Commentary: What would an International Draft do for MLB?


by - Senior Writer -
The Cubs do a good job targeting international prospects (Charles LeClaire - USA Today Sports)
The Cubs do a good job targeting international prospects (Charles LeClaire - USA Today Sports)

The next few weeks will be critical for the future of the MLB as the current CBA is set to expire on December 1. Although there is hope that the Players Union and the Owners will reach some form of agreement to at the very worst extend talks if needed, all expectations are that a lockout will be coming at or around December 2.

Not only is that a bad situation for free agents this season, but a bad look for a sport that has tried to clean up its image over the best two decades. For the two sides to agree, many things need to be ironed out, and it is the players that hold the keys this time around as they try to force the owners into unfamiliar territory.

With that being said, it seems almost a shoo-in that some sort of work stoppage is on the horizon, but neither side can afford to miss a ton of games that will deplete an already depleting revenue the last three years. In hopes of reaching an agreement, there are several areas that the new CBA will have to address.

The most common topic continues to be the Universal DH, as that appears likely to come into the league shortly. Along with that, look for the runner at second, seven-inning doubleheader rules to be done away with, and the potential of a pitch clock coming to the fold next season. That is an effort to speed up the game, as this postseason averages nearly four hours per contest.

However, another topic is starting to generate some discussions, and it is something the Cubs have done well on since 2011. That topic surrounds the International Market and the possibility of an International draft to take place. Over the last two years, we have seen the MLB draft shrink from 40 rounds in 2019 to five in 2020 due to COVID.

That went back up to 20 in 2021, and it appears that is the magic number that MLB would like to stick with. Along with the MLB draft, which typically happens in the summer, another process of adding players known as the International signing period. That is when the top international players from around the world look to land on major league rosters in hopes of making their dreams a reality.

Unlike the MLB draft, where there is a set order as to when teams pick, the International Free agent period is up for grabs as teams with the most money have the best chances of signing these players. That not only hurts small-market teams who don't have a lot of money, but helps teams like the Cubs, who have thrived off the international market in the past, most recently adding Cristian Hernandez, who checks in as the organizations third-best prospect.

As great as the International signing period is, MLB is looking to make some changes to create a more competitive and fair advantage. Instead of awarding teams International money to sign these players, it looks like an International Draft may be on the horizon, which could have significant impacts on the league.

Whether this draft takes place during the summer when the typical MLB draft remains to be seen, but I would almost like this to be pushed back into the winter for various reasons. First and foremost, not only would moving it back give the Caribbean-born players a chance, but you could add KBO and NPB players into the mix who typically enter free agency during the winter for a bidding war.

Secondly, it would make free agency a lot more interesting than it is now. Let's say a team like the Cubs chose not to spend a ton of money in free agency. They then could focus on the International draft where they could land a Shohei Otani type of player for a fraction of the price. Those who choose to spend big in free agency would have to wisely pick who they would like to add through this process.

I would also like the order to fluctuate slightly no matter what the MLB draft order looks like. Instead of picking in the same order as the MLB draft, why not reverse it in terms of money. Those who typically don't have a ton of international money would pick first, and the ones with the most international money can pick later in the draft.

That would not only level the playing field, but could alter everyone's decision come free agency. In terms of rounds, there is nowhere this could be a 20 round thing. I don't even think 10 rounds would work because there are never that many international pieces. Ideally, three rounds, I think, would be perfect, but five rounds could work. I say that because I feel more players would enter or try to be posted if this is the step MLB takes.

Take away soccer, and the MLB is the most globalized sport in the nation, with players coming from all over the world. The only problem is finding a level playing field and giving everyone the same opportunity to play. I am all about fair play and equal chances in the MLB, and let's be honest, unless you are a big market team, you are at a disadvantage when it comes to adding players.

Adding an International draft to the mix may seem a bit extreme, but it could work. This is something the CBA should strongly consider and something that would be great for the game if they can make it work.

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