have been held up by the league’s desire to turn the international signing period into a draft.

World Series - Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros - Game One Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

While many of the details are still unknown, it’s becoming very clear that MLB and the Players Association are much closer to a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement than at any other point in the three-plus month lockout.

But one area is currently proving to be a sticking point: the issue of international players. Under the current system, international players are signed like free agents, though teams have a limited amount of money the can spend in each signing period. Under the owner’s proposal, there would be a 20-round draft, with undrafted players still eligible to sign. Rather than have the draft order based on record, as the domestic draft is, it would be on a rotating schedule, so that every four years each team had access to one of the top international prospects.

This sticking point is getting used in negotiations alongside one other major sticking point: draft pick compensation. The MLBPA would like to see the next contract eliminate qualifying offers, which use draft pick compensation to suppress the salaries of some of the best players.

The owners are willing to go that route, but according to reports, they’re offering up the qualifying offer compromise in exchange for an international draft.

It seems unlikely that such a compromise will fly, as the players appear adamantly against the idea of an international draft.

While there are some potential short-term benefits to an international draft — primarily a larger fiscal pool, and a step towards lessening the corruption associated with international free agency — the owners are likely adamant about its implementation because it would make it easier to cut back on Minor League teams further down the road. A draft, which is proposed to start in 2024, would also severely cut back on the autonomy of international players, while making it easier to cap the spending pool.

As with all of MLB’s proposals, the underlying desire for a shift from a signing period to a draft is to find ways to spend less money.

And now we get back to doing what we’ve become quite good at: waiting.

Eventually we’ll have San Francisco Giants games to watch.